I've just finished grading a batch of papers for my Introduction to Philosophy course. This semester I assigned several (five) very short readings on how to write a philosophy paper over the course of the three weeks prior to when students would begin their papers. The readings were culled from various texts and websites about how to write philosophy papers. Here are the results:
Many of the sorts of errors that can distract us from assessing the progress of our student's skills in philosophy were wonderfully absent. Gone were the windy introductions, the awkward, high-falutin' language, the simple proof-reading errors many of us feel we cannot leave unmarked, etc. It was freeing to be able to spend most of my time focusing on the areas of the paper that demonstrated success (philosophically speaking) and on the specific skills they ought to focus on in order to improve (philosophically speaking).
While it is true that clear thinking and clear writing cannot be divorced, placing the burden on students to work on these areas of their writing prior to submitting work is empowering and effective. It also prevents students from becoming demoralized by an overload of comments.
Of course, it could be fluke. But I'll be doing this in all my 100 and 200 level philosophy courses from now on.