The following criteria reflect standards of good writing shared by teachers at all levels in universities across the country, and, in fact, define good writing both in and out of the academy. We also have plus and minus grades, but these are the standards for the letter grade ranges.
The grade of A recognizes excellent, compelling writing. An A essay shows originality, insight, and the ability to state and develop a central idea. Its ideas are clear, logical, and thought-provoking; it contains all the positive qualities of good writing listed below:
- Concentration on a main purpose, with outstanding development and firm support
- Unified organization, with an orderly pattern of ideas and transitions
- Careful construction and organization of sentences and paragraphs and full control of mechanics such as punctuation and spelling
- Impressive style, including careful choice of effective words and phrases
The grade of B indicates an above-average essay. The B paper has a clearly stated central purpose, logically and adequately developed. Its ideas are clear because it contains some of the positive qualities of good writing listed above. It is comparatively free of errors in the use of English. Although highly competent, the B paper lacks the insight, style and polish which characterize the A essay.
The grade of C indicates an average essay. It has a central idea organized clearly enough to convey its purpose to the reader. It avoids serious errors in the use of English. It may, in fact, have few correction marks on it, but it lacks the depth of thought and expression which would entitle it to an above-average rating: its thesis may be predictable, its supporting evidence only adequate, its paragraph development weak and its style vague and inarticulate.
The grade of D indicates below-average achievement in expressing ideas correctly and effectively. The D paper is deficient in one or more of the following areas: organization, development, usage, content and awareness of audience. It contains numerous errors, whether of logic, grammar or use of evidence. Most D papers contain serious errors in the use of English and fail to present a central thesis or to develop it adequately.
The grade of F indicates that a paper is not acceptable as college-level writing. An F usually indicates failure to state and develop a main idea. The paper may also contain serious errors in logic, grammar, spelling, punctuation, documentation and sentence structure.
We are grateful to the Rhetoric Program of the University of Illinois at Urbana for permission to use a revised version of their grading standards.