Consistently, clearly and effectively communicates it purpose to its audience in all areas of writing: Consistently clear focus, sufficient development, and coherent in terms of organization and style. The ideas are also well thought-out and worthwhile.
Strong in most areas, but intermittently deficient in one area of containing minor problems in more than one area. For instance, the essay may be strong in all areas but have some problems with audience contact, portions may lose focus or be underdeveloped, or there may be some distracting inconsistencies or errors in style (coherence).
The essay generally does the main job of the assignment--so it maintains its purpose. But it's either intermittently deficient in two categories or consistently deficient in one. For instance, there may be intermittent problems with both audience contact and development, or the whole essay may be consistently underdeveloped.
The essay is consistently deficient in two areas--for example, consistently unfocused and underdeveloped to the degree that the deficiencies undermine the purpose of the essay. An unfocused and underdeveloped essay, for instance, would not be able to convey its message to a reader in any significant way. The essay could also have enough serious problems in a combination of areas that the purpose is undermined. It could also miss a major portion of the assignment--like an essay which has no connection to the assigned topic.
This is an essay that either was not turned in, or is so deficient in so many areas that it might just as well not have been. Or, it could be an essay which completely misses the assignment altogether.