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What is the End-of-Semester “U” Notation in Writing?

Is the "U" Notation in Writing the same as a "U" grade for a writing option?

Why give a "U" in Writing?

What kinds of writing problems merit a "U" in Writing?

Is the "U" in Writing seen as "punishment"?

How do I submit a “U” along with my final grades?

When do I inform students who might or will receive a “U” in Writing?

How does the Writing Center "U" tutoring program work?

What is the End-Of-Semester "U" Notation in Writing?

Any instructor who finds that a student’s achievement is impeded by weak writing skills may submit a “U” (unsatisfactory writing) Notation along with the final grade in any course (including courses taken credit/no entry, even though credit may not have been earned and the course may not have been entered on the record--OWU Catalog).

Students who are given “U” notations are required to meet with an instructor in the Writing Center for weekly professional tutoring during the following semester. The "U" is noted in Degree Audit and remains on the student's transcript until he or she completes the intensive weekly writing tutorial. (See How does the Writing Center "U" tutoring program work? below)

The “U” notation does not alter the course grade or affect a student's GPA. The “U” notation does not indicate poor attitude, missing work, or low academic achievement; it indicates primarily that the professor believes the student’s writing skills need work. A student whose performance in a course is satisfactory, even exemplary, may still have problems with effective writing. In fact, a student may earn a B or an A in a course and still earn a “U” in writing.  

The “U” notation does not indicate poor attitude, missing work, or low academic achievement. A “U” notation indicates primarily that the professor believes the student’s writing skills need work. 

Is the "U" Notation in Writing the same as a "U" grade for a writing option?

No, assigning a "U" grade for a writing option is not the same as giving an end-of-semester "U" in Writing.  A "U" grade for a writing option does not refer a student to the Writing Center for ongoing attention to and instruction in writing. You may give a student an “S” for “R” credit and also assign a “U” Notation in Writing, and, similarly, you could assign a "U" for "R" credit, and also not assign a separate "U" Notation in Writing. We know these two kinds of "U"s are frequently confused, especially since they both have to do with writing, so please contact the Writing Center if you have questions or need support in assigning a "U" Notation in Writing.

Why give a “U” in Writing?

The “U” program provides a unique opportunity for less experienced and struggling student writers to work one-on-one in a non-threatening pedagogical environment with a professionally trained tutor.  Assigning a "U"  allows instructors to address a student's need  to work on writing skills without assigning a lower grade that might not reflect the student's overall learning or ability in the course or subject area. For example, a student may understands content and be engaged with the material, but need to work on some aspect of of their writing. So, an instructor might assign a grade--perhaps even an A or B--that reflects the student's learning in the class, and add the "U" writing to provide support and instruction in writings skills. 

What kinds of writing problems merit a “U” in Writing?

When problems persist throughout the semester for a student in one or more area of writing, whether organizational, developmental, syntactical, or mechanical, you might assign a “U” notation, particularly if you have worked individually with the student and believe additional instructional support will be necessary to ensure the student’s future academic success.

In some cases, writing problems on a single writing assignment assignment might warrant a “U,” particularly if the student’s writing does not fulfill expectations for college-level writing or for the level expected in a particular class. Some professors give a “U” when they see errors or inadequacies in a specific area of writing, such as organization, focus, thesis, grammar and mechanics, documentation, or paragraph development on a major end-of-semester written assignment or exam.

Is the “U” in Writing seen as "punishment"?

The "U" in Writing is in no way intended as a punishment for "bad" performance or for being a "bad" writer. It does not reflect overall performance, and is intended to give instructors the opportunity to provide support for writing skills without having to decrease the course grade of a student who might otherwise pass the class. 

Though some students are initially unhappy to learn they have earned a "U" in Writing and may at first question the value of the “U” tutoring program, most students identify it as a valuable experience. Students report on their end-of-semester program evaluations that they have become more confident writers, have a better understanding of their writing strengths and areas that need improvement, and have developed transferable skills they can apply in their other courses and writing assignments.

Many of these students return to the Writing Center in the following semesters, often multiple times during a semester, when they are working on writing projects for their courses and for assistance with resumes, cover letters, personal statements, and other application materials.

How do I submit a “U” in Writing along with my final grades?

      If you plan to give one or more “U”s at the end of the semester, please follow these steps:

  • Submit the “U” along with the final grade. First, assign the grade they earned to the student(s) you plan to give a “U” in Writing. Next, after submitting final grades, click on the student’s “posted” grade, which will open up a “Change Grade” comment box. In the dropdown menu for “Reason,” select “Data Entry.” Note: Do not alter the earned course grade. Simply type your comments into the box, including that you are assigning a “U in Writing” and any specific reasons for the U. For example: “U in Writing, needs to work on documentation.” In addition, please inform the Writing Center that you have assigned a “U” Notation in Writing.
  • Inform the student that he or she will receive or has received a “U” in Writing, if you have not done so already. Here are examples of templates for informing your students about the "U." In addition, if you would like to provide the student with a more detailed explanation of the “U”Notation, here are links to an explanation  and a PDF you may share with students . 

When do I inform students who might or will receive a “U” in Writing?

Though students would prefer not to receive an “Unsatisfactory” in writing, they appreciate learning about the “U” notation from their professor rather than learning about it when they receive notification form the Writing Center.  

If you plan to give a student a “U” at the end of the semester, please talk to the student about your decision before the last day of classes or inform him or her in an email message at the time you submit your course grades.

You might also inform the student earlier in the semester about the possibility of getting a “U” if you have evidence—for example, an unsuccessful paper submitted at mid-term—the student would benefit from additional instructional support. In addition, you might encourage the student to attend one or more Writing Center consultations during the remaining weeks of the semester with the promise that you might not assign a “U” notation if his or her writing improves in revisions or in additional writing assignments.

Including a statement about the Writing Center and the “U” program in your class syllabus also can help you prepare students for the possibility they might receive a “U” at the end of the term. You might also inform students at the beginning of the semester, particularly in a writing-intensive course, about the Writing Center and the “U” policy and tutoring program—or, if you prefer, a Writing Center consultant can visit your class to talk to your students about these matters.

How does the Writing Center "U" tutoring program work?

We focus on teaching transferable skills, not on correcting or “fixing” papers. We work with students on all aspects of writing, from organizing and drafting to revising and proofreading, as well as documenting and citing sources. We also provide regular support for students with English as a Second Language (ESL) difficulties and Learning Disabilities (LD).

Using writing samples and a student questionnaire, we identify two or three main areas on which to focus instruction. A typical program involves writing and revising several papers, or working on a few longer papers through all stages of the writing process, along with instruction and exercises.

Usually, students work on writing assignments in their current courses, but if they have little or no writing in the first half of the semester, they will be assigned writing projects by their Writing Center instructors. We notify you (for your information) and the Registrar when students have progressed sufficiently to have the “U” notation removed from their records. The Registrar erases all “U” notations from the students’ transcripts once the “U”s are cleared.

Most students complete the program to remove the “U” within eight weeks. If students fail to complete the tutoring program during the semester following the receipt of a “U,” the Committee on Academic Status will review their records, and those students may be academically dismissed. Students cannot graduate until all “U”s are cleared from their records.

To sum up, our “U” notation underscores OWU’s commitment to make sure all students graduate with effective writing skills. Even very able students profit from individually tailored assistance with the essential skill of effective written communication. For more information, please see our website or contact the Writing Center.

Contact Info


Sagan Academic Resource Center
Hamilton-Williams Campus Center #324
61 S. Sandusky St.
Delaware, Ohio 43015
P (740)-368-3925