Writing Guidelines

In the English Department, we use these guidelines as we read student work (and our own!).

An “A” Paper

  • Conveys an immediate sense of “person” behind the words; an individual voice speaks firmly and clearly from the page.
  • Title and lead work smoothly together to indicate the directions, scope, and tone of the whole piece.  The reader feels the writer’s assurance and is in no doubt about what is being communicated.
  • The writing is packed with information.  Examples or comparisons are carefully chosen and have a “just right” feel to them.  Occasionally there is a vivid image or deft comparison.
  • Organization of material is smooth, logical.  Reader does not stumble or hesitate over the sequence of facts or ideas.
  • Sentences are varied, with rhythm and emphasis appropriate to the meaning.  Phrasing is often fluent, even graceful.  Sentences read aloud well.
  • Word choices, especially verbs, are accurate, sensitive to connotations.
  • Punctuation is appropriate, helpful to reader, and there are no mechanical errors (grammar and spelling).

An “A” paper reflects a writer who is in full control of the material and language.

A “B” Paper

  • Has most of the characteristics of an “A” paper, but is not quite as accomplished.
  • Information is a bit thinner.  Content still fresh, interesting and relevant to the topic.
  • Organization is clear, and reader does not stumble over sequence.
  • Sentences are varied and illustrate the writer’s control of style.
  • Word choices are clear though verbs may lack bite or strength.
  • May contain a rare minor error in punctuation or spelling.

This paper clearly represents a writer in control of her/his subject.  The central idea is supported by appropriate and logical examples that indicate the writer’s solid grasp of the material.

A “C” Paper

  • Information is adequate and supporting examples are relevant to the topic.
  • Organization is clear despite an isolated irrelevancy or misplaced emphasis.
  • Sentence structure is adequate but may occasionally lack structural variety and include an awkward phrase.
  • Diction occasionally characterized by wordiness or cliché but generally idiomatic.
  • May contain occasional minor errors or an isolated serious error (e.g., lack of agreement between subject and predicate, pronoun and antecedent).

This paper is essentially sound; however, it lacks the originality and polish of an “A” or “B” paper.

A “D” Paper

  • Lacks originality and perception but is fundamentally relevant to the assigned subject although the reader may have to stop and re-read materials to be sure of meaning.
  • Has a clear central idea with some supporting details, but development may be inadequate or contain misplaced emphasis or occasional tendency toward irrelevance.
  • Contains multiple minor and major errors in grammar and mechanics.
  • Sentence structure is generally simplistic and phrases are often awkwardly placed.

This paper gives the reader an impression of fuzziness and lack of assurance by the writer.  The reader has to work to understand what she is reading.

An “F” Paper

  • Content is trite, uninteresting, and even irrelevant.
  • Central idea is unclear or unsupported.  Paragraphs are unstructured and lack transitions.
  • Diction is frequently incorrect, unidiomatic, or trite.
  • Paper contains frequent minor and major errors.

The main impression in this paper is one of haste, carelessness, lack of attention, or inability to craft even direct, simple sentences.