Writing Standards (What I Look For in my Students’ Writing)

  • The paper is double-spaced, numbered and stapled, has standard 1″ margins, uses girl-student-writing-in-exam12-point Times New Roman font, has no blank lines between paragraphs, and includes a cover sheet and a works cited page.
  • The paper uses an appropriate citation format when paraphrasing or quoting directly from a modern or a classical text.
  • Extended quotes over four lines are indented (“blocked”) and do not use quotation marks.
  • All foreign words and the titles of all separate publications (books, magazines, newspapers, movies, Platonic dialogues, etc.) have been italicized, and the titles of book chapters, articles and TV shows are enclosed by double-quotes.
  • The paper’s introduction does not exceed 1-2 double-spaced pages (depending on the assignment) and (1) provocatively and concisely introduces the topic, (2) plainly states the author’s overall claim/thesis about the topic, (3) outlines in a clear and orderly way how this claim is supported in the body of the paper, and (4) straightforwardly states the relevance and importance of this claim.
  • The author’s points naturally flow one after another in a smoothly logical and organized way.
  • Transitions guide the reader easily through the logical development of the paper.
  • The author avoids redundancies, both in expression and in simple repetition.
  • There are no baffling sentences, passages or phrases that the reader simply cannot understand.
  • The words chosen are appropriate to the context.
  • The writing style is strong, tight and concise, not excessively wordy or awkward or in need of re-phrasing.
  • Grammatical units are in their proper order, verbs and pronouns are in agreement, tense is appropriate throughout, and there are no ambiguous relationships between antecedents and pronouns, etc.
  • Punctuation has been well-executed. Question marks are in their proper place, quotations have been punctuated correctly, there are no comma splices, fragments, run-on sentences, or unauthorized use of semi-colons.
  • No words have mysteriously “dropped” from the manuscript.
  • There are no spelling errors and the standard rules for capitalization have been followed.
  • The author does not use too much quotation for a paper of this length.
  • The author always introduces and explains and smoothly incorporates quotations in their own words, so the reader can see the relevance to the point the author is trying to make.
  • The author does not digress. Everything here is relevant to the topic.
  • The author does not make claims that flatly contradict other claims made in the paper.
  • The author respects the integrity of the text by not saying anything at odds with it.
  • The author demonstrates an excellent understanding of the assignment, topic, and the text(s).
  • The author has addressed all the questions raised by their topic in sufficient detail.
  • The author draws conclusions from sound arguments for their points/claims/ideas/opinions/analyses.
  • The author anticipates and meets the obvious objections that could be raised against their thesis.
  • The author supports their claims through the direct quotation and/or paraphrasing of the text.
  • The introduction announces the topic in a provocative way, and entices the reader into the essay.
  • The author has deeply probed the questions raised by the topic, and their answers demonstrate thoughtfulness.
  • The author makes relevant, and well-argued criticisms of the text(s) where appropriate.
  • The author employs original examples, metaphors and/or good analogies to illustrate different aspects of their paper.
  • The conclusion reiterates in a non-repetitive way the importance and relevance of the author’s claim and its larger implications in an innovative, forceful, memorable fashion.

If you’re not prepared to write to these standards, you should consider dropping the course. However, before you go see your advisor you might consider why you should aspire to write to these standards.

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