How many times have you correctly solved a problem but, when asked to explain the logic that you followed in arriving at the answer, you couldn’t do it? From an academic point of view, the inability to express how you arrived at the solution undermines its credibility. The same can be said for content writers. The Critical Thinking Community advances, in their blog Critical Thinking: Identifying the Target, “It goes without saying that excellence in writing requires excellence in thinking.” How is that so? The Critical Thinking Community explains the relationship the following way.
Writing requires that one systematize one’s thinking, arranging thought in a progression that makes the system of one’s thought accessible to others. When the writer’s thinking lacks a clear purpose, lacks focus, lacks documentation and logic, and standards by which to judge the merit of the ideas, these flaws are revealed in the written work.
As revealed in the above quotation, the key to better writing through critical thinking lies in two main elements:
one’s ability to systematize thinking through a clearly defined objective, helpful documentation, solid logic, and measurable standards, and
one’s organization of the content in such a way that it leads the reader through an easy to understand progression of thought.
This blog will focus exclusively on the factors that allow the writer to address the first main element of systematic thinking.
Clearly Defined Objective
Just as with any great essay or marketing piece, ample time must be dedicated to understanding its main objective. Are you writing the piece to establish yourself as an authoritative voice in your industry? Are you trying to insert yourself into a certain stream of social media in order to get a feel for the thoughts, concerns, opinions or needs of our target audience? Are you trying to close a sale? Take a moment to answer these questions in a sort of brainstorm session in which everything is written down. You may discover that you have more than one objective that are better accomplished in different written documents or can be combined into one. Make sure that your final objective be just as clearly defined as any thesis upon which an effective essay relies.
Having clearly identified your objective, gather the materials that will substantiate or add interest to your writing. Are there experts in your field that whose work supports your position? Are there studies or any other data that validates that benefits of your product or service? Are there recognizable trends that justify the direction in which you want to take your business if writing a press release to investors or clients? This is the research portion of the critical thinking process. Helpful documentation gives grativas to both the writing and the reading process. The most eloquently written conclusion is nothing more than the frame to a blank canvas if no helpful documentation exists to bring the reader to your conclusion before he or she even reads it.
So how does solid logic play into the act of critical thinking. Solid logic applies to your ability to effectively make inferences based upon your own helpful documentation. You may think “I don’t know how to make inferences.” When you look outside and see snow falling, the wind blowing, and ice built up on your porch, you make an inference the minute you begin to put on a think winter coat, gloves, hat, and boots before going outside. Making an inference simply means that you make an assumption based on specific evidence and past experiences. As a writer, it is your job to bring your documentation and experiences of everyday life in such a manner that you lead your readers to the same ah-ha moment that convinced you that your product or service idea could benefit others. You know you have it right when you lay out all of your evidence in such a way that someone responds affirmatively to your message.
Effective writing must establish a meaningful way in which to assess success. Measurable standards should exist both for the content writers and for the reader. By that I mean that a marketing department needs to know how to determine at what point a particular marketing piece has succeeded in its objective or not. If not, the marketing department and the writing staff need to either rework the piece of start afresh. For the reader, that standard can be the promises or guarantees that the product or service advertises. Beauty products, especially skin care products sold via informercials, are riddled with these standards. “If you don’t see an improvement in your skin within the first 30 days just mail the products back, even if they are empty, and we will reimburse the whole purchase price, including shipping and handling.” By including measurable standards for the reader, he or she, convinced by the high standards of your product or service, will most likely take you up on your offer. As a writer, set standards for both yourself and for your reader.
Writing is a dynamic process with dynamic results. The adoption of systematic thinking practices allows you to embrace that dynamism and experience growth and improvement in your writing. Because if, as The Critical Thinking Community states, “[it] goes without saying that excellence in writing requires excellence in thinking” then take the time to reflect upon the critical thinking skills that inform your writing, that inform your readers, and that inform how you both improve and sell your product or service. Bring all of those things together into a cohesive strategy and everyone benefits.