A = Exemplary, outstanding, excellent

            The “A” essay excels by accomplishing significantly more than what the assignment requires. Thoroughly organized, the whole essay develops its argument consistently with specific and appropriate detail, showing an interpretive command of the ideas, materials and methods involved in the assignment. Each ¶ moves logically and coherently to the next, and the conclusion does not repeat what the essay already said. Stylistically, the “A” paper is a pleasure to read. Minor slips may occur (one or two typographical errors, for example), but the “A” paper is free from the “seven deadly sins” listed below.


B = Proficient, superior, above-average

            The “B” essay accomplishes everything the assignment requires, dealing effectively with the assignment’s ideas, materials and methods. Its development employs specific and appropriate detail; ¶s are unified and coherent; sentences are soundly structured, but may lack flair. Two or three instances of the “seven deadly sins” may be present: sentence fragments, run-ons, subject-verb disagreements, faulty pronouns, mixed constructions, dangling or misplaced modifiers, misspelled words.


C = Competent, average, adequate, passing

            The “C” essay shows a basic understanding of the assignment’s ideas and methods, but little more. The most common “C” essay in a literature course consists of a plot summary, possibly padded with occasional quotes. Awkward transitions between ¶s are common, and wordiness, clichés and punctuation errors are frequent. Four or five instances of the “seven deadly sins” annoy the reader, but do not lead to confusion.


D/F = Incompetent, inadequate, below-average, failing

            Grades of “D” or “F” apply to work that shows carelessness, last-minute desperation, insufficient command of Standard English, or genuine misunderstanding of the assignment. The failing essay often generalizes without support of any kind. Its ¶s may be lacking in unity, coherence, or both. It may be written in a primer style or contain enough instances of the “seven deadly sins” to affect understanding. It may be overly brief.



The arithmetical signs for “plus” and “minus” allow the instructor to shade letter grades. However they may be shaded, letter grades do not and cannot reflect the amount of effort, time or sincerity a student puts into a given assignment, nor do grades serve as judgments of a student’s intelligence, character or human worthiness. They aim only to locate the intellectual and stylistic qualities of university work on a scale of university standards.