How Is Writing Graded?

Students often want to know how their writing assignments are graded—that is, what is an A paper, a B paper, and so on. If you are in doubt, ask your instructor to explain his or her grading system. If your instructor gives you no feedback other than a grade, you should ask about the strengths and weaknesses of your assignment. It’s always helpful to know the patterns of your strengths and weaknesses when you are trying to improve your writing.

The following grading criteria are considered standard for writing assignments. You can apply these criteria to your writing and use them, along with any specific requirements your instructor makes for each assignment, to help you determine your grade for any individual assignment. This scoring guide may help you with this aspect of getting feedback. Remember that your instructor may give you a separate list of criteria or an additional list of requirements.

The Grade of A

The A paper is characterized by outstanding informative writing marked by superior readability and competent handling of content. These traits are demonstrated in the following ways:

  • The substance and organization follow a clear, logical sequence that makes the information easily accessible to the reader.
  • The purpose is clearly expressed, and the selected details of the assignment reflect this purpose.
  • The audience is accommodated throughout the assignment as reflected in effective communication and style.
  • Words are chosen and sentences are constructed to make the information understandable.
  • The grammar, mechanics, and format are flawless.

The Grade of B

The B paper is characterized by distinguished writing that successfully fulfills the requirements but contains one of the following weaknesses:

  • Although the writing is essentially well organized, the audience analysis, the statement of purpose, or the handling of the content is flawed.
  • Although sentences are grammatically correct, their structure or length or both sometimes cause readers to work unnecessarily hard.
  • Ambiguous or vague wording hinders precise communication.
  • A small lapse in audience accommodation causes reader distraction.
  • Grammar, mechanics, and format flaws interfere with reading and comprehension.

The Grade of C

The C paper is characterized by satisfactory writing that is generally effective but contains any one of the following weaknesses:

  • Although satisfactorily written, the body of the assignment is not clearly organized, or some material is not clearly explained; the audience and purpose are not clear.
  • Sentences, although grammatically correct, often make information difficult to extract; editing key words or converting nouns to verbs could solve such problems.
  • Wording interferes with readability, but the reader can still glean the meaning; rereading is often required.
  • Repeated errors in grammar, mechanics, or format mar the paper.

The Grade of D

The D paper struggles to communicate information and contains weak writing. In a professional work environment, such writing would be considered incompetent because it suffers from any one of the following problems:

  • Any two of the problems listed for the C paper.
  • Minimal evidence of audience accommodation.
  • Serious wording problems, such as garbled wording, give the reader repeated and serious difficulties in understanding.
  • Serious sentence problems, such as run‑on sentences and comma splices, damage the readability.
  • Grammar, spelling, or format problems create frequent obstacles to understanding.

The Grade of F

A failing grade on a writing assignment usually means that your paper contains any two of the problems listed for the D paper.


Papers are awarded grades of A, B, C, D, or F based on certain general criteria including organization, content, style, and whether the student met the cognitive objectives of the assignment.


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