Here's the latest installment in our periodic series analyzing great writing using the 6 Traits.
1. Ideas & Details. Tobar mixes demographic facts with personal feet-on-the-street details to create a factual basis for the article that's both quantitative and qualitative--which establishes his credibility and keeps me from feeling bogged down with either kind of data.
- Third-party detail: “California has had an extremely dramatic increase in the segregation of Latinos, who on average attended schools that were 54 percent white in 1970, but now attend schools that are 84 percent nonwhite,” a study by the Civil Rights Project at the University of California, Los Angeles, found last year.
- First-hand detail: But today in Highland Park there are more open houses than street vendors. There’s a vegan restaurant, alongside a very un-vegan fleet of taco trucks. The local bodega sells not just homemade salsa and cards for cheap phone calls to Guatemala, but also espressos and overpriced Pinot Noir in bottles that have corks instead of twist-off caps.
2. Word Choice. The language is correctly targeted for NYT readers and includes some great turns of phrase that create terrific images: hipster-meets-mexicano, “horchata frappé”, and complexions of the locals became almost exclusively cinnamon and café con leche
3. Organization. The piece flows well, feeling a little like we are walking with Tobar and his wife through the neighborhood, stopping at various windows for a slightly deeper look into a fact or observation. The piece is nicely bookended, starting with a discussion of a family journey and ending with a summation about the community's transition.
4. Sentence Fluency. The varying length of sentences and paragraphs creates a tone and rhythm that feels like a walking conversation rather than a static read.
5. Voice. Tobar's voice is friendly and knowledgeable. Just familiar enough to deliver the message without sounding preachy.
6. Conventions. It's the NYT! Of course spelling, punctuation, usage and grammar are correct.
I encourage you to use the 6 Traits (or at least the first 5) to evaluate your own writing, or the writing of your team. Creating a shared language of quality streamlines the review process and reduces hurt feelings.