Use 6+1 Writing Traits to become a great writer

Has your child ever received a bad grade on writing without really understanding why? Was her grammar wrong? Did she use awkward phrasing? Did she have weak examples?  In our experience, so many students receive their writing assessments with red ink covering it and a letter grade, but they are overwhelmed by all this information. This “feedback” is of the worst type — they don’t know how to process it and improve.  All they know is this wasn’t good enough to get a higher grade. This is why we use the 6+1 Writing Traits.

6+1 Writing Traits is a system that trains students in a way that is easy to understand, digest, and take meaning from their feedback.  Better yet, it’s not a system that needs to wait until high school or college. This system can be used with young writers too, and it should!  Getting all writers comfortable with getting specific feedback on the traits of writing early helps them to focus appropriately.

In this article, we will show you what constitutes the 6+1 Writing Traits, how teachers at Everest Education implement this system , and how students can apply this system in their writing process.  Mastering English writing is not easy, but with this system, the process of becoming a great writer becomes easy.

What is the 6+1 Traits of Writing?

The 6+1 Writing Traits is a scoring guide and a tool for the writing process.  In this system all “good” writing has six (and one more) key ingredients: ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions and presentation.

History of the 6+1 Writing Traits (and why it’s not 7 Writing Traits)

  • In the beginning, there were only 6 traits, which were developed in the 1980s by teachers from across the US.
  • These teachers evaluated thousands of papers at all grade levels and identified “common characteristics of good writing”.
  • These became the 6 Writing Traits.
  • Later, presentation became recognized as increasingly important, and teachers started to assess it as well.  However, presentation has been deemed to be less significant than the other traits,so it was labeled “+1”
  • The 6+1 Writing Traits system is now used in virtually every state in the US, as well as in Great Britain, France, South America, China, Venezuela, Bahrain, Australia, Turkey, and the Middle East.
6+1 writing traits

Good writing has all of these traits

1. Ideas – good writing conveys a clear sense of purpose
Ideas are the heart of the message, the content of the piece, the main theme, together with the details that enrich and develop that theme. Ideas can be thoughts, argument, opinions, facts or stories.
Good writing has to:
– Be clear and focused
– Be fresh or original
– Have well-developed and supported ideas
Example: Once upon a time, there was a boy who didn’t want to grow up…
Question to ask your child:
– What is your message? What is the most important thing you want your audience to know?
– Is your message clear? How can you help your audience understand the main idea?
– Do you include specific, juicy details?
– What is usual or surprising about your message?

2. Organization – good writing reveals ideas within a logical order
Organization is the internal structure, the thread of central meaning, the logical and sometimes intriguing pattern of ideas within a piece of writing.
Good writing has to:
– Have sense of sequence: beginning, middle, and end
– Have a logical order
– Have smooth transitions
Examples: “If you want to form a band, the FIRST THING you have to do is find your musicians. SECOND, you need to choose a name. THIRD, you need to practice a lot…”
Questions to ask your child:
– Is the piece you wrote in order?
– Can the readers easily identify different parts of the piece?
– How does your writing start?
– How does your writing end?

3. Word choice – good writing uses the right word in the right place to convey just the right meaning.
Word choice is the use of rich, colorful, precise language that moves and enlightens the reader.
Good writing has to:
– Employ specific words, not general, vague ones
– Be descriptive and call on the five human senses
– Use strong action verbs
Examples: Instead of “I liked the song because it was pretty and stuff”, we can try: “The song’s lyrics and catchy verse really moved me”.
Questions to ask your child:
– Where do you use strong action verbs? What makes them effective?
– Do you use words that are appealing to the senses? Which words and phrases would the readers remember, and which senses do they appeal to?
– Is every word you use important? Will the meaning change if you cut out that word?

