Critical Thinking and Clear Writing

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Text of Critical Thinking and Clear Writing

  • 1. THE ARGUMENTATIVE ESSAY
    • An essay is argumentative when it argues in favor of a particular position.
    • The essays arguments are designed to support the position argued for in the essay.
    • Remember that an argument is a set of claims , the conclusion of which is supported by one or more premises .
    • Thus, arguments consist of claims , and recall that a claim is a statement which is true or false .
    • If an argumentative essay is good , then it contains credible claims, that is, those which are known to be true , or for which there is good even if not conclusive evidence .
  • 2. PRINCIPLES OF ORGANIZING AN ARGUMENTATIVE ESSAY I
    • 1. Focus . State what you are addressing, and what your position is on the matter. Thus focus states in a single word the need to inform your reader of the subject matter of your essay.
      • Avoid trite phrases.
      • Be as concise as possible.
    • 2. Stick to the issue . Say only what needs to be said in relation to the topic being considered, and avoid irrelevancies .
      • Points made in an essay should either support, illustrate, explain, clarify, elaborate on, or emphasize the position being argued for; or
      • serve as responses to anticipate objections.
  • 3. PRINCIPLES OF ORGANIZING AN ARGUMENTATIVE ESSAY II
    • 3. Order. Arrange the essays parts in a logical sequence .
      • Make a point before you attempt to clarify it, if such clarification is required.
      • Put the clarification after the point which requires it, and not in some other spot in the essay.
      • Support points with examples, if necessary, and put the examples after the point which requires them.
      • A reader should be able to follow through the points of the essay in an order which makes sense and is not confusing.
  • 4. PRINCIPLES OF ORGANIZING AN ARGUMENTATIVE ESSAY III
    • 4. Be complete . The position argued for should be supported fully and adequately, but not exhaustively if the topic is too large for such thorough treatment.
      • anticipate and respond to possible objections .
      • sentences should be complete , and paragraphs should be unified wholes .
      • Both a sentence and a paragraph should usually have a single point to keep things as clear and simple as possible for comprehension .
      • the essay should reach a conclusion . (Note that a conclusion and a summary are different things. Only a long and complicated essay will require a summary.)
  • 5. SUMMARY OF THE PRINCIPLES OF ESSAY ORGANIZATION
    • 1. Focus . Inform the reader of the issue of the essay and your position on it.
    • 2. Stick to the issue . Say only what needs to be said in relation to the topic being considered, and avoid irrelevancies. (Less is more.)
    • 3. Order. Arrange the essays parts in a logical sequence .
    • 4. Be complete .
    • The last three points taken together mean that you should say what needs to be said and only what needs to be said, and do so in an order which makes sense.
  • 6. GOOD WRITING HABITS
    • 1. Use an outline . Either begin by making an outline of the main points of the essay, or write a first draft of the essay, and then make an outline. (M&P recommend the latter method.)
      • The outline should be logical , and the parts of the essay should fit the outline .
    • 2. Revise your work . M&P: Revising is the secret to good writing, and you may have to revise several times.
    • 3. Get another opinion . Revise, if necessary, according to that opinion.
    • 4. Proofread aloud to detect problems with grammar and punctuation .
    • 5. Reread later . When you think that your work is finished put it aside and read it again later. Be critical of yourself. Act as if you are grading someone elses essay.
  • 7. ON WRITING I
    • JS: Both life and writing are challenging. Each is worth taking up for that reason.
    • JS: A man who has written well has at least lived that part of his life well.
    • JS: I have yet to see a pencil, pen, or Pentium act on its own volition to fill a page with either prose or verse. Im not sure, but I think that this says something important about humanity.
  • 8. ON WRITING II
    • JS: Writing is the principle means by which philosophic thoughts become part of the public progress of culture. When a thought expressed is original and true, then something of novel importance has been communicated. When such a thought expressed is also well expressed, then insight and beauty are united in a single intellectual object, and a mind digesting it is doubly rewarded.
  • 9. ON WRITING AND REWRITING
    • JS: As living is mostly reliving, so writing is mostly rewriting. However, there is a notable difference between reliving and rewriting. It is the difference between repetition and revision. Repetition and revision in turn have different consequences. In reliving, the same kind of thing is experienced once again, and its lack of novelty is such as to make it likely that consciousness takes no special note of it. (An exception is works of art.) In rewriting, on the other hand, mind attends to the project of completing something incomplete, of perfecting an imperfection. When the revision is satisfactorily concluded, life is not relived but renewed.
  • 10. ESSAY PROBLEMS I
    • 1. The windy preamble . In this problem the writer delays getting to the point of the paper with introductory remarks that are unnecessary.
      • Solution Avoid the unnecessary , and get to the point .
    • 2. The stream-of-consciousness ramble . Here thoughts are written simply as they occur.
      • Solution O rganize your thoughts in logical order .
    • 3. The knee-jerk reaction . Here only the authors initial response to an issue is considered.
      • Solution Consider the issue in the depth required to treat it properly.
  • 11. ESSAY PROBLEMS II
    • 4. The glancing blow. Issues are addressed indirectly rather than directly .
      • Solution Address issues head on.
    • 5. Let the reader do the work . Reading is made difficult by bad writing involving non sequiturs, abrupt shifts in direction, and huge gaps in logic.
      • Solution Make your writing reader-friendly by writing in a linear, logical fashion.
  • 12. CLARITY
    • A good writer always strives for clarity in his or her writing.
    • The successful communication of thoughts from writer to reader depends on making it clear just what thoughts the writer is attempting to communicate.
    • Difficult ideas can demand difficult expression, but every attempt should be made to be as clear as possible .
    • Deliberate obscurity is an insult to the reader, and may indicate that the author does not understand the subject himself. Unintentional obscurity should be eliminated through rewriting and through getting another opinion.
    • Write as if your life depended on the successful communication of your ideas.
  • 13. PARTS OF DEFINITIONS
    • In any definition, there is the term or expression being defined , and the term or expression that defines .
    • That which is being defined is called the definiendum . (The plural is definienda .)
    • That which defines is called the definiens . (The plural is definientia .)
    • A table ( definiendum ) is a piece of furniture consisting of a smooth flat slab fixed on legs. ( definiens )
    • The early bird catches the worm ( definiendum ) means rise early if you want to be successful. ( definiens )
    • broke ( definiendum ) = penniless ( definiens )
  • 14. TYPES OF DEFINITION AND THEIR PURPOSES I
    • Stipulative definition =df. A definition which introduces an unusual or unfamiliar word, or a coined word, (a neologism ) or gives a new meaning to a familiar word.
    • Example: A concipient, ( definiendum ) as I am using the term, is a subject who produces an object with which an artwork or one of its parts is meant to be identified in virtue of comprehending language which