In general the English faculty tends to assess student-written essays qualitatively as whole communication forms rather than quantitatively as a collection of discrete or isolated skills.
A grade on a written assignment reflects a series of judgments about the quality of the ideas presented and about the manner in which they are presented (i.e., the writing). This grade is a matter of judgment as can be seen in the standards written out here, and not all teachers will agree on how they balance, for instance, development and clarity. Part of a student's learning involves coming to understand these standards, coming to understand, for instance, what it means to develop a thesis or a point of view, understanding what it means to explore an idea and to write clear sentences. Here is a summary of what the department generally takes specific grades to mean:
A: The paper is well organized throughout, down to the individual paragraphs. Sentences are carefully crafted. There are virtually no errors in punctuation, spelling, grammar, or usage. Words are accurately chosen; informal language, slang, or dialect is used only when appropriate. The paper is insightful and vivid. The writing is tight and effective throughout. "A" papers really sparkle.
B: The paper is well-organized, but the paragraph structure may sometimes be disjointed. The paper may have a few awkward passages and some errors in punctuation, spelling, grammar, or usage, but these errors are not significant enough or intrusive enough to distract from the reading. The language at times may be too general; the paper lacks some of the insight in thought and precision in writing of the A paper. "B" papers are quite good—above average, but there's still substantial room for improvement.
C: The paper responds to the assignment in an ordinary way. The paper is basically well-organized, though individual paragraphs may be weak or out of place. The paper follows a logical plan and contains generally competent writing, although the language may at times be vague, imprecise, or trite. Sentences may sometimes be awkwardly constructed, but their meaning will be clear. Errors in punctuation, spelling, grammar, and usage are not highly distracting. The best word for a "C" paper is adequate. There is nothing really outstanding about the paper, but no real disasters either.
D: The paper is poorly organized but there is still a recognizable and appropriate thesis. The paper is understandable although writing may be imprecise, trite, or vague. Some sentences or passages may be so confused that their meaning is not clear. Errors in punctuation, spelling, grammar, or usage are distracting. "D" papers have significant problems; though they make their point, they are not acceptable college-level writing.
F: The paper lacks a clear thesis; the language is muddled and sometimes unclear. Errors in punctuation, spelling, grammar, or usage are highly distracting. An "F" paper represents a failure on some level to fulfill the assignment: The paper may be unacceptably short, off-topic, or shallow. Plagiarized papers are always failures.
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Revised 7/22/15 • Page author: Curtis Allen • e-mail: email@example.com.