Writing That Makes Sense, 2nd Edition
626 Pages

Writing That Makes Sense, 2nd Edition


626 Pages


The second edition of Writing That Makes Sense takes students through the fundamentals of the writing process and explores the basic steps of critical thinking. Drawing upon over twenty years of experience teaching college composition and professional writing, David S. Hogsette combines relevant writing pedagogy and practical assignments with the basics of critical thinking to provide students with step-by-step guides for successful academic writing in a variety of rhetorical modes. New in the second edition:
-Expanded discussion of how to write effective thesis statements for informative, persuasive, evaluative, and synthesis essays, including helpful thesis statement templates.
-Extensive templates introducing students to conventions of academic discourse, including integrating outside sources, interacting with other writers' ideas, and dialoguing with multiple perspectives.
-Examples of academic writing from different disciplines illustrating essay titles, abstracts, thesis statements, introductions, conclusions, and voice.
-Expanded discussion of voice in academic writing, including an exploration of active and passive voice constructions in different disciplines and tips on how to edit for clarity.
-A new chapter on writing in the disciplines.
-Updated sample student papers.
-New readings with examples of opposing views and multiple perspectives.



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writing that makes senseWRITING THAT MAKES SENSE
Critical Thinking in College Composition
Second Edition
Critical Tinking in College Composition
Copyright © 2019 David S. Hogsette. All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations in critical
publications or reviews, no part of this book may be reproduced in any manner witho -ut prior writ
ten permission from the publisher. Write: Permissions, Wipf and Stock Publishers, 199 W. 8th Ave.,
Suite 3, Eugene, OR 97401.
Resource Publications
An Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers
199 W. 8th Ave., Suite 3
Eugene, OR 97401
paperback isbn: 978-1-5326-5008-6
hardcover isbn: 978-1-5326-5009-3
ebook isbn: 978-1-5326-5010-9
Manufactured in the U.S.A. October 24, 2019
Text credits, which constitute an extension of the copyright page, appear at the back of this book.Brief Contents
Acknowledgements | xix
Introduction: What Am I Trying to Say, Anyway, and Why Does It Even
Matter? | 1
part one: Composition and Critical Tinking
1 Writing as Process: Overcoming the Blank P| a15 ge
2 Understanding Rhetoric: Achieving Your Goals in W | r52iting
3 Organizing and Developing Your Toughts with Parag| ra71phs
4 Fundamentals of Critical Tin|k in103 g
5 Steps for Efective Critical Tin | k 131ing
6 Voice in Academic Writin |g 151
part two: Academic Modes of Writing
7 What Does an Essay Look Like?| 175
8 Informative Writing and Repor|t in212 g
9 Critical Evaluatio| n 229
10 Argumentation and Persuasive Writ| in257g
11 Synthesis and Discover | y298
12 Collaborative Writing Proj|e c321ts
13 Introduction to Information Literacy and Research W| 333riting
14 Writing in the Disciplin|es 372
part three: A Critical Tinking Reader
15 Readings | 393
Appendix A: Tesis Templates | 587
Appendix B: Verb Phrases Templates for Integrating Source Material | 594
Credits | 599
Bibliography | 603Detailed Contents
Acknowledgements | viii
Introduction: What Am I Trying to Say, Anyway, and Why Does It Even
Matter? | 1
Introduction: Writing and Academi | 1a
Tinking Being or a Reactive Mechani | sm2
Tinking to Write and Writing to Tin | 4k
Writing as Discover | y5
Writing as Expressio|n 7
Writing and the Consequences of I|de 8as
Conclusion: Considering the Ethics of Writing and Tin | 10 king
part one: Composition and Critical Tinking
1 Writing as Process: Overcoming the Blank P| a15 ge
Questions to Consider Before Readin| 15 g
Introduction | 15
Understanding the Writing Task and the Rhetorical S | i16tuation
Writing as Process, Not Just Prod| uc18 t
Six General Steps in the Writing Pro|ces 19 s
Student Example | 36
Invention | 37
Early Draf| 40
Revised Draf | 43
Conclusion | 49
Discussion Question|s 50
Group Activities | 50
Writing Activities| 51
2 Understanding Rhetoric: Achieving Your Goals in W | r52iting
Questions to Consider Before Readin| 52 g
Introduction | 52
viid e ta i l e d c o n t e n t s
What Is Rhetoric?| 53
Determining the Rhetorical Situa| t55ion
Using Rhetorical Strateg| ies57
Defnition | 57
Description | 59
Narration | 59
Quotation/Summary/Paraphrase | 60
Process Description/Analysi| 61s
Cause and Efec|t 61
Comparison and Contra|s t62
Analysis | 63
Evaluation | 63
Using Rhetorical Strategies to Develop I| de64as
Using Rhetorical Strategies to Structure E| 65ssays
Personal Narrative Ess| a66y
Defnition/Description Ess|a y67
Process Analysis or How-To Es|s a67y
Comparison/Contrast Essa| y68
Conclusion | 69
Discussion Question|s 69
Group Activities | 70
Writing Activities| 70
3 Organizing and Developing Your Toughts with Parag| ra71phs
Questions to Consider Before Readin| 71 g
Introduction | 71
Te Function of Paragra|p h72s
Qualities of a Good Paragra| 73ph
Establishing Unity with Topic Senten| 74ces
Topic Sentences at the Beginning of Parag| ra75phs
Topic Sentences at the End of Parag|ra 76phs
Topic Sentences at the Beginning and the End of Para| g77raphs
Structuring Coherent Paragra| p78hs
Organize by Spatial Order| 78
Organize by Chronological Or|der 79
Organize by Logical Order| 81
Using Internal Transitions for Coh|er 83ence
How to Develop Paragrap|h 86s
Develop with Narratio| n88
Develop with Comparison and Contra| 89st
viiid e ta i l e d c o n t e n t s
Develop with Illustrations and Exam| p91les
Develop with Defnitio|n s91
Develop with Division or Analysi| 92s
Develop with Classifcat|io 93n
Develop with Cause and Efe| c94t
Develop with Questions and Answ|er 94s
Develop by Combining Strategies| 95
Revising Huge Paragraph| s96
Transitions between Paragra| p99hs
Checklist for Healthy Parag|ra 100phs
Conclusion | 100
Discussion Question|s 101
Group Activities | 101
Writing Activities| 102
4 Fundamentals of Critical Tin|k in103 g
Questions to Consider before Readin| 103g
Introduction | 103
What Is Critical Tinkin|g? 105
First Principles | 106
Principle of Noncontradic|t io107n
Principle of the Excluded Midd| 108le
Principle of Ident|i t109y
Principle of Rational Infer | en110ce
Principle of Causali| t 111y
Forming and Evaluating Basic Logical Argum | en112 ts
Avoiding Logical Fallacies| 118
Afrming the Consequent | 118
Denying the Anteceden | t119
Ad Hominem Attacks | 119
Guilt by Associatio|n 120
Genetic Fallac | y120
Straw Man Attac|ks 121
Red Herring| 122
Begging the Questio|n 122
Non Sequitur| 123
Oversimplifcation | 123
Either-Or Fallac | y124
Hasty Generalizatio| n 124
Avoiding Emotional Fallacies| 125
ixd e ta i l e d c o n t e n t s
Appeal to Pity| 125
Flattery | 126
In-Crowd Appeal| 126
Bandwagon Appeal| 126
Veiled Treat| 127
False Analog|y 128
Conclusion | 129
Discussion Question|s 129
Group Activities | 130
Writing Activities| 130
5 Steps for Efective Critical Tin | k 131ing
Questions to Consider Before Readin| 131g
Introduction | 131
Step 1: Understanding What Is Being Sa | id133
Open-Mindedness and Toleran| ce133
Analysis | 135
Summary | 136
Step 2: Evaluating What Is Being Sa | id137
Evaluation | 137
Evaluating Arguments, Presuppositions, Principles, and
Assumptions | 138
Step 3: Establishing Your Critical Posi | t141ion
Examining an Example: Moral Relativ|i sm142
1. Understand the Statemen| 142t
2. Critically Evaluate the Argum | en143 t
3. Establish Your Positio |n 147
Critically Evaluating Your Own Wr| it148ing
Checklist for Critical Tin|k 148ing
Conclusion | 149
Discussion Question|s 149
Group Activities | 149
Writing Activities| 150
6 Voice in Academic Writin |g 151
Questions to Consider Before Readin| 151g
Introduction | 151
What Is Voice? | 152
Voice and the Rhetorical Situa|t io153 n
Why Is Voice Important?| 155
How to Establish Voice in Your Writ| in157g
xd e ta i l e d c o n t e n t s
Diction | 158
Tone | 158
Creative Comma Usag|e 160
Creative Use of Punctuat| io161n
Vary Sentence Structure and Len | gt162h
Considering Active and Passive Voice | 164
Basic Strategies for Revising Sentences to Achieve a Cle | a166r Voice
Voice and Academic Writin | g168
Examples of Voice in Academic Writ|in 169g
Conclusion | 171
Discussion Question|s 171
Group Activities | 172
Writing Activities| 172
part two: Academic Modes of Writing
7 What Does an Essay Look Like?| 175
Questions to Consider Before Readin| 175g
Introduction | 175
Form, Function, and Meanin|g 176
Is the Whole the Sum of Its Pa|r ts?177
Title | 178
Abstract | 180
Introduction | 183
Tesis Statement | 191
Body Paragraphs | 192
Transition|s 193
Section Headings | 194
Conclusion | 195
List of Sources| 202
Annotated Student Ess|a y203
Conclusion | 210
Discussion Question|s 210
Group Activities | 210
Writing Activities| 211
8 Informative Writing and Repor|t in212 g
Questions to Consider Before Readin| 212g
Introduction | 212
What Is Expository Writin|g? 213
Critically Tinking about Your Inform |a 214tion
xid e ta i l e d c o n t e n t s
Writing the Expository Essay or Informational R| ep215 ort
Professional Examp|le 219
Student Example | 223
Checklist for Writing the Expository Essay or Information| a227l Report
Conclusion | 227
Discussion Question|s 228
Group Activities | 228
Writing Activities| 228
9 Critical Evaluatio| n 229
Questions to Consider Before Readin| 229g
Introduction | 229
What Is Critical Evaluatio| 230n?
