The Holistic Score predicts how your composition would likely be scored by English professionals. The scoring is based on criteria proposed by the Educational Testing Service (ETS). The scores range from 1 (worst) to 6 (best). A score of 6 represents the level and quality of a paper authored by a bona fide A-student at the 12-13th grade level.

How to use the holistic score:

The holistic score should be of particular interest to college-bound students. Why? Because some of the linguistic variables used to calculate it are highly correlated with verbal scores awarded by widely-used standard tests (e.g., the SAT Verbal). Put differently, students who receive high holistic scores on a continuing basis are also likely to score well on college entrance exams. On the other hand, students who constantly receive poor holistic scores on their written assignments are also likely to score poorly on their entrance exams.

Standardized tests are normally administered late in a student's high-school career, often when it's virtually too late to change the outlook for college.  An alternative is for students to use the holistic score to evaluate themselves on a continuing basis. They can do this by submitting their written work throughout their middle-school and high-school years. If students score well, they have a positive indication years in advance that their verbal skills are developing well. If they score poorly, they also know years in advance that extra work will be required to compete successfully for college acceptance.

(2) Vocabulary

This index is a measure of the strength of your vocabulary. Scores range from 1 (worst) to 6 (best). A weak vocabulary seriously impacts the quality of your writing.

How to improve your vocabulary score:

The best way to improve the score you receive in this skill category is to strengthen your vocabulary and use that strength when you write. Work constantly to increase your word power through the use of The Internet Writinglab and/or other vocabulary-building tools.

If your vocabulary is limited to native English forms, and if you use the same limited stock of words over and over again, your score will not be impressive. On the other hand, if you have a stock of Latin and Greek derivatives and are acquainted with at least some specialized vocabulary and jargon for several fields of interest, you should have no problem. Your command of the English lexicon will be reflected in your score.

By the way, it also helps to use metaphor, simile, and other literary devices. Using these will automatically increase the range of words you use in your writing.

(3) Punctuation

This index reflects the extent to which punctuation is used in the text. Good writers tend to use a wider variety of markings and use them more often than unskilled writers. Use this score to gauge your punctuation skills. Scores range from 1 (worst) to 6 (best).

How to improve your punctuation score:

Use punctuation to clarify sentence structure. The Internet Writinglab computes a ratio of punctuation marks (excluding periods, exclamation points, and question marks) to the incidence of other elements in the text.  If that ratio is low, the punctuation score will also be low,  This does not mean that punctuation should be used indiscriminately -- writing which uses apparently improper punctuation is penalized. For example, use commas after sentence-initial dependent clauses. Use commas between coordinate clauses. Use commas to set off adverbs or prepositional phrases which are marked vocally by a pause or drop in intonation. Learn to use the colon and semi-colon. Learn to use parentheses and dashes to set off parenthetic material. Learn to use quotations to enrich and give variety to text. The program considers relative pronouns and subordinating conjunctions to be a form of punctuation (useful to clarify sentence structure) and will reward you for using them correctly. Therefore, do not automatically leave relative pronouns and subordinating conjunction as understood elements --  write them where they belong.

(4) Grammar

This index is designed to reflect the quality of grammar in your writing. Scores range from 1 (worst) to 6 (best). You shouldn't be satisfied until you get straight sixes.

How to improve your grammar score:

In a nutshell, eliminate all spelling errors. Master the rules of English grammar. Study the grammar-check flags individually to improve your understanding of the aspects of grammar associated with them.

More specifically, a writer who doesn't know the proper form of contractions is seldom a good writer. The Internet Writinglab is greatly annoyed by contraction errors. The same can be said for many other simple-minded grammatical mistakes. Take some pride in knowing what the rules of grammar are for received American English and observe those rules when you write.

Whatever you do, don't make the mistake of fusing sentences together without periods or splicing them together with commas. Those are capital offenses! Don't be satisfied until you can recognize sentences which are fused, incomplete, or otherwise structurally defective. As noted above, avoid allowing relative pronouns and subordinating conjunctions to be understood (by not writing them). The Internet Writinglab may tag you with fused-sentence violations if you do.

(5) Syntax

English offers a host of syntactic constructions for writers to use. This index is designed to reflect the extent to which you limit yourself to a fixed subset of the available constructions. Scores range from 1 (worst) to 6 (best). One must be very practiced, having a command of a wide variety of syntactic structures, to get a good score in syntax.

How to improve your syntax score:

The syntax score is a reflection of the extent to which syntactic resources of English are exploited by the writer. Normally, The Internet Writinglab gives only practiced writers high scores in syntax. In order to score well in this category, you will not only have to know the parts of speech, but also the parts of sentences and the multitude of ways in which those parts can be interwoven to form a novel and interesting English fabric. Don't get discouraged, however -- an effective teacher always finds some way to challenge the student.