CHECKLIST for QUALITY WRITING
last update 21 October 2009

Before turning in your written work, ask yourself each of the following questions. The quality of your writing, and so the grade you receive on written work, depends upon whether you have considered each of these criteria in conceptualizing and crafting your paper. Complete this review at least a day or two before the paper is due so that you can make necessary revisions before submitting your work.

A. COMPREHENSION: THE QUALITY OF YOUR THINKING

  1. The essay reflects a correct and sophisticated understanding of the material.
    1. Have you completely grasped the main ideas in the work you are writing about?
    2. Have you misinterpreted any of the material on which you are writing?
    3. Have you ignored important aspects of the material?
  2. The essay's main point (= thesis) is clear and sharply focused.
    1. Is the topic either too narrow or too broad?
    2. Do you get to the main point quickly, in either the first or second paragraph?
    3. Is the thesis definite, informative, significant, and clearly stated?
  3. The discussion supports and develops your thesis.
    1. Will readers learn something new and useful?
    2. Do you have support every assertion with enough details?
    3. If this is a research essay, have you used ample expert sources to support your claims?
    4. If this is an essay analyzing a text or set of texts, do you consistently cite the exact points in the text that support your claims?
    5. Have you used only your best material, or can anything be cut?

B. STRUCTURE: THE QUALITY OF YOUR PRESENTATION

  1. The essay has a definite introduction, body, and conclusion.
    1. Will your introduction spark your readers' interest and make them want to read on?
    2. Does the order of paragraphs reveal a clear line of thought, and emphasize what is most important?
    3. Have you provided transitions that clearly connect each paragraph to the one before it?
    4. Does the conclusion give a real sense of closure to your discussion or argument?
  2. Each paragraph constitutes a mini-essay.
    1. Does the paragraph have a topic (or orienting) statement?
    2. Does each body paragraph develop one supporting point?
    3. Does everything stick to the point (unity) and stick together (coherence)?
    4. Is the paragraph developed enough to support the point?
  3. The essay is a succinct presentation of your view of the topic
    1. Is every remark essential to understanding the topic?
    2. Have you used only your best material, or can anything be cut?

C. STYLE: THE QUALITY OF YOUR PROSE

  1. Sentences are clear and concise.
    1. Can each sentence be understood the first time it is read?
    2. Have you eliminated wordy phrases, circumlocutions, and awkward expressions?
    3. Is your meaning precise, concrete and specific?
    4. Have you avoided excessive use of passive constructions?
    5. Have you used words (especially prepositions) correctly (grammatically and in accordance with standard usage)?
  2. The tone of your prose is natural, fluid and interesting.
    1. Have you used language in a sophisticated and nuanced way that expresses your ideas precisely?
    2. Is your prose lively and vigorous, or wooden and bland?
    3. Is your tone either too informal and "folksy" or too academic and stilted?

D. TECHNICAL MATTERS: THE QUALITY OF YOUR FINISHED PRODUCT

  1. Sentences are grammatically correct.
    1. Do you have sentence fragments?
    2. Do subjects and verbs agree in number (not shift from singular to plural, or vice versa)?
    3. Do all pronouns have clear antecedents?
    4. Do you write consistently in one tense (either past or present), not shifting back and forth?
  2. Punctuation is used correctly.
    1. Have you checked you use of commas and semi-colons?
    2. Do you have quotation marks around each quotation with other punctuation placed appropriately either inside or outside the quotation?
    3. Are quotations properly introduced with a phrase identifying the author?
    4. Are all words properly capitalized?
  3. All words in the essay are spelled correctly, including proper names.
    1. Have you checked the spelling of any word about which you are unsure?
    2. Do you give full names the first time you mention each of the authors you cite in the paper?
  4. References are complete and accurate.
    1. Have you provided references for all important ideas that come from another source?
    2. Are your footnotes and bibliography consistent with the Chicago Manual of Style?
    3. Unless the assignment explicitly states otherwise, have you used a minimum of six academic, print sources in your research?
    4. If web resources are permitted for this assignment, have you give complete references to any sites you used?
  5. Pages are clearly and consecutively numbered.
  6. Your prose is non-sexist.
    1. Have you checked to make sure you haven't used "man" or "he" when you mean anyone irrespective of gender?
    2. Have you checked to make sure you have balanced the use of "he" or masculine nouns for God with "she" and feminine nouns?
  7. The essay is carefully proofread.
    1. Have you carefully read your work to ensure that you have caught typographical errors, half-sentences that your word processor neglected to delete, etc.?
    2. Have you read your work aloud to ensure that it is accessible to the potential reader?