This study examines how instructors may motivate students to improve their writing skills. According to the motivation research in the psychology and management litera tures, two of the most prominent motivational techniques are goal setting and reinforce ment. We examine what these literatures suggest about the effective use of such motivation techniques, assess what has been done in business writing, compare goal- and punishment-based grading systems for students, and test two exemplary systems to determine their effect on students' performance and perception. Results of this study indicate that although both goals- and punishment-based grading systems improve students' writing, they are perceived differently and they influence students' writing in different ways. © 1993, Sage Publications. All rights reserved.