Conventions refers to the mechanical correctness of a piece of writing. Correct use of conventions, such as spelling, capitalisation, punctuation, paragraphing, grammar and usage, guides the reader through the text easily.

Conventions are the mechanical correctness of the piece and include five elements:

  • spelling
  • punctuation
  • capitalisation
  • grammar/usage
  • paragraphing

Writing that is strong in Conventions has been proofread and edited with care. This trait has so many pieces to it, it’s almost an analytical trait within an analytic system. As you assess a piece for convention, ask yourself: “How much work would a copy editor need to do to prepare the piece for publication?” This will keep all of the elements in conventions equally in play. Conventions is the only trait where we make specific grade level accommodations, and expectations should be based on grade level to include only those skills that have been taught.

You can use the scoring guide below to help you find where the piece of writing you are drafting is situated. If you are conferencing the piece with your teacher, it is recommended that conventions be the last of the Six Traits you ask for feedback on.




A. Checking Spelling: The writer spells sight words, high-frequency words, and less familiar words correctly. When he or she spells less familiar words incorrectly, those words are phonetically correct. Overall, the piece reveals control in spelling.

B. Punctuating Effectively and Paragraphing Accurately: The writer handles basic punctuation skillfully. He or she understands how to use full stops, commas, question marks, and exclamation marks to enhance clarity and meaning. Paragraphs are indented in the right places. The piece is ready for a general audience.

C. Capitalising Correctly: The writer uses capital letters consistently and accurately. A deep understanding of how to capitalise dialogue, abbreviations, proper names, and titles is evident.

D. Applying Grammar and Usage: The writer forms grammatically correct phrases and sentences. He or she shows care in applying the rules of standard English. The writer may break from those rules for stylistic reasons, but otherwise abides by them.





A. Checking Spelling: The writer incorrectly spells a few high-frequency words and many unfamiliar words and/or sophisticated words.

B. Punctuating Effectively and Paragraphing Accurately: The writer handles basic punctuation marks (such as full stops on sentences and commas in a series) well. However, he or she might have trouble with more complex punctuation marks (such as quotation marks, parentheses, and dashes) and with paragraphing, especially on longer pieces.

C. Capitalising Correctly: The writer capitalises the first word in sentences and most common proper nouns. However, his or her use of more complex capitalisation is spotty within dialogue, abbreviations, and proper names (“aunt Maria” instead of “Aunt Maria” or “my aunt,” for instance).

D. Applying Grammar and Usage: The writer has made grammar and usage mistakes throughout the piece, but they do not interfere with the reader’s ability to understand the message. Issues related to agreement, tense, and word usage appear here and there, but can be easily corrected.





A. Checking Spelling: The writer has misspelled many words, even simple ones, which causes the reader to focus on conventions rather than on the central theme or storyline.

B. Punctuating Effectively and Paragraphing Accurately: The writer has neglected to use punctuation, used punctuation incorrectly, and/or forgotten to indent paragraphs, making it difficult for the reader to find meaning.

C. Capitalising Correctly: The writer uses capitals inconsistently, even in common places such as the first word in the sentence. He or she uses capitals correctly in places, but has no consistent control over them.

D. Applying Grammar and Usage: The writer makes frequent mistakes in grammar and usage, making it difficult to read and understand the piece. Issues related to agreement, tense, and word usage abound.