Evaluation and Critical Tink| in232g
Writing the Critical Evalua| t233ion
Te Critical Evaluation Es|s a237y
Article for Evaluation | 237
Critical Evaluation Essay of “Human Cloning?: Don’t Just Say
No” | 239
Te Academic Book Review| 243
Professional Book Review Example | 246
Student Book Review Example | 249
Checklist for Writing the Critical Eva |l u254ation
Conclusion | 254
Discussion Question|s 255
Group Activities | 255
Writing Activities| 255
10 Argumentation and Persuasive Writ| in257g
Questions to Consider Before Readin| 257g
Introduction | 257
Purposes of Argumentatio| 258n
To Win the Debat|e 258
To Convince or To Persu|ade 259
To Reach a Decisio | n259
To Call to Actio| n259
To Meditate on an Iss|ue 260
Writing the Persuasive Ess| a260y
Choosing a Controversial T|o p260ic
Composing an Argumentative Tesis Statem | en261t
Planning and Organizing the Argumentative P | a263per
xiid e ta i l e d c o n t e n t s
Using Outside Sources | 269
Critical Tinking and the Persuasive P|a p270er
Analyzing and Strengthening Your Posi|t io270 n
Assessing and Refuting Oppositional Perspec| t271ives
Making Logical Appeal| s279
Inductive Reasoning | 279
Deductive Reasonin|g 279
Abductive Reasonin|g 280
Avoiding Logical Fallacies| 280
Making Emotional Appeal| s281
Crafing Languag| e 282
Appealing to Specifc Audiences| 282
Avoiding Emotional Fallacies| 282
Establishing Credibili |t y283
Establishing Common Ground | 283
Demonstrating Knowledg| e284
Demonstrating Fairnes| s284
Avoiding Logical and Emotional Fall|acies 285
Professional Examp|le 285
Student Example | 289
Checklist for Writing the Persuasive P| 295aper
Conclusion | 296
Discussion Question|s 296
Group Activities | 296
Writing Activities| 297
11 Synthesis and Discover | y298
Questions to Consider Before Readin| 298g
Introduction | 298
Discovering Your Focus and Voice| 299
Integrating Other Voices into Your W | o299rk
Critical Tinking and Synthesi| 300s
Writing the Synthesis Ess|a y302
Professional Examp|le 307
Student Example | 312
Checklist for Writing the Synthesis E| 318ssay
Conclusion | 318
Discussion Question|s 319
Group Activities | 319
Writing Activities| 320
xiiid e ta i l e d c o n t e n t s
12 Collaborative Writing Proj|e c321ts
Questions to Consider Before Readin| 321g
Introduction | 321
Types of Collaborat| io322n
Producing a Single Document or Pro|j e322ct
Peer Review/Editin|g 323
Strategies for Efective Collabo| ra324tion
Commit to Collaboratio| n324
Be Rationally Open-Minde | d324
Solve Conficts Ear| ly325
Be a Team Player| 325
Do Your Work and Keep Deadlin|es 325
Communicate, Communicate, Communicat| e326
Set the Ground Rules| 327
Consider Team Leader | s327
Team Assessment| 327
Working in Online Collaborative Gr|o u328ps
Get to Know the Team Member| 328s
Clarify the Assignmen| 328t
Make Sure Everyone Knows His/Her Ro| le329
Determine a Team Leader| 329
Stay Focused in Online Chat Sessio | n 329s
Clarify Technology U|s a 330ge
Consider Time Zone Diferences| 330
Conclusion | 330
Discussion Question|s 331
Group Activities | 331
Collaborative Writing Activ | it331ies
13 Introduction to Information Literacy and Research W| 333riting
Questions to Consider Before Readin| 333g
Introduction | 333
What Is Information Literac | 334y?
Why Research?| 335
Information | 335
Audience Awarenes|s 336
Credibility | 336
Authority| 336
Avoiding Plagiarism| 337
Basics of Researc| h 338
Preliminary Researc|h 338
xivd e ta i l e d c o n t e n t s
Questions and Quests| 339
Research Strategies| 340
Basics of Research Writ|in 342g
Invention | 343
Planning | 350
Writing | 353
Basics of Citatio| n365
Journalistic Attribut|io 365n
MLA | 366
APA | 366
Chicago Style| 367
CSE Style | 367
ASME Style | 367
Checklist for Writing the Research P| 368aper
Conclusion | 369
Discussion Question|s 369
Group Activities | 370
Writing Activities| 370
14 Writing in the Disciplin|es 372
Questions to Consider Before Readin| 372g
Introduction | 372
Commonalities Shared by the Diferent Discip|lin 373es
Distinctive Aspects of the Diferent Disci|p lin375 es
Humanities | 375
Economics and Business| 376
Social Sciences | 377
Natural and Applied Sciences| 378
Types of Writing Assignments You Might Enco|un 380ter
Humanities | 380
Economics and Business| 381
Social Sciences | 383
Natural and Applied Sciences| 385
Conclusion | 386
Discussion Question|s 387
Group Activities | 388
Writing Activities| 388
part three: A Critical Tinking Reader
15 Readings | 393
xvd e ta i l e d c o n t e n t s
Science and Faith| 393
C. S. Lewis, Religion and Science | 393
William Lane Craig, What Is the Relation between Science and
Religion? | 397
Jonathan Witt, Te Gods Must Be Tidy: Is the Cosmos a Work of Poor
Engineering or the Gif of an Artistic Designer? | 407
Sam Harris, An Atheist Manifesto | 417
William Lane Craig, Does God Exist?| 427
Transhumanism: What It Means to be Hum| a440n
John Coleman, Better Tan Human: Te Transhumanist Transition to a
Technological Futur e| 440
Terry Graves, Te Demolition of Man | 447
Nick Bostrom, In Defense of Posthuman Dignity | 464
Wesley J. Smith, What’s Love Got to Do with Transhumanism? | 475
Sex and Sexuality| 478
Frederica Mathewes-Green, Bodies of Evidence: Te Real Meaning of Sex
Is Right Before Our Eyes | 478
J. Budziszewski, Designed for Sex: What We Lose When We Forget What
Sex Is For | 487
R. V. Young, Te Gay Invention: Homosexuality Is a Linguistic as Well as
a Moral Error | 497
J. Budziszewski, So-Called Marriage | 507
Rosaria Butterfeld, Don’t Leave Your Husband | 512
Michelle Cretella, I’m a Pediatrician. How Transgender Ideology Has
Infltrated My Field and Produced Large-Scale Child Abuse. | 516
Ryan T. Anderson, Sex Reassignment Doesn’t Work. Here Is the
Evidence. | 524
Te Complexities of Abortio| n533
Rachel M. MacNair, Te Nightmares of Choice: Te Psychological Efects
of Performing Abortion s| 533
W. Ross Blackburn, Te Destroyer of Peace: Abortion as a Matter of
National Welfare | 541
Janice Shaw Crouse, Unsafe, Deadly, and Legal | 545
David Mills, Defending the Indefensible | 549
Francis J. Beckwith, Who and What Are We? (What the Abortion Debate
Is Really About) | 554
Economics and Social Responsibili| t558y
Joseph Pearce, What Is Distributism ?| 558
John C. Medaille, Equity and Equilibrium: Te Political Economy of
Distributism | 562
Tomas E. Woods, Jr., What’s Wrong with “Distributism” ?| 571
Lawrence W. Reed, Rendering unto Caesar: Was Jesus a Socialist? | 577
xvid e ta i l e d c o n t e n t s
Appendix A: Tesis Templates| 587
Informative Writin| g587
Critical Evaluatio| n589
Argumentation and Persuasive Writ| in590g
Synthesis Writin|g 592
Appendix B: Verb Phrases Templates for Integrating Source M| 594aterial
Verbs for Signal Phra|s es594
Templates for Integrating Information and Perspectives into Your
Writing | 594
Credits | 599
Bibliography | 603
I would lIke to thank the writing faculty at Grove City College for t- heir encour
agement, support, and constructive feedback throughout the process of writing and
revising this second edition: Adam Loretto, Cindy Marsch, Josh Mayo, and Rebecca
Rine. I am indebted to Rebecca Rine’s copyediting that focused my prose, refned my
thinking, and sharpened my pedagogy. A very special thanks to Caroline Lindey, my
student assistant, who researched, reviewed, and organized several new essays and
articles that were included in the updated reader section. Finally, I would like to thank
all of my students, who challenge me each day to rethink and revise my teaching.
What Am I Trying to Say, Anyway, and Why Does It Even Matter?
Introduction: Writing and Academia
welcome to the world of academic writing! As you progress through your
composition course, explore liberal arts classes, and pursue your major coursework,
hopefully, you will come to recognize that academic writing engages pe-ople on a va
riety of levels, intellectually, emotionally, culturally, and even spiritually. Persevering
through the various assignments and activities in your composition class will prepare
you to meet the writing challenges of your other college courses and equip you to
participate in the ongoing intellectual discussions that pervade the academic arena.
Over the course of your college career, you will encounter pages upon p -ages of schol
arly prose, and you will write pages and pages of academic papers. Academia is all
about discovering ideas and sharing knowledge through writing and o-ral presenta
tions; therefore, succeeding in the academy hinges upon efective thinking, writing,
and communication.
In other words, formulating your thoughts clearly, organizing yo-ur ideas logi
cally, and expressing your conclusions efectively are extremely important. But why?
We all rightly assume that we need to learn how to think critically and that we should
develop and hone our writing skills. But why is this the case? Sure, there are pragmatic
reasons like achieving good grades or successfully communicating ideas to others.
But, again, why does that matter? Even if we grant the pragmatic reasons, what drives
our quest to improve our skill at writing? Ultimately, whether we acknowledge it or
not, we learn to write because we assume that there is such a thing as meaning that
can be subjectively created and objectively understood by others. We write because we
have something to say.
When we make learning to write a priority, we recognize that we ar-e not solip
sistic beings existing in micro-universes of our own creation and that we necessarily
live, move, and have our being in relationship with other thinking, communicative,
and communal beings similar to ourselves. With just a little bit of refection, I think
we can agree that in order to write, we need to be able to think, because writing, afer
all, is the material expression of our immaterial thinking. If this is true, then it follows
1i n t r o d u c t i o n
that we must be thinking beings who are both physical agents in a material world and
non-physical volitional beings who can express immaterial thoughts through physical
media, like our bodies (speech, facial expressions, gestures, and postures), co- mput
ers, smartphones, and good ol’ pen and paper. Ultimately, writing matters because
thinking matters, and thinking can occur precisely because we are more than reactive,
physical automata. We are unique, thinking beings.
Thinking Being or a Reactive Mechanism
Have you ever considered what it really means to be a thinking being? What is this
thing called “mind,” and what exactly is thinking? Clearly, we cannot emp-irically mea
sure the mind: we don’t know what it looks like, what color it is, how large it is, or how
much it weighs. Te mind is immaterial, yet it exists all the same. We can point to the
brain as material matter, but the imis nndot merely brain. Indeed, the existence and
function of the mind has something to do with the brain, but it is a problem- atic reduc
tion in logic (a fallacy or error) to suggest that mind is nothing but brain. Tere are
some people who believe the mind is not real, or that it is merely a chemical reaction
of the brain. Ironically, a person must have a mind in order to even develop and then
utter the statement that there is no actual mind.
Perhaps you are still unsure that the mind and the brain are distinct. Let’s assume
for a moment that only matter and energy exist—that there is no such thing as the
immaterial, the metaphysical, or the spiritual. What would it mean if this were true?
Well, for starters, we would have a hard time explaining our discussion right now—
how could you be conceptualizing a strictly materialistic world within the immaterial
mind if in fact the immaterial does not really exist? Toughts and con-cepts are im
material, so you wouldn’t even be able to think conceptually about these questions if
there were no such thing as the immaterial. Science would have a hard time doing its
work, too, since scientifc practice depends so much upon numbers, which a- re imma
terial concepts describing quantity. Also, scientifc precepts, principles, theories, and
presuppositions are immaterial and could not exist in a strictly materialistic universe.
Isn’t it interesting that it requires the immaterial mind to even posit the possibility that
there is no immaterial reality?
A strictly materialistic reality in which there is absolutely no immateriality is
a pretty disturbing possibility. People who are attracted to this mater-ialistic world
view for one reason or another must still deal with the undeniable reality of mind
and mindfulness. Tey implicitly understand the deeper spiritual consequences of
acknowledging a mind that is separate from the body, and they do not want this to
be true because it raises what can be uncomfortable questions about morality and
personal autonomy. Realizing that it is quite difcult to ignore or refute the existence
of the mind as a signifcant metaphysical reality, some try to redefne mind and
thoughts as mere illusions presented to us by the brain. Others claim that the mind is
2i n t r o d u c t i o n
the “shadow” of the physical processes of the brain, or that it is an “epiphenomenon”
of the brain (a by-product or a phenomenon that is itself not tangibly real but merely
a consequence of something else, in this case, the brain).
