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About the COVID-19 Response

“Are your services available during the Fall 2020 semester?”

Yes, all Writing Center services are available and accessible virtually this fall. You can either submit a draft for asynchronous online feedback or schedule a Zoom appointment to talk to a writing coach. If you make a Zoom appointment, the Writing Center will email you an invitation link shortly before your appointment. Workshops and events will also be held on Zoom. To keep up with the latest offerings, we recommend that students sign up for our weekly newsletter.

About the Writing Center

“Where is the Writing Center located and what are your hours?”

The Writing Center’s main office is located on the lower level of the Student and Academic Services Building North (SASB). For more information and for a map, visit the UNC Writing Center Location & Hours page. Hours may vary, so use “Make an Appointment” to see when openings for coaching are available at both of our locations in SASBN and Greenlaw. Summer hours vary; call 962-7710 for information.

“Is the Writing Center handicap accessible?”

Yes. Both of our spaces are accessible by elevator.

“Who are the writing coaches at the Writing Center?”

Both graduate students and undergraduates serve as writing coaches at the Writing Center. Coaches come from departments across campus and receive extensive training from the Writing Center directors.

“How much does it cost to use the Writing Center?”

Nothing. Writing Center services are free.

“Is it okay for me to use the Writing Center?”

The Writing Center offers different services to different groups of writers on campus. To learn more about what is available to you, see “Who can make an appointment?” below. Generally, instructors are pleased when students come to the Writing Center. We abide by the Honor Code of the University; since the sessions focus on giving you feedback on your writing, rather than editing or writing for you, coming to the Writing Center does not raise any Honor Code issues. You must ask your instructor for permission before coming to the Writing Center to work on a take-home essay.

“Can I get help with writing in a language other than English (for example, an essay written in Spanish for my Spanish literature course)?”

Sort of. If your paper is in a language other than English, we cannot help you with questions about words or sentences, and we cannot read through your paper. Check with your instructor to find out whether there are resources to help you with these kinds of questions. What we can do is talk with you about how you have chosen to organize your paper.

“Can I get help for a friend or family member?”

While everyone is welcome to use the Writing Center’s online handouts and demos, our coaching services are available only to current students, faculty, and staff of UNC-Chapel Hill. Do not make an appointment to discuss someone else’s writing or submit someone else’s draft to the Online Writing Coach. If your friend or family member might be interested in working with a Chapel Hill-area writing tutor or editor, please refer him or her to our “Help for Hire” listing.

“What if I just have a quick question about my writing?”

We welcome all kinds of questions about writing. If yours is a quick one focusing on a particular sentence, word, or punctuation mark, try calling the Grammar Hotline at 962-7710.

“Can I get a job at the Writing Center?”

We are glad to hear about your interest in joining our team! At this time, the Writing Center does not have any full-time or part-time staff positions available. If you are an experienced teacher or editor with a graduate degree living in the Chapel Hill area, you may submit a request to be listed on our Help for Hire advertising page. Our graduate student writing coaches are teaching assistants; they are hired through a competitive process each spring to work for the following academic year. During periods when we are accepting applications, you’ll see a position announcement on our homepage. Undergraduate students can also serve as writing coaches; they must first enroll in English 402 and then apply to be hired. Undergraduate students who have work-study funding can apply to serve as office assistants. Office assistants answer our phone, greet clients, make photocopies, and help with a variety of other tasks. The Writing Center does not accept volunteers.

Making an Appointment

“Who can make an appointment?”

All degree-seeking undergraduates at UNC-Chapel Hill may make appointments for individual coaching; so may graduate students, as availability permits.

