International Writing Centers Week: Our Favorite Writing Tips

International Writing Centers Week celebrates the work that tutors do on campuses and encourages students, faculty, and staff to take advantage of WC services. For our 2016 celebration, we’ll be sharing tips and stories from our talented tutors. First up, we asked tutors “is there a bit of writing advice that has been particularly helpful or that has stayed with you?” Here are some of their answers. Share your own in the comments or on Twitter at @neuwrites.

“There are really small things from my undergraduate professors that always pop into my head when I’m writing. One professor would circle any time I referred to “this” without a noun after it. “This what?” she would write. Often, I realized I didn’t actually know! That has stayed with me and I always try to be as specific as possible, even if it takes me a little longer to work out the meaning in my own head.” -Lauren, English PhD student

The Writing Center-7.jpg“There has to be a way to separate your writing from everyone else’s; often times, that can come in the form of creative arguments or in stylistic decisions.” -Zack, English MA student

“In his book On Writing, Stephen King says that adverbs are like dandelions — you have to root them out before they take over your lawn. Getting rid of as many adverbs as possible has forced me to make the rest of my words more specific.” -Kayla, English BA/MA student

“The first philosophy professor I had at Northeastern encouraged me to read my papers out loud, both to myself and to my peers. This has been really helpful in editing, because often you can hear when you’ve made a grammar error more easily than you can see it on a paper. But it’s also more generally helpful for viewing your paper from the reader’s perspective – evaluating arguments, organization, and other elements of the piece.” -Aja, Philosophy and Math BS student

“Don’t be afraid to delete!” – Lisa, English and Journalism BA student

“Writing tasks are all different, so you might need to adjust your approach.” -Areti, English PhD student

The Writing Center-4.jpg“Absolutely: ‘trim the fat;’ be concise and precise in the language you use, whether it be word choice, punctuation, or any other linguistic marker of emphasis.” -Jimmy, English PhD student

“Writing is re-writing. Your first draft isn’t going to be the final draft and it doesn’t mean you’re not a good writer. It just takes hard work.” -Katie, Media Arts BA student

“My high school English teacher, who really shaped me as a writer, told me to “hold back”—that when you write as powerfully as you can all of the time, and try to make every sentence have as much impact as possible, it makes the most powerful parts of the piece less meaningful. I remember it really ticking me off at the time, because I prided myself on my control of language and how I could produce some pretty powerful sentences; it’s one of the things people who read my writing comment on the most. I still haven’t mastered “holding back” but it’s valuable to keep in mind, especially for genres like poetry where making an impact with word choice is really important.” – Julia, Marine Biology BS student

“Just write. Don’t worry about how stupid it sounds or how bad it is, anything can be improved – but you can’t improve nothing.” -Abbie, English MA student

Hands 2“Proofread in reverse! I go paragraph by paragraph, starting at the end of the paper. This helps me step back from the content, which is especially helpful when I don’t have time to take a break in between writing and editing.” -Taylor, International Affairs BA student

“I once had a teacher suggest leaving the introduction to the end of the process. To this day, I always write the introduction after I’ve wrapped up all the body/central content; it saves me rewrites and incites me to actually dive into the paper.” – Anna, Business Administration BA student

“I remember my high school creative writing teacher telling us, “You have to write for yourself.” Writing isn’t about impressing your professors, or even about getting published. If you love writing enough, you’ll do it entirely for your own enjoyment and improvement, without feeling the need to show anyone. This isn’t exactly advice, but I keep it in mind whenever I don’t feel like writing just to write!” -Ivy, English BA student


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