What We Do at the Writing Desk

Welcome to the Writing Desk in Rolvaag Library!
Please bring two copies of your work-in-progress and your writing assignment.

What We Do at the Writing Desk:
Writers visiting the Writing Center typically ask for feedback on thesis, organization, and clarity. But while these “higher-order” concerns are paramount for most students who use the center, other writers are at a point where they want to focus on sentence-level issues. It’s really up to the writer to identify what to work on during a session. We hope you leave a session knowing how to do something you didn’t know before you came in. We don’t just want you to have a stronger paper; we want you to be a stronger writer. Here’s our plan:

  • We ask you a lot of questions – we want to make sure that what’s on paper is accurately reflecting what’s in your head. If you don’t have anything on paper yet – we’ll help you generate ideas.
  • Unless you tell us otherwise, we will first ask you about your thesis, development, and organization.
  • We look for places in your paper where your meaning is confusing or unclear.
  • If you know you have trouble with a specific kind of sentence structure, or you’re worried about a specific part of your paper, let us know.
  • If you prefer to work on grammar, punctuation, and proofreading, then we’ll work with you to identify any errors you make, pointing out mistakes we see. This is different than copyediting your entire paper for you. We will collaborate with you and probably focus on just a couple of paragraphs during a single session to develop a sense of your pattern of error. If you want to work on longer chunks of text, plan ahead and make multiple appointments.
  • We might read parts of your text aloud—or we might ask you to read parts aloud—as a way to begin identifying grammar errors that occur more than once, because any errors you make consistently and frequently will probably be the first ones we’ll want to work on. We probably won’t get to everything in one or two sessions, but this way, we’ll get to the most troubling problems first, and by isolating the patterns, you’ll learn to recognize them yourself much faster. For any particular grammatical problem, we’ll first work on helping you understand the underlying rule or concept. And we will show you how to use a writing handbook to identify errors and make the necessary revisions.
  • We’ll help you explore your options for rewriting a sentence more clearly or correctly. We’ll probably ask you more questions about the idea you want to get across, and how you how different ways of restructuring a sentence have different effects on the reader. Only you can rewrite the sentence because we can’t really know exactly what you mean to say, and it’s your academic work.