  • Undergraduates: you can make up to two appointments per week, in advance.
  • Grad students in the College of Arts and Sciences: you can make one appointment per week, in advance. You can hold only one spot at a time–if you want to make an appointment for this week and next, you’ll need to wait until you’ve completed the first one before you can schedule the second.
  • Grad students outside the College of Arts and Sciences: you can make one appointment on a same-day basis; if you are in this category, when you sign in, you will see only whatever appointments are available today.
  • Faculty and staff members: you can use the Writing Center on a walk-in basis only, as our availability permits, no more than one time per week. You cannot reserve a time. Appointments begin at the top of the hour.
  • Non-degree-seeking students and postdoctoral scholars: you can use the Writing Center on a walk-in basis only, as availability permits. You cannot reserve a time. Appointments begin at the top of the hour.
  • Visiting scholars: you are not eligible for one-on-one coaching, but if English is not your first language, you may be eligible for other services. See the English Language Support page for more information.
  • Alumni, students at other schools, community members, and families: coaching is not available to you, but please use our Tips and Tools.

In our calendar system, the day begins at midnight. If you are having trouble using the system and are not certain why, please call or email us.

“Do I need to make an appointment to talk with a coach at the Writing Center?”

Yes, if you can make an appointment, this is the best way to meet with a coach. It’s sometimes possible to be seen on a walk-in basis, but the best way to ensure a coach is available to meet is to reserve an appointment time. You can view the appointment calendar after logging in with your onyen credentials here.

“Can I request a particular writing coach?”

Yes. When you make an appointment you have the option of choosing a particular writing coach; you will see the names of coaches who are available. All coaches are trained to help you with any of your writing needs or concerns, regardless of the kind of paper you’re writing or the discipline you’re studying.

“What should I do if my ONYEN does not work or I do not have an ONYEN?”

You need a valid UNC ONYEN to make an appointment. We cannot make an appointment for you. If you do not have an ONYEN or the system will not accept it, contact Onyen Services at onyen.unc.edu.

“What should I do if no appointments are available?”

At some points in the semester, the Writing Center’s calendar can fill up as much as two weeks in advance. If you cannot find an appointment time that works for you, here are your options:

  • Continue to check online several times a day, as you would if you were trying to register for a closed class. If someone else cancels, that time will open up.
  • Submit your draft to the Online Writing Coach—but be aware that if we are full face-to-face, we probably also have a long queue of online submissions waiting for responses. The weather symbol on the sign-in page for the Online Writing Coach will give you an idea of how busy we are.
  • Try to be seen as a walk-in. Come to the Writing Center at the top of the hour and let the person at the front desk know that you are hoping to see a writing coach. If someone else fails to show up for his/her appointment, you can claim that slot. If everyone who is scheduled shows up, though, you will not be seen.
  • Please click the “turnaway – I can’t make an appointment button” on the appointment scheduling page so we can keep track of appointment demand. Do not leave a message there and expect a response; if you need to contact us, call or email.

“What should I do if I need to reschedule?”

On the on-site appointment calendar login page, choose “Cancel an Appointment.” After canceling the appointment you no longer want, you can click “Make an Appointment” to look for a new appointment time. You may want to check to be sure another appointment is available before you cancel the one you currently have reserved, as our calendar is sometimes very full.

“How far in advance do I need to cancel my appointment?”

Although you (and only you) can cancel until right before your scheduled appointment, we prefer that you cancel at least 24 hours in advance so other students have the opportunity to make an appointment. If you absolutely cannot get to a computer to cancel, please call (919)962-7710 to let our staff know that you will not be at your appointment.

“What happens if I don’t cancel and then don’t show up for my appointment?”

You will be entered into the database as a “no-show” for that appointment. If you fail to show up for several appointments, your future appointments may be cancelled, and you will be required to meet with the Writing Center Coach Specialist before resuming use of Writing Center services.

“What if I am late to my appointment?”

At 10 minutes after the hour when your appointment was supposed to start, you will be entered as a no-show and your coach may be reassigned.

“What is involved in an on-site visit to the Writing Center?”

Appointments in the Writing Center are 45-minute conversations with a writing coach about your writing. The coach will read through your paper with you, answer your questions, and work with you to strengthen your paper and your skills as a writer. You and the coach may discuss any aspect of your writing project or process.

“What kind of writing can I bring to the Writing Center?”

