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ENGLISH DEPARTMENT STANDARD GRADING CRITERIA
These criteria apply to typical papers in English composition and literature courses. These standards do not consider a student's effort or ability; they apply only to the finished paper itself. A grade of C is considered adequate or satisfactory. Grades of A and B represent significantly higher performances, while D and F are not passing grades. Instructor may consider the context of the paper (type/level of the course, point in the semester, in-class preparation, focus of the assignment) in assigning a grade.
The A paper is an outstanding performance; it may exceed the expectations of the assignment. It is thought-provoking, elegant, passionate, persuasive. It meets and exceeds the requirements for the B paper.
THESIS: clear and cogent; original, significant, insightful; promises in-depth explanation of the topic.
ORGANIZATION: logical, creative organization growing naturally from thesis and content; strong introduction and conclusion.
DEVELOPMENT: paragraphs thoroughly developed and linked by unobtrusive, organic transitions; graceful use of varied rhetorical strategies as necessary (narration, cause & effect, process, etc.); rich variety of convincing reasons, explanations, examples, illustrations; concrete, powerful details.
LANGUAGE: grace and economy of expressions; conscious choice of language; vivid, precise, inventive creative word choice.
TONE/VOICE: authoritative, honest; awareness of audience.
SENTENCES: rich variety and complexity of sentence structure.
MECHANICS: mastery of conventions of edited standard English.
The B paper is a good, better-than-average performance. It is interesting and competent. It meets and exceeds the requirements for the C paper.
THESIS: clear and well-defined; asserts purpose of paper; is directly relevant to and addresses all parts of the assignment.
ORGANIZATION: logical organization; well-developed introduction and conclusion; paragraphs linked to thesis and to each other using effective transitions; conclusion grows out of paper and gives closure.
DEVELOPMENT: rhetorical strategies used as necessary (narration, cause & effect, process, etc.); coherent paragraphs, fully developed with supporting reasons, explanations, examples, illustrations; generalizations supported with relevant, specific details.
LANGUAGE: accurate word choice; concise sentences; some flair.
TONE/VOICE: Engaging, lively; some awareness of audience.
SENTENCES: some variety and complexity of sentence structure; free of basic
errors such as fragments, run-ons, subject/verb agreement.
MECHANICS: observes conventions of standard written English.
The C paper represents adequate, readable college-level writing. Choice of topic and thesis is appropriate to the nature of the assignment. It may not respond to all parts of the assignment.
THESIS: focus or controlling idea relevant to assigned topic; may be overly general or not closely linked to content of essay.
ORGANIZATION: some evidence of organization or rhetorical framework; clear beginning, middle, and end.
DEVELOPMENT: uses paragraphs and topic sentences; gives supporting reasons and examples, but may not be logically reasoned or fully developed. May not meet length requirement.
LANGUAGE: clear writing, mostly accurate word choice.
TONE/VOICE: consistent, but little sense of authorial voice.
SENTENCES: complete, mostly correct sentences; grammar, syntax, word choice
appropriate to topic.
MECHANICS: free of distracting errors of spelling and punctuation.
The D paper is confusing, difficult to read, unfocused. It does not demonstrate competent college-level writing.
THESIS: lacks a thesis or controlling idea; does not address assigned topic.
ORGANIZATION: unstructured or disordered; lacks clear beginning, middle, and end.
DEVELOPMENT: severely underdeveloped; poor sense of paragraphs: paragraphs overly long or short, arbitrarily or illogically ordered, incoherent or not unified; lack of support for ideas; lack of concrete detail; irrelevancies, redundancies, oversimplifications, filler.
LANGUAGE: unclear or incoherent writing.
TONE/VOICE: little awareness of audience.
SENTENCES: vague, wordy, confusing, or incomplete sentences.
MECHANICS: numerous distracting errors; nonstandard English.
The F paper is weak in several areas. It fails to communicate its ideas effectively. The writer may not understand the assigned question. It may be late without instructor approval. Plagiarized papers merit an automatic F.
THESIS: no attempt to respond to assignment.
ORGANIZATION: lack of organizing principle; lacks paragraphs.
DEVELOPMENT: seriously and consistently illogical and/or predicated on false premises. LANGUAGE: incomprehensible.
TONE/VOICE: little or no awareness of audience.
SENTENCES: numerous grammatical errors.
MECHANICS: numerous mechanical errors.