Essay Grading Criteria

The following should give you a good idea of what I look for in a paper and how I grade what I find.  Needless to say, these are not absolute criteria, but generally speaking, papers I read that receive these grades exhibit some or all of the following features:

A—The paper is more than accurate and error-free; it is strikingly will-written and well-argued.  In the best A-papers, a human voice seems to speak: it has something to say, says it clearly and gracefully and supports it fully.  A thesis rich enough to lend itself to interesting development and support; detailed understanding of the question and text; sound organization; clear, unambiguous sentences, sentence lengths vary exhibiting some of all of the following: subordination, parallel structure, accurate use of sophisticated punctuation, including colons, semicolons, and dashes if appropriate.

B—A solid, commendable paper that fulfills the assignment.  The writer has an interesting point to make and makes it in an organized and competent way.  Clear, sufficiently complex thesis supported by an intelligent argument and judicious reference to the text; a well-organized argument, connected with appropriate signals of identity or transition which highlight the structure of the argument; quotations or examples, if used, advance or support the argument where it needs support; standard correct punctuation; some variation of sentence length and structure; perhaps a slightly awkward style at moments; a few minor mechanical errors.

C—The paper may make some good points and may demonstrate understanding of both the text and the question, but the argument is not as rich, detailed and well-supported as it should be in a college paper; stylistic problems come between the reader and the argument.  Thesis may have support, but is weakened by inaccurate discussion of the text; many minor mechanical errors, perhaps some major ones; narrative summary of the text outweighs argument, analysis, and interpretation; examples may be given for their own sake (just to fill up space); quotations may be used poorly (material quoted out of context, misquoted, quoted unnecessarily); sentence structures tangled or unvaried; organization rambles or disappears; words misused or misspelled; diction inconsistent; proofreading weak.

D—Thesis missing; major mechanical problems; poor organization; serious misreadings of the text; stretches in which the writer simply gives a narrative account of the reading for no apparent reason; paper much shorter then the assigned length; paper doesn’t make a point.

F—The paper is not handed in; plagiarized in part or in whole; unacceptably shorter than the assigned length.

Other Helpful Writing Practices:

  • Develop a well-focused thesis that is broad enough for a complete discussion of your argument, but not too general.
  • Try to focus on a particular aspect or argument in the story, then back up your argument with observations and quotes from the text, ideas and quotes from outside critics and your own thoughtful analysis of the text.
  • Write succinct, active-voiced sentences.
  • Organize the essay logically and end with a strong conclusion.
  • Read the Essay Grading Criteria sheet.
  • Do not hand in your first draft! Revise several times before the final version.

Grammar stuff:

  • Do not put statements in negative form.
  • If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal of repetition.
  • Place pronouns as close as possible , especially in long sentences, as of to or more words, to their antecedents.
  • Don’t use no double negatives.
  • Make each pronoun agree with their antecedents.
  • Join clauses good, like a conjunction should.
  • About them sentence fragments.
  • When dangling, watch your participles.
  • Verbs has got to agree with their subjects.
  • Just between you and i, case is important.
  • Don’t write run-on sentences they are hard to read.
  • Don’t use commas, which aren’t necessary.
  • Try to not ever split infinitives.
  • It is important to use your apostrophe’s correctly.
  • Proofread your writing to see if you any words out.
  • Correct speling is essential.
  • A preposition is something you never end a sentence up with.
  • While a transcendent vocabulary is laudable, one must be eternally careful so that the calculated objective of communication does not become ensconced in obscurity.
  • Eschew obfuscation.
  • Avoid cliches like the plague.
  • When forming an adverb from an adjective, do it correct.
  • And avoid starting sentences with the word “and.’
  • Never use a long word when a diminutive one will do.
  • Employ the vernacular.
  • Avoid ampersands & abbrev.
  • The passive voice should be avoided.