4. Sentence fluency – good writing is smooth and musical
Sentence fluency is the rhythm and flow of the language, the sound of word patterns, the way in which the writing plays to the ear — not just to the eye.
Good writing has to:
– Be easy to read aloud
– Have sentences that vary in structure (beginnings, lengths, types)
– Flow smoothly or rhythmically
Example: Instead of “I like Big Bang. I went to their concert. I have three of their T-shirts.”, try this: “My favorite band is Big Bang. Last summer, my best friend and I went to their concert when they came to Saigon. I love them so much, that when they came, I saved up two months of allowance so I could buy three souvenir T-shirts there!”
Questions to ask your child?
– Do sentences start differently?
– How does your writing sound when you read it aloud?
– Do you use complete sentences?
– Do you use rhythm, rhyme, alliteration and other “sound effects”? How does this improve your piece?

5. Voice – good writing increases reader engagement with intentional attitude and emotion.
Voice is the magic and the wit, along with the feeling and conviction of the individual writer coming out through the words.
Good writing has to:
– Establish a strong connection between the author and readers
– Reflect the writer’s unique personality
Example: Instead of “I liked Evan’s musical performance last night. He must spend a lot of time practicing”, you can try: “Evan rocked his piano solo last night. All those days and nights of drilling hunched over his keyboard have really paid off.”
Questions to ask yourself:
– Are you using an appropriate tone in this situation?
– Would the readers understand how you feel?
– How would the readers describe your personality?

6. Convention – good writing has no grammar mistakes
Convention refers to the mechanical correctness of the piece, including (but not limited to) spelling, paragraph structure, punctuation, grammar, and use of capitals.
Good writing has to:
– Be error free in spelling
– Put punctuations and capitalization in the right places
– Utilize correct grammar and mechanics
Example: Not this: “Imagine is very good its my favorite song by John Lennon”. Rewrite it as this: “’Imagine’ is very good. It’s my favorite song by John Lennon.”
Questions to ask yourself:
– Do you use a title?
– Do you capitalize the correct letters?
– Have you checked spelling?

>> Read more: 3 TED-Ed Videos Can Help Kids Master English Grammar With Fun

(+1). Presentation
Presentation combines both visual and textual elements. It is the way we exhibit or present our message on paper: balance of white space with visuals and text, graphics, neatness, handwriting, font selection, borders, and overall appearance.
Good writing has to:
– Be visually appealing in handwriting (or font selection)
– Have flowing text and spacial layouts (if not an academic essay)
– Be easy to read

Not this                                               but this

6+1 writing traits                 61-writing-traits

Questions to ask your child:

– How is your writing viewed on the paper?
– Is it able to catch reader’s attention?

>> Find out more 12 Do’s and Don’ts of Good Essay Writing

The 6+1 Writing Traits are just as important to a piece of writing as our body parts are to our health


Connecting the 6+1 Writing Traits and the writing process

6+1 writing traits

Mastering English writing takes years, and at each level, students are expected to achieve a specific level of proficiency in each trait.

Parting words…

At Everest Education, we find that the 6+1 Writing Traits system has a tremendous benefit in instruction. It allows us to pinpoint students’ strengths and weaknesses in ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions, and presentation. This allows our teachers to focus their instruction. For students, by focusing one trait at a time, students can break down something that often feels overwhelming and complex  into small steps. This makes it manageable, and allows them to receive more precise feedback.

“Writing is perhaps the most important skill our English students develop for academic achievement and professional success. While writing has always been an important part of school and work, it’s even more important now given that we often only connect with others through writing in this globally-connected world. Thus, we must be able to express our ideas clearly, in a well-organized manner, with a high degree of accuracy in order to get ahead in the 21st century.” said Ms. Sabrina, our Senior Academic Manager.

>>> Find out more 10 Online Tools For Kids And Teens To Improve Writing Skills

At Everest Education, we are also building a great resource that allows teachers and students alike to practice the 6+1 Writing Traits system. With deliberate, structured practice, we have found that our students learn to be more systematically critical of their own work and thereby improve their writing rapidly.


>> Six Traits of Writing
>> The Six Traits Professional The Six Traits Professional Development Model Development Model

>> 6 + 1 Traits of Writing


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