Because I believe that growth as a reader and writer stems from consistent practice, I have designed this course to reward both the quality of your finished writing and thoughtful, steady work over the course of the semester.

Semester Grade

You will earn letter grades on the final versions of your two main essays for this course. You will also earn a letter grade for your overall process work—including exercises, drafts, and workshops. In determining your final grade for the course, I will double-weight your essay grades.  Put in percentages, I will calculate your final grade as follows:

Essay 1:    40%
Essay 2:    40%
Process:   20%

To earn a high grade for this course, you thus need to be both a good writer and a good student.  See below for how I will determine your essay and process grades.


I will assign a letter grade to the final draft of each of your two  essays for this course. This grade  will reflect my sense of the ambition, interest, and quality of your writing.  While I cannot reduce this professional judgement to a simple numerical scale, I can say that, in grading your essays,  I will consider your:

  • Project: an interesting and ambitious idea driving your writing
  • Sources: an accurate use of other texts
  • Voice: clear and imaginative prose
  • Editing and Design: careful editing and document design
  • Reflection: a thoughtful comment on your work in revising

I  will use the attached form in assigning and explaining grades. We will go over this form in class later in the semester. But don’t fixate on it. Your task is to write an ambitious and interesting essay in a voice that feels your own. Do that, and you will do fine.


Over the course of the semester, I will ask you to complete eight process writings (Ps), and four ungraded drafts (Ds) of your essays . I will grade this work with a check system:

√      2 points    Good
√-     1 point      Hurried or incomplete
Ø       0                Missing or late

And I will use this scale to determine your cumulative grade for all 12 process writings:

24   A
23   A-
22   B+
21   B
20   C+
19   C
18   D
17   F

Deadlines are firm. To earn a √, your work must be on time, thoughtful, and edited with care.

Work in Seminar

I expect you to participate actively in this seminar—to meet deadlines as a writer, to respond thoughtfully to the work of your classmates, to come to class ready to discuss the assigned readings, and to find ways to make your voice heard in our conversations. I will ask you to do some informal writing during many of our class meetings and to share that work from time to time. I will also often ask you to work in pairs or small groups and will expect you to take that work seriously. I reserve the right to raise or lower your semester grade by one step (for instance, from a B to a B+ or a B-) to reflect the consistency and quality of your work in seminar.

Work Out of Class

The usual calculus is that you should work two hours out of class for each hour in class. That would mean about five hours of work out of class per week. I advise you to set aside some regular blocks of time to do the reading and writing assigned each week in this course.

Missed Work and Plagiarism

I expect you to complete all the work assigned for this course. Missing assignments will count as a zero or F. And I of course expect that all the work you do will be your own. If you plagiarize any of your work for this course, the penalty will be an F for the assignment, and possibly for the semester. I am also obligated to report serious cases of plagiarism to the Office of Student Conduct.