Writing Center

West Chester University

Dr. Margaret Ervin
Associate Professor of English
FHG Library Room 251

Frequently Asked Questions

Who goes to the Writing Center?
Students, faculty, and staff go to the center; they know it's useful to talk about what they're writing and to get feedback. Even the best writers find it helpful to have a second pair of eyes look over their paper for a fresh perspective. In fact, almost all of the writing center tutors go to each other for this kind of advice. Clearly, the writing center is helpful for any type of writer.

What happens during a writing consultation?
We will start by asking you some questions, such as the parameters of the assignment and your goals for the session. Then, we will ask you to read aloud part or all of your paper and talk about your writing concerns. If you are not comfortable reading aloud, we can read your paper aloud for you. We will then give suggestions about different strategies that you can use. We will also offer help with planning, revising, and any other aspect of your writing. We will not mark your paper with red ink; we will not talk about the grade we believe it will or should receive. We are here to help you formulate ideas and to better recognize your strengths as a writer as well as areas for improvement. We will not tell you your ideas are wrong. We won't write a paper for you; however, we will help you write a better paper yourself.

What is the purpose of reading aloud?
This technique may seem a bit strange to you at first, but it is an important strategy for experiencing your paper in a new way. When you read out loud rather than silently to yourself, you are more able to hear your words and meanings from the detached or neutral position of a member of your audience. This gives you the chance to see your paper from a different perspective, allowing you to recognize the choices you've made and consider alternative ones. In addition, reading your paper out loud helps you to pick up on any missing words, awkward sentences, and other grammatical or mechanical issues present in your text. All in all, reading your paper aloud is one of the best approaches we know not only for better understanding where your text is at any given moment but also for making decisions as to the direction you'd like it to go.

How are the writing tutors trained?
We are graduate and undergraduate students from a variety of academic disciplines and majors. We are trained in a three-credit, semester-long course--ENG397/600, Tutoring Writing--in which we learn about theories of tutoring and how they apply to the writing center setting. We also learn about best practices in writing center work and do some writing ourselves. In addition, we meet throughout the semester on a weekly basis for instruction, role playing common scenarios, and conversation about the work we are doing.

Do I have to bring writing for an English class?
No, we will work with writing from any kind of class. The fact that we may be unfamiliar with the content of the paper does not mean that we can't help. Things like unity, organization, development, providing evidence for claims, using and citing sources, and grammatical issues are much the same in all fields of study.

Do I need to make an appointment?
While walk-ins are welcome, we strongly recommend making an appointment, as there is not always an available tutor. Appointments are made using our online scheduling system.

When is the best time to come?
We recommend bringing in your paper when you first get the assignment, when you have a draft, when you have a revised draft, and/or at any time you have questions or feel you would benefit from feedback on your ideas. However, it is best not to bring in your paper the day it is due. We can do only so much with that time constraint.

How long will the session last?
Sessions are either 30 or 60 minutes. You can make that choice when you sign up online. If you have a paper longer than 5-6 pages, bring in shorter sections, or maybe just pick a few trouble spots you'd like to focus on in the paper. If you need another session, you can always make another appointment after you work on what was discussed during the first session.

What should I bring with me when I come? Do I need a draft?
You should bring in the assignment and whatever you have done so far. It is okay if you have not started writing yet. If you just have the assignment sheet and some ideas, bring those in and we will help you brainstorm topics. We can help you wherever you are in the writing process.

Will you proofread my paper for me?
No. But we will go over it with you, line by line, if you'd like, holding up your grammatical constructions against the rules in an online handbook such as the OWL at Purdue. In other words, we will show you how to locate and use the grammatical information you need and offer assistance as you proofread. Our goal in doing this is to strengthen your own ability to proofread your papers. If we merely corrected your mistakes, you wouldn't learn much from the session. The paper is yours, and it should be written and proofread by you. This is also why you can not drop off your paper and come back for it later.

Why don't you write on my paper?
We'd prefer that YOU write on your paper during a tutorial. Writing consultants do help writers take notes and may write on papers with the writer's permission, but it's not our goal to take over the process of improving your paper. It's our goal to help you learn to improve it yourself.

Can you tell me what grade you think my paper will get?
We are not involved in your professor's grading process and have no idea of what your grade will be. If you have concerns, it is always a good idea to talk with your professor. The writing center can certainly help you with your writing, but it is not designed to be a substitute for your professor.

Will my professor know that I came?
If you want your professor to know, we will send an e-mail telling her or him that you came. The e-mail will consist of a brief outline of what we worked on in the session. Nothing in the e-mail will evaluate your writing. If you don't want your professor to know, then we will not send an e-mail. It's worth pointing out, though, that an e-mail from the writing center is a great way to let your professor know that you care about your writing. You are showing him or her that you are putting time into the assignment, and professors always like to see that!