Tese ideas are fascinating possibilities. But let’s explore the logical ramifcations
of such views. If the mind is mere illusion, then so too are emotions, thoughts, ideas,
feelings, loves, fears, cares, concerns, desires, joy, sadness, right, wrong, good, bad,
victory, defeat, and so on. Te various things that give life meaning are immaterial
values, “things” associated with the mind that are, in the materialistic worldview, mere
illusion and ultimately meaningless. But are these values truly illusory and without
any real meaning? Moreover, without mind that actually exists, there is no free will.
Tink about it: free will requires choice and the ability to make choices, and the ability
to choose requires a thinking mind capable of rational decision making. If there is no
actual mind, then there is no real faculty of reason; if there is no reason, then there is
no ability to make actual rational choices; if there is no ability to make real choices,
then there is no free will.
In short, in the absence of mind, there is no real freedom, and we are merely
reactive mechanisms. But don’t our everyday experiences and basic common sense
tell us that we have freedom of mind and are thus more than mere reactive
mechanisms or biological robots? Another consideration on this point: if we ar-e merely reac
tive mechanisms, then we are not moral agents who choose to do good or to do evil.
Rather, we are merely reacting to our environment according to a program written in
our DNA. If we are merely reactive mechanisms, then how can we be moral beings
who choose to behave in certain ways? We cannot. And, if we are not moral agents,
then we cannot be, nor should we ever be, held accountable for our actions. Tis is a
frightening possibility, to say the least.
Te fact that you are reading these words and thinking about these ideas strongly
suggests that you are more than a mere biochemical mechanism. You are in no way
materialistically compelled to read these words. You could decide on your own to
close the book. I’m hoping that you won’t, but aren’t you free to do so? Of course,
ramifcations would ensue from that choice, like not learning some im-portant con
cepts or receiving a low grade on an assignment based on the content of this book.
My point is that thinking through these choices and making a decision (hopefully, the
right one) requires a rational mind that is real and not illusory.
In other words, you are more than a mere mechanism. You are a thinking being.
As a thinking being you have an immaterial mind, and there is a metaph-ysical as
pect to your material existence that allows for reason, imagination, thinking, feeling,
creativity, and willfulness. Tese metaphysical qualities are what make you uniquely
you. You are a being, not a mere thing , and as a being you are more than just material
substance. In addition to a body, you have a mind, and thus you are not merely a
reactive mechanism but, rather, a thinking being. Only thinking beings are able to
write, because writing is the material manifestation on paper or on a screen of the
3i n t r o d u c t i o n
thoughts you produce freely in your mind. Writing is the material expression of your
immaterial thoughts.
Thinking to Write and Writing to Think
If we were nothing more than material bodies and if our minds were really nothing
but mechanical brain, then it really wouldn’t matter one whit what you, I, or anyone
had to say. Speaking or writing would be a mere reaction to external stimuli beyond
our control. If we are nothing more than complex machines, then nothing we have to
say to ourselves or anyone else is of any ultimate importance. Yet, we seem to know
implicitly that we as individuals and as communities of individuals do -in fact mat
ter and that what we say very ofen is important. Since we are indeed much more
than mere matter in motion, since we have minds that are aware of ourselves and our
relationship to the world around us, and since we have a metaphysical quality that is
characterized by volition (will) and that shapes our identity, then we do have value
beyond our material composition, and what we have to say matters very much. What
we say, how we say it, why we say it, and to whom we say it make all the diference in
the world, and it is precisely these acts of thinking, speaking, and writing that help us
discover the meaning of our lives, understand this world in which we li -ve, and com
municate our discoveries and ideas to other thinking beings.
Good writing, therefore, depends upon good thinking. In order for us to develop
and communicate our thoughts through writing, we have to be able to think. Tinking
not only establishes our being and our identity, but thinking also is the foundation
for our writing. Consider this: Can someone with an empty mind write? Arguably,
we really cannot achieve a totally empty mind, because even the concept o- f nothing
ness in our minds is itself a cognitive something that occupies our thoughts. In some
philosophical worldviews, the empty mind is that which is ultimately sought. Yet even
in these systems of thought, the reality of total and utter cognitive emptiness or no
mindedness is recognized as ultimately unobtainable, at least without the destruction
of the self (which, indeed, some Eastern religions seek). Tink about it. One cannot
ever totally empty the mind of all things unless the mind is utterly annihilated, at
which point the thinking self no longer exists and there is no longer any individual
mind (because it either ceases to exist, or as some Eastern philosophies suggest, it
transcends to the oneness of being—either way, the thinking self no longer exists).
In the absence of mind, there can be no thinking self and thus no writing. So, we are
back to the beginning—there must be a thinking mind for there to be any writing.
Our thinking is what informs our writing and calls it into being.
Yet, this process of translating thinking into writing is not exclusively a linear
progression. In other words, the path from thinking to writing is not a one-way street.
Rather, there exists a recursive process from thinking to writing and from writing to
thinking. In addition to thinking in order to write, we also write in order to think.
4i n t r o d u c t i o n
Writing informs and develops our thinking. Indeed, if we were mere unthinking,
mindless, mechanical clockworks (or wind-up toys), then our writing would be mere
reactionary refex, determined by some programmed response or procedure that
would be completely independent of any kind of self-conscious mindfulness. In such
a scenario, writing would have no connection whatsoever to thinking, for there would
be no actual thinking at all, and writing would merely be a robotic opera- tion. How
ever, because we are thinking beings, our writing grows out of our thinking, and our
writing can then allow us to refect back upon our thinking and then encourage more
thinking. Terein we fnd the recursive nature of thinking leading to writing that leads
to more thinking. Terefore, good writing and good thinking are mutually dependent
and complementary cognitive operations.
Writing as Discovery
Writing and thinking are recursively interactive, but to what end? Are we simply
trapped in an endless loop of thinking, writing, thinking, writing, thinking, writing,
ad infnitum? It is common these days to value a process over the product resulting
from the process, and there are some constructive points to be made here, as we’ll
see in chapter 1. Process is undeniably important. However, there is a problem with
overemphasizing process to the utter diminishment or even exclusion of product. It’s
similar to the aphorism that says life is all about the journey, as if it doesn’t matter at all
where we end up. If we apply this adage to a real situation, say traveling on a road that
leads to an abyss as opposed to traveling on a road that leads to a comfortable lodge,
then we see that traveling is not just about the journey alone. It does matter very much
what road we are on and the ultimate destination of that road. Not thinking about the
end of a process is, ultimately, irrational, not to mention immensely impractical and,
in some cases, potentially dangerous. So, what is the end or goal or purpose of writing
and thinking? Te discovery of knowledge and truth.
Wait a minute. What’s this about knowledge and truth? Hasn’t the co -llective wis
dom of the great thinkers of Western civilization from the ancient skeptics and cynics,
to the eighteenth-century Enlightenment, and on to the postmodern cultural critics
taught us that truth is relative and that we really cannot know anythin -g with great cer
tainty? Indeed, many people today do believe that truth is relative and that knowledge
is at best uncertain. If these people are right, then why am I saying that the purpose
of thinking and writing is the discovery of knowledge and truth? We will discuss this
a bit more in chapters 4 and 5, but sufce it to say at this point that the perspectives
claiming there is no absolute truth and that knowledge is unknowable are actually
self-defeating statements. Tose who hold these beliefs presuppose that it is absolutely
true that there is no absolute truth, and they seem to know with great certainty that
we cannot know anything with any certainty. See the problem? Uttering these claims
5i n t r o d u c t i o n
actually falsifes them and demonstrates they are not true. Yet, many go on believing
quite adamantly that these ideas are fundamentally true.
I encourage you to think a bit more deeply about such contemporary claims.
Many people today believe that knowledge is a mere personal or socia-l or histori
cal construction. Tey believe that knowledge is not true in any ultimate sense, but
that knowledge is capriciously created by groups of people within certain historical
time periods and cultural contexts and that these people groups asser -t the knowl
edge as true to establish their own arbitrary power and subjective authority over
others. According to this view (ofen called constructivism), knowledge is a mere
social construction that is true or false depending upon what the constructors of the
knowledge happen to believe. Constructivism teaches that apparent truth is based
primarily upon what we believe to be true, and that truth has no objective meaning,
value, or legitimacy beyond what an individual or culture happens to believe. Te
value of any knowledge, constructivism suggests, is determined by the community
constructing the knowledge. Moreover, adherents of this view of knowledge are less
concerned about knowledge being true and are more interested in it being efcacious.
If it works to the satisfaction of the group or the community considering the idea, then
the knowledge is considered valid or viable but not necessarily true.
Te obvious problem with this constructivist notion of knowledge is that frst it
assumes its own view to be true in an absolute sense, even as it denies the reality of
absolute truth. In other words, it assumes its own view to be an accurate description
of reality, even though it denies the existence of any absolute by which to determine if
a view accurately corresponds to reality or not. As such, it contradicts its own view of
reality and the nature of truth. Second, constructivism assumes that all knowledge is
mere social construction and that the validity and signifcance of know-ledge is social
ly, culturally, and historically contingent. But if this is true for all knowledge, then it is
equally true for constructivism as a knowledge system (an epistemology). Terefore,
there is no reason for you or me to accept this theory of knowledge over any other
theory of knowledge, since all knowledge is supposedly communally constructed and
only relatively truthful. If you wanted to, you could simply dismiss this v- iew as a con
structed bit of knowledge, because it was created by other people and is not relevant to
your lived experience or your own individually or socially constructed understanding
of reality. In other words, there is no rational basis to accept constructivism as being
any truer than any other concept about the nature of reality, knowledge, and truth.
(Yet, proponents of constructivism want other people to accept it as true, and as true
to the exclusion of other perspectives on truth and knowledge.)
So, what’s the larger point to this analysis of the self-defeating na-ture of construc
tivism? Mainly, I want us to realize that thinking and writing are ultimately about the
discovery of knowledge and truth, not the construction of it. Sure, people may create
a new bit of knowledge, or they may fashion a particular understanding of reality.
However, we must distinguish the objective truth of reality that is discovered from
6i n t r o d u c t i o n
the construction of knowledge that is an expression of what one understands about
that discovered truth and how it corresponds to reality. For example, when Sir Isaac
Newton theorized about gravity, he didn’t construct the truth of gravity itself; rather,
he formalized an understanding of reality (principles of gravity). He did not create or
construct the laws and principles of gravity; rather, he discovered them, and he then
constructed his specifc, formalized understanding of gravity.
His process of thinking, writing, testing, and questioning led him to m - ore think
ing and writing and questioning, which led him to formulate his various postulates
concerning the laws of gravity. He did not construct this truth such that it was a
relative truth contingent upon the society and historical period in which he worked.
Rather, he discovered a truth that has always been true as part and par-cel of the cre
ated universe, and his process of thinking and writing made it collectively known
to others during his life and for centuries ever since. In a very similar way, our own
processes of thinking and writing lead us to discover truths that are objective and
universal, and then through more thinking and writing we construct the specifc ways
in which we understand these truths. Truth is discovered, and our knowledge of truth
is subsequently constructed. Writing and thinking are dynamic acts of discovery, and
they are processes as wondrous and mysterious as the mind itself. When you think
and write, what do you expect to happen? I encourage you to expect wonder, mystery,
and discovery.
