Getting an A on an English Paper
Rutgers University – Newark
Before you hand in your paper, look for the following things. A
significant booboo in any of them may well sink your chances of
getting an A.
- Do you avoid big, vapid generalities? Don't open your paper
by offering grand generalizations about humanity since the
beginning of time: it's just wasting space. Get to business
- Do you have a clearly stated thesis? Remember, it should be possible
to state a good thesis in a single sentence with an active verb,
and if someone asks, “What do you prove?” you should be able to
answer with that sentence. If you have to start, “It's
about . . .” you don't have a thesis yet, you have
a topic. Be sure your thesis is clearly stated very early in the
- Do you back up your thesis with plenty of close reading? God and the devil have both
been said to be in the details. If you don't get your hands
dirty with lots and lots of careful examination of the words of
the text, you won't get an A.
- Are your mechanics clean? Even
a few minor booboos can sink you in your professor's estimation.
An otherwise fine paper that confuses its and it's
will get a less sympathetic reading.
- Do you use all your terms precisely? We English folk take words
seriously. If you call a short story an essay, or vice versa, we
can't help feeling you don't take words seriously.
- Do you have a clear conclusion? Remember, that's the last
thing your professor will read before he or she assigns a grade.
Use it the way a lawyer uses a closing statement: to wrap
everything up convincingly, and to burn your message into the
from Jack Lynch's guide,
Getting an A on an English