By Khaila| Writing Center Consultant | April 17th, 2019
While working at the Writing Center, I have noticed that a lot of writers who have not been here before have misconceptions on the types of services we provide. For instance, a lot of writers assume Writing Center consultants are editors who take the notorious red pen and scribble out all of the writer’s mistakes. This is not a bad assumption. Editors are useful; they focus solely on the paper and even offer advice about what to change (Gillespie and Lerner 45). It seems like a fair deal and a good use of your resources, but the Writing Center offers a learning experience that is much more valuable in the long run.
Our job is to teach our writers skills that will help them learn how to revise their work on their own. A writing session is about the writer, not necessarily their paper. The paper is useful because it offers consultants a sample of the writer’s writing to work with. During a session with a writer, the writer or consultant points out repeated errors the writer makes.
For example, a writer may tell me that their paper does not flow, but they do not know how to fix it. Lack of flow could be a result of missing transitions or scrambled organization. If the writer struggles with transitions, we take time to go through the structure and the purpose of them. The writer then takes this knowledge and applies it to future repeated errors. An editor likely would simply correct the lack of transitions, doing the work for the them, which takes away the writer’s authority and responsibility. An editor’s feedback points out errors to the writer but does not explain why they are errors. An editor also does not take time to explain how to fix the error, which means the writer will likely continue to make this mistake in future writing.
Consultants also ask the writers to read their papers out loud. Although this may be an intimidating request, it actually allows writers to hear errors that they could not catch while reading in their head. This process essentially gives the writer power during their session and takes them out of a passive position.
Many first timers come to the Writing Center for editing but leave feeling grateful for the learning experience. Are classes on campus feeding the “red pen” misconception? How can Writing Center staff do a better job of reaching students and educating professors about how the Writing Center works?
Gillespie, Paula, and Neal Lerner. “The Tutoring Process.” The Longman Guide to Peer Tutoring. 2nd ed., Pearson, 2008, pp. 25-45.