Qualities of Good Writing

I spent last week at the Teachers College Writing Institute. I was lucky enough to get into advanced sections with Carl Anderson and Lucy Calkins, who both pushed my thinking. With 103 pages of notes from five days at T.C., I’ll be writing about what I learned as I synthesize it in the days and weeks to come.

However, let me start with this… What ARE the qualities/traits of good writing?

In the past, I’ve thought that good writing could be thought of in terms of:

  • genre
  • focus
  • structure
  • elaboration
  • word choice
  • conventions
  • Ruth Culham suggests that writing can be looked at in terms of traits, which are:

  • ideas
  • word choice
  • sentence fluency
  • voice
  • organization
  • conventions
  • Carl Anderson suggests that meaning is at the heart of everything and that there are four other things we can look for, in addition to meaning, when we assess student writing:

  • structure
  • details
  • voice
  • conventions
  • Who’s right? All of us. I think each teacher of writing may have their own take on what the qualities or traits of good writing are. However, as long as the names are assessing what’s important to making kids better writers, I’ve come to believe that the label or title doesn’t actually matter. I think what matters is being able to DEFINE what each trait/quality means to students so that they can strive to become better in each of the given areas.