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Overview of College-Level Writing Expectations

According to the revised Gordon Rule (FL State Board of Education Administrative Rule 6A-10.030), the definition of “college-level” writing for English will be the following:

  • The writing will have a clearly defined thesis or central idea.
  • The writing will include adequate evidence to support the thesis or idea.
  • The writing will reflect the awareness of the conventions of standard written English such as grammar, punctuation, spelling, and word usage.
  • The writing will use clear and logical organization.
  • The writing will demonstrate the ability to synthesize and apply discipline content at the course-specific level.
  • The writing will be formatted or presented in a manner appropriate to the assignment.

National College Faculty descriptions of letter-grade writing evaluation :

1. The “F” essay is superficial and fails to show mastery of correct language usage. The writer fails to narrow the subject to a manageable length; and/or fails to keep the essay unified and coherent; and/or fails to develop each thought, lumping several topics into one cumbersome paragraph or writing short paragraphs of but a sentence or two. Improper subordination, imprecise words, frequent misspellings, and gross illiteracies occur. The writer is unable to write clearly and effectively. The work has not fulfilled assignment criteria and is simply not acceptable at college level.

2. The “D” essay has many faults, though the writer has made an attempt to transcend superficial treatment of the subject. The paragraphs evidence some understanding of unity and coherence; however, ideas are not organized logically or developed satisfactorily. The writer makes a number of usage errors, though they do not reflect illiteracy. The “D” essay is passable but reflects carelessness in usage and mechanics. The work is below average but not a completely failed attempt as the basic assignment criteria has been met at a minimum.

3. The “C” essay is adequate, but mediocre; technically correct, but tedious. The subject is stated clearly but somewhat tritely and generally. The essay is organized logically but too mechanically. Topic sentences are concrete and specific. Supporting sentences are clear but monotonous and dull. Transitions are mechanical. Word choice is repetitive because of limited vocabulary. Clichés are often used. Spelling is generally accurate with only occasional errors. Punctuation is almost error free, but some problems exist in complex sentences. The basic assignment criteria has been met. The work firmly reflects average college level ability.

4. The “B” essay handles the subject interestingly. The reader’s attention is caught in the introduction. The thesis sentence is justified in the body of the essay through well-developed paragraphs. Clear sentences employ a variety of structures. The language is vigorous, vivid, and precise. There are very few usage errors. The major problem with a “B” essay is that the writer either lacks knowledge of the subject or oversimplifies it and thereby fails to do it justice. The work is above average but not quite excellent.

5. The “A” essay is organized logically and has smooth transitions. It is written clearly and has varied sentence structure that reveals an individual (but not eccentric) style. The writer uses a sufficiently wide vocabulary that says precisely what the writer intends and does so vigorously. There are virtually no errors in syntax, grammar, punctuation, or mechanics. Through a desire and ability to achieve clear and precise communication, the writer reveals a disciplined and mature mind. The work is excellent.

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