Philosophy Writing Guidelines

Minimal Requirements

Minimally, your writing must display a college level comprehension and facility with the English language.  Occasional typographical errors will be overlooked, but papers that contain serious lapses in grammar, punctuation, spelling and proofreading will be returned ungraded.

Additional Grading Criteria

Your writing should also be in conformity with the Guidelines for Writing Philosophy Papers which you will find on the CSUS Philosophy Department website by following the link above. Although the structural guidelines presented there are intended more for students writing extended thesis papers, the writing style guidelines concern all forms of philosophical writing and should be followed closely.

In general your writing should exhibit the following qualities:

A. Informed

  •  Be sure that you have done the assigned reading and that your writing demonstrates this.

B. Well reasoned

  • Support your claims with reasoning. Your task here is not simply to explain what you think but why , and in such a way that others who understand you may come to see it that way too.  Remember that the simple fact that you have strong feelings or beliefs about something is not by itself a reason for others to take them seriously.

C. Balanced

  • Always give fair and complete characterizations of views and reasoning you are examining, especially those whom you intend to criticize.

D. Clear

  • Always write in the simplest, most direct  language possible.  If, after reading carefully and consulting with the instructor, you find that you can not answer a question satisfactorily, do your best to explain why.  Don't bullshit.

E. Concise 

  •  In philosophy, brevity is a virtue.   The very first sentence of your answer should begin to answer the question.  Avoid introductory paragraphs designed to grab the reader's attention. Make sure that your answers are thorough, but do not repeat yourself unnecessarily.

F.  Organized

  • The organization of your essay should be visible. Use paragraphs!  The best way to organize answers to multi-part questions is to use each sub-question as a sub-heading in the essay.   Then stay focused on the point at issue in each sub-section of the essay.  

G.  No Unnecessary Quotation

  • Quotations should be used only when the context demands it (which is almost never.) If you use quotations, make them as brief as possible, and footnote them properly.