Mary Alice Morgan

Please read this handout carefully.

A word or two about how I've graded your essays (and what you should do with them now):

1. I grade by the standards I distributed earlier, not according to a curve. (That means I will happily give out all A's to a class of exceptional writers and thinkers. It has happened!) Please review that standards sheet. Pay particular attention to the errors listed at the end of this sheet. These are considered to be serious errors and lower your grade dramatically. I read each essay twice at separate sittings in order to be accurate and consistent.
If you have a question about a grade, don't hesitate to discuss it with me. I am anxious for you to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your writing. You may make an appointment with me beginning one day after the graded essay has been returned. I do not discuss the essay the same day the essay has been returned because you haven't had a chance to reread or study your errors. Make an appointment as soon as possible, not weeks later in the semester.

2. When you get your essay back, don't just look at the grade. Re-read your essay (most of us can't remember exactly what we wrote a week earlier). Think about how you'd revise the essay in light of my comments and your peer editor's comments. Study your errors in your grammar/punctuation handbook so you won't repeat them.

3. I use abbreviations and symbols in marking errors and commenting on the essays. If you don't understand an abbreviation or can't read my handwriting, ask me to explain. I hold you responsible for learning the material I mark. Usually, when you make the same error over and over again in the essay, I mark it only the first time. It is up to you to find and correct the subsequent errors.

4. Don't take my queries, suggestions, or revisions personally. Often I play devil's advocate in order to alert you to diverse readers' potential reactions. This is my role as your professor; don't mistake my challenges or quibbling as personal criticism. Remember that while I may occasionally be blunt, I am wholly supportive of you. I want you to learn and to succeed. Let me know if you have a problem with my comments.

I have graded this first essay rigorously in order to give the class a chance to adjust to Mercer's and my standards and expectations. Please recognize that you will be held responsible for eliminating mistakes that you made on this first essay from subsequent essays. Your grade will drop dramatically if you continue to make the same mistakes.
Occasionally I will allow the class to revise an essay in order to implement increasingly sophisticated writing skills. You can see how much revising improves your essays, and you can make revising a habit in your writing process. In such cases, I will allow every student in the class the option to revise (or not). Once you have made a decision not to revise, you can't change your mind later in the semester.

Here are some guidelines that should help you make an informed decision.

1. In order to reward you for substantial revision, I grade the revised essay and average that grade with the original grade. This new grade is the score that counts in your final average for the course. In general, the students who benefit most from revision are those who need to work on writing problems. I have seen hard working students bring up their grade by 10 points (a full letter grade) for a net gain of half a letter gain. Both in terms of improving your writing and improving your grade, revising benefits you.

2. Your grade on the revised essay is based on how well you address the problems or issues raised in my comments on the original essay. If there are suggestions I've made that you don't understand, make an appointment to see me before you begin revising. You don't want to spend a lot of time revising only to find out you misunderstood suggestions.

3. My advice to you about revising is that you should start with the "big issues" first. If, for example, I've commented that your essay doesn't have a clear purpose, begin revising by tackling that problem which will affect the entire essay rather than by tinkering with your opening sentence. Don't make changes for the sake of making changes. Know why you're making a change and what effect you're trying to achieve. Then move on to eliminating specific problems such as improving your introduction if I've suggested that or creating a transition between two paragraphs, etc. Work on problems in your style or on improving your prose style. Finally, correct all errors.

4. There is a difference between revising and correcting. You must correct all errors of grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc. from the original essay. However, you will not receive any additional credit simply for correcting errors. Those were errors that should not have appeared in the original, so you receive no revising credit for correcting those mistakes. I will tell you when the revised essay is due (usually a week after I have returned the original graded essay). When you turn in the revised essay, attach the graded original to the revision so that I can compare the two. I will not grade any revision that is not accompanied by the graded original. It is impossible for me to write comments on a revised essay. Be assured that I read and evaluate the essay just as carefully as I do the marked essays.

5. Please review the additional guidelines regarding late work, plagiarism, etc. covered in the first-day syllabus.

Here are the sorts of errors that will fail or severely lower the grade of an essay.

  • frag.

  • run-ons

  • svagr

  • garbled sentences

  • unidiomatic expressions

  • cs

  • incorrect verb forms

  • non-standard English

  • gross sp. errors