Frequently Asked Questions

If this site and the notes below do not answer your questions, please send a brief email or schedule a consultation.


Who Needs What?

  • Who uses Writing Assessment Services?

Mature students seventh grade and up, including adults and professional writers. I also work with schools and homeschool co-ops. I tailor evaluations and consultations to the needs of each client. Students (or their parents) should be able to type well, use email maturely, and negotiate internet links and word processing software.

 

Clients have used my services to help with scholarship applications, prep for the GED/SAT/ACT/GRE, Great Books tutorials, business documents, novels, and a three-paragraph essay on "my favorite pet." I trust I can help you!

  • How can I interest my 13yo son in writing?

Although boys are the usual culprits, the problem can be universal. Writing is a discipline like cleaning or math exercises or piano practice.  It can be very enjoyable, and modest effort yields competence, but true excellence takes talent and a lot of work. Whether a student is self-disciplined or has a motivated parent to help, I supply enthusiasm and friendly feedback to encourage a student to plug along in the work he completes.

  • What about younger students?

I have had client children as young as ten or so, but they have been exceptionally good writers (e.g., one graduated high school at age 15 and is now a writer for an ivy league college newspaper). In general it is best to allow young children to develop their sophisticated language skills through oral narration as they are learning how to read, how to hold a pencil, and how to write sentences with proper form and punctuation. Later, the mechanical skills are fluent enough to allow for written expression at the level of their oral language skills. Interesting children come from interesting households, full of good books and good thoughts, and good discussion of both.

  • What writing curriculum do you recommend?

I have yet to find a perfect one, but I have used concepts from the Institute for Excellence in Writing with my own children through about 6th grade, preliminary to the Progymnasmata. I am impressed with what I have seen of Susan Wise Bauer's writing program, and I have talented friends deeply involved with the CiRCE Institute's Lost Tools of Writing curriculum. In online instruction, please consider mine to begin with, but also consider the work of my colleagues at (in alpha order) The Harvey Center for Individual Learning, Veritas Press Scholars Academy, and Wilson Hill Academy.  In general, curricula that claim to guide writing so that the student works independently cannot do a fully adequate job. Writing is an art and a dynamic process that works best with the guidance of a mentor. 

  • We're on a limited budget. How can we make the best use of your services?

First, explore the free resources on this site. University-sponsored Online Writing Laboratories (OWLs) are rich sources of beautifully-organized writing helps. Next, shop wisely here. A single brief consultation can guide or reassure you about your plan for a year's homeschooling, and a consultation comes with a free select curriculum item (at your request) that may be all you need. A single evaluation can assess a student's progress or diagnose what the writer most needs. Finally, I offer discounts to those truly in need and to families with multiple students enrolled. Evaluation packages roll over from year to year (within reason!).


What Are My Options?

  • What if I want immediate feedback?

I often respond within a couple of days but usually within a week. Now that I am working exclusively with private clients, I should be even quicker. If you really need a "Rush," contact me to be sure I'm available to do that, then expect the work within 48 hours, counted at twice its usual word count.

  • Will you take a quick look at my child's work?

Yes in a brief evaluation or with a consultation.

  • Why is everything done online? Could I mail you papers for traditional red ink markings?

As have almost all my clients, I think you'll find the online version very handy, but we can arrange evaluations via snail mail. Usually only schools use this option.


What Do I Need to Know About Evaluations?

  • Isn't writing subjective? How do you evaluate it?

Personal writing, like some poems and diary entries and some fiction, is personal and not meant to be shared nor evaluated. But even a love poem needs to "work" if it is to move the person receiving it. I evaluate writing according to its context: is it appropriate for the audience, does it communicate a message, does it communicate with some level of style?  Anything written for an academic, theological, political, journalistic, fiction publishing, or business purpose is fair game for evaluation according to the standards of the genre and venue.

  • What does an evaluation look like?

Please see samples available in the Curriculum Library.

  • What if I don't understand what a comma splice is, or a modifier problem?

I use common, simple grammar/mechanics terminology in my evaluations, and you can look up any of the terms in a good writing handbook or Online Writing Lab (OWL). It is not a good use of your evaluation time/money for me to reinvent the wheel and teach an original lesson on a common feature of the language. 

  • What if I disagree with your evaluation?

I am a flawed human with my own opinions, fatigue, distraction, and momentary stupidity. If ever you believe I have evaluated something in error, please write to clarify - I am happy to reconsider. When you order an evaluation, you are engaging my services and my opinions. I usually "ask good questions" to help a writer clarify what he wants to say, and if I challenge an opinion of yours, it may not be a critique of your writing as much as an engagement of your idea. My challenges and questions are designed to help a writer's clarity and consideration of the audience.

  • Am I supposed to rewrite a paper and resubmit it after an evaluation?

Although I highly recommend revisions, and usually write my comments with revision in mind, my evaluation of a revision is a separate evaluation, counted at half the original word count of the work. Please see individual instructional materials for further details.

  • Do you assign grades? How?

Most clients like having letter grades on their work, so I include them automatically. If you prefer not to have a letter grade, or if you have a scoring scale for your curriculum that you would like me to use, you must note that on each submission. I assign grades according to what I expect of a late high school or early college writer. I counsel giving lots of credit for effort and revision. In my work at Veritas Press Scholars Academy 2010-2015, essays and exams counted for 60% of the grade, the "faithfulness" of participation and homework the other 40%. To adjust for different grade levels, consider adding points to what I assign on a 100-point scale (90 is an A) as follows:

  • 11th and 12th grade - as assigned
  • 10th - add three points
  • 9th - add five points
  • 8th - add eight points
  • 7th - add ten points (one letter grade)

How Does it Work and What If I Have a Problem?

  • Do you have due dates, and are courses taught on a schedule?

Only a "live course" we might arrange has firm due dates, though I have suggested pacing for the self-paced courses, to give students good momentum. However, I strongly advise you not save up a year's worth of work to submit all at once in May - the student is likely never to get any benefit from my comments, and certainly cannot use them to improve his work. I do like to close out a school year by June if at all possible, starting fresh in July.

  • I sent in a paper more than 48 hours / one week / three weeks ago (longer than expected for response) and haven't heard from you yet. What should I do?

Sometimes email gets lost or overlooked, so if it seems late to you, please email to check!

  • How long do you keep my email, records of my account, and papers?

Email should stay buried in my archives more or less forever, as should any documents you attached to email and I downloaded to evaluate. I also keep order receipts and a file of ongoing evaluation accounts. However, please do not count on any of that, particularly long-term! I recommend printing out my evaluated versions of the essays for better study and revision. If you need to inquire about a long-ago-evaluated essay, an "assessment for the year," or other time-consuming task, please order a consultation in consideration of the time required to meet your request.

  • What about refunds?

I have only very rarely had a client request a refund, and always for personal reasons, not dissatisfaction with my services. If you discover mid-stream that you would like to change your services somehow, let's discuss it - I am open to reasonable adjustments. If you find you just are not using the evaluations as you would have hoped to, you may roll over the account to a new school year, or use it with another student (or adult!).

  • May I sell or give away copies of my materials from Writing Assessment Services?

Please see individual copyright notices on these materials. Because the materials, even the free items, represent intellectual property and instruction, they are copyrighted and limited to a single copy, which may be transferred completely (not copied), in its original form, to another party. If your friends are interested in my materials, please send them my way so that we can become acquainted.

Writing Assessment Services

Cindy Rinaman Marsch

154 Dight Road

Slippery Rock, PA  16057

 

Cindy Rinaman Marsch is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.