Writing Traits: Speaking the Same Language


I cannot begin to count the number of my former students who have come back to me years after taking my courses and asked for help. They usually find themselves frustrated in a college writing course where the professor has done a poor job laying out expectations and given very little feedback on previous papers. The students do not know what the instructor wants or how to improve from a previous score.

Much of writing is subjective, and many professors have done little to help their students understand what it takes to meet their unnamed and undefined standards. Students end up playing a guessing game, aiming blindly at a target hidden from them, at best, and moving, at worst.

Students often have no idea what the instructor wants, as if the student and teacher speak two entirely different languages. What if we found a way for them to speak the same language and clearly understand one another? What if frustrated teachers had a tool for explaining their expectations well and students had a way of knowing exactly what it would take to score a high mark?

Fortunately, we do! When teachers and students understand each other's idea of good writing, the goal becomes clear, and at least some element of the writing process becomes more objective and attainable. Good writing instructors know this, and they lay out clear expectations and feedback for students to follow. We call these writing traits. These simply define the characteristics of good writing.

The writing traits narrow down to six primary categories:

1. Organization

2. Idea Development

3. Fluency

4. Voice

5. Word Choice

6. Mechanics

At Over the Bar Instruction, we offer a Writing Traits video series on these traits that will help teachers improve communication of expectations with students, and students understand exactly what an instructor wants from their writing.

Visit our store to save $10 when purchasing the series as a set, and soon you'll be helping your students Over the Academic Bar.


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