5. What the Grade on Your Essay Means

In assessing the quality of your essay, your instructor adheres to the university scale of grades: A = excellent, B = good, C+ = satisfactory, C = adequate, D = marginal, and F = failing. Each essay has its own unique mixture of strengths, weaknesses, faults, and merits, which are resolved into a final single grade. The chart that follows gives the general criteria for grading followed by most instructors in the English Department. Weighting of these various components will vary according to how they work in any given piece of writing. (Abbreviations in italics are explained in section 7, Marking Symbols and Abbreviations.)

  A B C
Thesis substantial, well defined, significant, well developed sound, clear, general may be too broad or obvious
Organization
Over-all
clear and effective, smooth transitions well ordered some awkward connections;
conclusion only repeats introduction
Paragraph topic sentences developed coherently unified & coherent some problems with unity, coherence & development
Sentence varied in structure and length to suit the purpose; appropriate emphasis; effective parallelism & subordination complex structures may have some errors: //, dm, mm, sub, coord more such errors, or overly simple structures; repetition, wordiness, or passive verbs
Logic sound & clear evident weak or confused
Diction precise, effective correct, appropriate problems with level of diction, idiom, or usage
Mechanics
grammar spelling punctuation
free of errors;
punctuation used to good effect
few minor errors such as ref, agr, vb, t, sp, p more serious errors such as frag, cs, fs, agr, t, vb, ref, cap, sp, p
Use of Sources
primary & secondary (according to the assignment)
well chosen, accurately quoted & clearly acknowledged; reliable and representative adequate use of quotation & reference may need to quote more fully & carefully; or quotations may be excessive or inappropriate
  D F
Thesis weak or misdirected or mistaken missing or mistaken
Organization
Over-all
disjointed organization not evident or not logical
Paragraph such problems more serious lack of unity and coherence
Sentence more serious errors and weaknesses inadequate control of sentence structure
Logic mistaken or missing in part mistaken or missing
Diction such weakness or errors that interfere more seriously with clarity an excessive number of errors
Mechanics
grammar spelling punctuation
errors that interfere with clarity errors serious & excessive
Use of Sources
primary & secondary (according to the assignment)
quotations are ungrammatical or do not fit into context; no quotation when required misused or plagiarized

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6: What to do with Your Marked Essay