Six Traits of Writing

Six Traits of Writing

1 – Ideas and Content

The Ideas are the heart of the message, the content of the piece, the main theme, together with all the details that enrich and develop that theme. The ideas are strong when the message is clear, not garbled. The writer chooses details that are interesting, important, and informative–often the kinds of details the reader would not normally anticipate or predict. Successful writers do not tell readers things they already know; e.g., "It was a sunny day, and the sky was blue, the clouds were fluffy white …" They notice what others overlook, seek out the extraordinary, the unusual, the bits and pieces of life that others might not see.


·        Is the message focused and clear?

·        Are there important, relevant and detailed support for the idea?

·        Is the paper interesting?


2 – Organization

Organization is the internal structure of a piece of writing, the thread of central meaning, the pattern, so long as it fits the central idea. Organizational structure can be based on comparison-contrast, deductive logic, point-by-point analysis, development of a central theme, chronological history of an event, or any of a dozen other identifiable patterns. When the organization is strong, the piece begins meaningfully and creates in the writer a sense of anticipation that is, ultimately, systematically fulfilled. Events proceed logically; information is given to the reader in the right doses at the right times so that the reader never loses interest. Connections are strong, which is another way of saying that bridges from one idea to the next hold up. The piece closes with a sense of resolution, tying up loose ends, bringing things to closure, answering important questions while still leaving the reader something to think about.


·        Does the paper begin properly?

·        Do the ideas link to a main message logically and in full?

·        Is there a proper sense of conclusion?


3 – Voice

The Voice is the writer coming through the words, the sense that a real person is speaking to us and cares about the message. It is the heart and soul of the writing, the magic, the wit, the feeling, the life and breath. When the writer is engaged personally with the topic, he/she imparts a personal tone and flavor to the piece that is unmistakably his/hers alone. And it is that individual something–different from the mark of all other writers–that we call voice.


·        Is the writer enthusiastic about their essay and the issues in it?

·        Do you feel as if the writer is speaking to you?

·        Does the story hold the readers’ attention?

·        Do they want to hear more?

·        Is the essay written entirely in the first person?




4 – Sentence Fluency

·        Is the story easy to read?

·        Do the sentences begin in different ways?

·        Is the writer varying the length and complexity of sentences?

·        Is the punctuation correct?


5 – Word Choice

·        Are there virtually no “be” verbs?

·        Are words being used in their correct context?

·        Do the words match the voice?

·        Do words enhance the meaning rather than take away understanding?

·        Does the writer repeat words too many times?


6 – Conventions

·        Is the name, date, class and other information presented properly?

·        Is there a title?  Is it done in the proper style?

·        Are there any punctuation mistakes?

·        Is the grammar and spelling free from error?

·        Are there capital letters in the proper places?

·        Are there any usage problems?