The ideas are the heart of the message, the content of the piece, the main theme, together with all the details that enrich and develop that theme. The ideas are strong when the message is clear, not garbled. The writer chooses details that are interesting, important, and informative- often the kinds of details the reader would not normally anticipate or predict. Successful writers do not tell readers information they already know. They notice what others overlook, seek out the extraordinary, the unusual, the bits and pieces of life that others might not see.
Organization is the internal structure of a piece of writing. When the organization is strong, the piece begins meaningfully and creates in the writer a sense of anticipation that is ultimately, systematically filled. Events proceed logically and connections are strong, which is another way of saying that bridges from one idea to the next hold up. The piece closes with a sense of resolution, tying up loose ends, bringing things to closure, answering important questions while still leaving the reader something to think about.
The voice is the writer coming through the words, the sense that a real person is speaking to us and cares about the message. It is the heart and soul of the writing, the magic, the wit, the feeling, the life and breath. When the writer is engaged personally with the topic, he/she imparts a personal tone and flavor to the piece that is unmistakably his/hers alone. It is that individual something, different from the mark of all other writers, that we call voice.
Word choice is the use of rich, colorful, precise language that communicates not just in a functional way, but in a way that move and enlightens the reader. Strong word choice is characterized not so much by an exceptional vocabulary but more by the skill to use everyday words well.
Sentence fluency is the rhythm and flow of the language, the sound of word patterns, the way in which the writing plays to the ear, not just to the eye. How does it sound when read aloud? That’s the test. Fluent writing has a cadence, power, rhythm, and movement. It is free of awkward word patterns that slow the reader’s progress. Sentences vary in length and style and are so well crafted that reading aloud is a pleasure.
Conventions are the mechanical correctness of the piece. Writing that is strong in conventions has usually been proofread and edited with care. The key is this: How much time would an editor need to do to prepare this piece for publication?