Informal Writing

Not all writing in a course need to be assessed by a grade. Some writing, informal writing, can be assigned in order to:

  • Stimulate thinking
  • Get students working on a project throughout a time period rather than all at once before a deadline
  • Promote invention
  • Allow students time and space to summarize, make connections, come up with ideas

Informal writing can be done in a variety of genres.

  • Weblog posts
  • Reaction papers
  • Wiki notes
  • Journal entries
  • In class writing
  • Concept maps

All writers do some variation of informal writing before writing the “formal” product. Darwin’s notes, as one example, show a writer mapping, sketching, crossing out, and thinking through ideas in writing.

Because the informal writing is meant to

  • Teach the importance of process to the writer
  • Help the writer with the project

it is often useful to not grade the informal writing. Instructors can offer full or no credit, for instance, in lieu of a letter grade. Completing a specific number of informal assignments would provide the student with full credit for the semester (a letter grade for that part of the course) or if the student did not do the informal writing, her overall course grade would be affected when that part of the overall grade is factored in. More importantly, the project the informal writing was designed to help the student with would suffer.