College student perceptions of writing errors, text quality, and author characteristics

Adam C. Johnson, Joshua Wilson, Rod Roscoe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Both conventional wisdom and empirical research suggest that errors in writing impact perceptions of both writing quality and characteristics of the author. Texts that exhibit poor spelling and grammar, or lack compelling arguments and clear structure, are perceived as lower quality. Moreover, the authors themselves may be perceived as less intelligent, creative, hardworking or trustworthy. Using a within-subjects design, the current study systematically examined the effects of lower-level errors and higher-level errors on college students’ (n = 70) perceptions of multiple aspects of writing quality and author characteristics. Results demonstrated that students noticed both kinds of errors but were much more sensitive to lower-level errors than higher-level errors. Nearly identical patterns were observed for judgments of text quality and authors, and the sensitivity to lower-level errors was stronger for more-skilled readers. Implications for challenges and biases in peer assessment are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)72-87
Number of pages16
JournalAssessing Writing
StatePublished - Oct 2017


  • Peer assessment
  • Perceptions
  • Reading ability
  • Writing beliefs
  • Writing errors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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