6 traits of great writing—according to a fourth-grade teacher

The author’s son brought home a handout that explains the basics of great writing. They serve as an important reminder to all scribes.

I’ve written several posts about my 10-year-old son and his developing writing skills. And though he may not share my alacrity for writing, his school curriculum is full of great writing advice.

Recently, he came home with a handout called “Six traits of great writing.” The advice outlined in the handout is basic, but it remains important for writers of all stripes.

Here are the traits along with a few takeaways.

Ideas and content

• Observe first; tell next.
• Develop supporting details before you start writing.
• Use a balance of showing and telling.
• Make your message clear to the reader.


• Link ideas together so there is a beginning, middle, and end.
• Use a variety of transitional words.
• Your introduction should grab the reader.
• Your conclusion should link back to the introduction.

Word choice

• Use clear, colorful, vivid verbs.
• Use “thoughtful” adjectives.
• Use color and texture words to describe.
• Don’t overuse pronouns.
• Don’t be afraid to use new words.

Sentence fluency

• Sentences should mostly begin with different words.
• Use smooth transitions and sentence variation.
• Use a mixture of simple and complex sentences.
• Sentences should flow when read aloud.


• Your words should come alive and show personality, heart, and emotion.
• Capture tone and mood with your words.
• Use humor if appropriate for the topic.


• If you can’t spell a word, look it up. Don’t guess.
• Check your “end punctuation.”
• Check your commas and apostrophes.
• Make sure you used capital words correctly.
• Do your sentences say what you want them to say? Check your grammar.

Ragan readers, care to share any other traits of great writing?

Laura Hale Brockway is a medical writer and editor from Austin, Texas. She also blogs about writing and editing at Impertinent Remarks.

(Image via)

This article first appeared on Ragan.com in April 2013.


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