Another question from my friend “Jim”:
How much weight should I place on spelling and grammar? I myself place a very high value on perfect spelling and grammar, and I personally used to spend hours and hours combing through my documents to guarantee that my documents were free of absolutely any spelling or grammatical errors before I submitted them to a professor or a client. So, it’s frustrating me to no end to read a paper that was apparently thrown together without, as I admonished the students plenty of times in class, the student paying meticulous attention to eradicate any spelling errors or incorrect grammar in their final papers. How have you handled this?
It’s my sense that every professor handles it differently, but that everyone gives some weight to spelling, grammar, and so on. Personally, I allocate about a quarter of the points in my exams and papers to a category I call “writing and organization.” Students lose points from this pool if they have misspellings, bad grammar, bad organization, and so on. I think that this more or less mimics life on the outside. A brief or memo full of bad grammar and misspellings will not be viewed particularly kindly by a judge or a law firm partner. Because of this reality, I think it’s important to keep students focused on the importance of good grammar, spelling, and organization. On the other hand, perfect spelling of bad law won’t help either.
For me, the number of points at stake depends on the context. A few misspellings in a final exam will typically cost a student one or two points out of the total pool. Students are hastily putting together answers in a two or three hour period, and I’m not expecting polished perfection. The same few misspellings on a final paper, however, will cost a student significantly more points. A student who has months to put together a paper has more than enough time to ferret out any spelling, grammar, or organization problems in her paper.