Criteria for judging any piece of writing

I used to be a proud and active member of EPIC: Electronic Professionals International Coalition. Alas, its success killed EPIC: there was no longer a need for it with electronic books becoming mainstream. Our major activity was a contest for electronic books. Here is a list of criteria EPIC developed. I have permission to reproduce it.

With due allowance, this set of criteria can also be applied to nonfiction.

The story

Is the story engaging, compelling, interesting or useful?
  • The story engaged me on every level.
  • Pretty good, but I could put it down.
  • Slog, Slog, Slog.
  • Please let it end!
  • Does the plot show continuity, strength and believability?
  • I’m off to email everyone I know right this moment!
  • Great! But there were a couple of things left unresolved.
  • Things are jumping around some, but I think I’ve figured it out.
  • Plot? What plot?
  • Characterisation: Were the characters compelling, captivating, motivated, did they have distinct voices, were they real or unbelievable?
  • The characters were perfectly built for this story.
  • In the majority, I think these characters worked.
  • These characters really detract from the story.
  • Please say they all die in the end…
  • Do any sub-plots and secondary characters enhance the story and mesh well with the main story line?
  • Fully developed in a way that enhances the main story.
  • Yes and no, some were better formed than others.
  • Who is this guy again?
  • Can we get back to the main story yet? Um… what was the main story?
  • Does the story have a complete sense of time and place? Are you drawn into the world or feel as if you stand outside of it?
  • I feel like I’m standing right there, living it along with them.
  • This isn’t too bad, all things considered.
  • A little more description wouldn’t go amiss.
  • Where are they again? I’m lost!
  • The mechanics

    Assess the visual presentation: Are font choices reasonable? Is the order of the book’s pages logical or disorderly? Are pages out of place, misaligned etc?
  • All the right things are in the right places, and the font is easily read.
  • Minor formatting errors bother me, but don’t take away from the book.
  • Okay, now it’s getting annoying.
  • This is a jumble: too much concentration is needed to finish this book.
  • Fact Checking / Research: Is the work well researched/fact checked? Or does it show inconsistencies/misinformation?
  • The appropriate facts and figures are blended well.
  • I need to check that.
  • That’s just not right!
  • Talk about making it up to fit!
  • Spelling: Does the work show inconsistencies with spelling, constant homonym use, etc? Six errors in a full-length book are acceptable.
    Note that spelling inconsistencies might be regional (USA vs. UK, etc.). Please take that into account when considering marking down for incorrect spelling.
    Dialogue may also reflect local idiosyncrasies and slang that are totally appropriate for the work.
  • Nary an incorrect word to be found.
  • I spied a few inconsistencies, but not enough to be terribly obvious.
  • Oh my! It’s bare, not bear, and that is not at all how you spell…
  • Iz spel gud. The bestestest!
  • Grammar, syntax, and punctuation: Does the manuscript conform to the norms of grammar and syntax? Or is it awkward or badly phrased?
    Note that publishers have “house styles.” If an error seems consistent throughout the work, it may well be prescribed by the publisher. Please take this into consideration.
    Also, the author might have made an editorial choice to use unusual grammar choices to best reflect the voice of the character/s.
  • Oh how this story flows! It’s a thing of beauty.
  • Maybe not the way I’d do it, but readable nonetheless.
  • Hmm…this really needs some more editing.
  • *Shakes head* This just isn’t understandable!
  • Continuity, in respect to both the story and character specifics. Were there glaring errors in the story’s timeline/plotline? Did the character’s name change back and forth, or perhaps their eye and hair colour?
  • Seamless!
  • How did they get here again?
  • Blue, Brown, Blue, Brown. I’m going to give this guy a black eye instead!
  • We started with Dick and Jane, but ended up Tom and Jerry… this is just not good!
  • About Dr Bob Rich

    I am a professional grandfather. My main motivation is to transform society to create a sustainable world in which my grandchildren and their grandchildren in perpetuity can have a life, and a life worth living. This means reversing environmental idiocy that's now threatening us with extinction, and replacing culture of greed and conflict with one of compassion and cooperation.
    This entry was posted in Greens' essay contest, writing. Bookmark the permalink.

    4 Responses to Criteria for judging any piece of writing

    1. Good morning, Dr Bob Rich! Thank you very much for giving me feedback at “SoundEagle’s Writing Guidelines” page just a moment ago.

      I have earlier submitted a comment regarding my hyperlinking your “Criteria for judging any piece of writing” to my “Manuscript Assessment Criteria” page at

      Looking forward to your appraisal of the “Manuscript Assessment Criteria”.


    2. sandra214 says:

      Thanks for sharing this, Dr. Bob. I’m printing it off to keep for future reference although a writer’s perspective on his/her work may not be objective enough.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. Dear Dr Bob Rich,

      Thank you for sharing this fantastic resource. I have hyperlinked your “Criteria for judging any piece of writing” to my “Manuscript Assessment Criteria” page at

      The said “Manuscript Assessment Criteria” page provides a complete checklist for writers to evaluate and inspect their own works (either by themselves or with a group of readers or editors) before submitting their manuscripts to publishers, and also during successive edits after the previous submission(s) and before the next submission.

      Please kindly let me know what you think of the Manuscript Assessment Criteria by leaving a comment there, especially if you think that it could be improved in one way or the other.


    Comments are closed.