Six + 1 Traits of Writing

The six traits of writing is a way to teach and learn good writing. The six traits refer to common characteristics of good writing, and this model can improve both your writing, and your ability to critique other's writing. Below are the six traits, and an explanation of what each trait entails. (Some thinkers like to include "+1" -- the trait of Presentation -- and we have included that here as well.)

All essays you write for this class should fit these seven traits.

Ideas & Content

The idea is the main thrust of the message; it is the content of the piece. When a person picks up your writing, they should be able to tell very quickly what the main theme or idea of your piece is. The idea should be clear, focused, and engaging. The theme must not be too narrow or too broad. The author should give strong supporting detail to get the idea across.


Organization refers to the internal structure of the thread. The piece should have a clear beginning, middle and end. There should be smooth transitions between once thought and the next. The sequence of the piece should be logical and the pacing controlled. The the piece should also have an inviting introduction and a satisfying closure.


Voice is the unique perspective of the writer that becomes evident to the reader as they read the piece. A good voice has compelling ideas, engaging language, and revealing details. It will use topic, details, and language to connect with the audience. A good voice is engaging, expressive, and sincere.

Word Choice

Word choice is the ability to use rich, colorful language that engages, moves, and enlightens the reader. Words should be specific and accurate, that grab the attention of the reader. The language of the piece should enhance and clarify meaning. Good word choice will conjure up strong, fresh, vivid images in the reader's mind.

Sentence Fluency

Sentence fluency refers to the rhythm and flow of the language. Sentence fluency refers to the way in which the writing plays to the ear, not just to the eye. Sentences should have an effective variation in pattern as well as structure, with a strong cadence. There should be purposeful and varied sentence beginnings.


Convention refers to the mechanical correctness of the piece. Convention includes spelling, grammar and usage, paragraphing, use of capitals, and punctuation. An good author shows exceptionally strong control of standard conventions of writing.


Presentation refers to how the paper looks. Good presentation included an appropriate use of fonts, bold and italicized text, whit space, title, sub-titles, bullets, and page numbering. When appropriate, there is an effective integration of text and illustrations, charts, graphs, and maps.

Last modified: Thursday, 14 June 2012, 4:19 PM