Guidelines for Evaluating Letters
Taking a Position: Does the opinion piece take a position that is clearly expressed? The position may be a recommendation for action or it may be to alert readers to a problem. The author should make a single point well. You, as the reader, should be able to explain the author's message in a sentence or two.
6-7: The opinion piece has an original, well-argued position. The piece draws the reader into looking at the topic in a new way or with new insight. The reader can readily summarize what the author is saying and why.
4-5: The opinion piece takes a thoughtful position. But the supporting data appear a bit muddled. Readers are left with questions: Why did the author take this position? Why take this position rather than an alternative one?
2-3: The piece leaves readers confused as to what point the author is trying to make. The reader cannot readily summarize the author's key point or the data supporting the position seem not to really support it.
1: The paper lacks an identifiable point. Readers are left confused as to what point the author is making and why.
Persuasive: Does the piece persuade the reader? A good piece argues effectively for a particular position. Even though the reader may not ultimately agree with the author, the reader comes away from the piece willing to seriously consider the author's perspective.
6-7: A reader comes away from reading the piece feeling the author has effectively argued for a certain position. The author uses concrete examples that resonate with readers.
4-5: The opinion piece highlights an important topic. But it does not really convince readers as to the value of the author's position.
2-3: The opinion piece seems mostly a personal venting. The author is not reaching out to readers or trying to connect with them in a meaningful way.
1: The piece is unconvincing. An unbiased reader, reading this piece, would not find the piece very persuasive.
Hook and Structure: Does the opinion piece engage the reader right at the beginning? Is there evidence of thoughtful organization? Does the author summarize the main point at the end?
6-7: The main point is effectively stated in the first few sentences. These first few sentences capture the reader's attention and draw the reader into reading further. The author effectively summarizes the piece's argument in a strong final paragraph.
4-5: Readers are not immediately drawn into the argument. But they are not put off by it either. They find the piece reasonable but a little slow moving. It does not hold the reader's attention. The final paragraph does not offer a powerful restatement of the author's position.
2-3: The piece makes a basic point. But it does not catch your attention. It does not draw you in at the beginning nor does it summarize its message at the end.
1: The author never draws the reader into the opinion piece. It is not clear what the author is saying nor why it is important.
Writing and Clarity: Is the piece readily understandable by non-academic readers? General readers should find the piece easy and interesting to read. There should be few grammatical and spelling errors.
6-7: The writing is clear. The author's own voice and perspective come through in a convincing way. You can identify with the author and the position she or he takes. There are no grammatical mistakes that distract from the author's argument.
4-5: The writing is reasonable. The sentences and paragraphs are a bit too long or the passive voice is emphasized. There is a bit too much jargon.
2-3: The author tends to go on too long. It is not really clear what point she or he is making. The author has long sentences and paragraphs.
1: A reader is left confused as to what point the author is trying to make.
Tone: Is the opinion piece polite and respectful? The focus is on persuading the reader rather than voicing indignation or condemnation.
6-7: The opinion piece is polite and respectful in tone. Rather than dismissing the other side, it acknowledges its value while disagreeing with it. It comes across as written by a thoughtful professional versed in the subject being discussed.
4-5: There is generally a polite tone. But the author does not acknowledge that reasonable people might disagree regarding the point being made. The author asserts there is one reasonable position and she or he is presenting it.
2-3: The piece comes across as quite opinionated. It appears the author is "venting" about something that bothers her or him.
1: The piece is similar to a political "attack" ad. The author is pouring at rage with little concern for who is reading the piece.