Renaming the Writing Center

Two students work together with a laptop and papers.

Have you heard about our new name? Since 1987, we have been called the W&M Writing Resources Center. Lately, however, we have been deep in conversation about our mission and purpose in the university. These discussions have inspired us to adjust our name to match our current practices and our aspirations. We are now the Writing and Communication Center!

Our new name better conveys our role in William & Mary’s dynamic communication environment.

For years, our writing center has helped not only with traditional written assignments but also with multimedia projects and presentations. Many students, however, do not know that we offer services beyond traditional academic essays or research papers. We believe that names hold value and that this new name better reflects our mission to help students with all their academic communication needs. We want the WCC to be a space for strengthening essays, podcasts, presentations, posters, and more!  

Our name change also looks to the future.

We are committed to helping the WCC grow and adapt with the evolving communication needs of our academic community. 

We are still the same student-focused, collaborative learning environment you know and love.

When you make an appointment for a session at the WCC, you will find the same inviting space and friendly faces. You can expect the same care and dedication from our peer consultants. Whether your assignment is a rhetorical analysis, a video essay, or a digital timeline, we look forward to an engaging conversation about your work. Welcome to the Writing and Communication Center!

So You Haven’t Started Your Essay Yet

Sometimes the hardest part of writing an essay is getting started. Even if you’re an experienced writer, each essay presents new challenges, be it the length, the subject, the complexity, or just straight up writer’s block. It happens to all of us.

Let’s say you’ve got a big essay due soon. Maybe you have a few ideas. Maybe you’ve picked a topic or written a thesis. Maybe you’re looking at a blank page. But how do you sit down and write this thing? It’s something I struggle with, and students come in to the writing center with this issue all the time. Here are a few tips I use for getting started, courtesy of everyone’s favorite tool: the outline.

Outlines are your friend!

They may seem like more work to begin with, but starting by creating an essay structure saves you so much time when you are revising and editing.

Your outline is for you, so make it yours.

Make notes to yourself using whatever language feels right to you. Your outline can be as formal or as casual as you want it to be. That may mean that your outline ends up having phrases like “Make a point with that thing we covered in the class about globalization” or “Chapter three scene with what’s his name and Jane.” You’re the only one who needs to understand what you’re talking about.

Use bullet points and lists.

Subheadings, comments, text boxes: you can use whatever format you like, but give yourself plenty of room to move things around or block them off. An outline is a visual document as well as a written one. This is the scaffolding of your essay!

Don’t delete stuff.

If you have outlined a paragraph that you later decide to scrap, don’t delete your work. Instead, move it to a secondary document. You never know when those ideas or quotations might suddenly become very useful.

Treat your outline like a set of directions.

After you’ve got your outline down, you just have to take it paragraph by paragraph, and turn those fragments into complete sentences. And for me, I’ve always found that much easier than turning a blank page into paragraphs.

Still, different styles work for different people, and this method is by no means one-size-fits all. Here are a few links to outline guides that offer some alternative explanations and structures, as well as some brainstorming tools to spark your thinking.

Essay Planning: Outlining with a Purpose

How to Make an Outline (with Template)

Writing as Process: Outlining

Tips for Organizing Your Essay

Brainstorming Techniques

Growing, Writing, and Learning

Before I became a consultant at the WRC, I made over 50 appointments as a student, and I don’t plan on stopping.

Allyson Lowe ’23

In my first semester of college, I confused an author’s middle name for his last name. The following year, I described William Shakespeare as “commenting on nineteenth-century sex politics” instead of the seventeenth century’s. Then, in an upper-level English seminar, I forgot to double- and triple-check my spelling, stringing words together without spaces for half of a sentence. 

Now that I’m a rising senior, you would think I’ve learned all I can when it comes to writing, but no.

While amusing and sometimes obvious, these errors reflect where I was as a writer: growing. I came to William & Mary with a thick Appalachian drawl and no idea what a “college-grade” paper looked like. As the first in my family to attend a four-year university, I was also the first to stumble through an essay’s first, second, and third drafts, let alone the first to make the above mentioned mishaps. My mom, who has always been my biggest supporter, couldn’t advise me on what tense to write in or how to format my paper.

So, I made an appointment with the Writing Resources Center, or the WRC, as I’ve come to know it.

After my first few visits to the WRC, it was clear that my home, albeit seven hours away, heavily informed my authorial voice. Before attending William & Mary, I attended a high school in an educationally and financially underserved community with limited access to writing preparation courses. I wrote a lot, yes, and had a couple of classes that helped hone my writing abilities, but I couldn’t answer questions about what makes a strong thesis statement or the difference between Chicago style and MLA, or why you shouldn’t end a sentence with a preposition. These questions made me feel I was “behind” academically, like I would never make it to my senior year.

I did make it to my senior year (I’m writing this blog post now, two weeks away from my last first day at William & Mary), and that’s because of the support I found at the WRC. The peer consultants I met with answered these questions and didn’t make me feel embarrassed to ask them because, at the end of the day, they were students like me who faced similar challenges when writing. We found the answers together, talking through how a thought-provoking, argumentative claim is key to a good thesis and that the difference between Chicago and MLA boils down to footnotes and endnotes versus in-text citations. I even found the answer to my preposition question: you can end a sentence with a preposition. The conversations I had in the WRC with peer consultants also taught me how to grow from my middle name-last name, Shakespeare, and spelling blunders because to become a better writer, I had to accept there is no such thing as a “perfect” writer. Realizing that I’ll never produce error-free papers has allowed me to grow into myself as a writer, organically and positively. 

Before I became a consultant at the WRC, I made over 50 appointments as a student, and I don’t plan on stopping. I’ve made 65 and plan to exceed 70 by the time I graduate this year because each consultation presents a new learning opportunity. Thanks to the WRC and its supportive team, I know I’m not a small-town girl who’s “behind;” instead, I’m a proud, educated woman moving forward, ready to take on any essay topic, word limit, or deadline–mistakes and all.