What Is Six Traits Writing?

Evaluating the quality of student writing can be a challenge. In order to have a standardized tool for discussing strengths and weakness, many writing teachers employ a tool known as Six Traits Writing that focuses on the six aspects of writing that are considered most essential. While some teachers use a variation on this method, such as four traits or seven, the goal is to help students understand the main areas that contribute to strong writing.

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Student and teacher writing


Having strong and original ideas is central to strong writing. When considering this most general of the Six Traits, there are many questions you can ask. To evaluate the effectiveness of your ideas, ask yourself about the message of your essay or story. Do all of the ideas relate to the central theme? Are the ideas contained within the piece interesting and engaging for the intended audience?


A well-organized essay or story has a logical structure that the reader can follow with ease. Most writing should start with an introduction that establishes the main idea or plot. In an essay, this should be followed by development, including supporting evidence, then a summarizing conclusion. A short story should follow a natural arc, with conflict and tension building to a climax; this is followed by a denouement in which the conflict is resolved and the story resolves itself.


Voice is perhaps the most significant of the Six Traits for defining how one writer distinguishes him or herself from another writer. While it's necessary to have error-free, polished writing, your voice establishes the humanity and personality of the writer. A strong voice draws in the reader and gives a piece of writing its style.

Student essay

Word Choice

Word choice, or diction, is the trait that refers to the quality and appropriateness of the language used in the essay. The words you use should be appropriate for your audience. Your diction should be varied and complex. This may mean using a thesaurus in order to broaden the scope of your language.


Of the Six Traits, conventions refers to the most fundamental aspects of writing. This includes grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization and paragraph structure. You want your writing to be as error-free as possible, though it may take several edits to reach perfection. Be sure you don't rely on your writing software's spelling and grammar check, as these tools are often unreliable.

Sentence Fluency

Strong sentence fluency means well-paced and varied syntax. You should avoid run-on sentences and fragments while also including both short and long sentences. An essay in which all sentences are of the same length is monotonous. Also, pay attention to the rhythm of your sentences; this is best achieved by reading your work aloud.

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