How Writing Centers Work

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Simply put, writing centers are places for all writers to seek feedback on their writing at any point in their process. Writing centers help writers improve their writing, knowledge of disciplinary conventions, and confidence through advising students on the writing tasks at hand.

What? A writing center consultation can address a variety of a writer’s concerns and questions. These can include how to get started, interpreting assignment instructions, discussing the writer’s ideas, encouraging the writer past self-doubt and anxieties, reading a draft aloud for readability and style, checking with the writer to see if they have met goals and criteria for the task, addressing questions about language, and working with the writer on citing and referencing. Though some aspects of the work we do with students can be described as “proofreading,” most consultations cover so much more.

Why? Writing centers are an essential support service on every campus where students have something to write and questions about how best to write it. All writers benefit from feedback on their writing. The common notion of writers working and publishing in isolation is the exception, not the norm. The reality is that successful writers––published or not––seek and receive feedback on the ideas, language, mechanics, and formatting in their work.

Who? A student with a question about their writing (typically assigned but not always) works with a trained writing tutor. Peer consultants are students like the writers whom they tutor; professional staff consultants are advanced degree holders with years of experience and, often, careers dedicated to writing center work. Additionally, at UW Tacoma, we feel strongly about welcoming students of all backgrounds, and we work to provide a supportive space and staff who understand and reflect the diversity of the student body.

When? Writing centers have varied hours, but typically operate morning, day, and evening to meet student need. The UW Tacoma TLC hours are listed on our homepage. Staff are not available for consultation during holidays. Though no tutoring schedule is available during the breaks between academic quarters, staff can consult with those who inquire directly by email ( or phone 253-692-4417.

Where? Writing consultations––of the in-person variety––typically take place at a table with a writer and consultant sitting side-by-side or across the table from each other. At UW Tacoma, these consultations occur on the 2nd Floor of the Snoqualmie Building. Alternatively, consultations can occur on a computer. In our case, these “eTutoring” consultations are asynchronous, with the tutor reading and commenting on a digital document provided by the student writer, who then retrieves the feedback later.

How? Students first decide to seek help or feedback, then make an appointment on our web-based schedule or drop in. Once the consultation begins, tutors work to understand the unique concerns, questions, needs, the goals of each writer, and the parameters of each rhetorical situation (e.g. writing assignment, presentation, application essay, etc.). In face-to-face consultations, tutor and writer agree on an agenda or direction and procede from there. A consultant will typically make recommendations about which concerns to prioritize, and might need to re-evaluate these priorities in light of new questions or dwindling time.


Additional Information about Writing Centers