Grade Levels

I won’t always be able to tell you why your essays don’t quite achieve the grades you want. Even after you respond well to feedback and make your essay grammatically correct, provide good sources, and make reasonable arguments, you might still not earn the highest grade. Writing beautifully is more than a matter of following rules, and you may simply require more practice or more skill than can be achieved in a single semester.

It’s also almost certain that no matter how much feedback you’ve receive, you haven’t been told: “You just don’t sound as if you know what you’re talking about,” or: “You spend so much time proving the obvious there’s no room left for new insight.” That sort of advice may never come, but it can be part of the unspoken reason your grade didn’t improve as much as you hoped.

I can offer an illustration of differences in writing quality that might help. The versions are different enough to be worth a letter grade. Please keep in mind, these are relative values, now absolutes. Not every writing course requires exactly this level of accomplishment for an A grade. Neither would the worth example necessarily earn a D grade in this course. Still the comparisons should be helpful

Reasonable claims, nicely transitioned to guide reader through a persuasive argument:

The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for gays enlisting in the army is just one example of thediscriminatory laws that deny freedom of speech and expression to the homosexual community. Overturning that wrongheaded legislation as unconstitutional was a good first step toward awarding gays the equal rights a majority of Americans favor for them. It’s time for our government to stand up to religious zealots who oppress sexual minorities and pass humane laws that grant all citizens their constitutional freedoms, such as the right to choose a spouse.

Unconnected but reasonable declarations:

Denying same sex couples the right to marry is discriminatory. The “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for gays enlisting in the army was an example of an unconstitutional rule because it took away the rights of freedom of speech and expression from the homosexual community. A majority of Americans favor gay marriage because it treats all citizens equally. Although religious groups may be against it, the government should make laws based on how the majority believes.

Poorly connected unclear or contradictory claims:

A large percentage of American couples are same-sex couples. If heterosexual couples have the right to marry, then homosexual couples should have that right too. When the Army wanted to have a policy about “don’t ask, don’t tell,” they should have enforced that for heterosexual soldiers too and not just homosexuals because if one group has the right to express itself, then every group should have that right too. A majority of Americans favor gay marriage except for some very conservative religious groups who may be against it. We are a democracy that’s based on majority rules, so if a majority of Americans want equality for homosexuals, then that should be the law of the land for this great nation.

No clear claims:

A large percentage of Americans are homosexuals, or at least they’re willing to say they are. Nobody should be allowed to tell them that they can’t serve in the Army if they’re brave enough to go to war, so it’s not fair to make them admit to being gay because it’s not relevant to their ability to serve as soldiers. The Army’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy would probably not be passed by a majority of Americans because most Americans know somebody who is gay and they don’t have prejudice against them. The religious groups don’t like “don’t ask, don’t tell” because they think if gay soldiers are allowed to be in the Army, then who can say whether they would create problems for the other soldiers? Any not just whether they would be brave enough to be in combat; we have to wonder how they would behave when there was no actual fighting.

I hope the value difference is obvious, and that you prefer the second. I don’t know any better way to demonstrate the difference between essays that earn different grades. If you think this is valuable and would like to see more examples or a wider range of grade levels, leave a comment below. Thanks.


About davidbdale

Inventor of and sole practitioner of 299-word Very Short Novels.
This entry was posted in David Hodges, Professor Post, Writing Tips. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Grade Levels

  1. justinbaker2007 says:

    Could you write a C and a D version? Thanks so much!

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