A Look Inside the Workings of the King’s College Writing Center
“We have a kind of motto in the Writing Center,” Dr. James Wallace, English professor and Director of the King’s College Writing Center explained. “We’re not here to make better writing, we’re here to make better writers.”
For nearly 30 years, the King’s College Writing Center has strived to fulfill this motto. Former writing professor, Dr. John Ennis originally created the Center as a place where students could have their drafts read by their peers without feeling judged. Today, the Writing Center still thrives in its current location in the Mulligan Building, receiving an average of 600 visits per semester.
About 15 student tutors make up the staff of the Writing Center. Although most tutors are recommended for the position by their professors, any King’s student can apply for a tutoring position. The tutors represent a wide variety of majors, including the humanities, sciences and business, so students from all areas of study can greatly benefit from visiting the Center.
The Writing Center offers its free services on a walk-in basis, so no appointment is necessary. Students should bring the assignment sheet from the professor and any drafts or pre-writing materials that they have already completed. When the student meets with a tutor, the tutor will read the draft and tell the student about the paper’s strengths and weaknesses.
“There’s no shame in having somebody read your draft,” Wallace said. He added, “I think the first advantage is helping the student understand that their writing is kind of a communal process. All of the kinds of writing that they’re doing in college, all of that is meant to be read.”
When students come to the Writing Center, they might ask for the tutor to “proofread” their paper. However, Mary Evans, senior Writing Center tutor and an English literature, professional writing and philosophy triple major noted, “We don’t proofread. We’re meant to help students through the writing process. It’s more than just checking your paper for spelling errors and grammar.”
Wallace agreed. “We do so much more than just look for mistakes.”
Although tutors will correct spelling and grammar errors, they mainly discuss how students can strengthen their theses, develop their ideas and clarify their writing. If the student does not have a draft, tutors can help with the brainstorming process. Simply by discussing their ideas with a tutor, students can receive guidance for finding a topic, organizing their ideas, and starting the paper. However, the tutors will not write the paper for the student.
In addition to reading drafts and sparking the brainstorming process, the Writing Center can also assist students with citation styles. Tutors can teach the student how to properly cite their sources. They can also show students how to complete assignments such as article summaries and annotated bibliographies, which is especially helpful for underclassmen if they never encountered these sorts of assignments in high school.
Working through the writing process is rewarding, both for the tutor and the students. After visiting the Center, hopefully the student feels more confident in his or her abilities as a writer.
Robbie Hutchison, a senior tutor and biology major recalled, “I get a lot of students who come back again and have another paper looked at, and you can tell we’ve made a difference. You can see the improvement. I’ve also had students come back and tell me, ‘You know that last paper you checked for me? I got a 94.’”
Evans decided to become a tutor because she wants to become a college professor. “I love doing this,” she added. “This is what I’m going to do with my life at some point.”
Wallace, Evans and Hutchison warned that students should not wait until the day the paper is due to come to the Center in case the draft needs major, in-depth revision. If the student comes in earlier, the tutor can thoroughly review the paper. After visiting the Center, students are encouraged to revise their draft and return to have it reread.
The Writing Center is usually busiest at the end of the semester, when students scramble to finish their final papers. However, Evans and Hutchison suggest that students visit early in the semester in order to succeed on their first papers. If the student utilizes the Center for their first paper, they will be able to improve throughout the semester.