University Writing Standards

Written work is an important part of the University curriculum because writing offers students the opportunity to think deeply and searchingly about their subjects and because skill in written expression is crucial to the welfare of both individuals and society. Montclair State policy regarding written work includes the following requirements and provisions:

1. The document "Standards for Formal Written Work," outlines in a general way the University's expectations concerning the content, organization, and format of written assignments, which is available from all academic departments. These provisions may be supplemented by departmental writing policy statements or by those of individual instructors.
2. As part of the General Education Requirement, each student must satisfy the communication requirement in writing, usually by taking College Writing I.
3. Writing is an important part of course requirements throughout Montclair State (minimum: 1,500 words to 2,000 words per course). This work may take such forms as essay examinations, research papers, laboratory reports, critical essays, and so forth.
4. All students must satisfy a graduation requirement in writing. Each department will evaluate the writing ability of its majors by means of a required course (or choice of courses) with substantial writing assignments. Normally this course should be taken in the junior year. Students with serious writing problems will be referred to the Writing Center and may not graduate until those problems have been eliminated. Students should consult their major department chairpersons or academic advisor regarding this course and other aspects of the department's writing policy.
5. The Center for Writing Excellence, located in Sprague Library (973-655-7442), is available to all Montclair State students who are interested in developing as writers. There is no charge for this service.

Most courses at Montclair State require written assignments, because writing is one of the best ways to explore, refine, and demonstrate knowledge. The following statement describes the mental operations and the writing skills that the faculty expects in your formal written work. (You should assume that an assignment requires formal preparation unless your instructor states otherwise.) College Writing I & II provide a solid foundation in these abilities, but that is only the beginning. The written work that you do in all your courses will build on the foundation established in College Writing I & II, developing your ability to think and to communicate your thoughts in writing.

In the academic world, as in the world at large, readers will judge your written work primarily on the basis of its content; that is, on the quality of the information and opinions it contains. However, the careful organization and the clear, concise expression of that content are essential if your readers are to grasp your full meaning. The faculty will therefore evaluate the organization and expression of your written assignments along with the content. Grammar, mechanics, and appearance will also be considered, because problems in these areas can interfere with readers' comprehension of your work, or even prevent them from giving it their serious attention.

Individual departments and instructors may add their own requirements to this statement, and each instructor will decide how the various elements will influence grading in a particular course. However, in the course that you will take to satisfy your graduation requirement in writing, you will be given a grade of Incomplete and referred to the Center for Writing Excellence if your writing has severe problems. This will apply regardless of the average grade of any other work done in that course. If you have questions about this document, you may seek clarification from your instructors, from the English Department, or from the consultants at the Center for Writing Excellence. The Center for Writing Excellence is available to all Montclair State students who are interested in developing as writers. There is no charge for this service. For more information, go to

You should be able to perform with college-level competence the mental operations on which written work depends. These include:
-- Generalization: Finding the common element that relates particular examples or instances to each other; abstracting.
-- Inference: Drawing out meanings that are implied but not stated explicitly; reading between the lines.
-- Analysis: Examining parts of the whole, such as causes, effects, and processes.
-- Synthesis: Forming ideas into new relationships; creating.
-- Evaluation: Making judgments according to criteria.
You should be able to apply to new situations the knowledge you have gained from your classes, your reading, and your investigations.
You should be able to draw your own conclusions, rather than simply to restate or summarize the ideas of others.
You should be able to state a thesis clearly and support it with reasoning and evidence.
You should be able to organize the parts of a paper in an orderly sequence, governed by a controlling purpose that is clear to the reader. Paragraphs and subsections should also have their own internal order.
You should be able to adapt what you write to the needs and expectations of your intended audience, whether it is your peers, your teacher, other scholars in a discipline, or the general public.

Successful writing is seldom merely the recording of the writer's first thoughts. More often it is the result of a process involving several stages. You should know how to use strategies that will help you to:

-- Choose and limit a topic
-- Collect information
-- Produce rough and polished drafts
-- Develop ideas
-- Revise and edit
-- Proofread

You should be able to locate, evaluate and use materials published in various forms, including books, periodicals, newspapers, government documents, indexes, abstracts, microforms, websites, electronic mail, discussion groups, and other media materials.

You should be able to summarize or paraphrase the written work of others. Paraphrased material must be completely restated in your own words, and should blend smoothly into your style.

You should be able to identify your source material according to the method your instructor requires. Data or distinctive ideas taken from sources must be identified by the methods of an approved citation system (i.e., MLA, APA, etc.) even if those ideas are not quoted directly. Direct quotations must be identified by a citation as well as by quotation marks or block indentation.
Failure to treat source material properly may be construed as plagiarism, a serious academic offense. (See plagiarism under Academic Policies and Procedures.)

Your papers should be written in formal, standard English. They should be free of nonstandard constructions (such as double negatives) and of informal usage (such as "The experiment went O.K.").

Your sentence structure should be free of major grammatical problems, such as sentence fragments, subject-verb disagreement, inconsistent verb tenses, unclear pronoun reference, and misplaced modifiers.

Your sentences should be clear and concise, showing capable use of the tools necessary to a mature writing style, such as coordination, subordination, parallelism, and transitional devices.

Your choice of words should be precise and appropriate to your subject. You may sometimes find it essential to use technical terms, but you should always avoid unnecessary jargon.

Your papers should contain no errors in spelling, punctuation, capitalization, or typing.

You should show careful attention to matters of appearance, including legibility, neat corrections, and suitable presentation.

The use of a word processor is highly encouraged.

If your instructor does not specify how you are to present your paper, you may follow these recommendations:
Use a cover sheet that includes:

-- Your name
-- The title of the paper
-- The title and section number of the course
-- The name of the instructor
-- The date

Make margins at least one inch all around.
Number the pages.
Formal papers should be carefully proofread and typed.
Last minute corrections should be neat and clear.