Frequently Asked Questions

Don't see your question addressed here? Email us, and we'll get back to you within a business day. 

  

When is the Writing Center open?

During the academic year, we are available for online (synchonous via videoconferencing) and email (asynchronous) meetings six days a week, Sunday through Friday.  Our hours are more variable outside of the academic year; please email us during those times (writing@amherst.edu). 

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Who can use the Writing Center?

Amherst College students may schedule consultations for any writing-related matter. Five-College students may schedule consultations to discuss work for an Amherst College course only. Faculty and staff may contact associates directly (or the director) to talk about their writing or to consult about a writing lesson, workshop, or assignment. Amherst College alumni and students at other colleges are not eligible for Writing Center consultations. 

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How does the Writing Center support multilingual students? 

Multilingual students can receive support for learning across languages and navigating the conventions of American English writing and speaking. ESL/ELL tutoring is also available. You can make an appointment with any associate, or with the designated advisor for multilingual students, Emily Merriman (emerriman@amherst.edu).

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Does the Writing Center support writing in any language?

The Writing Center provides support to all writers, no matter what language you’re writing in. We have staff members who can read in languages other than English (French: Emily Merriman; Spanish: Kristen Brookes.) Even if we can’t read a draft for you, we can offer writing strategies and provide feedback on the development of your ideas and the organization of your argument.

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How do I make an appointment?

Please use our online scheduler, WCOnline, to schedule a consultation up to three weeks in advance.

  • Schedule a 45-minute synchronous (via Zoom) appointment using the default calendar, Writing Center Online.
  • If you'd prefer an asynchronous appointment (over email), please select Writing Center Email Consultations in the drop-down menu at the top of the page.
  • For a synchronous (via Zoom) appointment about public speaking, please select the Public Speaking Consultations option in the drop-down menu at the top of the page.

Select a date, time, and associate and complete the pop-up form to schedule your time. Our system will send you an email reminder, but please remember to put your Writing Center appointment on your calendar. 

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What if there are no appointments available?

If you cannot find an available appointment time that fits your schedule, join the waiting list and get notified when times that fit your schedule open up. Please note that the waiting list is first come, first served. Look for the blue “WAITING LIST” link at the lower right corner of the day’s schedule that you’d like to join (see image below).

waiting list

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What if I need to cancel or reschedule my appointment?

If you find you need to cancel or reschedule your appointment, please do so at least 24 hours in advance so that the appointment time can be opened up to other students.

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Do I need to have materials for my appointment?

For online consultations, please have the prompt and any writing available to discuss. Prompts and paper drafts may be uploaded to your scheduled appointment in WCOnline. You can also share your materials with your scheduled associate via email or Google docs prior to or during your consultation.

For email consultations, upload or share documents by 8am the day of your email slot to receive a reply by 5pm. You may share files by uploading documents (.docx or .pdf) to the appointment form or by email (attachment or Google Docs) directly to the writing associate.

The three documents required for email consultations are: your draft, the prompt, and a writer's memo (please use this template).

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Who works at the Writing Center?

The Writing Center is staffed by a team of professional writing and speaking associates. Writing associates have graduate-level training in the teaching of writing and years of experience as college-level writing instructors and tutors; the associate in public speaking has an extensive background in theater and public speaking instruction. Our disciplinary backgrounds and areas of expertise range from the sciences and social sciences to the humanities and creative writing, but we share common approaches to supporting students' development as writers, readers, and public speakers.

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Should I meet with a specific writing associate?

We are all generalists, in that we all can discuss with you any writing assignment at any stage of the writing process, but our approaches to writing instruction do vary. Please visit About Us to learn more about our staff.

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When should I use the Writing Center?

Schedule a consultation any time that you think will be beneficial. Please keep in mind that the writing process takes time, and so we encourage you to make an appointment in enough time to revise. Especially good times to meet with us are when you have ideas but want to discuss a prompt or get started writing, when you feel like you’re writing well but would like an outside reader or some suggestions for improvement, or when you are open to trying out new strategies to make your process feel better or more productive.

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Can my professor make me use the Writing Center?

No. Your professors may encourage you to visit and might do so out of concern for your development as a writer, but they cannot require you to attend appointments.

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Will you report to my professor that I used the Writing Center?

No, consultations are kept confidential within the Writing Center.

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When should I schedule a public speaking consultation?

Please schedule public speaking consultations at least one week before your presentation. Contact Susan Daniels directly at sgdaniels@amherst.edu with questions regarding public speaking support.

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What kind of writing can I work on at the Writing Center?

Our writing associates can work with you on any kind of writing, including (but not limited to) academic essays, honors theses, application essays, lab reports, research papers and posters, speeches and presentations, and creative writing. We can discuss a prompt, an outline, a pile of notes or sketches, a very rough draft, a polished draft, and even a graded paper. We can also discuss writing-related concerns such as procrastination, time management, writing anxiety, and strategies for approaching large projects. 

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Do you work with long papers?

For an online consultation, if you are bringing in a draft that is longer than 8 pages, please book two appointments with the same associate, one for the associate to read and one for discussing your draft. Please note that these two appointments do not need to be back-to-back, and you do not need to attend the first appointment. Be sure to either email your draft to the associate before the first appointment or to attach your draft to your scheduled appointment in WCOnline.

For email consultations, use these page-lengths as a general guide: 

  • For drafts up to 8 pages, please book one slot.
  • For drafts between 9-25 pages, please book two slots with the same associate.
  • Drafts longer than 25 pages in length must be arranged on a case-by-case basis (contact the associate directly).

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What happens during an online writing consultation?

The consultation usually begins with a discussion about why we’re meeting and what kind of help or feedback would be useful. If you have a draft, we may talk before looking at your writing, or we may dive in and read. While we are reading, we may ask you to read, reverse outline, highlight points and evidence, fast write, or brainstorm. Some associates may ask you to read out loud so that we can talk with you about your paper as we both hear it. You may be encouraged to try some exploratory writing or concept mapping, or we might use highlighting tools or virtual whiteboards. Regardless of the approach, you and the writing associate will collaborate to identify and develop strategies to meet your goals.

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What doesn't happen during a writing consultations?

Because our primary aim is to increase your agency and long-term development as a writer, we do not provide quick fixes to your writing. A writing associate will not proofread your paper, but rather will teach you how to proofread your own writing or model sentence-level editing so you can clarify and organize your thinking. Associates may also review a professor’s feedback with you on a graded paper, but we won’t discuss or estimate grades.  

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What happens during a public speaking consultation?

Depending on your purpose or goals, we may brainstorm speech ideas, structure your ideas into a speaking format, or rehearse your speech standing up, just as you will in your actual presentation. We might also practice skills to reduce speaking anxiety or to improve vocal quality (resonance, volume, vocal variety, clarity, etc.). Susan Daniels, our public speaking associate, can also help you practice audience engagement with a memorized introduction and conclusion. Additionally, groups of students can meet to rehearse a group presentation or panel discussion.  

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