Essay Evaluation Made Easy With a Student Writing Checklist & Comments

Essay Evaluation Made Easy With a Student Writing Checklist & Comments
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Preparation: Using a Student Writing Checklist

Have you ever spent hours writing comments on student’s essays? Spare yourself hand cramps with this easy, essay evaluation system involving a student writing checklist.

At the beginning of the school year or before passing back essays, hand out a list of prefabricated comments with a number next to it. When grading essays, write numbers instead of comments. When students get their essays back, they look at the number on the essay and its corresponding comment on the handout. You can use the numbers for holistic evaluation or for specific parts of the essay. This system works for formal essays, informal writing, timed writing, and test writing. You can make up your own comments or you can steal mine. The best thing about passing out the comments before the essay is due is that it becomes a student writing checklist.

Writing Traits Comments


  1. Too much summary and not enough analysis.
  2. Shallow commentary.
  3. Facts do not support your main topic.
  4. You have no facts to support this.
  5. How does this support your thesis statement/topic sentence?
  6. Good idea.
  7. Excellent development.
  8. Good use of citations.
  9. Excellent commentary.
  10. I agree.
  11. I hadn’t thought of that.
  12. Thesis statement is unclear.
  13. Topic sentence is unclear.
  14. Show. Don’t Tell.


  1. Good formatting.
  2. Excellent attention grabber.
  3. Good thesis statement.
  4. Well organized.
  5. Good transition.
  6. Unclear.
  7. Show how your point supports your thesis statement.
  8. You’re rambling.
  9. This makes little sense.
  10. Try rearranging these sentences.
  11. Mix in a paragraph every now and then.


  1. Way too passive.
  2. Excellent use of the active voice.
  3. Use stronger verbs.
  4. Too many “to be” verbs.
  5. Are you a robot or a person?
  6. Way to involve and relate to the reader.
  7. Excellent word choice.
  8. Use a more specific word.
  9. Too many simple sentences.
  10. Good sentence variety.

Conventions (you can use proofreading marks for most problems)

  1. Proofread more carefully.
  2. Mechanically sound.
  3. Your poor mechanics interfere with an otherwise good piece of writing.
  4. Shoot me now, please (on second thought, leave this one out depending on where you teach).
  5. Verb tense disagreement.
  6. It’s either the past or the present. It can’t be both.
  7. Pronoun antecedent issues abound.
  8. Review apostrophes.
  9. Review commas.