It’s critical to be able to write well. Since elementary school we’ve all been taught some version of the writing process – to brainstorm, organize, draft, proofread, edit, re-read, and publish. This fluid process was supported throughout our academic careers – remember the days when we had 2+ weeks to write a paper?! All that practice was supposed to prepare us for the real world – when deadlines are a daily occurrence and everything comes by your desk with a certain level of urgency.
It occurred to me that this writing process, which has been engrained in us for years, is consistent with critical thinking. Granted, both are fluid processes and thus may look slightly different, the underlying approach is the same.
Brainstorm. Assess the situation.
Organize your thoughts and start drafting. Recognize the assumptions and evaluate the arguments.
Re-evaluate your thoughts; yourself or with peer-review. Bring in multiple resources.
Make the changes you see fit. Weigh the data.
Publish. Draw conclusions and take action.
We can agree that the concept is simple. Except many of us aren’t strong writers or critical thinkers. Perhaps that’s because the implementation is tricky. Maybe it’s time constraints or any number of excuses we all find to not use the writing process.
Take a moment and ask yourself if you could be doing better. If you could, here are 5 simple critical thinking tricks to improve your writing:
- Get organized. Take a few minutes to understand and assess the situation. Ask yourself what the goal is.
- Stay focused. Once you establish a goal, stick to it. Ask yourself what you want to address and what your position is. If something doesn’t support, illustrate, explain or clarify your point don’t include it.
- Make it clear. Make it coherent. Your audience can only read what you’ve written. Don’t lose them in extra words or by getting off topic. Keep your focus and walk your audience through your position.
- Read. Always read what you’ve written. It’s even better if you can work on something else and revisit what you’ve written later. Don’t be shy – there are great benefits from having others read your work as well.
- Edit. You may not admit it, but we all get emotionally invested in our work. Stay objective and evaluate your work on organization, focus, consistency and clarity.
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Elizabeth Pauker-Silva