The Categories We Keep: Writing Center Forms and the Topoi of Writing
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At the writing center where I began my career, every session ended with a conundrum. Our database required us to complete the record for the consultation by checking one of some two dozen checkboxes indicating the topics covered during the session. Because most of the tutors were graduate students concurrently teaching first-year composition, some of these topics were drawn from the standardized curriculum for that course, including a tripartite division of the revision process into the separate stages of revising, editing, and proofreading. These categories were inherently redundant, since the tutor then had to check whatever other aspects of writing revising at each of these levels entailed. As time went on, we added additional categories to reflect the kind of language novice writers brought with them to the writing center, including “flow.” Now covering a single topic like organization might involve checking three boxes, one for revision, one for organization, and one for flow, if the writer’s concept of that ambiguous category included organization.