Rubric for Writing Projects

English 101 | Professor Meehan

 In the liberal arts tradition, before there were courses in writing, before there were even courses in English departments, the curriculum focused on three related elements for composing a speech and (later) a written text: logic, rhetoric, and grammar.

We can think of those three elements today as categories that a strong writer works on when producing a composition and that an engaged reader expects from the composition when receiving it. These three categories, renamed and elaborated below, provide the rubric we will use in developing writing projects and that I will use when evaluating the final versions of each project. Your goal, then, is the same goal I have with my own academic writing: strong, rhetorically successful composition of thought, ideas, and arguments.

[1]Critical Thinking [Logic]

  • Clarity of your thinking [10 points]
    • Articulates a stake and purpose for the argument/claim
      • Establishes appropriate context for argument
      • Pursues an arguable, specific answer to a question or a solution to a problem. In other words, argument answers: So what? Who Cares? What’s the difference?
  • Complexity of your thinking [10 points]
    • Uses keywords and terms effectively, providing new insights for conventional ideas, complicating simplistic ways of thinking about a topic (including your own assertions).
    • Effectively uses arguments of others (your participation in the critical conversation), including arguments other than/counter to your own.
  • Coherence of your thinking [10 points]
    • Refines and reiterates (threads) the thinking throughout the composition, including keywords of your argument.
    • Uses logic effectively, avoiding logical fallacies.

Elements to focus on while reading, responding, composting, and revising.

[2]Rhetorical Knowledge and Writing Process [Rhetoric]

  • Arrangement of the composition as a dynamic (not static) argument [10 points]
    • Effective paragraph structure:
      • Movement (transition) from effective beginning (introduction), middle (supporting readings, complications) and ending (conclusion)
      • Movement within each paragraph, from initial to closing sentence.
    • Effective introduction and conclusion
      • Setting up the context of your argument/focus and leaving the reader with implications for further thinking.
  • Development of the composition [10 points]
    • Deliberate reading/forwarding of ideas and texts in key moments:
      • Close reading/analysis of texts, including effective use of quotation, extending the interpretation and complicating the argument
    • Effective use of evidence in support of argument, moving from paraphrase and synthesis to interpretation
  • Revision of the composition[10 points]
    • Effective and active use of feedback and revision strategies in moving from initial drafts to final product

Elements to focus on while revising

[3]Awareness of Conventions [the ‘grammar’]

  • Language [10 points]
    • Deliberate choice in words (precision, connotation) and syntax:
      • Attention to specific word choices and sentence style: such as passive and active sentences, varying long and short sentences.
    • Use of language, images, and rhetorical figures that impress, surprise, move, and effectively address the audience.
  • Usage [10 points]
    • Editing for misspelling, typos, missing words, incomplete sentences, fragments, punctuation and other usage errors;
    • Editing for violations of academic and print writing conventions that you have not consciously chosen for effect.
  • Audience [10 points]
    • Attention to the formal presentation of your narrative
      • Effective title, use of signposting, and other ways of addressing the audience of your composition
      • Proper formatting, spacing, indenting, proper conventions for citation, following all expectations of the assignment.

Elements to focus on while editing.

[4]Focal Points

For each project, there will be a focal point for that composition worth 10 points: coming to terms, forwarding, countering, revision. These focal points are ways we will be thinking about approaching the project and ways to improve upon all three areas of the composition. In that sense, they are not separate elements of strong writing so much as lenses we will use to focus on our thinking, writing, and rewriting process, from compost through revision to completion.


Each of the categories will be worth 10 points. The scale I will use is the following:

9-10: excellent; the element is prominent in the composition, demonstrating a thorough and impressive grasp—ready to work on other elements from the rubric and/or to-do list.

7-8: proficient to strong; the element is present and effective, demonstrating a good grasp with room to continue development to enhance effect—keep on list, but almost ready to check off.

6: emerging; the element is present in spots, but not effectively or consistently present, demonstrating an emerging grasp in need of further development—keep on list and follow up in conference.

4-5: weak; the element is mostly absent, not effective in the composition, demonstrating a limited grasp in need of more extensive development—keep on list and take into conference with me and/or writing center before next project.

0-3: insufficient; the element fails to be present or is not addressed as expected, demonstrating a poor grasp in need of immediate attention—plan a conference right away to discuss further what should be improved for the next project.

In my evaluation of your writing projects, you will receive from me comments that address some strengths and weaknesses of the essay, using this rubric of 10 categories. I will expect you to refer back to this rubric as a way to follow up on my evaluation and continue to improve upon your writing in the next project. I am willing to discuss questions about the overall grade you receive on a project, but that discussion will focus on strengths and weaknesses related to these categories. So be prepared to respond to my comments.

Overall: 100 points

  1. Clarity
  2. Complexity
  3. Coherence
  4. Arrangement
  5. Development
  6. Revision
  7. Language
  8. Usage
  9. Audience
  10. Focal Point

4 Comments on “Rubric”

  1. […] Link to my source for rhetorical and grammatical improvement: […]

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