Standards For a "C" Paper

Excerpt from:

Standards for a "C" Grade in English Composition, Report to Maryland Chief Academic Officers from Statewide English Composition Committee, March 3, 1998

Approved by the Intersegmental Chief Academic Offficers, April 21, 1998


Standards For a "C" Paper

A. Content

The "C" paper fulfills the assignment, meeting all specified requirements, such as subject, organization, and length, and reflects the author's awareness of audience and purpose. The paper presents a central idea supported by relevant material (facts, figures, examples, quotations, or other details). The reasoning is sound; arguments are supported with adequate evidence; and the paper makes appropriate use of specific, concrete, and relevant information. Other points of view are acknowledged and responded to as appropriate. Sources of information are accurately presented and fully attributed.

B. Organization

The "C" paper has a discernible and logical plan. It has a focus, and the writer maintains the focus throughout the essay. The writer has unified the entire essay in support of the central idea, or thesis, and individual paragraphs in support of subordinate points. Some individual paragraphs, however, may be weak. The writer promotes coherence through the logical order of paragraphs and the use of some or all of the following devices: thesis statement, topic sentences, opening and closing paragraphs, and transitions. The use of these devices may lack smoothness, but the writer has achieved an acceptable level of organization.

C. Style/Expression

The "C" paper uses reasonable stylistic options (tone, word choice, sentence patterns) for its audience and purpose. The writing is clear. As a rule, the paper has smooth transitions between paragraphs, although some transitions may be missing or ineffective. The meaning of sentences is clear, although some sentences may be awkward or there may be a lack of variety in sentence patterns. Nonetheless, sentence structure is generally correct, although it may show limited mastery of such elements as subordination, emphasis, sentence variety and length, and modifiers. The paper reflects current academic practices of language use established by professional associations such as the Modern Language Association and the American Psychological Association.

D. Grammar/Mechanics

The "C" paper follows the conventions of standard written U.S. English; thus, it is substantially free of errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and mechanics. What errors are present must not impede meaning nor overly distract the reader.


The Committee recommends that the Chief Academic Officers accept the Standards for a "C" Paper as guidelines for all public two- and four-year colleges and universities to implement for Fall 1999. The Committee encourages Maryland public colleges and universities to implement the "C" standards on a voluntary basis as soon as possible.