ESSAY GRADING CRITERIA


English 1301 & 1302 Essay Grading Criteria

Excellent (A)

Good (B)

Adequate (C)

Poor (D)

Failing (F)

  • Controlling idea/thesis is significant, important, logical, and solidly supported.

  • Evidence is relevant, concrete, clear, and substantial.

  • Paper shows originality and creativity.

  • Controlling idea/thesis is logical and important.

  • Evidence is relevant, concrete, and substantial.

  • The ideas expressed and/or the evidence provided is not as significant or as original as the “A” paper.

  • Controlling idea/thesis is, for the most part, logical.

  • Evidence does not clearly define or advance the thesis. Evidence may be irrelevant, too general, or repetitious.

  • The ideas expressed are unoriginal, obvious or general.

  • Controlling idea/thesis is largely illogical, fallacious and/or superficial.

  • Evidence is insufficient, obvious, contradictory, or aimless.

  • The ideas expressed are unoriginal, obvious or general.

  • Lack of controlling idea/ thesis.

  • Evidence and discussion provided may be random and/or without explanation.

  • Relatively few complete ideas expressed in the paper.

  • Essay establishes a logical order and emphasis, creating a sense of “flow.”

  • Paragraphs are focused, idea-centered, and transition smoothly.

  • Introduction pulls the reader in, and the essay continues to be engaging, and the conclusion supports and completes the essay without repeating.

  • Essay establishes a logical order, indicating emphasis.

  • Paragraphs are focused, idea-centered, and include transitions to indicate changes in direction.

  • Introduction engages the reader, and the conclusion supports without mere repetition of ideas.

  • Essay does not follow a consistent, logical order, though some order may be apparent through the discussion.

  • Paragraphs are generally focused and idea-centered. Transitions between paragraphs and ideas are obvious and/or dull.

  • Introduction and conclusion are formulaic and uninteresting, offering little insight.

  • Essay is inappropriately ordered or random, failing to emphasize and advance any central idea.

  • Paragraphs may be chaotic, may lack development, discussion, and shape; transitions are inappropriate, misleading, or missing.

  • Introduction merely states what will follow; conclusion repeats what has already been stated.

  • Essay seems to lack order and/or emphasis.

  • Paragraphs follow a sort of rule-bound structure (i.e., three to five sentences each) rather than thoroughly developing a single idea. Transitions are inappropriate, misleading, or missing.

  • Neither the introduction nor the conclusion satisfies any clear rhetorical purpose, or may be missing all together.

  • Sentences are unified, coherent, varied, and emphatic.

  • Word choice is fresh, precise, economical, and distinctive.

  • Tone enhances the subject, conveys the writer’s persona, and suits the audience.

  • Sentences are purposeful, varied, and emphatic.

  • Word choice is precise and distinctive.

  • Tone fits the subject, persona, and audience.

  • Sentences are competent but lacking emphasis and variety.

  • Word choice is generally correct and distinctive.

  • Tone is acceptable for the subject.

  • Sentences lack necessary emphasis, variety, and purpose.

  • Word choice is vague or inappropriate.

  • Tone is inconsistent with the subject.

  • Sentences are incoherent, incomplete, fused, monotonous, elementary, or repetitious, thus obscuring meaning.

  • Tone is unclear or inappropriate to the subject.

  • Student has clearly met and followed requirements and criteria of the writing prompt.

  • Obvious use of preliminary explorative writing/planning, rough drafts, and revisions.

  • Student has met and followed the requirements of the writing prompt.

  • Apparent use of preliminary writing/planning, rough drafts, and revision.

  • Student has met and followed the basic requirements of the assignment.

  • Paper contains evidence of at least some preliminary writing/planning.

  • Little to no evidence of preliminary writing/planning presents itself.

  • Student has not fully met or followed the basic requirements of the assignment.

  • No evidence of preliminary writing/planning.

  • Student has not met or followed the basic requirements of the assignment.

  • Proper format is clearly illustrated.

  • Paper is largely formatted correctly, though the text may contain a few minor formatting issues.

  • Text may contain minor formatting errors.

  • Formatting is problematic.

  • Formatting does not follow course requirements.

  • Grammar, syntax, sentence structure, punctuation, and spelling adhere to the conventions of Standard American English, thereby contributing to the essay’s overall clarity and effectiveness.


  • Paper has been carefully edited.

  • Grammar, syntax, sentence structure, punctuation, and spelling deviate from Standard American English only slightly, and insufficiently enough to distract from the essay’s overall clarity and effectiveness.

  • Paper has been edited.

  • Grammar, syntax, sentence structure, punctuation, and spelling deviate from Standard American English sufficiently enough to distract from the essay’s overall clarity and effectiveness.


  • Careless proofreading is evident.

  • Grammar, syntax, sentence structure, punctuation, and spelling deviate frequently from Standard American English so as to damage the content sufficiently enough to interfere with the essay’s overall clarity and effectiveness.

  • Little evidence of proofreading.

  • Grammar, syntax, sentence structure, punctuation, and spelling deviate frequently and seriously from Standard American English so as to damage the content sufficiently enough to damage the essay significantly overall.

  • No evidence of proofreading.