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What I Learned at the Writing Center

writing center staff

It’s a nondescript office from the hallway, but the first thing I notice when I step through the door of the Boise State Writing Center is the friendly voices and laughter.

“You look important,” someone says to me for the first time in my life. It’s because I’m carrying a clipboard, I realize, but I appreciate the immediate compliment.

I was here to meet with the director of the Writing Center, Melissa Keith, to learn more about what goes on at the Writing Center, and to see if I could learn something new to share with everyone. Turns out– I learned a great deal. Here’s what I learned:

Feedback is critical to your writing

Just having another set of eyes has huge benefits – someone will catch things you never even thought of. The Writing Center’s tagline is “because writers need readers,” and that’s a perfect summary of what they do. Some people don’t realize really great writers always have people review their work, and the revision process is the most important part.

There’s a large student staff from a variety of majors

Do you have a research paper due in APA style? How about MLA, Chicago? Perfect, they have people that know exactly how to help. The staff isn’t just filled with English majors. They’re from all across campus.

They don’t just help with assignments and papers

They also help with scholarship applications, application letters to grad school, med school or law school, resumes and cover letters. You name it, they can help with it. Particularly exciting to me is that they help faculty and staff too.

Their consultants go through rigorous training

They start with a 1-credit internship and a 3-credit theory course before they can be considered employees. They also offer professional development throughout the year– “Our folks aren’t some yahoos off the street… I mean a little,” Melissa said. So the people they have looking over your writing are the real deal!

They offer online consulting

For those who are too busy, shy, live off campus, or for any other reason don’t have enough time to commit to a face-to-face writing consultation, they’ll easily do it online. You just have to let them know what you want their feedback on.

The free services they provide would normally cost around $20 an hour

Yeah, services from the Writing Center are FREE for everyone on campus.

They’re not scary! And they have an ample supply of candy and coffee.

Melissa said, “People are nervous about sharing their writing — and rightfully so — especially when they expect that Judge Judy is gonna show up and red-mark it to death. But that’s not what we do here. I think people are surprised once they come into the space and realize ‘oh, we’re just talking about my ideas and making sure it’s on the page.’ Yeah, it’s what we do here.”

When I asked what her favorite thing about working at the Writing Center was, she said, “Everyone on the staff works here because they are really interested in helping writers achieve their goals, and that’s exciting to be around… It’s really rewarding work.”

Before I left she offered a quick writing tip for those finishing up their papers, “When you’re done, read it out loud to catch any final typos or wonky sentences. When it comes off of your tongue, it slows down in a way that your brain sort of scans over it and so you catch a lot of your own things just by taking the time. So doing that before your final print I think is a good last-second tip.”

They even offered to proofread this article before I published it– because of course they did — and you know what? I’m not even nervous about it. If you like this article, it would have been way less good without the help of the Writing Center. Set up your appointment now. Their schedule books up closer to finals week, so the earlier you see them, the better for all.

By Mike Taylor

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