15-point checklist to better writing

An elementary school checklist can help writers of all stripes improve their skills.


I’m so jazzed. My son is finally old enough that they’re starting to focus on the mechanics of writing in school. He brought home a worksheet on commas the other day, and I was euphoric. They’re teaching them to use the serial comma.

Though my son may not share my enthusiasm for writing, the curriculum his school is using is full of great writing advice. The following is from a checklist called “Traits of Good Writing” in which the kids are asked to rate their writing based on the following factors.

Organization

  • My introduction grabs the reader’s attention.
  • I used transition words to move from idea to idea.
  • My paragraphs show where my subtopics begin and end.

Voice

  • I really tried to show passion about my topic.
  • If read aloud, it sounds like something I might really say.
  • I did things in my writing to help my audience understand.
  • I captured a tone or mood with my words.

Sentence fluency

  • I use a mixture of simple and complex sentences.
  • I use a variety of transitional words when I write.
  • If read aloud, you can hear a rhythm behind my sentences.
  • If I repeated anything, I did it for effect.

Idea development

  • I used a balance of showing and telling.
  • My details try to paint a picture in the reader’s head.
  • I stayed on topic throughout the entire writing assignment.
  • My theme/message is clear to my reader.

Word choice

  • My adjectives are excellent and thoughtful.
  • I use a good balance of action and linking verbs.
  • My nouns are precise; I don’t overuse pronouns.
  • It is clear that I am not afraid to take risks with new words.

I love that they’re teaching these beginning writers to think critically about their own writing. Next time you complete a writing assignment, evaluate it using these factors. See how you rate.

Laura Hale Brockway is an Austin-based writer and editor. She is also the author of the blog impertinentremarks.com.

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