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