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The Writing Center

Hours: Mon - Thurs: 8-4, Fri 8-2
Phone: (920) 465-2338

Writing Center > Goals & Policies

Goals & Policies

When you come to us for help in the Writing Center, naturally we want you to get a good grade on the writing assignment you bring to us. But keep in mind that our primary goal is to help you to become a better writer, more capable of finding problems in your own writing and improving that writing as you revise. In effect, we want to help you to reach the point where you don't need our tutoring any more.

What does this mean in terms of the actual tutoring session? Well, first it means that we'll advise you, but we won't make your writing decisions for you. We'll point out that an essay needs more research and information, but we can't do the research for you. We'll point out that an essay has organizational problems, and we might even suggest ways to reorganize it, but we won't do the reorganizing for you. We'll point out that a particular wording seems awkward or confusing, and we'll explain why it seems that way, but we won't rewrite the sentence for you.

Above all, we won't fix every spelling, punctuation, grammar, or usage error in the paper for you. This is because you must retain authorship. If we give you advice about reorganizing, you still have to decide whether or not to take the advice-and if you take our advice, you still must make the specific decisions about how to reorganize. But if you have an apostrophe error, there's really no decision to make: it should be fixed. But if we fix it, you haven't done anything, and all we've taught you is, "I don't need to learn the rules of punctuation, because I can just take my papers to the Writing Center and have the tutors take care of all that sort of thing."

On the other hand, we're not simply going to ignore problems in punctuation, grammar, and so forth, sadistically waiting for the professor to lower your grade for those errors. Rather, we'll look for patterns in your errors: your most frequent errors, your most serious errors, the types of situations in which you seem to make those errors. We'll then point out those patterns to you, so you can know what to look for. We'll probably show you an example or two of your most frequent or most serious errors, explain the error, correct it, perhaps give you a photocopied page from a textbook explaining the rules governing that error, and then encourage you to find and correct the other examples of that error found in your writing. In the long run, this should help you to become a better writer far more than if we simply corrected every comma error, subject-verb agreement error, and so forth, in your paper.

One final point: when we tutor, we go from large-scale to small-scale. And if the large-scale problems are severe enough, we may not get around to dealing with the small-scale ones. After all, it does no good to point out a comma problem if the entire paragraph containing that comma problem needs to be rewritten because of lack of adequate research or lack of organization. And if we tell you, "You probably need to rewrite this entire paragraph, and by the way you should eliminate that comma in the third line of the paragraph," we're sending you a mixed message.

So to sum up, we'll help you a great deal with your papers, but we won't simply fix everything for you. If you use our services, you'll certainly turn in better papers; but more important, you'll gradually become a better writer.