Six-Trait Writing Framework Needs Updating For The Digital Age

Six-trait writing has been all the rage helping students write formal essays.  In the past, “good writing” meant fitting into a neat framework, easily summed up in the six traits: content, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, and conventions. But does this model provide adequate guidance in the digital age? Or is it a casualty?

The rules of culture are always changing on us.  Just when you think you’ve got a handle on things, society goes and tells you that you no longer wear white gloves when you go to dance, that  brand new DVD’s are now on the way out, and that Pluto is no longer a planet.

Well, writing has no sanctuary against this trend either.  The traditional essay, so popular with college admissions counselors and standardized test graders, may soon become one of many types of acceptable writing.  Whole new genres of writing are coming in to compete with the formal essay for primacy….  Blog writing.  Web articles.  Microblogging.  Even texting.

It isn’t that we are writing less. On the contrary, we have never had such a proliferation of writing!  The difference is in our style of writing.  The six-trait approach to writing  assumes that there is one way way to write: formal essays.  Yet this new generation of wordsmiths is proving everyday on the internet that this is just not the case.

Six-trait writing instruction focuses on organization, word choice, and voice.  Modern media writing, on the other hand, highlights content, compactness, and conversational tone.  Teaching for the digital age needs to be recognize what is obvious to everyone: that instead of just one, there are many different ways and angles on writing.   Each one should be approached by keeping in mind appropriateness for the particular media.

Time4Writing has modified the six-trait writing model for the media savvy writer.  In the new “Writing Today- The Advanced Essay” course, students are invited to learn a more modern way of approaching the writing process.  They will learn that  there is one way to write for a standardized essay test, another way to write an informative essay, and yet another way to write for the web.

Today’s young writers already understand that the time of handing in that notebook paper with its five paragraph essay on summer vacation is quickly fading to black.  Can the demise of the six-trait writing assessment be that far behind?

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