Have you ever had your paper looked over by one of your friends and wondered if your sociology/political science dual majoring best friend is the greatest person to be asking for writing advice? Is the infamous red pen your worst nightmare, haunting your dreams with illegible scribbles and grammatical errors? Approaching your professor for help can be intimidating, but the good news is that the FSU Reading and Writing Center is here to the rescue.
Unfortunately, many students enrolled at FSU are completely unaware of the essay-writing treasures scattered throughout campus. “No” was the resounding response I received from most students when asked about their knowledge of the facilities. Even a majority of the English students, who pass by the most well-known writing center in the Williams Building on a daily basis, knew very little about it other than the colorful flyers posted on its bulletin board and windows.
“I worked at a writing center as an undergraduate at my old school and I didn’t even know that FSU had ones as well,” philosophy graduate student Adam Hamilton said. Those that have heard of FSU’s centers also seemed to express an overall lack of knowledge of the center’s services. “I often just have my friends edit my papers,” psychology and philosophy major Joe Carey said.
So what is a writing center?
Brooke Bassett, a graduate student and peer tutor at the center said,“The main goal of the writing center is to help students better their writing skills and to help them develop their skills in written communication.”
This doesn’t mean the working tutors just start grabbing a red pen, snatching up the essay in question and silently critiquing the work on their own. “Instead the center offers tutors who will help students with content and clarity without editing papers for them,” Bassett said. The emphasis is off the tutor and instead focused primarily on the student, allowing him to come to his own conclusions about how his writing can be improved with little helpful nudges and explanations from the tutor along the way.
The tutors aren’t all lofty English professors and literature specialists either; they’re students just like the people they’re helping. Often required to take a peer tutoring course offered by FSU before applying to be a tutor, these students are on the same level as the people they are coaching, which helps to eliminate the anxiety of reaching out to a professor. “Most students don’t see the center as a peer type space without any judging,” Bassett said, “They often see it as a remedial service for those with bad writing that is below their level.” In reality, the writing center is meant to be a source of inspiration and refinement, from students making their way through English 101 to graduate students looking for an extra pair of eyes to parse through a section of their theses.
Tutors can help during all stages of the process, including brainstorming and explaining corrections on pieces given back to students. They can be pairs of ears as you explain a topic idea that you’re afraid might be too convoluted or they can get down to the nitty gritty with grammar mistakes.
“The experience wasn’t bad at all, the staff obviously wanted to help,” said Matt St. Amand, a former FSU student who was required by class to make an appointment. “I wasn’t thrilled to go, feeling a bit put on the spot, but it wasn’t as bad as I expected. They were friendly and did what they could to assist.”
Ultimately, the FSU Reading and Writing Center is an excellent resource, but what you do with it is up to you. It’s services are available to all students enrolled at FSU and certain instructors often require students to make an appointment for a paper review, regardless of the subject being taught. There are three locations: Williams 222C, Johnston Ground and the first floor of Strozier, with various hours from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. to accommodate any busy schedule. Appointments can be made electronically on the FSU RWC website.
Don’t be a stranger to your local writing center. Instead of asking your friend for short-term edits, come in and learn skills that will help you throughout your four years of research papers.