History of the Traits

Trait-based writing instruction began in the 1960s, starting with the work of Paul Diederich.

Half a Century of Research

The Seven Traits

  1. Strong Ideas
  2. Logical Organization
  3. Appropriate Voice
  4. Precise Word Choice
  5. Smooth Sentences
  6. Correct Copy
  7. Professional Design

The traits of effective writing were first identified in the 1960s by Paul Diederich and a group of 50 professionals who reviewed student papers and brainstormed the qualities that made writing strong.

In 1983, a group of educators in Beaverton, Oregon, learned of Diederich's work and replicated it, settling on a similar set of trraits. A separate team in Missoula, Montana, simultaneously ran a study that identified the same basic group of traits.

Thereafter, Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory (NWREL) in Portland and later Houghton Mifflin in Boston did much to teach the world about trait-based instruction.

In schools throughout the world, the traits have become a key approach to teaching writing. The seven traits of writing can also help businesspeople to improve their writing performance, evaluate the writing of others, and discuss writing using a common language.