Undergraduate Students

One thing we can guarantee, as you move through your curriculum at UB, you are going to be writing a lot.  And, most students find writing projects to be among the most challenging and stressful things about college.   Even the most talented writers experience the struggle. There are so many choices, dilemmas and uncertainties in the writing process.  It can raise anxiety.  And what do we do when we get anxious?   We avoid!  Hence, the classic procrastination scenario.   That's why some of the most motivated and successful students are regular visitors at the writing center.  Then it's just a natural progression to have support when it comes time for those graduate school applications, job letters, fellowships and scholarships.  Next thing you know, you're a success story!    

Hot tip:  Have your assignment sheet at the ready.   

My consultant was really enthusiastic about reading my paper and made me feel confident about my writing.

I felt like I was ready to keep working after my meeting, and felt uplifted rather than discouraged!

We don't just do class essays!

We can also help you things like scholarship applications, personal statements, job letters and other really important pieces of writing.

Frequently Asked Questions

How should I prepare for my visit to the Writing Center

You will be in charge during your consultation, so bring a clear sense of what you wish to work on. What do you think is going well so far? What problems are you having? What questions do you have? You may want to bring particular questions you have and some notes to remind yourself of what you want from the session. It is also a very good idea to bring your assignment sheet, if applicable, so that the consultant can understand your instructor's expectations. Your consultant is an experienced student and sometimes a writing teacher; they can often help you to interpret the assignment sheet. You can work off of a printed copy or view the document on a laptop, but generally consultants prefer working with a hard copy. This allows you to make notes on your draft as you discuss it.  If you haven’t generated a draft yet, that is absolutely fine. It is sometimes a good idea to visit us during the earlier stages of your writing process for brainstorming and planning. Bring whatever notes you have, in that case. 

What is a typical session with a consultant like?

In a typical session, first you will get acquainted with your consultant. They will ask you to tell them about your writing project and what you would like to work on.  At this time, you can share the assignment sheet with them.  They may ask you about your writing process. Is this your first draft, or have you already gone through multiple revisions?  When it comes time to read the paper, depending upon the length and other factors, they might invite you to read the piece aloud, or the consultant may read the piece aloud while you listen.  If the piece is long, the consultant might read it silently, but specific portions might be read aloud during the process of discussion.  As the paper is being read, both you and the consultant should feel free to stop and discuss specific passages.  Remember that you are in charge of your session.  You are the expert on what you are trying to convey through your writing.  The consultant helps by asking you clarifying questions, suggesting strategies, and assisting you to think about rhetorical issues such as audience, purpose, genre, and so on.  A session lasts up to 45 minutes.  You may not be able to address all aspects of the piece of writing, but ideally you should leave with a clear plan for making significant improvement.  If you would like to schedule another appointment, stop by the reception desk on the way out or make an appointment on our website. 

Which consultant should I choose?

It really is up to you.  Sometimes working with a relatable peer is what feels right.   In that case, take advantage of working with one of our highly trained undergraduate consultants who may have recently experienced the writing challenges you are facing.   If you are a graduate student, you should only make an appointment with a graduate consultant.  Choose an MA or PhD level consultant as appropriate.  Advanced undergraduates or those working on high stakes projects such as applications or personal statements should select a graduate student consultant.   Regular visitors often find one or more specific consultants with whom they especially enjoy working. If you have a question about the best match for you, ask the TA on duty when you are scheduling your appointment, email writing@buffalo.edu, or call 654-5139.  


Do you have a consultant in my major?

Possibly, but likely not! While we strive for disciplinary diversity in our staff, we don’t have representatives from every major.  Our consultants may not be able to help you with your course content, but they can be an outside audience for your piece to make sure you are communicating clearly and logically and ask you questions that will help develop your understanding and your ideas about the subject matter.

What do you mean you aren't an editing or proofreading service?

Like writing centers across the nation, our mission is a teaching one -- to employ research based strategies help you to develop as a writer. We work with writers in all phases of the writing process from planning and brainstorming, revising to improve argument development, use of evidence, organization, audience awareness, genre awareness, as well as those final editing and proofreading phases.  We want to meet you at your point of need, so you are invited to identify what aspect of writing you want to focus upon in your session.

