Frequently Asked Questions

What happens during an appointment?

First, you will come to ECH 102, where you will be greeted by your tutor.

Next, you and your tutor will sit down and get ready to work. You will give a printed copy of your assignmentand/or assignment guidelines to your tutor, and together you will set a realistic goal for your session, depending on the type of assignment, and the amount of work you already have done.

Throughout the session, your tutor will ask you questions and make suggestions as to how you can organize, improve or strengthen your work. Remember: your tutor will make suggestions, but it is up to you, the author, to change your own work.

These are some of the levels of editing you may receive:

Developmental editing

…which is helping you

  • select a topic
  • generate ideas by asking questions
  • decide which ideas to pursue and discard
  • develop an outline or proposal
  • locate sources

Substantive|structural editing

…which includes

  • pointing out problems in organization
  • querying gaps in logic or argument
  • suggesting the author add definitions or examples, expand explanations, or provide more background info
  • drawing attention to internal inconsistencies (inconsistencies within the paper)
    • e.g. factual inconsistencies
    • e.g. inconsistencies between evidence provided and the author’s interpretation of evidence
    • e.g. inconsistencies in tone
  • looking for incomplete or missing references (i.e. plagiarism)

Language|line|stylistic editing

…which entails

  • identifying and helping the author understand and correct errors in grammar, syntax, usage, and diction
  • pruning redundant or indirect phrasing
  • substituting stronger words for weaker ones
  • removing unintentionally biased language

Mechanical editing

…which encompasses

  • catching typos and spacing errors
  • checking format of in-text citations and bibliographies
  • noting inconsistencies in spelling, capitalization, hyphenation, and punctuation
  • standardizing treatment of numbers and use of abbreviations or acronyms
  • applying consistent styling of special elements (e.g. headings, lists, tables, charts, and graphs, use of bold or italics)

What CAN’T a tutor do during an appointment?

We understand that it’s important for your writing to reflect your own voice, abilities, and knowledge. For this reason, writing tutors are trained to edit and educate, rather than simply rewrite your work. Tutors are given clear guidelines regarding how to engage with you and the level of editorial intervention that’s appropriate.

Unacceptable tutoring activities include, but are not limited to:

  • influencing the ideas or opinions expressed in your assignment
  • supplying alternate phrasing
  • making direct changes to your print or electronic document
  • allowing you to copy comments/corrections from a tutor’s own sheet.


If a passage in a your draft is unclear, the tutor will review that section with the you, ask you open-ended questions about your intended meaning, and have the you supply alternative wording. If there is an error or inconsistency, the tutor will point it out, explain why it is incorrect or inconsistent, and discuss ways to resolve it with you. In all cases, YOU are left to decide which changes to adopt, and how to implement those changes in your own draft.

What should I bring to my appointment?

Bring any instructions your professor has given you and any questions you may have about the assignment.

If you have already written something you would like to review, you must also bring

  • 2 printed copies of your assignment, OR
  • 1 printed copy of your assignment (for us) and your laptop (for you).

See for more information on how to print on campus.

There are several reasons why we work with printed copies at the Writing Centre. Over the years, we have found that it is easier for the tutor and the student to each have a copy of the same draft to read through and mark up during the appointment. Due to university policies on plagiarism, tutors are not permitted to make direct changes to a student’s copy of their assignment. Tutors also do not review assignments on student laptops, since they are less likely to notice errors on screen.

We also do not allow students to take photos of the tutor’s copy of an assignment at the end of the session.

Instead, students are encouraged to make changes to their own copy throughout the appointment so that they understand the changes they are making and so that their notes are legible.

We also require a printed copy for the tutor because the Writing Centre keeps records of all assignments it reviews for internal purposes. Data collected from these records is used to generate reports on the Centre’s users and activities. These reports are shared with STU administrators, staff, and faculty, as well as with the Centre’s external funding partners. Copies of all assignments are destroyed at the end of each academic year.

I haven’t written anything yet. Can I still come for help?

Absolutely! We can help you go over your assignment guidelines and come up with a plan for what to write. We can also meet to go over general concepts in grammar, essay structure, or APA, MLA and Chicago style.

I need help, but I can’t meet with a tutor. Can I email you my paper?

Unfortunately, the Writing Centre cannot review papers over email. If you’re looking for quick tips, try our Moodle page: it has helpful handouts on writing-related topics, how-to videos, and online grammar exercises.

Why aren’t there any appointments showing on the calendar?

If no appointments showing on the calendar (in white), that means that there are no appointments available for the current week. Use the arrows at the top of the calendar to view next week’s appointments.

Is there a waitlist?

Yes. Click on the clock icon located next to the date on the calendar. You can either add yourself to the waitlist for that whole day, or for specific times on that day. If a cancellation occurs, all students on the waitlist are emailed a notification that an appointment has become available. The first student to visit the calendar and book the appointment will receive it.

My appointment time isn’t showing up correctly on my end. What’s wrong?

It is possible that your mobile device or another calendar app on your computer is not set to the current time zone.

Always log in directly to your STU email, or view our calendar directly at, to confirm appointment times.

Is there anything I can’t bring to the Writing Centre?

We cannot assist with assignments for ESL courses. However, we can assist ESL students with assignments for non-ESL courses.

The Writing Centre also cannot assist students with take-home exams, including those that follow an essay format.

How many pages can we review during our 50-minute appointment?

It depends on the goal of the session and the state of your paper. If the paper does not require major structural revisions, we may be able to get through 5-6 pages. Students are encouraged to book more than one appointment to review longer assignments.

I can only come to half of my appointment. Is that okay?

Yes. Just indicate this in the “What would you like to work on?” field of the appointment form when booking your appointment.

I am working on a group assignment. Should I come by myself or with my other group members?

One or two students can attend an appointment on behalf of a larger group. However, the tutor may point out problems that can’t be solved during an appointment because the authors of the document aren’t present. When this happens, the tutor will ask questions that the student can pass on to other group members for consideration.