“I have done all that my teacher asked me to do on this paper, but I still can’t get an A!” This complaint is one all English teachers hear. In order to understand the expectations Woodward English teachers have for papers, the English Department offers this information. You must also realize, however, that an individual teacher can and usually will design a unique rubric (or grading description) for every written assignment, based on the particular requirements of that assignment. In addition, the grade-level teachers will often agree on the definitions of the terms of these standards (including what constitutes mature interpretation and which mechanical errors are considered major ones).
The department follows the general grading guidelines of Woodward with an A representing superior achievement, a B representing excellent achievement, a C representing acceptable achievement, a D representing poor achievement, and an F representing unacceptable achievement.
In order to put these adjectives in terms of a composition, the department offers these ideas from Ericka Lindemann, Student Guide to Freshman English, published by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:
- “The A paper leaves the reader feeling bright, thoroughly satisfied and eager to reread the piece” (Lindemann 33). Such a paper will have original and significant development of the topic; distinguished support of the thesis with clarity and finesse; details that lead the reader to further thinking; engaging organization with artful transitions; inventive and memorable sentence structure; fresh, highly specific diction; skillful paragraphing; mastery of mechanics; and original and insightful interpretation of the literary work with highly effective use of the primary source (the poem, story, or novel under discussion).
- “The B paper makes the reading experience a pleasurable one, for it offers substantial information with few distractions” (Lindemann 33). This paper has convincing development of logic; skillful support of the thesis with substantial arguments and specific, interesting details; unity around a clear organizing principle with smooth transitions; varied, fluid sentence structure; effective paragraphing; vivid, vigorous diction; possibly one major error but few, if any, minor errors; mature and accurate interpretation of the literary work with well-chosen use of the text.
- “The C paper, while it gets the job done, lacks both imagination and intellectual rigor, and hence does not invite a rereading” (Lindemann 33). This paper has general development of the topic but lacks “intellectual rigor”; predictable arguments (perhaps all generated in class discussions) with adequate but undistinguished support; formulaic organization with mechanical, sometimes clumsy transitions; predictable, sometimes monotonous, sentence structure; general, repetitious or conventional diction; competent but mechanical paragraphing; possibly two major errors and several minor errors; mature and accurate interpretation of the literary work with adequate use of the supporting text.
- “The D paper often gives the impression of having been conceived and written in haste” (Lindemann 32). This essay has ineffective and basic engagement with the topic; flawed or immature support of the thesis with scanty development; some lack of control of the organization with limited or ineffective transitions; reliance on simple or awkward sentence structure; rudimentary paragraphing with some lack of coherence; inappropriate diction; possibly three major errors and several minor errors; and flawed or ineffective interpretation of the literary work with inappropriate use of the text.
- “The ideas, organization, and style [of the F paper] fall far below what is acceptable . . . writing” (Lindemann 32). This essay has only superficial engagement with the topic; undeveloped ideas with repetitious or inappropriate details; lack of discernible organization with minimal or faulty use of transitions; garbled or seriously limited sentence structure; underdeveloped paragraphs; elementary or faulty diction containing childish or imprecise wording; possibly four major errors or excessive minor errors (see items #3 and 4); and little or no development of the literary work with failure to use the supporting text meaningfully.
- Sentence Structure: fragments (incomplete sentences); comma splices; fused or run-on sentences; mixed construction sentences (faulty parallelism).
- Agreement: between subject and verb; between pronoun and antecedent.
- Spelling: misspelling any key word of the literary work (title words, author’s name, characters’ names, etc.); two other misspelled words equal one major error.
- Verb Usage: tense; voice; form; troublesome pairs.
- Use of first or second person in a literary, expository assignment.
- Diction: use of contractions, slang, symbols, abbreviations; commonly confused words.
- Miscellaneous punctuation: titles of published works; apostrophes; colons.
Using Outside Help:
- As part of the writing process, both in and out of class, it is at times acceptable for a friend, parent, or teacher to read your paper for clarity and support. Such readers should offer general advice: “This section is confusing;”“You need some punctuation work here;” and “You could have used information from the text here to bolster your ideas” are all acceptable responses from such readers. You must be careful, however, that such helpers do not contribute too much to your paper. Such readers should not correct your sentences for you nor edit your work line by line. If you want such one-on-one conferencing, visit the tutorial of the teacher who made the assignment and bring drafts of your work. All the handwriting that edits your sentences should be yours or the teacher’s who assigned your work. Be careful when working with outside tutors and parents that you do not receive too much help. There will be times when you will be writing in class or in the McKay Computing Center; your writing at such times should be similar to the quality of the writing you complete out of class, or your teacher will have reason to doubt your integrity.