Writing as Expression
Writing is an act of discovery, and very ofen this can be self-discover-y. But, the dis
covery is not limited to what we learn about ourselves; we also learn about the external
world and our relationship to it. Clearly, we are not alone in this world. Terefore,
what we discover and learn through our writing and thinking may actually help others
learn various truths and delight in the knowledge discovered through t -heir own writ
ing and thinking. Writing, then, should be viewed as more than mere self-discovery
and self-communication, although writing does involve communication with the self.
We carry out conversations, debates, discussions, rants, diatribes, and orations in our
own minds all the time. Come on, admit it. You’ve done this, too. It’s perfectly normal.
Some writers call this the writer’s mind or writer-based prose. Such wr-iting is com
posed with the author in mind as the audience. It is the writer writing to him- o- r her
self. Self-expression, or writing to oneself, is the start of good writing and discovery.
However, at some point good writers move beyond this self-communication, and
they desire to share what is going on in their heads with others. True communication,
therefore, is the formation of community through the expression of thoughts and ideas
common to the group. Community is the desire to fnd unity within the diversity of
many. In a community, people join in an intimate state of unity or together- ness, shar
ing common goals, interests, concerns, hopes, dreams, and desires. We achieve this
7i n t r o d u c t i o n
mutual sensitivity through the expression of ourselves to others through language.
Community is achieved through communication. Terefore, writing must at some
point move beyond the self and reach out to and invite in other people. Indeed, the
self and the other may never meet. We are not required nor compelled to embrace all
things or to accept all ideas; however, thinking and writing enable us to express the
self so as to approach the other in a community of thought and emotion.
Trough the interchange of expressive selves, mutual understanding can be
reached, and in some cases, we can even achieve true intimacy in a community of
shared ideas. Such a blessing of intimacy is rare, and it should be cherished when
accomplished in spirit and in truth. At other times, such expression reveals too great
a gulf, such that the self and the other shall never meet. Tis disconn- ect is not al
ways regrettable, for indeed some things are not to be joined in intimate community.
Tinking and writing allow us to know the self, meet the other, express the self to the
other, and then discern the degree to which community ought to be formed. As you
explore writing and thinking, try to move beyond the notion that writing is merely
another tool by which you accomplish your academic goals. Writing is indeed crucial
for academic success. However, you should also consider the degree to which writing
is an expression of the self and how your writing can be ofered up as a gif to another
with the potential hope of forming community governed by the spirit of truth.
Writing and the Consequences of Ideas
You may be thinking to yourself, oh come now. What’s all this rubbish abo- ut commu
nity and the spirit of truth? It’s just writing, right? It’s just ideas and thoughts; what’s
the big deal? Aren’t we making way too much of writing with all this philosophical
mumbo jumbo about the community of self and other?
Tis reaction is understandable. Sometimes professors get carried away. But is it
really so unreasonable to view writing and thinking as having profound efects upon
both individuals and communities? We might approach this question by rephrasing it:
what do we risk by not realizing that writing has a powerful infuence upon people and
society? In other words, do ideas and the expression of thought have consequences?
Tis question is vitally important to ask. Many people, both in academia a-nd the gen
eral public, believe that ideas are somehow value neutral, and that thoughts, concepts,
and theories are in themselves amoral or devoid of moral determination and ethical
efect. Is this view reasonable?
Let’s consider frst the relationship between ideas and actions. Do we ever really
act without thinking? OK, sure, we are sometimes scolded by our family and friends
when we do something hurtful or stupid. Tey (rightly) chastise us for not thinking
before we committed a wrongful act or said something really harmful. B- ut are they re
ally saying that our minds were blank or empty and that we weren’t thinking anything
before we said something shameful or behaved immorally? No. What they are saying
8i n t r o d u c t i o n
is that we didn’t think abo ouur st tatements and how they would afect other people,
or that w’t think throu t ghhe ramifcations of our actions upon others around us.
Implicit in the chastisement is the truth that our thoughts, ideas, and behaviors
have consequences, and we can really hurt people when we don’t consider carefully
what we are saying and why we are doing what we are doing. As discussed earlier,
we are thinking beings with real minds, and therefore our actions are related to and
grow out of our thinking processes and cognitive choices. Actions presuppose ideas.
Toughts give rise to behavior. Whether we want to admit it or not, idea-s have conse
quences. Terefore, it matters what we think. It matters very much what we write. As
we learn to think logically and to write critically, let’s carefully consider the ways in
which ideas have consequences. Let’s remember that the thinker and the writer have
ethical responsibilities.
A powerful example from history may serve us well. A painful but undeniable
truth is that the twentieth century was the bloodiest century in recorde- d human his
tory. Hitler’s Nazi government is but one of many murderous regimes we co - uld exam
ine, and the Nazi vision that informed its various policies of genocide and conquest
was not comprised of mere value-neutral ideas. Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor
who went on to become a renowned philosopher and psychologist, once noted:
If we present man with a concept of man which is not true, we may well
corrupt him. When we present him as an automation of refexes, as a mind
machine, as a bundle of instincts, as a pawn of drive and reactions, as mere
product of heredity and environment, we feed the nihilism to which modern
man is, in any case, prone. I became acquainted with the last sta-ge of cor
ruption in my second concentration camp, Auschwitz. Te gas chambers of
Auschwitz were the ultimate consequence of the theory that man is nothing
but the product of heredity and environment—or, as the Nazis liked to say, “of
blood and soil.” I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz,
Treblinka, and Maidanek were ultimately prepared not in some ministry or
other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and in lecture halls of nihilistic
scien1tists and philosophers.
Tink about that for a moment. Frankl clearly says that theories (ide -as) have con
sequences. He explains, quite convincingly, that what some philosophers a- nd scien
tists believed and taught had a very real efect upon millions of people’s lives. Tese
philosophers and scientists wrote books and taught ideas that basically denied the
reality of the metaphysical and presupposed that the human being is nothing but bits
of material randomly and violently thrown into an arbitrary universe that is devoid
of meaning and purpose. Some may think these are value-neutral philosophical
musings or harmless scientifc theories, but Frankl encourages us to con-sider the his
torical consequences of these ideas upon individuals, families, communities, cultures,
1. Frankl, Te Doctor and the Soul, xxi.
9i n t r o d u c t i o n
nations, and civilizations. Tese ideas were not value neutral; rather, they were built
upon controversial assumptions about the nature of reality and the human being, and
they served as the presuppositional framework upon which the cruel and immoral
policies of the Nazis were built.
A plaque in Auschwitz displays these words from Hitler: “I freed Germany
from the stupid and degrading fallacies of conscience and morality . . . We will train
young people before whom the world will tremble. I want young people capable of
2violence—imperious, relentless and cr Muealt.”erialistic, existential, and nihilistic
principles served Hitler’s purposes neatly, efciently, perfectly, and efectively. It is
more than naïve to think ideas are without consequences; it is irresponsible and can
result in horrifcally catastrophic ramifcations. If Hitler’s regime seems an extreme
and isolated example, consider Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Union, Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge
of Cambodia, Mao’s China, and Castro’s Cuba. Each of these regimes justifed horrifc
acts of violence with very similar philosophical and ideological views grounded in
3Communism, materialism, existentialism, and nihili Ism.deas have consequences,
and because writing is the expression of ideas, writing itself also has consequences.
Moreover, because there are ramifcations to our thinking and writing, w- e must care
fully consider the moral and ethical dimensions to our writing.
Conclusion: Considering the Ethics of Writing and Thinking
As we learn more about critical thinking and the writing it produces, let us never
forget the fundamental truth that ideas have consequences. It matters very much what
we think, because our thinking directly informs our decisions and determin- es our ac
tions. Remember, we are more than mere matter and energy in motion. We are more
than the product of blood and soil. We are more than reactive robots or mechanistic
clockworks. We are thinking agents with independent reasoning minds that aford us
free will, or the volitional ability to think and act.
However, with free will comes responsibility, because there are al-ways conse
quences to choices. Terefore, we must remember that we are also moral agents who
are responsible for what we think, write, say, and do. When we think up ide - as, formu
late them in writing, and then communicate them to others, we are acting upon and
infuencing other thinking agents. Yes, these agents are responsible for themselves, but
we are also responsible for what we express to others and how we infuence them. If we
convince someone else that an evil act or concept is somehow good, then w- e are ethi
cally responsible for the corruption of another moral being and for th -e misrepresenta
tion of evil as good. Conversely, if we convince someone regarding evil and encourage
2. Zacharias, Te Real Face of Atheism, 62.
3. For a more developed discussion of the horrifc application of materialistic and ni- hilistic ideolo
gies in the twentieth century, see Zacharias, Te Real Face of Atheism, 51–69.
10i n t r o d u c t i o n
that person toward the good through our thinking and writing, then we have served a
powerfully moral end through the means of our thinking and writing.
In short, it is vitally important that we discover and know to the bes-t of our abil
ity exactly what we are trying to say. Moreover, it is equally important that we frmly
understand in our minds and believe in our hearts that it really does matter what we
think, what we write, and what communities we fashion through our communication.
May we fnd our exploration of critical thinking and writing academically fruitful,
and may our lives as explored in thought, expressed in writing, and revealed in action
make a positive diference in this truly wondrous world in which we live.
Composition and Critical Thinking1
Writing as Process
Overcoming the Blank Page
Questions to Consider Before Reading
1. What are your attitudes toward writing?
2. Do you consider yourself a good writer? Why or why not?
3. What do you think are the characteristics of a good writer?
4. How do you approach a writing assignment or task?
Few thIngs are as discouraging to a writer as staring at a blank page. At some
point in our lives, we have all faced this formidable foe by tapping out the rhythm of
a favorite tune with a gnawed pencil, over and over, hoping beyond hope that such
repetitive behavior will somehow cause words and sentences to appear out of thin
air. Even worse is trying to stare down the incessantly blinking cursor at the top of a
completely empty computer screen. Blink . . . blink . . . blink. In such moments this
steady blinking is the only action, and all it does it indicate our own inaction, mocking
our frustrating inability to produce writing.
Why is it sometimes so hard to get started on a writing project? We seem to be
able to start other projects. When is the last time someone experienced gardener’s
block? Do we ever need to prime ourselves to mow the lawn? Sure, we may not want
to mow the lawn, but do we just stare at the mower wondering how to get started?
What about that pick-up game of basketball? Does anyone really stand around staring
blankly at the basketball or hoop, wondering how to begin playing a game? And how
about cooking a nice meal for a friend or the family? Maybe we struggle deciding what
to prepare, but once we decide, do we experience cooker’s block? Probably not.
15pa r t o n e— c o m p o s I t I o n a n d c r I t I c a l t h I n k I n g
But when we sit down to write an essay, a report, a research paper, a memo, or an
important e-mail message, suddenly all kinds of blocks pop up. Tere we are, staring
at the empty page, wondering how to begin, what to write, where to go next with the
ideas running through our minds. Or, if no ideas present themselves, we worry about
getting some ideas into our head so that we can transfer them to the page or computer
screen. Also, most of us lead busy lives. We have things to do, places to go, and people
to see. Notice how all of these activities seem to food our consciousness whenever we
have a signifcant piece of writing to produce. Isn’t it interesting how the phone rings
more frequently, text notifcations increase exponentially, and e-mails food our inbox
whenever we need to write a report or an important letter? When we have a writing
assignment to complete, suddenly we are crazy busy with so many other things that
we cannot fnd the time to write, and when we do fnally carve out a bit of time for
writing, suddenly we do not have anything to say (even though we had been saying
lots of things all day with very little trouble).
