Essay Checklist

This won’t apply to all writing assignments, but should be helpful in assessing the completeness of analytical essays, particularly those for English or other humanities courses. Some questions you’ll want to ask are:


  • Does your title direct the reader to the heart of your argument? Does your opening make a purposeful move to engage the reader, presenting details and original views rather than generalizing about what is generally known?


  • Are your ideas and explanations providing fresh insight (or examining something familiar from a new angle) rather than just repeating typical understandings or accepted beliefs? Are you presenting a balanced, compelling argument? Do you acknowledge opposing viewpoints then refute them?


  • Are you providing specific analysis, not just plot summary? Is your analysis supported by occasional close examination of key words and phrases in the text, considering not just what is said but how it is said?


  • Is the essay logically organized? Does the paragraphing guide the reader from point to point? Are the transitions between paragraphs (and leading into quotations) smooth and clear?


  • Is each paragraph sufficiently developed to make your point? Are your points supported by well-chosen quotations or other specific details, anecdotes, comparison and contrast, analogy, rhetorical questions, etc.?


  • Is the style mature? That is, do you employ precise diction, varied sentence patterns, concise phrasing, and clear syntax so that your writing is uncluttered, rich, and vivid—a pleasure to read? Have you avoided weak diction such as “very” and “things” and vague absolutes such as “always,” “everyone,” “throughout” etc.?


  • The verb is often the muscle of the sentence. Are your verbs strong? Can some passive verbs (is, was, are) be replaced with active verbs?


  • The conclusion should make a new, emphatic point, not simply restate previous points. What is concluded in the conclusion? How does it successfully answer the “So What?” question? Is the final sentence engaging and memorable?


  • Have you polished your writing to do justice to your insights? Is there clear evidence of careful proofreading, including correct punctuation and spelling, proper citations, freedom from comma splices, run-ons, fragments, etc.


  • Overall, does your essay demonstrate a perceptive familiarity with the details of the material and a polished, skillful expression of your observations? Is it compelling?
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