Like every other skill, writing is something that will not get better without practice. That idea is probably obvious, but how does a student absorb instruction from the teacher? Even if an English teacher or tutor demonstrates how to write an argument, it is often difficult for the student to watch and then do.
Why Write Argument?
When I say argument writing, most students think of arguing. Argument writing can simply be informing the reader about a subject, and supporting the claim with reasons. Writing this way is a skill that is valuable in a variety of careers. It’s also a skill that many people never have to use once they leave high school. Writing is an extension of thinking, but they’re not synonymous. It would be a weird world if we were to write like we speak. When people speak, we have multiple chances to explain what we mean so long as the people we are talking to stick around to listen. However, when we write we only have that one chance. If we have a point to make, or something to explain with the desire to convince others we have to be clear. It sounds like a big job, but it’s doable.
Most English or writing teachers will use some form of graphic organizer to help students outline what they’re writing about. For some students a simple outline will help them get organized and write. Others need to see exactly what they are doing step by step. Many graphic organizers will be directing students in the same direction by providing boxes or ovals where they can write their thesis, supports from articles, and their commentary about why those quotes or supports make their thesis true.
It looks something like this. I’ll use smartphones as an example.
Thesis or claim:
Android smartphones are better than iPhones.
Evidence, reasons, or supports from articles:
1. There are more types of Android phones to choose from.
2. Android phones are a better value. Cost for features is better.
3. Android phones are more customizable.
For beginning or intermediate writers, the most difficult part of writing is often validating or explaining how the evidence supports the thesis.
This is where we focus on commentary. Explaining how Android smartphones are better than iPhones is obviously opinion, but there are facts for both sides. I could easily argue that iPhones are better than Android phones. The point here, is to explain why I used the reasons or evidences I did.
Evidence # 1 – There are more types of Android phones to choose from. There are many different manufacturers who make a wide variety of smart phones. Some are smaller, and might work better for younger users. Some have better cameras so people can take professional quality pictures. There’s a phone for every need. Some Android phones have bigger screens so people can watch movies anywhere. If a person is on a budget, or a phone gets broken, it is easier to replace an Android phone with something that is affordable. iPhones have different sizes, but they’re all the same, and they’re all expensive.
The idea behind explaining the evidence, or making commentary, is the “so what?”. I made the claim, and you might say so what? So I explain my thinking, or my reasoning.
Writing Is Like Sports
Sports commentators do something similar to writing during every game. They make a statement about a player, or a play during the game, then try to explain or validate why they said what they said. They will talk about the players abilities, their past performances, and their potential future in the sport. When the commentators make a claim, they immediately back it up with their response to the “so what?” question.
Writing is just like having a conversation with someone, but the writer never gets to see the other person. It’s challenging because when we are writing, we have to anticipate what the reader won’t understand. We have to try to think of their questions and answer them in our writing.
This is a simple outline and description for writing. The easier this gets, the more you can customize your writing to what your teacher or professor is looking for. Some writing will require more evidence and commentary, others will be very straight forward summaries.
Write to be understood, read to understand.
-Write on, Read on!