Writing Standards for English 102

Evaluating a particular piece of student writing requires, in part, subjective judgment by your instructor, for very few of the writing skills stressed in freshman composition can be measured objectively.  Such matters as correct spelling, which do lend themselves easily to absolute rights and wrongs, make up only a small portion of the skills one needs to communicate successfully in writing.  Occasionally, then, you might find yourself troubled by the subjective nature of this evaluation and questioning whether there are widely accepted standards for good writing.

The EXPLANATION page which follows offers broad definitions of the criteria by which your instructor will likely be judging your writing.  Within the five general categories, subdivided to describe a range from most to least successful skills.  Very likely, early in the course, he or she will highlight one or another of these categories for your particular attention and, therefore, give less emphasis to another category in evaluating your work.  As the semester progresses and you have the opportunity to practice skills in each of these areas, your writing will be judged by its success in each of the categories.  Consequently, it may seem your instructor is applying tougher standards the end of the course than at the beginning.  This is likely to be the case; you are expected to improve your skills.

EXPLANATION OF WRITING STANDARDS

Ideas

High                The ideas in the paper are clearly related to the topic and go beyond
                      popular clichés.  The writer shows insight and reaches logical conclusions.

Middle             The ideas are clearly expressed but conventional.

Low                 The ideas are barely recognizable; the paper says little.

Organization

High                 The paper starts at a good point, has a sense of movement, gets
                       somewhere and then stops.  It has an underlying and flexible plan that
                       the reader can follow.  Transitions between and within paragraphs arise 
                       from meaning.

Middle              The paper exhibits some structure, but it either does not fit the content or 
                       is overly apparent.  Transitions are mechanical.

Low                  The paper wanders, showing little or no discernible sequence of thought.
                       Major points are repeated rather than developed.  The paper lacks 
                       transitions within and between paragraphs.

Relevant details/supporting evidence

High                 Generalizations in the paper are supported by extensive and concrete
                       detail.  Opinions are supported by examples, facts, distinctions,
                       definitions and logical arguments.

Middle              Too few details are included, and most are insufficiently concrete or vivid.
                       Opinions are only partially supported by evidence.  Evidence may be
                       obvious or unconvincing.

Low                  Very few specific or concrete details appear.  Opinions are asserted without
                       evidence.

Style

High                 The writer demonstrates an expressive and precise vocabulary.  There is a 
                       clear sense of audience and effective use of tone.  Sentence length and 
                       structure are varied to reflect meaning and rhetorical emphasis.

Low                  Limited choice or words, often misused, and unidiomatic phrasing are
                       typical of this paper.  The student has used an inconsistent voice or a
                       tone inappropriate to the audience.  Sentences are simple and repetitious;
                       logical subordination relationships are often ignored.
                      
Mechanics

High                 The paper has almost no misspellings and is generally free of mechanical
                       errors or grammatical difficulties.errors or grammatical difficulties.

Middle              Occasional misspellings, some grammatical and punctuation problems
                       occur in the paper.occur in the paper. 

Low                  There are many misspellings, frequent problems with subject-verb 
                       agreement, shifts in tense, run-ons and fragments in the paper.


For issues of intellectual honesty, please refer to the College policy on cheating/plagiarism in the current Student Handbook.