Writing isn’t always easy, and our daily lives sometimes make it difcu-lt to com
plete our writing tasks. Tere are two key initial steps to consider when facin- g a writ
ing project. First, commit to spending a signifcant amount of time working on your
writing in a comfortable, personalized writing space. Successful writers note that it
is extremely important to have a familiar space in which to write, and it is equally
important to be disciplined in scheduling blocks of time for writing. Grabbing a few
minutes here and there usually is not sufcient. Try to leave a good hour or so for
each writing session. Second, view writing as a process. Too ofen we shut our creative
minds down by fretting about the fnal product. Such fear of the uncreated or the
unknown stifes the imagination and reduces morale, making it difcult to start the
process. However, if we view writing as a manageable process and focus on the various
stages in appropriate ways, then we can more efectively work our way through the
writing process and complete our task in a timely manner.
Tis chapter provides an overview of the basic stages of the writing process:
invention, planning, drafing, revision, editing, and production. By analyzing these
phases and adapting your writing practices to these principles, you will become a
more productive, confdent, and capable writer. You may not become a Hemingway, a
Toni Morrison, or a Shakespeare (if you do, please let me know!), but you will have a
better understanding of how to engage any writing task and complete it successfully.
Understanding the Writing Task and the Rhetorical Situation
We encounter diferent kinds of writing every day, and believe it or not, w- e are gen
erating quite a bit of that writing ourselves. Everyone, to some extent, is a writer. We
may not view ourselves as such, but it is important that we recognize the degree to
which writing is an integral part of our lives. Try to recall all the writing you did
yesterday or the day before. Maybe you wrote a to-do list or a shopping list, maybe you
16w r i t i n g a s p r o c e s s
wrote a note to your sibling or roommate about cleaning up afer themselves, maybe
you wrote an email to a friend making plans for lunch, maybe you wrote a mushy love
letter to that special someone, maybe you wrote out a nice birthday card, maybe you
texted with a bunch of friends about a movie you just watched, maybe you posted an
insightful entry on a blog site, maybe you posted something on Twitter or retweeted
someone else’s post, maybe you posted a Snapchat image with a short message, maybe
you wrote a bunch of notes in your history class, maybe you wrote an essay exam
for your literature class, maybe you started writing an early draf of your sociology
research paper, and so on. We write more than we think. Let’s face it—we are writers.
It is actually rather difcult for most of us to get through the day without ever writing
something. Let’s start thinking of ourselves as writers.
Okay, so we are writers. But are we good writers? Do we know the criteria for
being a good writer? Tere are some key behaviors, strategies, and practices that mark
a good writer, and we will be learning about them throughout this book. For starters,
a good writer begins by carefully considering the expectations of the writing task or
assignment. Tis is ofen referred to as identifying the rhetorical si. Ituan otiotnher
words, the good writer tries to determine as early as possible the main requirements of
the writing task. To complete the writing project successfully, the writer needs to
understand the purpose for writing, the message being communicated, and the intended
audience for the message. Tese three components make up the rhetorical situation of
a writing task, that is, the context (situation) in which language is used in particular
ways to achieve some goal (rhetoric).
Te purpose is the reason behind the writing, that which motivates or drives the
composition efort. For example, sometimes we write to inform our readers about
some news item or current event. Other times we write to instruct or to explain how
something works or how to perform some task. We see this type of writing in the
technical professions in the form of sets of instructions or manuals. We may write
in order to argue in favor of a point of view or to persuade an opposing audience to
embrace our view on an issue. Sometimes we will need to evaluate the strengths and
weaknesses of a theory or evaluate the quality of book, flm, or dramatic performance.
Afer making an evaluation, we may need to explain and defend a recommendation
based upon that evaluation. Tere are many diferent purposes for writing.
Once we understand our purpose, we need to consider the message of our
writing. What are we trying to communicate? What do we want to give to our readers?
What do we want them to take away from our writing? What is the main point we are
trying to express?
Lastly, we need to consider our readers, our audience. Who is reading our work?
Why are they reading it? How do we expect them to react? How do we want them to
respond? Taking some time to think about these elements of the rhetorical situation
will help us better understand the writing task, and it will aid us in making crucial
17pa r t o n e— c o m p o s I t I o n a n d c r I t I c a l t h I n k I n g
drafing and revision choices later in the writing process. (We will explore rhetoric
and rhetorical situations more fully in chapter 2.)
Writing Tips:
1. At the beginning of all writing tasks, get into the habit of
contemplating your purpose, message, and audience (analyzing the rhetorical
2. Consider writing down your thoughts about the rhetorical situation
of your writing task or assignment. Incorporate this process into the
invention phase of writing (see below).
3. On shorter writing tasks (like emails, texts, or social media posts),
at least consider your purpose, message, and audience in your mind
before you respond and as you write.
Writing as Process, Not Just Product
Before actually beginning to write, good writers frst think about the writing task—
what is the purpose, what is the message, who is the audience? We must men- tally pre
pare ourselves for writing by considering the rhetorical situation of the writing task.
However, even if we understand the rhetorical situation, we sometimes have a difcult
time getting started. We worry about the fnished product to the point of crippling our
ability to begin writing. To avoid experiencing writer’s block or unreasonable anxiety
about writing, we should learn to focus on the process of writing and not obsess about
the fnal product.
But let’s not be naïve: we are judged by our writing. Readers (includin- g profes
sors) do not generally care how long we spent writing a document; they just want it
to be informative, clear, organized, and interesting. How can we make our writing
interesting, engaging, and clear? Te best way to accomplish good, efective writing is
to adopt a process approach to writing. Like all complex procedures or ac -tivities, writ
ing can be better understood if we break it down into its various stages. If we engage
each stage on its own, while keeping in mind how the individual stages contribute to
the larger project, we will be more successful in completing the task. Do you think
Einstein developed his theory of relativity in one step? Even God saw ft to engage a
sequential process when creating the universe, and he rested when he was fnished
(Genesis 1–2). So, it seems reasonable that we also can take a process approach to our
writing (and also enjoy and refect upon what we have written and, hopefully, as God
did about his creation, declare it “good”).
In order to take a process approach to writing, you frst have to consider what
the various stages in the writing process are. Generally speaking, the writing process
is comprised of six main steps. Please note that this is a descriptive model and not a
18w r i t i n g a s p r o c e s s
prescriptive mandate on how to engage writing as process. In other words, this is an
outline revealing the general pattern used by most successful writers; however, these
stages contain a signifcant degree of fexibility.
Each writer engages this process in one form or another. Tat th-ere is a pro
cess to writing is absolute, but how a writer engages this process depends upon the
individual. Once we learn about the various stages in the writing process, it is then
up to us as writers to apply these patterns to our own writing practices. We have to
determine what areas in our own writing process need to be improved and what areas
are already strong.
Good writers continuously refect upon their own writing habits and try to make
adjustments so as to improve their writing with each major writing task. Good writers
also understand that this process is fexible and can be abbreviated or exp- anded de
pending upon the writing task. For example, writing a blog entry is very diferent than
writing a formal research project, but both tasks follow a process. Te exact nature of
the processes will difer, but there is a process for both tasks. To be efective writers, we
need to recognize how to adapt the general writing process to any writing assignment.
With this in mind, let’s examine the basic steps in the writing process.
Six General Steps in the Writing Process
Step 1: Invention
Tis stage is sometimes called prewri btingut t, his term suggests that some creative
cognitive activity is happening betforhee re al writing starts—in other words, that
what happens in this stage is tnruo et writing. But this view misses the point. We begin
to write even before we ofcially start to compose a sin Ingvele nwtio o nr dis . a more
comprehensive term, because in this phase of writing you are creating ide- as, devel
oping content, discovering material, and compiling information. All of this activity
counts as writing, because it is, quite simply, writerly work. You are . inventing
Some writers like to do invention work right from the start, and then refect upon
the rhetorical situation. Most writers fnd this strategy difcult, because how can you
know what to invent if you do not yet have some understanding of the task and the
situation for writing? So, invention may actually begin when you are examining the
rhetorical situation and reviewing the requirements of the writing task. What is the
purpose, what is the message, and who is the audience? Note that you shou-ld continu
ally ask these questions throughout the writing process to help keep you focused on
achieving your rhetorical goals.
Invention doesn’t just occur at the beginning of the writing process. True, you
can invent early in the writing process as you are getting your thoughts together, but
you can also invent later in the drafing and revision stage as you develo-p specifc sec
tions of your paper, report, or essay. Basically, whenever you need to generate material
pa r t o n e— c o m p o s I t I o n a n d c r I t I c a l t h I n k I n g
or information for your document, you can engage in some invention. Below are some
of the key invention strategies that writers use to come up with ideas and content for
their documents. Experiment with these diferent techniques and discover which ones
work best for you. If at some point one technique is not producing good material, then
shif to another one and keep trying to generate content. Consider using a f- ew difer
ent strategies on any given writing assignment.
Brains rmin
Tis strategy involves writing a list of thoughts and ideas that seem to be connected
to your writing assignment or the rhetorical situation. Brainstorming can help you
generate material on a paper topic, or it can even help you discover a topic. Just get
out a sheet of paper or open a blank word processing document and create a bullet
list of words and phrases that pop into your head. Eventually, your mind will focus
upon some issues and themes you fnd important, and you will discover a topic. Or,
you can perform a focused brainstorming session in which you brainstorm about a
topic you already have in mind. Just write the topic heading at the top of the page (or
screen) and then create a bullet list of ideas, concepts, words, and phrases related to
the general topic.
Tis type of invention is associational (leading freely from one t-hought to an
other) and unstructured (no sentences or paragraphs). Do not worry about spelling or
grammar, and do not censor yourself at this point. You are exploring what you already
know and trying to discover what or how much you do not know. You are trying to get
what is in your mind and memory onto the page. You will sort through the material
and make sense of it later. When brainstorming, you are concerned only w-ith transfer
ring information from your head to the page. Te following is an example of a focused
brainstorming session:
Topic: Media Bias
• bias
• slant
• neutrality
• objectivity
• personal feelings
• personal views
• reporter involvement in story
• political perspective
• worldview of reporter
• seeing the world through lenses
• bias is relative
w r i t i n g a s p r o c e s s
• bias is in eye of beholder
• bias is real
• bias is observable
• bias has been documented
• bias afects readers
• need for multiple news outlets
• denial of bias by mainstream press
• vilifcation of those in the press revealing bias
• news as propaganda
• polemics
• opinion versus reporting
• opinion in reporting
• reporting as opinion
Such a list can go on and on. Keep brainstorming until you get tired, rest a bit, and
then brainstorm some more. Te objective is to discover as many ideas as possible.
Ten, you can go back to the list, identify some key issues and points, and group the
content into related sections or categories of thought. (Note: grouping content is the
beginning of planning, which is the second major phase in the writing process.)
Writing Tip:
1. Use the bullet list feature in your word processor and brainstorm
on the computer. Later, you can go back and highlight the ideas that
stand out to you.
2. When brainstorming, resist the temptation to correct mistakes
(spelling and grammar), as this may interfere with the generation of ideas
and material. If you are brainstorming on a computer with a word
processor that identifes errors with colored squiggly lines, try to
ignore them, or turn of the spellcheck function. Avoid the temptation
to hit the Backspace key to make corrections. Just keep typing and
pressing Enter to build your brainstorming list. Do not let your inner
censoring voice interrupt your creative process of generating ideas.
F eewritin
Freewriting is very similar to brainstorming in that it is associational and spontaneous.
However, instead of creating a list of ideas as in brainstorming, freewriting involves
writing out your thoughts in complete sentences. Some people process thoughts in
list form and fnd brainstorming very productive, but others think in sentence form
21pa r t o n e— c o m p o s I t I o n a n d c r I t I c a l t h I n k I n g
and thus fnd freewriting more conducive to generating ideas. Experiment and decide
what works best for you.