You can bring any sort of writing to either the online or on-site Writing Center. We give priority to academic work, but we also can provide assistance with application essays, grant proposals, or other writing. If you are working on an honors thesis, master’s thesis, or dissertation, you should plan to schedule multiple on-site visits and focus on parts of the longer project.

“What kind of help will I receive from a writing coach?”

Writing Center coaches will discuss your writing assignments with you and share strategies for approaching a topic, organizing a paper, developing your style, or correcting recurring errors. Writing coaches may also direct you to other resources for further assistance. Writing coaches will not edit or proofread a paper or write any part of your paper for you.

“Will my instructor know that I have used the Writing Center?”

That’s generally up to you. If you are an undergraduate who is working on an assignment for a course, as part of our services, the writing coach will ask your permission to send a conference summary email to your instructor. This report describes what you and your coach worked on during your session (e.g. “Maria and I talked about the focus of her paper on the breast cancer scare and how she might reorganize the first and sixth paragraphs to strengthen her argument. We also discussed the difference between passive and active voice.”). Conference summaries let your teachers know that you have taken the initiative to improve as a writer; they do not evaluate you, your assignment, or your instructor in any way. Most instructors are delighted to learn that you have visited the Writing Center. Your teachers see your work here as a sign that you are a productive, conscientious student who knows the value of good writing skills and who has the wisdom to make use of this resource. Note that we always send conference summaries when students bring in portions of their take-home exams (see the next question for more information).

“Is it okay for me to bring take-home exams to the Writing Center?”

For take-home exams, some instructors specify whether you may or may not bring your work to the Writing Center. If this issue is not explicitly addressed in the prompt, we depend on your sense of whether the instructor has recommended the Writing Center or would condone a visit for take-home exams. Since your instructor will know from the conference summary that you have been here (we always send them for exams), it is your responsibility to make this determination. If you have any questions about whether it is appropriate to get feedback from the Writing Center on take-home exams, ask your instructor before you bring in your draft or submit it online.

The Online Writing Coach

“Who can use the Online Writing Coach?”

Current students, faculty, and staff can submit drafts to the Online Writing Coach. These drafts must be their own work; you cannot submit a paper on behalf of a friend, family member, or student at another school. Doing so would constitute an Honor Code violation. Submissions by undergraduates in the College of Arts and Sciences that are related to academic courses will receive priority, followed by those from Arts and Sciences graduate students; others may sometimes receive slower responses. During busy times, we may not be able to respond to all submissions before their due dates. You must be affiliated with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to use the Online Writing Coach. If you are a non-UNC educator or technology professional and would like to see the forms students fill out when they submit drafts, please contact us.

“Can I make face-to-face appointments as well as use the Online Writing Coach?”

Yes, but be aware that online sessions do count toward the total number of sessions per day or week that you are eligible to schedule.

“Can I request that a particular writing coach respond to my submission?”

No. Writing coaches respond to submissions on a fixed schedule. If you want to work with a particular coach, please set up an on-site appointment.

“How long will it take to submit a paper to the Online Writing Coach?”

Not long. Filling out the submission form and attaching your draft will probably take about 15 minutes–maybe fewer than that.

“How often can I submit something to the Online Writing Coach?”

So that our writing coaches may serve as many people as possible, we limit individual services (appointments or Online Writing Coach sessions) for undergraduates to a maximum of one per day or two per week (whichever comes first). Graduate students, faculty, and staff are limited to one individual visit or Online Writing Coach session per week.

“How long a document can I submit to the Online Writing Coach?”

To provide time for the writing coach to read your paper and provide a thoughtful response, we limit page length to 10 pages. If you have a lengthy paper, particularly a thesis or dissertation, make an appointment at our on-site Writing Center. You are also welcome to submit troubling excerpts to the Online Writing Coach.

“What if I need to change something about my submission? What if I attached the wrong file by mistake?”

Log into the Online Writing Coach and click on “Submitted Drafts.” You can change your answers in any of the text boxes. You may also replace your original file attachment with an updated file. Changing your submission is not possible once a coach has claimed it and begun to work on it; if you need to speak with us about a submission at that point, call us at (919) 962-7710.