If you are receiving feedback that your grammar, syntax, style, or other aspects of sentence mechanics need work, we absolutely can work with you in those areas.  Because learning requires active participation, you will be involved in any work on the sentence level.  We will look carefully at your writing to see what is most interfering and what patterns we can see.  We will help you to become more familiar with the mechanics of your sentences to inform your proofreading processes.  We may talk about strategies, introduce you to tools that will help you, and show you typical errors and how to fix them. What we will not do is go through your paper, line by line, locating and fixing every error for you.  

Think of it this way: if you visited a tutoring center for math, you would not hand the tutor your homework and say, "I just need you to fix my calculation errors." Rather, you would expect to leave the session understanding the concepts of the homework in such a way that you would be able to perform them independently in the future. Learning to write well works the same way. In fact, the more complex your ideas and sentences become, the more likely it is that there will be some mechanical errors or stylistic awkwardness in these sentences! Errors are a part of the process of growing and developing as a writer and a thinker.

We are all fortunate that UB is such a globalized university. For many of our visitors, English is not a native language.  We recognize that sentence level issues of grammar, syntax, word choice and style can be a significant challenge for non-Native speakers, often interfering with intended meaning.  It is quite a different thing to acquire a second (or third!) language than to master a native language.  If you are an international or non-native English speaking student, rest assured we will help you with your sentence mechanics. Knowing your journey is different, our practices are based upon research specific to the study of non-Native English speaking writers and writing centers.  

Will I get a better grade on my essay if I come into the Writing Center?

You might!  Remember the writing center is a tool that motivated students use to become more effective communicators.  However, the grades that you get are earned by you.  Our consultants cannot get a specific grade for you, nor can they accurately predict what grade a professor will assign to you.  Consultants will not focus attention on all aspects of a piece of writing, only what can be reasonably and coherently addressed in a particular session.  It is up to you to apply the insight that you and your consultant have collaboratively created in your session.  It may be that some insight or learning that takes place in this session will end up making a difference in a future assignment.  Always we are focused upon your development as a writer.   Assignments are signposts on that journey. 

What if my professor has assigned me to come into the Writing Center?

That is fine, but we hope that you also have an interest in being here.  While you are here, think of what you can get out of the session and take advantage of the opportunity.  If your professor needs verification of your visit, ask for a consultation verification form at the end of your session.  We hope you will have a great experience and come back to visit us whenever you need some help with your writing. 

My professor told me I need to work on my grammar. Can you help me with this?

Of course!  Usually problems with sentence structure are decreased through careful reflection, revision, and proofreading. The more times you look back and revise and reread, the more solid your sentences become. If problems persist after these stages a consultant will look carefully at your writing with you to help you develop an awareness of the patterns in your writing and how to fix errors or improve style.  They may also give you tools or suggest strategies for improving your editing and proofreading process.  

Can the CEW help with group projects?

Yes!  If your group would like to come into the center to get help with a group project, one of our consultants would be happy to meet with you. We can assist you early in the process as you design a plan for writing collaboratively or later as you refine the project. Let us know if you are scheduling a group consultation.  We may want to accommodate you in our satellite in 128 Capen where we have a seminar table.  It is best if all group members come in with a collaboratively written document.  

Can the CEW help me with take-home exams?

Generally, if a piece of writing is identified as an exam, we need the professor’s permission to work with a student.  If you are unsure of whether your professor will allow you to bring a take-home exam to the CEW, please ask him or her for verification.  The professor can email us with permission (writing@buffalo.edu) or can put permission on the assignment sheet.  However, with any piece of writing, our consultants do not contribute ideas or content knowledge.  We simply guide you toward expressing your own knowledge, understanding or ideas in an effective manner. 

What should I do after my appointment?

Toward the end of your session, you and your consultant should work out a plan of action for your next steps.  Soon after the appointment, you should sit down with any notes that you have from the session, look at your draft with fresh eyes, and do some decision making.  Remember, you are in charge of your draft; you are the expert on what you want to say.  You can decide what suggestions or ideas that arose in the consultation should be applied in your revision.

Fall 2020

Tanzania at the front desk.

Walk in or make an appointment

Center for Excellence in Writing, 209 Baldy Hall, North Campus

Fall 2020

We are pleased to offer interactive, remote writing consultations seven days a week for the Fall semester!    

Questions?  Email writing@buffalo.edu