Words are specific and accurate.

Natural and effective word choice

Lively verbs add energy.

Specific nouns and modifiers add depth.

Precision is obvious.


Words are adequate and correct in a general sense, and they support the meaning by not getting in the way.

Familiar words and phrases communicate but rarely capture the reader's imagination.

Attempts at colorful language show a willingness to stretch and grow but sometimes reach beyond the audience (thesaurus overload!).

Despite a few successes, the writing is marked by passive verbs, everyday nouns, and mundane modifiers.

The words and phrases are functional with only one or two fine moments.

The words may be refined in a couple of places, but the language looks more like the first thing that popped into the writer’s mind.


Words are so nonspecific and distracting that only a very limited meaning comes through.

Problems with language leave the reader wondering. Many of the words just don’t work in this piece.

Audience has not been considered. Language is used incorrectly making the message secondary to the misfires with the words.

Limited vocabulary and/or misused parts of speech seriously impair understanding.

Words and phrases are so unimaginative and lifeless that they detract from the meaning.

Idiom, jargon, or clich├ęs distract or mislead.

Redundancy may distract the reader.