Six-Trait Writing

Click Here to see the 6 Traits Walker Handout.

  • Idea - the heart of the message

  • Organization - the internal structure of the piece

  • Voice - the personal tone and flavor of the author's message

  • Word choice - the vocabulary a writer chooses to convey meaning

  • Sentence fluency - the rhythm and flow of the language

  • Conventions - the mechanical correctness

  • Addtional Sites that talk about Six Traits Writing



Ideas are the heart of the main theme of one's writing along with the accompanying details that enrich and develop that theme. Ideas are strong when the message is clear, not garbled. The writer chooses details that are interesting, important, and informative &emdash; often the kinds of details the reader would not normally anticipate or predict.

Successful writers do not tell readers things they already know. They give new insight into an area or relay information in a fresh way. Descriptions or character development in a story are shown through example, rather than just told in fact.



Organization is the internal structure of a piece of writing. It's what carries the reader from beginning to middle to end.

In fictional writing, organization is simply the ability to sequence a story's parts so that they make sense. The piece begins meaningfully and creates in the reader a sense of anticipation that is ultimately, systematically fulfilled.

Organizational structure in an expository piece of writing 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. Events proceed logically; information is given to the reader in the right doses at the right times so that the reader never loses interest or the "big picture" that the writer is driving at.

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.



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.

Good writers can vary their voice depending on the purpose of the message. For instance, a love letter carries a different tone than a letter to one's lawyer. A good writer also varies his or her voice with the form of writing being used at the time &emdash; expository, persuasive or descriptive &emdash; and then within that category to set the correct mood. Correct voice is largely a factor of correct word choice, but other factors are involved, as well, such as length of the sentences and the flow of those sentences.

When a writer's voice come through, we feel that we're hearing an argument from an authority, or a story from the viewpoint of someone who was there. When the writer is engaged personally with the topic, he or she imparts a personal tone and flavor to the piece that is unmistakably his or hers alone.


Word choice

Word choice is the use of rich, colorful, precise language that communicates not just in a functional way, but in a way that moves and enlightens the reader. In a descriptive piece, creative word choice paints clear pictures in the reader's mind. In expository writing, strong word choice clarifies and expands ideas. In persuasive writing, careful word choice moves the reader to a new vision of things.

Correct use of word choice is characterized not so much by an exceptional vocabulary that impresses the reader, but more by the skill to use everyday words well. The writing is striking, yet natural.


Sentence fluency

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. Good writing is free of awkward word patterns that slow the reader's progress. Sentences vary in length and style, and are so well crafted that reading aloud is a pleasure. Dialogue sounds natural and rings true in the reader's ear.



Conventions are simply those rules of grammar and punctuation that make one's reading readable. There is evidence of editing and proofing in a finished piece of writing such that the spelling, paragraphing and and punctuation are mostly correct, even on harder words and longer sentences.


Additional Sites That Discuss the Six Trait Writing Model

6 + 1 Trait Writing Assessment Tool

Interactive Six Traits Writing Model

April 18, 2008