I help students with all sorts of writing, including college essays, which I love. In fact, I consider the college essay the crowning achievement in any application, because nothing helps a student's case with an admissions reviewer like a compelling piece of prose. Nothing. Of all the compulsory materials in a student's file, there is no greater opportunity than the essay for making the kind of real human contact that generates influential appeal.

Thanks to many years as a Freshman Composition Instructor, a technical and fiction writer, and a nitpicking proofreader, I have gained great fluency with the essential rubric for the writing process from start to finish, outlined below. The six major headings offer a comprehensive road map that works in layers. They lead naturally from outlines and rough drafts to a highly polished and highly pleasing final product—and minimize misused time.

Paradoxically, the most effective way to gain the extreme benefits of this rubric is not to dwell on it excessively. In fact, when I work with students, I hardly ever refer to the rubric out loud, since too much formulaic thinking generally misdirects writers away from inspiration and gritty investment—two indispensable qualities that make everything come together. As everything comes together, the rubric regularly and reliably emerges.


Rubric for The Writing Process

  1. Content
    1. brainstorming
    2. ideas
    3. focus
    4. topic
    5. purpose
    6. audience
    7. thesis/central idea
  2. Development
    1. evidence
    2. examples
    3. details
    4. arguments
    5. logic
  3. Organization
    1. unity
    2. coherence
    3. structure
    4. transitions
  4. Style
    1. tone
    2. word choice
    3. sentence structure
  5. Mechanics
    1. grammar
    2. spelling
    3. punctuation
  6. Format
    1. presentation
    2. documentation
    3. proofreading

See also "The College Essay: Finger Trap?" from my tutoring blog for crucial information about writing a true masterpiece.