“When will a writing coach respond to the draft I submit through the Online Writing Coach?”

That depends on how busy we are when you submit your draft. When you submit your paper to the Online Writing Coach, the weather symbol will tell you how busy we are and give you a sense of when you should expect a response; in most cases, it is likely to take one to three business days. Please note that we are open for only a few hours on the weekend; weekend submissions are not likely to receive a response before Monday. When demand is particularly high, we may not be able to serve you in time for our comments to be useful; this is particularly true if your submission is not course-related.

“How do I know that a writing coach has responded to the paper I submitted online?”

You will receive notification by email that your paper is ready.

“How do I retrieve the writing coach’s response to my paper?”

Follow the link from the notification e-mail, log in with your Onyen and password, and then choose “Submitted Drafts” or “My Submissions” from the menu that appears.

“Can I review the writing coach’s comments on a paper that I submitted earlier to the Online Writing Coach?”

Yes. To review a writing coach’s comments in the new Online Writing Coach, navigate to the Writing Center homepage, click the “Online Coaching” link and enter your name and password, then choose “Submitted Drafts” to view your personal archive. To review comments received prior to or during the summer 2019 transition from the old to the new Online Writing Coach, access our archive at https://ota.oasis.unc.edu/ota/app and click on “My Submissions.”

“Who will have access to the material I submit in the Online Writing Coach?”

Only you and the Writing Center staff. When you first enter the system and complete a profile, you create a corridor of restricted access to our system. That corridor allows you and the staff at the Writing Center to interact and maintains space for us to hold your work for you in the Writing Center. All work with the Writing Center takes place within the guidelines of the University Honor Code.

“How do online conference summaries work?”

Like on-site summaries, online summaries are sent to your instructor following a conference. Like on-site summaries, they do not evaluate you, your instructor, or the assignment in any way. They describe your concerns and the writing coach’s suggestions to you regarding the paper. Most instructors are delighted to learn that you have worked with the Writing Center. Your teachers are likely to see your work here as a sign that you are a productive, conscientious student who knows the value of good writing skills and who has the wisdom to make use of this resource. Online summaries are sent to the instructor when the writing coach finishes responding to your paper; they are archived on this site. You can see the conference summary for each submission on the page where you retrieve the coach’s comments.

“How can I get the most out of my online coaching session?”

Give your writing coach as much information as possible. He or she will be relying on your submission form for context. It is particularly important that you let the coach know what your top concerns are; this will help the coach focus his/her attention and comments. Remember, the coach is not your TA and cannot judge what aspect of your paper needs the most work; it is up to you to ask for the kind of feedback you think will be most valuable at this stage in your writing process.

English Language Support

“Who can use the ESL services at the Writing Center?”

The Writing Center is a unit of the Center for Student Success and Academic Counseling. As such, the following populations have priority for ESL services: full-time UNC undergraduate students, graduate students, and Study Abroad exchange students. In addition, if space is available and the service is appropriate, we are happy to welcome postdoctoral scholars, continuing studies (part-time) students, faculty, and academic staff. ESL workshops are also open to visiting scholars. We are not able to offer any services to non-academic staff (including custodial staff), spouses, students at other universities, and members of the general public. The Writing Center’s individual coaching policy can be read here. *ESL = English as a Second Language; this term covers all non-native speakers of English, both international students and US citizens/residents for whom English is not the (only) first language.

“Can my spouse attend the courses, workshops, writing groups or speaking groups?”

Sorry, no. The Writing Center does not have the resources to serve spouses of UNC students, scholars, faculty, and staff. However, please see the list of other opportunities below.

“I am applying to a degree program or for a job at UNC or UNC Hospitals. Can I use Writing Center services?”

