Special services help students write right


    By Karen Vargo

    Writing and a BYU education go hand in hand as resources across campus strive to improve student and faculty writing.

    Resources available to improve writing at BYU include the Writing Center, Faculty Editing Services, the Writing Matters faculty newsletter and the Publishing Lab.

    “Taking advantage of the writing resources on campus is important,” said Brittany Beattie, a graduate student instructor of English 115.

    “I require my students to visit the Writing Center on campus,” she said.

    The Writing Center assists students with the overall concept and structure of their writing and helps them catch errors they may not have seen, she said.

    “Students generally have a positive reaction to the Writing Center and can see their own improvements,” Beattie said.

    The Writing Center, located in 1010 JKHB, is available to all BYU students, said John Cutler, a tutor at the Writing Center.

    Tutors at the Center help students recognize and improve important aspects of their writing such as structure, content and logical ordering of ideas, Cutler said.

    The Writing Center provides students with tools they need to revise their papers and helps them become aware of their writing tendencies so they can make better revisions of their work, he said.

    The Center”s resources are not restricted to English and humanities majors, but are open to assist every student during the writing process, Cutler said.

    Tutors trained in technical writing are available to assist students studying the hard sciences and business, he said.

    Not only does the Writing Center assist students in becoming better writers but also helps them become effective communicators, Beattie said.

    The more a person practices and improves their writing the better communicator they will be, she said.

    Several aspects contribute to becoming a better writer but the most important is “rewriting and lots of it,” Cutler said.

    He said he still brings his papers into the Writing Center to have them reviewed and improved upon.

    “If you are looking to be a better writer then talking to other writers about your work is key,” Cutler said.

    Students are not the only ones who have resources available to them to help improve writing.

    Faculty Editing Services, available to all BYU faculty members, seeks “to encourage faculty, including those who are not confident of their writing skills, to publish and to help all faculty to improve their writing skills and confidence,” said Don Norton, director of Faculty Editing Services and assistant professor of linguistics at BYU.

    This service was established to fulfill requests by faculty to have their work edited, he said.

    Faculty in all areas of study and with an array of writing abilities send their manuscripts to the service to be edited, he said.

    Faculty member”s writing progressively improves as their strengths and weaknesses are pointed out to them, he said.

    “It”s quite remarkable to see the progress they make by looking at their edited writing,” Norton said.

    “When you make a person a better writer in the university atmosphere, you make them a better teacher because they feel more confident in assessing student writing.”

    Faculty Editing Services assist BYU faculty in “producing manuscripts that will be better qualified to compete for review by journal editors and publishers,” Norton said. “If you submit an edited manuscript it has a better chance of being published.”

    And this is what Faculty Editing Services tries to accomplish.

    “Our main purpose is to see people get published,” he said. “If you submit a manuscript that”s been edited, it”s going to be more competitive.”

    Though other Universities have editing services, BYU”s service appears to be unique because it is free, he said.

    About 7 to 8 thousand pages are edited by Faculty Editing Services per year, Norton said.

    “We get quite a spectrum of people,” he said. “And we work on just about anything from draft to polished products.”

    The Writing Matters newsletter is another resource BYU full and part-time faculty have access to.

    This newsletter is published three times a semester and is distributed to all BYU faculty.

    The newsletter focuses on areas of concern in regard to writing across campus, said Beth Hedengren, a consultant for Writing across the Curriculum and coordinator for the Writing Fellows Program.

    Often faculty will read suggestions in the newsletter that will lead them to improve their teaching and curriculum, she said.

    “Those changes in teaching strategies will help students be more successful in learning the skills and abilities they need to do well in their classes and in their professions,” Hedengren said.

    A monthly luncheon is held for all BYU faculty where writing specialists and faculty who are doing exemplary work with teaching writing in their disciplines present material to those in attendance, she said.

    These luncheons facilitate discussion and help answer questions faculty members have in regard to writing, Hedengren said.

    “No matter what you know, if you can”t communicate it, it won”t do any good,” she said. “Writing is important in every field because we need to communicate what we”ve learned to other people so they can learn and continue to grow-this is what knowledge building and education is all about.”

    The Publishing Lab offers students the resources they need to share their work with others through publication, said Colleen Whitley, a lecturer and co-founder of publishing lab.

    The Publishing Lab assists students in finding markets interested in publishing their work and has information on publishers, contests, symposiums, guidelines, and samples of query letters, she said.

    With the help of the Publishing Lab, students” work has appeared in publications ranging from The New Era and various campus journals to Bluegrass Magazine, she said.

    The Lab is a free service available to all BYU students and is located in 2279 SFLC, Whitley said.

    Despite some student”s belief, people are interested in what they have written, she said.

    “We have bright people at BYU doing significant things that the world at large needs to know about,” she said.

    Tutors at the Publishing Lab help students find appropriate markets for their work and assist students in tailoring their work to fit specific audiences, giving them a greater chance of being published, she said.

    Too many people think that being published is an impossible feat but this is not the case, Whitley said.

    Half a dozen of Whitley”s freshman students have sold their work to the New Era magazine and other publications.

    Though the Publishing Lab cannot guarantee a student will be published, it can cut down on the number of rejections students receive by directing them to the right markets, Whitley said.

    One of the key purposes of writing is to “communicate information, ideas and philosophy to someone else,” she said. “This is where the writing resources on campus are helpful.”

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