Monday, June 22, 2009

Good Writing Is Good Arguing

Rachel Toor in The Chronicle of Higher Education:
It's the burden of the writer to be clear and to let readers know why they should care. Far too many college freshmen start their papers: "In society today ... ," and then make some simplistic suggestion. To them I say, why should I believe you? That is an assertion, not an argument. You have to show me your reasoning, help me follow your train of thought. The strongest and fairest writers make the best possible case for the other side, and then show how and why it's wrong. It's more convincing to knock down a strongman, rather than a strawman.

If you want a journal to accept your paper, or a federal agency to grant you coin, you have to make clear what is at stake and why the reader should care. Then you have to put forward the strongest reasoning based on evidence you provide in the clearest language you are able to rally. And then you need to know when you need help.

For students needing some good advice on writing essays, this piece from Scott Clark should help quite a bit.