The Big Picture by Kenzie Page

Post date: Nov 16, 2017 12:07:50 AM

When a writer walks into the Writing Center, they will be asked to fill out a neon green intake form. This form has a space titled “special concerns” where writers specify a focus for the appointment. Despite signs peppering the walls of the Writing Center that say “we do not proofread, edit or correct errors,” the majority of intake forms state that students would like help with proofreading and grammar. Writer responses on these intake forms indicate a large misunderstanding about what the purpose of the Writing Center is and what we do here. When I was an undergraduate student at the University of Colorado, I remember passing our campus writing center whenever I walked to the dining hall. I thought the center was for proofreading or resume formatting assistance. My misconceptions were similar to those of many UNLV students. Some writers are disappointed when they discover that we are not going to “fix” their essays, but the good news is that what we do is even better.

Writing consultations focus on the big picture. Have you ever done a paint-by-number? The ultimate goal of a paint-by-number is to create a beautiful painting. If some of the little spaces are painted with the wrong color, the big picture can often still be seen. If too many of them are painted incorrectly, they may start to obscure the overall image. At the Writing Center, we are focused on the big picture. If grammar and punctuation begin to obscure your ideas, then it may be necessary for a consultant to explain grammatical concepts. Don’t get me wrong, grammar is important, but ideas are more important. Most departments have proofreaders available for students. There are also various websites that will evaluate grammar and punctuation. At the UNLV Writing Center, we are in the business of fostering ideas and finding ways to communicate them effectively. The purpose of writing is not to demonstrate knowledge of English grammar; the purpose of writing is expression.

Here at the Writing Center, we will not go through your essay with a fine-tooth comb and make sure every comma is in its proper place, but here’s what we can help with: brainstorming and organizing ideas for a paper, strengthening thesis statements, using effective quotations, improving language choice, implementing transitions, outlining, writing introductions, writing conclusions, and so much more. We also offer handouts on formatting in APA, ASA, ASM, Chicago, and MLA styles. We are happy to explain some grammatical concepts and have handouts on everything from apostrophes to pronouns.

So when you come into the Writing Center and are filling out that bright green form, it is okay to not know what to put in the “special concerns” space, and it’s even okay to write “grammar.” Just know, you are about to get so much more. Get ready for your writing will take one step closer to becoming a masterpiece.