When you are freewriting, avoid self-censorship—it does not matter (yet) if the
information is good or interesting, right or wrong, meaningful or nonsensical. Just
write. Do not worry about spelling, grammar, syntax, or clarity. Just write. Get your
ideas out of your head and onto the page or computer screen. Many people set a timer
(ofen for fve or ten minutes) and try to write nonstop until the chime rin- gs. Freewrit
ing can also be used when you have no idea what topic to write about. Just sit down
and start writing whatever comes to mind, and hopefully you may stumble upon a
topic that interests you. Or, if you already have an idea for a topic, write it at the top of
the page and then start writing whatever comes to mind about that topic. Here is an
example of using freewriting to discover a topic:
It is really getting late, and I’m not sure what I want to write about.
I tried to watch some Netfix, but the choices were too overwhelming,
and I could not decide what to watch. Oh, I saw The Lion, the Witch,
and the Wardrobe movie has been added to Netfix. I didn’t see it
when it frst came out in theaters. I loved that book as a child, and
I have such fond memories of it. I sure hope they didn’t mess it up. I
think the same production company that worked on Lord of the Rings
did some design work for LWW. If that’s the case, then it should be
pretty good. I think they did a really good job with the special
effects in LOTR, and I’m sure they learned so much from making those
flms that they can do even more with LWW. I’m really interested in
computer graphics. Maybe I can do a paper on advances in computer
graphics and how they are used in feature flms, particularly
fantasy flms in which the director needs to create a convincing fantasy
realm, like Middle Earth or Narnia.
In just a short period of time, this writer went from no topic at all to a possible topic
on advances in the use of computer graphics in flm. Te writer still has a long way
to go with this topic, but at least there are some ideas and a clear direction for further
invention, development, and planning.
w r i t i n g a s p r o c e s s
Writing Tips:
1. Try to freewrite on the computer using a word processor.
2. Ignore the spelling and grammar indicators in your word processor
as you are freewriting—concentrate on the fow of your ideas. Don’t
worry if you get of-topic for a few lines. Te point isn’t to begin to
draf, but to record your thoughts for later refection.
3. Consider darkening your screen as you are freewriting so that you
do not get hung up on spelling, grammar, and syntax. Or, consider
changing the font color to white (on white background) so that you
cannot see your typing. When you are fnished freewriting, choose
“Select all” from the Edit menu and change the font back to default (or
black) to reveal what you have written. Consider turning the
grammar and spellcheck features of when using this strategy to avoid
being distracted by the colored error indicators.
Branching or Custerin
Tis is another free associational invention strategy, but it is more graphically and
spatially oriented. Visual learners ofen use this invention strategy efectively. When
branching or clustering, start in the middle of the page and write a word or phrase that
comes to mind, usually in relation to some issue or topic you are already considering.
Draw a circle around that word. Ten, when an associated word or thought comes
to mind, write that word down, draw a circle around it, and connect the two bubbles
with a line. Keep doing this until you have a branching mess of clusters on the page.
Tis strategy is challenging for some people and is thus not approp-riate for ev
eryone. But it does have one compelling advantage. When you step back and examine
the resulting web of ideas, you can ofen see organizational patterns emerging. You
can then create an outline from the (apparent) mess on the page. Below is an example
of a cluster session focused on the topic of providing evidence for theism:
23pa r t o n e— c o m p o s I t I o n a n d c r I t I c a l t h I n k I n g
Figure 1: Example of Branching or Clustering
Indeed, theism (the belief in the existence of a personal God) is a comp-lex topic in
volving principles of logic and philosophy as well as empirical scientifc evidence. One
signifcant challenge is how to organize these concepts and data. Tis example cluster
visually organizes some key points, and we can see a logical organization developing
from the clustering process: four lines of argumentation, two philosophical and two
scientifc, each with its own reasoning and supporting evidence. Te clust-ering inven
tion strategy not only helps us generate information, but it can also help us develop
efective organizational plans or outlines for writing an early draf.
w r i t i n g a s p r o c e s s
Writing Tip:
Afer you create a cluster or web, consider conducting a focused
brainstorming or freewriting session, using the cluster as a rough outline for your
Questining or the Juralistic M el
In this invention technique, you basically come up with a series of probing questions
that get you to think more deeply about an issue or topic. You generate information by
attempting to answer the questions as thoroughly and completely as you can. Tink
of yourself as a reporter or investigator and ask questions dealing with who, what,
when, where, why, and how. Te trick is to come up with interesting, meaningful
questions that are open-ended, allow for good contemplation, and help you generate
detailed content. Te better the questions, the more interesting the information you
will generate.
For example, if you are working on a topic dealing with crime on campus, you
might pose such questions as the following:
• Who has experienced crime?
• Who has been perpetrating the crimes?
• Who has been involved in trying to solve these crimes?
• What crimes are being committed?
• What are students doing to protect themselves?
• What are the authorities doing to improve safety?
• What prevention classes or self-defense courses are being ofered?
• When are the crimes occurring?
• When will campus police or security implement new safety policies?
• Were there more or fewer crimes than previous years?
• Where are the crimes taking place?
• Where are the safe zones on campus?
• Why is crime on the rise (or decreasing)?
• Why are certain people or groups targeted?
• Why are certain dorms or buildings or parking lots targeted?
• How can an individual make a diference?
• How can the crime be reduced?
• How can community safety be improved?
Once you formulate your list of questions, you then must answer them to the best
of your ability, thus generating specifc information and details that can be used to
pa r t o n e— c o m p o s I t I o n a n d c r I t I c a l t h I n k I n g
develop your essay. Tis questioning method can reveal rather quickly how much or
how little you actually know about a particular topic. You can then decide how much
additional research you may have to perform in order to complete the essay on that
given topic.
If you are not an expert on a given topic, you will be able to generate only so much
information by yourself. In addition to tapping your own mind, experience, and
memory with your journalistic questions, you may also want to consider interviewing
other knowledgeable people about your topic. You can use the journalistic model to
develop your questions, and then seek out an expert to answer the questions through
an interview. Please note that your roommate or your Uncle Bob are probably not the
best individuals to interview for your academic paper, unless of course they happen to
be leading experts on your topic.
You can interview someone in person, taking careful notes and recor-ding the in
terview (on tape or video), as long as you ask permission frst. Or, you can request an
email interview, in which you simply email the questions and the interviewee replies
to your questions via a reply email. Some individuals may even agree to an interview
over the phone or via texting. Always inform your interviewee when you a- re record
ing the session or if you are planning to save or print any electronic exchanges (like
email, texting, or private Facebook messages). You may also want to specify whether
any quotations will only appear in a paper for a class or may be publicized more
widely. Interviews are common practice in journalistic writing, but they are also used
extensively in professional and academic writing.
Frmal Research
Another key method for gathering information for an academic paper i- s formal re
search. Depending upon the curriculum design of your college composition course,
your instructor may or may not require research when writing your papers. Be sure
to clarify with your instructor any questions you have about the requirements of the
writing assignment before you begin writing, and defnitely before you submit the
fnished draf. You can use many strategies for conducting research, and chapter 13 of
this book provides more detailed information about the research process.
At this point, just remember that your college library, local libra -ry, and vari
ous online database systems ofer excellent resources for fnding information about
a variety of topics. Whenever you are conducting formal research, be sure to follow
appropriate academic standards concerning incorporating material into your own
writing and citing your sources so as to avoid plagiarism. Again, chapter 13 provides
more specifc information on strategies for efective research writing.
26w r i t i n g a s p r o c e s s
Step 2: Planning
Once you have thought about the rhetorical situation (your purpose, message, and
audience), developed some notion of what your topic is, and generated a lot of good
material by using a variety of invention strategies, you then need to decide what to do
with this material. You need to spend some time planning.
Tere are two key aspects of planning in the writing process: planning your time
and planning the document. First, you should plan your time—set deadlines and meet
them. Deadlines are set both externally and internally. External deadlines are those
set by agents outside of yourself, like the instructor or the course syllabus. Te course
may be designed with a series of predetermined deadlines for various pha-ses of the as
signment. Make sure you know about these deadlines and plan your time accordingly.
In other situations, you are only given the fnal assignment deadline. In such cases
you must be disciplined enough to establish your own deadlines, which are known
as internal deadlines. Carefully look over your schedule—other classes, m- ajor assign
ments, work, and socializing—and make reasonable decisions about what can and
cannot be accomplished in the amount of time you have. Create your own deadlines
and stick to them.
Also, if the assignment is a group project or a collaborative paper, consider that
there will be others involved in the process. When working collaboratively, create a
group timeline indicating when diferent parts of the assignment will be due, and
then make sure everyone is accountable to the group so that the project is completed
on time. Sometimes designating a group manager helps keep the group focused and
provides some degree of accountability. (See chapter 12 for more inform- ation on col
laborative writing.) Whether you are writing an individual paper or a collaborative
assignment, practice good time management skills.
In addition to planning your time, you also need to plan your document. You
should have already thought about your purpose, message, and audience (rhetorical
situation), but now is the time to identify these elements more specifcally. It is nearly
impossible to create a plan for writing your essay if you have no idea w-hat your pur
pose is for writing, what basic message you want to convey, and what audience you are
trying to reach. Indeed, writing is discovery, and you may discover more about your
rhetorical context as you write. However, you should try as hard as possible to develop
some clear sense of your rhetorical situation by the time you reach this p- hase of writ
ing. Decide what your purpose is (to inform, to instruct, to persuade, to evaluate, to
entertain), what your message is (your main point or thesis), and who your audience
is (college students, professionals, politicians, friends, family members, s- ome combi
nation of diferent audiences). Related to these considerations are such questions as
how long should the essay be? What kind of sources will your readership think are
legitimate? Will the writing style be more formal or informal? Ten, develop a plan to
write an essay that meets the expectations of this rhetorical situation.
27pa r t o n e— c o m p o s I t I o n a n d c r I t I c a l t h I n k I n g
An efective way to develop a writing plan is to create an outline. At this phase
of writing, I do not recommend an overly rigid outline. However, if you are more
comfortable as a writer with a highly detailed outline, then by all means create one.
But try not to limit yourself too much this early in the writing process. I recommend
creating an electronic outline that is structured enough to provide guidance as you are
writing, but also fexible enough to be altered if you discover a new structural pattern
as you are writing.
In my own experience, I have found electronic outlines to provide a productive
combination of structure and fexibility. In a word processor, I create an outline that
is divided into main sections marked with Roman numeral sections. Within these
sections, I create a bullet-point list of the main issues or topics to be covered in that
section. I don’t worry about numbering these points or making them syntactically
parallel. When I am ready to start writing, I split the word processing screen on my
computer into two spaces—the top is my writing space and the bottom i -s my elec
tronic outline. I keep the outline open as I am writing, so that I can glance down
from my writing space to check my outline and to keep myself focused and on target.
Sometimes as I am writing, I discover a better organization for a section. Because
my outline is a word processing document that is open as I write, I can quickly make
changes to my outline and then continue writing. I have found this to be a v- ery efec
tive writing strategy, in part, because it allows me to keep the big picture in mind even
while I write out sentences and paragraphs. It prevents me from getting too far of
track, but also keeps me from feeling constrained by a too-rigid outline.
