There is no substitute for hard work. (Thomas A. Edison)

Traditional Letter Grades
(published by the National Council for Teachers of English and included in Westminster College's Inquiry reader)

The chief principle of the A paper is its rich content. The information delivered is such that the reader feels significantly informed by the writer, sentence after sentence, paragraph after paragraph. It is also marked by stylistic finesse: the introduction and title are engaging, the transitions artful, the sentence structures varied, the diction tight, fresh, and highly specific, the tone appropriate to author, audience, and purpose alike. Because of its careful organization and development (which are apparent but not obtrusive), the A paper imparts a feeling of wholeness and unusual clarity. It leaves the reader feeling thoroughly satisfied, and often eager to reread the piece.

It is significantly more than competent, almost free of mechanical errors, and giving the reader substantial information both in quality and interest. Its specific points are appropriately arranged, well-developed, and unified around a clear organizing principle which is apparent early in the paper. The opening draws the reader in; the closing is both conclusive and thematically related to the opening. The transitions between paragraphs are generally smooth, the sentence structures pleasingly varied. The diction is concise and accurate. On the whole, the B paper makes the reading experience a pleasurable one, for it offers substantial information with few distractions.

It is generally competent, meeting the assignment, readable despite mechanical errors, and having reasonable organization and development. The actual information it delivers, however, is thin and commonplace; the ideas are expressed as vague generalities which prompt the confused reader to ask “In every case? Exactly how large? Why? But how many?” Stylistically the C paper has other shortcomings as well: the opening paragraph does little to engage the reader’s attention; the conclusion offers only a perfunctory wrap-up; the transitions between paragraphs are bumpy or missing; the sentences may be choppy or follow monotonous subject-verb-baggage patterns. The diction is occasionally marred by unconscious repetition, redundancy, and imprecision. While it gets the job done, the C paper lacks both imagination and intellectual rigor, and hence does not invite rereading.

Its treatment and development of the subject are as yet only rudimentary. While organization is present, it is neither clear nor effective. Sentences are frequently awkward, ambiguous, and marred by serious grammar and punctuation errors. Evidence of careful proofreading is scanty, perhaps nonexistent. The whole piece, in fact, often gives the impression of having been conceived and written in haste.

Its treatment of the subject is superficial; its theme lacks discernible organization; its prose is garbled or stylistically primitive. Grammar and punctuation errors are frequent. In short, the ideas, organizations, and style fall far below what is acceptable college writing.