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GRADE Intro Paragraph / Thesis Body Paragraphs / Organization Literary Analysis Language Style / Voice Mechanics


Engaging opening introduces the essay’s general topic and inspires thinking about that topic; logically proceeds to thesis; thesis is an easily identifiable, well-phrased argument that assesses the text and addresses three specific ideas to be analyzed and proven in the essay; the ideas offered in the thesis reflect sound critical, analytical thinking about a piece of literature. Each topic sentence clearly connects to the thesis and offers an identifiable, well-phrased idea to be proven in the paragraph; quotations are well-chosen and explained. Paragraphs are well-organized to create a coherent, carefully developed and supported argument; transitions between ideas are logical and each idea builds on the preceding one. The writer maintains focus and control of the argument so that the point of each paragraph is clear. Writing reflects a critical, analytical understanding of the text and quotations. Through clear reasoning, the writer draws sophisticated, insightful inferences to support the connected ideas of the topic sentence and thesis. Inferences are developed so that all claims and points made are well-supported and persuasive. There is an appropriate balance of quotes and the writer’s own analysis; the writer is able to be convincing through his/her descriptions. Writing is academic and professional, demonstrating a clear sense of purpose. The points and/or claims expressed in the writing are made directly and supported; vocabulary and phrasing are academically appropriate, persuasive, and sophisticated without being pretentious. The essay includes a variety of sentences marked by varying structure; effective syntax and grammar demonstrate a mastery of writing conventions and serve the author’s purpose. There is consistent adherence to MLA guidelines while citing every quotation. There are no misspellings and very few punctuation errors.


Generally engaging opening; areas to be strengthened may include: presentation of general topic, development of transition between attention-grabbing opening and specific thesis statement. The thesis statement is phrased as an argument but may be strengthened through clarification of the main ideas or reasons being offered. Each topic sentence generally connects to the thesis but in one or more TS the main idea may need to be clarified; concrete details are generally well-chosen though some may be irrelevant or insufficient as evidence to effectively support the thesis and/or TS. Paragraphs are generally well-organized, although some transitions may be awkward and there may be gaps in the development of ideas; the point of a paragraph may not always be clear. The writing generally reflects a critical, analytical understanding of the texts under analysis but is uneven. Inferences demonstrate interpretive ability but could be developed further to better explain significance of details and support the thesis and/or TS. Some claims may be vague, generalized, or lacking in support; analysis could be stronger through focus on stylistic elements that create thematic meaning. There is some imbalance between the quotes and writer’s analysis of them. The writing is generally academic in tone. The writer’s voice is persuasive. The writing demonstrates an awareness of the purpose to expose truths and persuade the reader to believe them; vocabulary in some places may be simplistic or ineffective. The essay’s sentences are generally effective but may lack appropriate variety (repeated sentence structure); the syntax and grammar may be awkward in places (but not distracting). There are a few misspellings (but not distracting). There are some mistakes using MLA guidelines.

(needs improvement)

Opening is functional but too brief and/or simplistic. The essay’s topic is apparent but needs to be developed to engage the reader; there is an abrupt rather than smooth transition from the introduction’s background to the thesis statement. The introductory paragraph may be incoherent, jumping from one point to the next without developing a smooth progression of ideas; the thesis may be too general, vague, or imprecisely phrased. The thesis may not be direct. Topic sentences are present but more than one is weak in the following areas: the main idea is not discernible, it contains summary rather than a claim, or there is an unclear connection to thesis. Concrete details are present but weak because they provide insufficient evidence to support TS and/or are irrelevant because they do not support an insightful inference. There is a lack of coherent organization of ideas within individual paragraphs or from one paragraph to the next. Abrupt transitions impede a smooth flow of ideas. The essay lacks consistent focus and paragraph(s) may lack clear point(s). The writing demonstrates basic comprehension of the texts or quotes under analysis but not a critical, analytical understanding of them, as reflected by one or more of the following: lack of focused, developed ideas guiding the essay, interpretive analysis is inconsistent or unsubstantiated, there is frequent summary of plot details that retell a story rather than analyze. The writer restates the content of cited concrete details rather than drawing significant inferences about sub-textual meaning; there is little or no analysis of how stylistic elements of the text create meaning. Writing marked and weakened by frequent generalizations, unsupported claims, assumptions or vague statements. The writing tends to be mechanical in tone. The writing demonstrates inconsistent awareness of the purpose to persuade; vocabulary tends to be simplistic, marked by instances of informal or slang or imprecise vocabulary. Essay sentences lack variety (frequently repeating the same sentence structure). There is awkward syntax and grammar mistakes confuse the writer’s point and distract the reader. Misspellings, contractions, fragments, referring to “you” or overusing “I” diminish the academic nature of the writing and distracting the reader. There is inconsistent adherence to MLA guidelines (but it does not compromise the integrity of the essay).


The opening is ineffective, poorly organized, and undeveloped (inappropriately brief); the thesis may summarize plot points rather than present arguments or the thesis may not address the prompt at all. The author and/or title of texts under analysis may not be referenced properly in the introduction or elsewhere, Topic sentences are absent or consistently lack focused ideas, either offering general, irrelevant comments or stating facts about the text rather than making claims. There is no discernible argument or point guiding the essay; concrete details are absent or ineffective/ insufficient. There is a consistent lack of coherent organization of ideas within paragraphs and lack of transition from one paragraph to the next. Points of paragraphs are unclear. The writing demonstrates some awareness of textual details but not a critical, analytical understanding of the quotations used to support points/claims. Points made are vague and unsubstantiated; the essay lacks focus. There is no real literary analysis present. The writing is mechanical in tone; the writing demonstrates no awareness of the purpose to expose points and persuade. The vocabulary is simplistic and/or inappropriate. There is frequent syntax, grammar, punctuation and misspelling errors that distract the reader. There is a lack of adherence to MLA guidelines that undermines the integrity of the essay.


Fails to fulfill the requirements of the assignment. Fails to fulfill the requirements of the assignment. Fails to fulfill the requirements of the assignment. Fails to fulfill the requirements of the assignment. No adherence to MLA guidelines (missing citations, lack of proper format).





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