Your task as writer is to experiment with diferent strategies and to fnd some that
work well for you. It is necessary to have some kind of plan, road map, or outline to
help guide your writing and to keep you focused. It is up to you as a writer to discover
the best planning or organizational mechanism that will help you be an efective and
efcient writer. Below is an example of using a split screen or multiple windows in a
word processor for drafing an essay. Notice that the electronic outline is open in a
window beneath the draf.
28w r i t i n g a s p r o c e s s
Figure 2: Drafing with Outline in Separate Window
Writing Tip:
When creating your outline, consider using the outline feature in your word
Step 3: Drafing
If you have spent some time generating a signifcant amount of material, planning
your time, and planning your document, then you should have little trouble actually
writing an initial draf. A lot of writing has already been accomplished. Now you just
need to shape the material and make it look like an essay. We call this the drafing
phase of writing. Follow your document plan or outline and write a complete early
draf of the essay. Try to write it straight through if you can, and be sure to have a
beginning, a middle, and an end to your draf.
29pa r t o n e— c o m p o s I t I o n a n d c r I t I c a l t h I n k I n g
Do not get bogged down in grammar, spelling, and sentence structure at this
point. You can worry about these sentence-level issues later in the editing phase. At
this point, you simply want to produce a solid draf that has an introduction, several
supporting paragraphs, and a concluding paragraph. Try not to obsess about each
word or sentence, because afer you revise a few times, that word or sentence may not
even appear in your fnal version. Terefore, any time you spend agonizing over that
word or sentence will be wasted. Your main task during the drafing phase is to follow
your plan or outline and to write a complete rough draf.
Once you have fnished the draf, set it aside for a day or two. Tis will give your
mind time to rest, and it will put some cognitive distance between you and the draf.
When you later sit down to revise it, you will have a fresher, more objec-tive perspec
tive on your work. If you are composing on a computer, which I advise you to do,
consider saving each draf as a new fle by simply renaming the fle using the “Save as”
command in your word processor. By saving each draf separately as a new document,
you will have an electronic trail of the diferent versions of your paper. You never
know what can happen in the writing process. Sometimes, you may take your paper
in a direction that just does not work in the end, and you may decide to go back to an
earlier version and develop it in a diferent direction. You will not be able to do so if
you have saved over the earlier versions. But, if you have been creating new fles for
each new draf, you can easily go back to an earlier draf and pick up where it lef of.
Step 4: Revising
Afer you have rested a bit and have not looked at the draf for a while, go back to it
with a fresh, objective perspective and start revising. Revision means “to see again” or
to look at the draf as if you have never seen it before. Tis is really hard to do. You are
the writer, you basically know what you are trying to say (most of the time), and your
mind does an excellent job of making your unclear writing sound really good in your
head. Have you ever noticed that? You can read something you just wrote and think
it sounds wonderful. Let it sit for a while, and the wonder starts to diminish, because
you are looking at the draf more objectively.
Te goal here is to move the draf from writer-based prose to reader-based prose.
Writer-based prose is writing that makes sense to the writer, because the writer is
the main audience and already knows what he or she is trying to say. Unless you are
writing a personal diary for your eyes only, you will want to transform your writing
into prose that makes sense to other readers. Composition theorists call this
readerbased prose. Te revision process is instrumental in transforming a draf from one
that makes sense in the writer’s mind to one that makes sense to other readers.
In order to move your draf toward reader-based prose, try to read the draf as if
you have never seen it before, keeping your purpose, message, and audience in mind.
Tis is one reason why it is important to leave some time in between your frst and
30w r i t i n g a s p r o c e s s
second drafs, because otherwise it is very hard to make the switch from thinking
like a writer to thinking like a reader. As you assess your work, make sure you are
accomplishing your goals. Review the large or “global” issues of writing. At this point,
you still should not worry about grammar, sentence mechanics, or style. You will deal
with these important issues later, in the editing phase. During the revision process,
focus on such writing issues as the following:
1. Is your thesis clear and focused? Does your thesis match what you talk about in
the rest of the essay?
2. Are you reaching your intended audience? Are any changes needed to address
them more clearly or completely?
3. Are you providing your readers with relevant, interesting, and engaging
4. Do you have a compelling introduction, efective supporting paragraphs, and a
satisfying conclusion?
5. Are your paragraphs focused, coherent, unifed, and well developed?
6. Are your paragraphs logically arranged, and do they lead your r-eaders efec
tively to your conclusion?
Keep these questions in mind as you review your draf, and make appropriate changes
to the draf where necessary.
Note that we are not always the best reviewers of our own work, and we should
have other people read our drafs to provide constructive feedback. We c- all this revi
sion strategy peer revision. Your instructor may divide your class into peer revision
groups. Working collaboratively in such peer groups obviously helps writers improve
their papers, assuming everyone in the group takes the peer review sessions seriously
and provides constructive feedback. Such peer group work also should h - elp you be
come a better reviewer of your own writing. It is easier to review someone else’s work
than to critique your own. However, as you practice reviewing and commenting on
other people’s writing, you develop the necessary skills to become an efective reviewer
of your own writing.
We are not born knowing how to review our own work or another person’s draf.
We have to develop the necessary skills for efective revision. It may be helpful to
consider some key revision questions to ask as you read a draf. Below is a li- st of revi
sion questions you may want to answer as you comment on another student’s draf or
as you read through and revise your own work. Following a list of questions like these
will help you provide more specifc feedback to other students, in addition to helping
you revise your own papers.
31pa r t o n e— c o m p o s I t I o n a n d c r I t I c a l t h I n k I n g
• Is the topic interesting and engaging?
• Has the writer spent enough time generating material for this essay?
• What would make the essay more interesting?
• What is the purpose of the essay?
• What do you think the writer is trying to accomplish in the essay?
• Is the essay focused around a main theme or thesis?
• How could the writer focus the essay more carefully?
• Does the writer provide enough description and detail?
• What ideas and areas in the essay should the writer describe more thoroughly?
• What needs more specifc defning?
• Is the essay carefully organized? How might the writer better organize his/her
• Does the writer consider the needs and interests of the reader?
• Is the essay efectively introduced and concluded?
• How might the writer better open and close the essay to make it more appealing
to readers?
Language Use:
• Is the writing clear and understandable?
• Are the sentences carefully written and grammatically correct?
• Does the writer use an appropriate style (formal, informal, academic, co- nversa
tional, serious, humorous), given the rhetorical situation, disciplin -ary require
ments, and audience expectations?
Remember, the objective is to provide specifc feedback to help the writer focus,
structure, and develop the draf so that he or she can accomplish the p-urpose, com
municate the intended message, and reach the target audience. Also, by providing
such feedback on other people’s papers, we learn how to become better reviewers and
revisers of our own writing.
32w r i t i n g a s p r o c e s s
Try to repeat the drafing and revising process as many times as your schedule
permits. Te problem is that few people really like to revise their writing. Most of us
have such limited schedules that we are fortunate if we complete only o- ne good draf
ing-revision cycle. Since we are so busy, we ofen view revision as taking up valuable
time. Moreover, most of us unfortunately view revision as punishment, because we
have been taught, explicitly or not, that revision is a sign of failure. We all remember
getting a paper back from a teacher that is all marked up (usually in red) with “See me”
or “Write over” or “Revise” scrawled in big letters across the top of the page. Writing a
paper over again in such cases is clearly a form of punishment for not doing it right the
frst time. In our minds, revision necessarily becomes identifed with failure. In other
areas of life, we are ofen admonished to “do it right the frst time.” If we mess up and
have to do it over again, we feel we are wasting time.
However, when it comes to writing and other forms of creative expression, we
have to unlearn this problematic view of revision. It is simply unrealistic to expect to
get it exactly right the frst time around. Te truth is that good writers revise; poor
writers do not. Revision is not punishment, nor is it a sign of failure. Rather, revision
is an opportunity for success. It is a chance to make sure you are saying what you really
want to say, a chance to make sure you are accomplishing your writing purposes and
goals, and a chance to make sure you are reaching your intended audience. Revision
is a chance for excellence. If you happen to have a negative view of revision, try to
remember that revision is not an indication of bad writing; rather, it is an opportunity
to express your thoughts and feelings in good writing. Revision is not a sign of failure
but an opportunity for excellence. Revision is the trademark of a good writer.
Writing Tips:
1. When revising your work, try to use peer commenting groups. If your
professor doesn’t facilitate this, consider asking for feedback (not
editing) from a friend or roommate.
2. Use specifc criteria questions like the ones listed above to guide your
own revision practices and to comment on other people’s writing.
Hopefully, your professor will provide revision checklists to follow
when reviewing and revising your work. If not, simply adapt the
revision criteria questions outlined above and review them as you reread
and revise your drafs.
3. Consider using your university writing center or learning center to
get another fresh perspective on your draf.
4. Read your draf out loud to yourself and listen for problematic areas
that can be revised.
5. Have someone else read your draf out loud to you and listen for
sections that can be revised.
33pa r t o n e— c o m p o s I t I o n a n d c r I t I c a l t h I n k I n g
Step 5: Editing
Some people confuse revision with editing, or they lump the two together under the
same heading, considering them to be equivalent, or two parts of the sam-e basic writ
ing operation. In actuality, revision and editing are completely diferent, because they
focus on two separate areas of concern. To revise is to look again, to examine the draf
as if for the frst time, focusing on the larger, global issues. To edit, on the other hand,
is to make presentable, to polish, or to clean up. Once you have your paper focused,
organized, and developed the way you want it through drafing and revision, then you
can go back and sweat the small stuf.
If revision deals with the global or larger issues, then editing deals with the local
or the sentence-level issues, like spelling, diction (word choice), grammar, sentence
clarity, punctuation, citation, and other mechanics of writing. Most word processors
have editing tools like spelling and grammar checkers, but you must not r-ely too heav
ily on them. A machine cannot think, so your computer is unable to understand your
intentions and message, and it cannot know if you are using a word properly or not.
For example, you may have written the word “hat” but really meant to write
“that.” Both words are spelled correctly, and the computer will not tell you that there
is an error. Also, the grammar checker does not always understand complex sentences
and will sometimes mark a sentence as ungrammatical when it really is not. So, you
will still need to review your writing carefully on your own. You might also want to
have someone else (who happens to be a good editor) review your paper to identify
and correct some errors you might have missed. Another helpful hint is to read the
essay backwards, reading each sentence separately, starting with the last and ending
with the frst. Tis process isolates each sentence from the fow of the es- say, thus mak
ing it easier to notice errors.
In addition to sentence-level things like spelling and grammar, edit-ing also in
volves checking the format of the document. Clarify with your teacher what essay
format you are supposed to use, and then check the format of your document during
the editing phase. Consider such things as cover page, headers, footers, line spacing,
paragraph indentation, block quote formatting, placement of tables and graphs, image
size and placement, margin sizes, pagination, font style, font size, citation style, and
bibliography formatting. Remember that the main objective of editing is to polish
the draf and to make it presentable. Good writing involves more than the words on
the page. It includes meeting established standards that make your document look
34w r i t i n g a s p r o c e s s
Writing Tips:
1. Be careful if you use the spelling and grammar checker in your word
processor. Do not rely too heavily upon these automated tools.
Review the draf carefully yourself.
2. When using a thesaurus, either a print version or the thesaurus
function in your word processor, be sure to select words that ft the
meaning of your sentence and that match the overall style and tone of your
3. Read your writing out loud and listen for awkward phrasing and
grammatical errors.
4. Consider reading your text backwards to isolate each word and
5. Ask other good writers to edit your work. Be willing to serve as editor
for someone else.
