Steven E. Alford is a professor of Humanities at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida


A: The "A" essay expresses complex, independent thought with grace, clarity, and force. Its purpose is clear from the start: it contains a thesis that is imaginatively, logically and precisely developed. Not only is the paper correctly organized, the organization does not seem mechanical or imposed. Any source material included is balanced and smoothly integrated into the essay. Each topical paragraph has a controlling idea, solid detail and smooth transitions. The sentences are varied in length and structure. The writer chooses concrete, specific words and uses them correctly, employing diction that is distinctive and mature, with effective metaphors and analogies for clarity or emphasis. The essay contains no colloquialisms, clich‚s or trite expressions. It is virtually free of grammatical and mechanical errors.

B: The "B" essay is also a superior essay. It contains a clear thesis statement supported with good examples. The writer controls the essay's development by arranging the examples supporting the thesis in an orderly and logical fashion. The organization is correct, but transitions are sometimes strained. Any source material included is smoothly integrated, and some independent conclusions are drawn. Each topical paragraph has a controlling idea and good supporting detail. The sentences are usually varied. The word choice is generally correct. The writer goes beyond the automatic word choice to find one more precise and effective. The paper is generally correct mechanically, though there are some problems with complex grammar and punctuation traps.

C: The "C" essay is above average. It contains a recognizable thesis and adequate development. Though the paper has some interesting parts, the interest is not uniformly maintained and the purpose is not always clear. There are very few errors in sentence structure, but the sentences are not varied in length and structure. The word choice is generally correct, but the range of words is limited, and in some cases the wording is abstract and imprecise. Source material included is relevant but not carefully integrated. The "C" essay also has some errors in syntax, agreement, pronoun case and reference, spelling and punctuation. What distinguishes it from an "A" or "B" essays is that it lacks an original, significant purpose or point of view.





D: The "D" essay meets the minimum requirements of college writing. The writer approaches the topic in a conventional and predictable manner. The essay lacks imagination and insight. Though it contains a thesis, it is mechanically developed. It also lacks adequate support of generalizations. Source materials overwhelm the essay, are not directly relevant, or are cited improperly. Some principle of organization is apparent but it is not successfully followed. The diction is often imprecise and monotonous. The writer uses vague, ordinary words and relies on clich‚s and jargon. The essay contains sentence fragments and run-on sentences, and basic errors in syntax, agreement, reference, spelling and punctuation.

F: The "F" essay is markedly below college standards. The paper seems to be a mechanical exercise without a purpose or an audience. Often it does not correctly respond to the assignment. There is no apparent principle of organization; there is no apparent rationale for the paragraphing. Source material is not relevant, well-integrated, or properly identified. There are frequent sentence structure errors. Words that should be within the range of college students are misused or confused. Some errors indicate a failure to understand the basic grammar of the sentence. Simple words are frequently misspelled.