Sorry, no. The Writing Center serves current students, scholars, and faculty only. For more information about applying to UNC as an international student/scholar, please contact Undergraduate Admissions, the Graduate School, the Business School’s MBA program, the Study Abroad Office (exchange programs), or the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs. For information about visas, contact International Student and Scholar Services. You can find intensive ESL programs to prepare for graduate study in the U.S. on these websites: The American Association of Intensive English Programs, or University and College Intensive English Programs. There is no full-time, year-round intensive ESL program in the Triangle area of North Carolina (Chapel Hill, Durham, Raleigh). However, there are short-term programs at Durham Technical Community College and North Carolina State University.

“Can I get a U.S. student visa to take ESL classes at UNC?”

No.

“Does UNC offer ESL classes for credit?”

The Writing Center offers non-credit ESL mini-courses. There are no undergraduate ESL classes at UNC. There are two ESL classes for graduate students through the English Department. The Graduate School runs the Preparing International Teaching Assistants Program (PITAP), which helps ITAs prepare for their role as classroom or lab instructors by improving their English pronunciation, cross-cultural communication, and teaching skills. (You do not have to be a teaching assistant to enroll. Postdocs and visiting scholars may be able to audit a course.) Please contact your school or department to check whether they have writing classes or courses for international students.

“Can I use the Writing Center’s coaching services?”

All full-time, degree-seeking students can use on-campus Writing Center coaching. Postdoctoral scholars may be eligible to schedule coaching appointments. Visiting scholars cannot receive individual coaching. For more information, visit our ESL information page, then email the Writing Center if you still have questions. Students and postdocs who are non-native speakers are strongly encouraged to join a writing group for specific help with their language needs.

“What do the classes, workshops and groups cost?”

Nothing. Writing Center services are free.

“Where do the classes and workshops take place?”

Most ESL services take place in the Writing Center’s main office on the lower level (basement) of the Student & Academic Services Building (SASB) North). View the Writing Center in a map. However, we also offer some services at the Health Sciences Library (map), the FedEx Global Education Center, and in Greenlaw Hall, near Student Stores and Lenoir Cafeteria (map).

“Where is Greenlaw 221?”

Greenlaw is the English Department’s building in the center of campus. Find the Davis (Main) Library, the Student Stores, or the Student Union. They border the area called “The Pit.” Stand in the Pit with your back to the Student Stores, facing Lenoir Cafeteria. Greenlaw is the building in front of you and to your left. (Or ask any student in the Pit for directions!) Room 221 is the Writing Center’s satellite space on the second floor, between the English department offices and classrooms.

“How do I register?”

For details about registering for ESL Mini-Courses, please read this page. For details about registering for writing groups, please read this page.

“How can I register if I don’t have an ONYEN?”

If you do not have an ONYEN because you are a temporary scholar or employee, please email us with your name, UNC affiliation, and the workshops you’d like to attend. To get your ONYEN, please visit ONYEN services.

“How can I join or form a writing group?”

Please read the Writing Groups page for full details. There are sign-up periods at the beginning of every semester. If you are a new participant, you must sign up in person. If you have already been in one of our writing groups, you can just email us. You may contact us if you can’t attend any sign-up sessions to make alternative arrangements. If you can form your own group of 4-6 students, please contact us at any time, and we will try to facilitate your group.

“Will you proofread my essay / paper / dissertation / article?”

If you’re asking whether we will go through your draft and mark (and perhaps correct) all of the errors, no, we won’t. We will help you develop the skills you need to be successful at Carolina, including writing, grammar, and proofreading. The Writing Center has a Help for Hire board with people you can pay to edit/proofread your writing.

“I have an idea for another workshop or ESL service. Can I suggest a new topic?”

Yes, please! We want to hear what you need. Please email wcesl@unc.edu with your suggestions.

“Can I link to your page or use your materials (online presentations, groups procedures, workshops descriptions) on my website?”

The contents of this website are protected under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 4.0 License. You may reproduce materials for non-commercial use only and without making any changes. You must give the correct attribution: (c) The Writing Center, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. If you want to adapt materials or use them commercially, please contact us first. We would appreciate an email telling us if you are linking to any pages or videos or our site!