Step 6: Production
Once you have written, revised, and edited your document, then you are ready to
produce it. For academic writing and essays written for a college course, production
may be as simple as loading paper in your printer and clicking the print button in your
word processor. For professional situations, production might be more complicated,
involving illustrators, the art department, and the print department. In recent years,
more colleges and businesses are relying on electronic modes of produc-tion and dis
semination (delivering the document to the readers). For example, documents can be
sent via email, posted on discussion boards or blogs, published on websites, posted in
online databases, published on college or business intranets, or submitte-d to a learn
ing management system (LMS), like Blackboard, Coursesites, Moodle, Turnitin, or
Whatever method of producing and submitting your document happens to need,
make sure you plan ahead to accommodate extra time for your particular production
requirements. Tis includes preparing ahead by saving your documents in a folder on
your computer or in a cloud storage system (like OneDrive or Dropbox) where you
can fnd them quickly and easily, being sure you have access to a working printer if
needed, and allowing time to address the things that will inevitably go wrong at the last
minute. For example, if your professor uses an LMS, make sure you understand how
to submit your work properly in that LMS well before the assignment deadline. Also,
have a contingency plan just in case your Internet access mysteriously goes down ten
minutes before the submission deadline. I suggest creating a personal hotspot through
your cellphone data plan or using a library computer.
35pa r t o n e— c o m p o s I t I o n a n d c r I t I c a l t h I n k I n g
Writing Tips:
1. Produce a clean and sharp fnal product—with today’s printing
technology, there is no excuse for creating a sloppy fnal document.
2. Save a backup copy just in case an error occurs when printing your
document or submitting it online.
Now that we have discussed the details of these various steps in the w- riting pro
cess, take some time to think about your own writing habits and processes. Do you
notice how you already engage (or do not engage) these various stages? Can you see
how you might adapt your practices toward a more productive strategy? Can you see
how these stages factor in both simple and complex writing tasks?
For example, when you reply to an email message, you are engaging each of these
stages, though you may not fully realize it because some of the steps are abbreviated
or performed in your head. Inven: rtioe nading the message and thinking of a reply;
planning: outlining your response in your head or fling the messages into folders to be
answered later; draf: wingriting out your reply; revi: rsingeading through the message
once or twice and making some changes; edi: c tinglicking the spell check button and
rereading for grammar; produc : ctiolicn king send.
We started the chapter noting that we are all writers and that we write all the
time. Whenever we write, we are engaging the process of writing in one f- orm or an
other. To become better writers, we should try to review all of our writing tasks in
terms of these six stages and learn how to improve our writing by engaging the various
steps appropriately as we complete diferent writing projects.
Student Example
Below is an example from a frst-year college composition student at Gr -ove City Col
lege. Tis student wrote an essay about the intersection of religious liberty and
samesex marriage rights in the wake of the Supreme Court Obergefell ruling. Specifcally,
this student explored whether bakers who hold to Christian convictions regarding
marriage should be forced to participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies or if their
religious liberties allow them to refuse serving at wedding ceremonies a - nd other so
cial functions that violate their religious convictions.
A note about this student example: the diferent stages of the writin- g process re
produced here are accurate to the student’s original work, including misspellings and
grammatical errors in the early phases of writing. Remember that grammatical errors
are permissible early in the process and should be addressed in the later editing stage.
36w r i t i n g a s p r o c e s s
Tis student brainstormed various arguments and possible refutations using some
preliminary research sources:
OBERGEFELL v. HODGES legalized gay marriage, thereby,
protecting the rights of homosexual couples in the United
In the majority opinion, however, the SCOTUS also noted
that “those who adhere to religious doctrines, may
continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that,
by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be
condoned.” Pg. 27
The very law that legalized gay marriage in the United
States still offered protection to Americans who wished
to exercise their First Amendment right to live out their
If the SCOTUS stated that Americans with sincere religious
convictions have the right to continue to advocate that
same-sex marriage is wrong, then these Americans should
be given exemption when it is clear that the issue is a
matter of deep faith.
SCOTUS ruling protects those with strong religious
convictions that object to homosexual marriages just as much as
the ruling protects the interests of homosexual couples.
The First Amendment ensures that religious organizations
and persons are given proper protection as they seek to
teach the principles that are so fulflling and so central
to their lives and faiths, and to their own deep
aspirations to continue the family structure they have long
revered. Pg. 27
SCOTUS majority opinion still protects religious
organizations and persons in order to allow them to live out
their faith as guaranteed by the First Amendment.
37pa r t o n e— c o m p o s I t I o n a n d c r I t I c a l t h I n k I n g
Homosexual couples may be classifed as a protected class,
but their positive rights do not outweigh all Americans’
natural, negative rights. SCOTUS ruling:
Colorado accommodation & anti-discrimination laws state
“It is a discriminatory practice and unlawful for a
person, directly or indirectly, to refuse, withhold from, or
deny to an individual or a group, because of . . . sexual
orientation . . . the full and equal enjoyment of the
goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or
accommodations of a place of public accommodation . . .”
CADA Section 24-34-601(2)(a), C.R.S.2014
ACLU argues that offering an exemption to the
accommodation laws on the basis of religious liberty is a slippery
“If the court agreed with this view, it could allow all
kinds of businesses to refuse service because of
religious objections.” (ACLU staff op-ed)
REFUTATION: there are currently exemptions on the basis
of religious liberty for “an Islamic cake artist from
refusing to create a cake denigrating the Quran for the
Westboro Baptist Church” (CERT WRIT PG 1)
Offering an exemption for deeply held religious beliefs
is not a new idea.
Fourteenth is the basis for accommodation laws.
“No state shall make or enforce any law which shall
abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the
United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of
life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;
38w r i t i n g a s p r o c e s s
nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal
protection of the laws.”
the issue is that interpretation of accommodation laws
regarding this case is distorting the original intent of
the fourteenth amendment. The fourteenth amendment was
intended to be used as safeguard against the government
establishing laws that infringed upon the liberty of
citizens. The fourteenth amendment is a declaration of
negative rights, not positive rights. It is assuring citizens
that the government cannot prevent them from living their
lives. It is not guaranteeing that the government will be
able to grant them what they desire. This idea goes back
to the principle that rights are intrinsic in the human
and not granted by the government.
Notes on “protected class”:
Federal and state legislators have worked to expand hate
crime laws to include sexual orientation and gender
identity. The Hate Crimes Statistics Act was passed in 1990
and required the Justice Department to collect data on
“crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice based on race,
religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity,”
but sexual orientation is not listed as a protected class
in the 1969 federal hate crime law (Federal Bureau of
Investigation, 2004, ¶ 2). However, Public Law 103-322A,
which was enacted in 1994 to provide stiffer penalties
for hate crimes, does list sexual orientation as a class
against which a hate crime can be committed. In 2009 the
Hate Crimes Statistics Act was modifed by the Matthew
Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act.
39pa r t o n e— c o m p o s I t I o n a n d c r I t I c a l t h I n k I n g
Early Draf
Caroline Lindey
Dr. Hogsette
WRIT 101
3 November 2017
Two Men and a Cake
In his book, Democracy in America, French philosopher
Alexis De Tocqueville warns of what he called the “tyranny
of the majority”. De Tocqueville believed that in a nation
ruled under direct democracy, the rights of the minority
would be trampled upon by the will of the majority due to
the imbalance of power. But what about the tyranny of the
minority? Do the rights of a protected minority class
outweigh the fundamental rights of all citizens? This is the
question that the Supreme Court of the United States will
have to answer as they examine the case of Masterpiece
Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission this fall.
Some people believe that Christian bakers should be forced
to partake in wedding ceremonies for homosexual couples.
However, this view assumes that the rights found in
accommodation laws based in the Fourteenth Amendment of the
Constitution outweigh the fundamental First Amendment rights
found in the Constitution. Christian bakers should not be
required to partake in wedding ceremonies for homosexual
couples, because the government has the power to offer
exemptions to those who hold strong religious convictions
against gay marriage. Constitution’s original intent is to
restrict the actions of the government not to restrict the
actions of citizens by the government even when two
principles are in confict.
Discrimination is an ugly beast. Discrimination in
public is even more mortifying to face. I remember the frst
time I was refused service at a store because of my race.
The prejudice I faced was subtle and yet extremely telling
of the nature of discrimination. Your frst reaction is anger
and then fear. You worry that you will be denied service
again and have to face that same embarrassment yet again
when you go shopping in the future.
40w r i t i n g a s p r o c e s s
Lindey 2
These emotions of anger and fear, however, have
allowed me to have empathy for those who believe that they
must deny a customer service on religious grounds. They fear
the consequences their actions would have on their eternal
soul. And they are most likely angry that they are losing
a proft due to principle. But principles matter. Society
should defend the right of Christian bakers to reject the
proposition to bake a cake that is intended to celebrate the
marriage of same-sex couples,
From an outside perspective examining the case of
Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights
Commission, fear and anger must be two motivating factors
pushing both sides to take the case to the Supreme Court. Jack
Phillips is a small business owner from Colorado. Phillips
is the owner, operator and baker of Masterpiece Cakeshop.
In 2012, he informed Charlie Craig and David Mullins that
he would not be able to bake a cake for their wedding
reception because doing so would “violate his religious beliefs
as a Christian” (frst liberty). Craig and Mullins were
deeply upset after this conversation even though Phillips
reassured the couple that he would be happy to serve them
anything else from his shop.
The couple brought up a lawsuit against Mr. Phillips
OBERGEFELL v. HODGES legalized gay marriage, thereby,
protecting the rights of homosexual couples in the United
States. In the majority opinion, however, the SCOTUS also
noted that “those who adhere to religious doctrines, may
continue to advocate with utmost, sincere conviction that,
by divine precepts, same-sex marriage should not be
condoned.” (Pg. 27) The very law that legalized gay marriage
in the United States still offered protection to Americans
who wished to exercise their First Amendment right to live
out their faith. If the SCOTUS stated that Americans with
sincere religious convictions have the right to continue to
advocate that same-sex marriage
41pa r t o n e— c o m p o s I t I o n a n d c r I t I c a l t h I n k I n g
Lindey 3
is wrong, then these Americans should be given exemption
when it is clear that the issue is a matter of deep faith.
SCOTUS ruling protects those with strong religious
convictions that object to homosexual marriages just as much as
they do homosexual couples. The First Amendment ensures
that religious organizations and persons are given proper
protection as they seek to teach the principles that are so
fulflling and so central to their lives and faiths, and to
their own deep aspirations to continue the family structure
they have long revered. (Pg. 27) The SCOTUS majority opinion
still protects religious organizations and persons in order
to allow them to live out their faith as guaranteed by the
First Amendment. Homosexual couples may be classifed as a
protected class, but their positive rights do not outweigh
all Americans’ natural, negative rights.
The ACLU argues that offering an exemption to the
accommodation laws on the basis of religious liberty is a slippery
slope. “If the court agreed with this view, it could allow
all kinds of businesses to refuse service because of
religious objections.” (ACLU staff op-ed. REFUTATION: there are
currently exemptions on the basis of religious liberty for
“an Islamic cake artist from refusing to create a cake
denigrating the Quran for the Westboro Baptist Church” (CERT
WRIT PG 1). Offering an exemption for deeply held religious
beliefs is not a new idea.
Colorado accommodation & anti-discrimination laws state
that, “It is a discriminatory practice and unlawful for a
person, directly or indirectly, to refuse, withhold from,
or deny to an individual or a group, because of . . . sexual
orientation . . . the full and equal enjoyment of the goods,
services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or
accommodations of a place of public accommodation . . .” (CADA Section
24-34-601(2)(a), C.R.S.2014)