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Last Updated:
Wednesday, December 04, 2013


E N G L I S H    1 0 1    R U B R I C

Your college-level essay should go through several stages before it reaches your instructor.  You must first carefully read and understand the assignment prompt, asking the instructor for any needed clarification.  You must then generate ideas (for example through brainstorming), evaluate these, and decide on a focus that will be the basis of your essay’s thesis.  When choosing a thesis, you should consider the audience for your essay—which includes you, your instructor, and the larger academic culture of a college environment—and realize that clichés or commonplace knowledge have little or no argumentative value.  You should choose and develop your thesis with care and through critical thinking; in other words, by analyzing ideas (which includes questioning your own views), making connections, recontextualizing, and offering new perspectives on given topics.  You should also structure, proofread, and format your essay in a way that acknowledges and respects academic readers.  Your instructor will evaluate your essay with the following six categories in mind:

A U D I E N C E   A W A R E N E S S

From its title on, the essay reveals a willingness to engage readers in an academic environment, one characterized in content and tone by open intellectual play, pursuit and inquiry.  A college essay is a careful presentation—and rhetorical performance—of ideas, not an occasion to emote, opine, or thoughtlessly express.  Instead, critical thinking should animate the writing.  


The essay has a clear point to it, a claim about the topic that challenges readers to think and to understand more than they already know about the topic. 


The essay responds not only in focus, but also in length and scope, to the assignment.  Paragraphs continue long enough to make ideas clear, interesting, and convincing.  The writer not only provides clear support for the essay’s main point, but also breaks that support into different parts and approaches, in order to constantly engage and persuade readers. Writing in English 101 should be full and detailed, with specificity, freshness, and concreteness.    

O R G A N I Z A T I O N   &   S T R U C T U R E

An essay that is well-organized demonstrates the writer’s attention to structure: it flows easily and logically from one sentence to the next, from paragraph to paragraph, and from start to finish.  The writer uses transitions and sets up quotations with signal phrases, always relating parts to the thesis by direct statement or clear implication.  While an essay may go through formal planning or outlining stages, its organization should not be so simplistic or didactic that it ends up insulting readers.

D I C T I O N ,   S Y N T A X ,  &   G R A M M A R

The essay reveals an attention to not only what is said    but how it is said.  Word choice is appropriate, word order is effective, and the spelling, punctuation, and sentence boundary choices all contribute to persuasive meaning.  The essay demonstrates the college writer’s ability to edit and to proofread carefully, with outside readers in mind. 

A C A D E M I C   C O N V E N T I O N S

The rubric applies best to a typed essay that incorporates research.  MLA format is required for the quoting and citation of sources, as well as for document design. 

T H E    A    E S S A Y

In English 101, an A essay meets and even exceeds the reader’s expectations.  The essay may first command attention with its adept and original title, but it sustains this interest with its clarity, surprise, and persuasive force.  

       Specifically, the A essay:

• reveals a clear sense of voice and/or a mature understanding of its audience

• engages the reader with its insightful, well-crafted thesis

• develops that thesis in dynamic ways that both support and extend its relevance

• unfolds subtly and successfully, its diverse elements organized to achieve a boldly persuasive effect

• tends to exhibit expert rhetorical and grammatical control, providing a compelling, near-seamless read

• incorporates all cited sources expertly, as it explores and illuminates its well-chosen evidence 

T H E    B    E S S A Y   

B work is noticeably above average, not only satisfying the assignment and connecting with its audience, but doing so with an extra measure of expression or control.  Perhaps more detailed in its claims or extensive in its support, the B essay embodies a constant ambition for excellence.  

       Specifically, the B essay:

• matches argument to audience from the first paragraph on

• presents a relevant, effective, and purposeful thesis

• develops that thesis through sustained and unified paragraphs that vary their examples and details

• organizes content with a degree of dexterity and a sense of useful transitions

• controls and also varies phrasing and sentence elements 

• incorporates all cited sources skillfully and effectively

T H E    C    E S S A Y   

C work clearly represents standard college-level writing as measured by audience awareness, thesis, development, structure, grammatical control, and academic conventions.  The C essay is substantial and complete, able to satisfy

the assignment and convincingly reach its audience. 

       Specifically, the C essay:

• shows appropriate and respectful attention to audience

• presents a relevant thesis which is reasonable and worth exploring or considering

• develops its thesis in sustained and unified paragraphs

• organizes paragraphs efficiently, including transitions

• controls phrasing, punctuation, and sentence boundaries

• incorporates all or most cited sources correctly, avoiding dropped quotations 

T H E    D    E S S A Y   

D work is substandard for any of several reasons, including being off-topic, poorly reasoned, or inadequately developed, often despite a student’s best effort.  It might not connect with the reader because sentence and format errors create too much static, or because its argument does not cohere.   

      Specifically, the D essay:

• lacks sufficient audience awareness

• often has an inadequate, trivial, or off-topic thesis, derailing the content

• many times cannot maintain developed, unified, contiguous paragraphs, even if its thesis has potential

• may present ideas out of order or have no clear structure

• often lacks grammatical control, distracting the reader

• cites and/or quotes from sources incorrectly or unclearly


T H E    F    E S S A Y   

Significantly below college-level writing, an F essay fails for any of several compelling reasons: flawed logic, paltry development, limited or missing audience awareness, or a lack of facility with standard written English. 

In addition, plagiarized work always takes an F.

       Specifically, the F essay:

• aims for the wrong audience or no audience at all

• presents many theses, no thesis, or a glaringly irrelevant one 

• has extremely weak development with little or no evidence or academic discussion

• contains chaotic or indiscernibly constructed paragraphs, with no overall sense of direction

• reveals constant, various, and/or severe grammatical errors

• uses sources haphazardly or not at all