The Traits of Writing: Introduction

Contributor: Delaine Thomas. Lesson ID: 12159

When books come alive in your mind, they have a personality just like people! There are six steps you need to specialize in to make sure your writing is something people will like, just like a friend!



English / Language Arts
learning style
personality style
Grade Level
Intermediate (3-5)
Lesson Type
Quick Query

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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Do you like to weed a garden? How about weeding weak ideas out of your brainstorming session?

Do you have a close friend?

  • What is he or she like?
  • Is he or she tall or short?
  • Does he or she like to tell jokes?

Thinking about your friends' physical and personality traits allows you to draw a picture of them in your mind; you are remembering what that person is like. The traits of writing are like this. When you read a piece of writing, you can describe it by using these six traits. Have your writer's notebook ready or get a piece of paper and pencil so you can take notes about the six traits as you watch 6 Traits of Writing – a photostory from holtsheroes:

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If you learn and practice the six traits of writing, it will help you become a better writer. The six traits are:

  • ideas
  • organization
  • voice
  • word choice
  • sentence fluency
  • conventions

Let’s discuss these one at a time.

Great writing starts with quality ideas. It is better to have lots of ideas when beginning to write and weed out the ones that are not so good, than to have no ideas at all. When working on this trait, you will choose your topic or purpose for your writing. Your focus will be to develop that topic. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What is my main idea?
  • Is my message focused and clear?
  • Do I show insight or original thought?
  • Am I using specific details?

The second trait is organization. This trait includes a clear beginning, middle, and ending in your paper — it is easy to follow.

  • The beginning paragraph grabs the reader’s attention.
  • The middle paragraphs use order when presenting details that support your topic. Remember to use transition words to switch to a new idea.
  • The ending paragraph should be an effective conclusion. Make sure you leave the reader with something to think about.

The third trait is voice. Voice is what makes someone want to read the story or book.

  • It is critical for an exciting and interesting paper.
  • It should be personal and show who you are.
  • What kind of writing voice do you want to have?

The fourth trait is word choice. The words you choose in your writing can create a word picture for the reader.

  • Use adjectives that are descriptive.
  • Use specific nouns.
  • Use strong action verbs.
  • Use sensory details and remember to show, not tell.

The fifth trait is sentence fluency. Remember to use complete sentences and not sentence fragments. When your sentences flow, they help the reader follow your ideas.

  • Vary the length and type of the sentences used. Not every sentence needs to be a simple sentence, and not every sentence needs to be a compound-complex sentence. Add variety in sentence length and structure, and avoid run-on sentences.
  • Start the sentences in different ways. Do not begin all the sentences with the same word.
  • Ask yourself, “Is the story easy to read aloud?”

The sixth trait is conventions. In conventions, you check:

  • punctuation
  • capitalization
  • spelling
  • grammar and word usage

You might already be familiar with these traits, and if you are, that is great! If you aren’t familiar with the traits, do not feel overwhelmed. You might be thinking, “I just learned the steps in the writing process and now I have to learn these traits as well. How will I remember it all?”

Well, don’t worry about that. In fact, didn’t the sixth trait sound familiar? Where else have you heard to check punctuation, capitalization, spelling, and grammar and usage? That’s right — the "editing" step in the writing process.

This is how it works:

  • The prewriting step of the writing process is when you come up with your ideas and the organization of your paper.
  • The writing step of the writing process is when you will focus on voice and word choice.
  • The revision step of the writing process is when you will focus on sentence fluency and check to see if all of the goals have been met for each of the traits.
  • The editing step of the writing process is when you will focus on conventions.

(If you haven't yet completed the series, The Writing Process, you can find these Elephango lessons in the right-hand sidebar under Additional Resources.)

There is a time within each step to focus on the various traits and to make sure that you are on the "write" track.

Using your notebook or paper that you used for notes on the first video, take notes while learning a little more about The 6 Traits of Writing from Durham Public Schools:

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In the video, they used metaphors to describe the six traits of writing. They compared ideas to your brain, organization to your skeleton, sentence fluency to your feet constantly on the move, voice to your heart, word choice to your muscles, and conventions to your rib cage.

Can you create a metaphor comparing the six traits of writing to something else, something that makes sense to you? If you can, tell your teacher or parent your metaphor.

Continue on to the Got It? section to practice using the traits.

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