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Traits of Good Writing

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What are the traits of good writing?
Idea | Organization | Voice
Word Choice | Sentence Fluency
Conventions | Presentation
Additional Resources

6 + 1 Writing Traits

Read about the research and work that led to the development of the 6+1 Traits ®

What are the traits of good writing?

The 6+1 Traits of Writing® represent the characteristics of high quality writing. As such, the traits provide a common language for speaking about writing and guidelines for assessing writing. The Rubrics web page contains hyperlinks to teacher and student rubrics and offers guidance in using the rubrics to score student writing.
In order of importance, the traits are ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions, and presentation. In terms of the writing process, ideas and organization hold importance in the prewriting and drafting phases. When it comes to revision, ideas, organization, voice, word choice, and sentence fluency must be considered when working to improve the content of a piece of writing. Conventions are most relevant to the editing phase of the writing process, and attention to presentation is essential for publication.

The research on effective writing emanates from the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory (NWREL). Teachers can find resources, including trait definitions and lesson plans featuring mentor text on NWREL’s web site.

WritingFix lessons and resources for the Idea Trait®

Ideas are the cheapest part of the writing. They are free. The hard part is what you do with the ideas you’ve gathered. ~ Jane Yolen

The Idea Trait®

There is more to the Idea Trait® than just picking a topic. Key features of this trait include topic choice, focus, elaboration, and details. After choosing a topic, writers must ensure that the topic is narrow enough to manage…but not so narrow that only a sentence or two are needed. Focused topics beg for elaboration and the rich details that bring a topic to life for the reader.


WritingFix lessons and resources for the Organization Trait®

Work extra hard on the beginning of your story, so it snares the readers instantly. And know how you’re going to end your story before you start writing; without a sense of direction, you can get lost in the middle. ~ Joan Lowery Nixon

The Organization Trait®

The Organization Trait® extends well beyond the organizational structure of a piece of writing. Yes, it is important for a writer to select the best organization to showcase ideas; however, good writers know that there are other aspects of the Organization Trait® that are equally important.

Good writers attend to the Organization Trait® when they craft an enticing lead and an effective conclusion. Transitions are another aspect of the organization trait. Beginning writers intentionally focus on transition words. Accomplished writers often transition the reader though the text smoothly and seamlessly without heavy doses of transition words. The Organization Trait® is second most important trait. Organization keeps the reader from getting lost.

WritingFix lessons and resources for the Voice Trait ®

The golden rule of writing is to write what you care about. If you care about your topic, you’ll do your best writing, and then you stand the best chance of touching a reader in some way. ~ Jerry Spinelli

The Voice Trait®

The Voice Trait® seems very abstract to the traits initiate; however, voice is recognized and scored more consistently in writing than any other trait. Voice may manifest itself as the unique style of the writing or the tone of the writing. Voice comes through when the writer connects with the audience. Careful attention to word choice creates voice.

How can you tell if writing has voice? Did it elicit a reaction? Can you name the voice? In either case, the writing has a strong voice.

WritingFix lessons and resources for the Word Choice Trait ®

The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. ~ Mark Twain

The Word Choice Trait®

The Word Choice Trait® incorporates intentional choices of sensory, precise, and/.or natural language that moves and enlightens the reader. Clearly, word choice depends on the writing purpose and audience. While adjectives are often the first choice for many writers, strong verbs can breathe life and action into writing.

Word choice and voice go hand-in-hand. Authors often revise words, phrases, and sentences until their ideas sound just right and convey the intended tone.

WritingFix lessons and resources for the Sentence Fluency Trait ®

I think what is really hard is making sense and making what you write clear and smooth flowing. ~ Ray Blount

The Sentence Fluency Trait®

Sentence Fluency® is the auditory trait. Yes, it is about writing in complete sentences, but it is also about using sentences fragments for effect when appropriate to the writing.

Writers are keenly aware of the sound of their phrases and sentences. They revise sentence beginnings, lengths, and types to achieve the desired rhythm and flow. Readers often need to read a piece of writing aloud to fully appreciate the sentence fluency.

WritingFix lessons and resources for the Conventions Trait ®

You write to communicate what’s burning inside you. You edit to let the fire show through the smoke. ~ Author Unknown

The Conventions Trait®

The Conventions Trait® addresses the level of correctness in a piece of writing. Once all revisions are complete, writers devote time to careful proofreading and editing for mechanics, usage, spelling and paragraphing.

The conventions of Standard English should be taught in conjunction with and in the service of writing. Mastering the conventions of Standard English frees a writer to break the rules for effect – such as writing dialect or using a sentence fragment.
The maker of a sentence launches out into the infinite and builds a road into Chaos and old Night, and is followed by those who hear him with something of wild, creative delight.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Presentation Trait®

The Presentation Trait® represents the visual appeal of a piece of writing. Presentation reflects careful attention to handwriting or word processing that results in an appealing piece – whether produced by hand or by computer. It communicates to the potential reader that the writer cared enough to produce a pleasing, neat final copy.

Elements of the presentation trait include legible handwriting or consistent, appropriate fonts (when using a word processor), appropriate spacing and placement of graphic images (hand drawn or computer images).


6+1 Traits

Online Resources for Teachers and Students:

Social Media:

Audio & Video:


Video: Conventions of Standard English Writing and Speaking (The Hunt Institute, from Common Core State Standards, A New Foundation for Student Success series)


Posters & Reproducables: