- Ideas and Content
This category entails the focus and supporting details of the essay. Exemplary essays have one clear, well-focused topic. Beyond this, the main ideas of the essay are supported by detailed and accurate information that hold the reader's attention.
The well-organized essay includes a strong beginning, middle, and end with clear transitions and a focused closure. The introduction is inviting, states the main topic to be discussed, and provides an overview of points to be made in the essay. Supporting details are relevant to the topic and are presented in a logical order. The end or conclusion of the essay provides a sense of completeness or closure about the topic.
- Word Choice
The third area that impacts the quality of writing is word choice. The well-written essay uses precise words that clearly state the argument or position of the writer. The author uses vivid words and phrases that allow the reader to visualize and/or make connections to the discussion. Similarly, the writer avoids redundancy of words or phrases, as well as clichés or slang expressions. The choice and placement of words, moreover, seems accurate and natural.
The grammar of an essay affects the ease to read and understand a composition. Grammar includes conventions of language such as verb tense, subject-verb agreement, pronoun agreement, word order, and what is called sentence sense. Sentence sense is the ability to write complete sentences with no run-on sentences or fragments. Run-on sentences and fragments seriously alter meaning and are considered a serious composition error. Word order issues such as parallel structure and misplaced modifiers also alter the meaning of text and should be avoided.
Spelling, capitalization, and punctuation are other conventions of writing that affect meaning. Errors in any of these areas distract the reader and make it difficult to fully appreciate the ideas the writer is discussing. Beyond this, attention to the mechanics and grammar of one's writing is considered a courtesy to the reader, and these areas should be checked closely before submitting an essay.