You’re staring at a computer screen full of words, but what do they mean? What kind of messages do they convey? Articles and blog posts can vary in topic from sports controversy to the need for political change. What I’ trying to get at is that there are countless numbers of ideas and messages that could be addressed in a 1,500-word blog post. Considering this, I’ve decided to narrow down this blog post and simply focus on how I learned to write effectively throughout my first year at college.
My dad always told me, “Life is a sales job, and that’s why you need to be influential.” This inspired me to argue my piece of mind whenever possible, which often came in the form of writing. He encouraged me to be the best salesman possible, which is why I came to college looking to improve my persuasive writing techniques. Although I had taken multiple English classes in high school, it wasn’t until my first year at college that I learned how to actively reflect on my writing and how to write with an influential purpose.
Prior to attending Santa Clara University, I didn’t feel like I wasn’t an effective writer. Throughout high school and even grade school I struggled with my writing confidence and general language skills.
My struggle with writing can be traced all the way back to elementary school. Starting in kindergarten, my elementary school had all of its students take the IOWA Test of Basic Skills. These tests assessed each student’s language, mathematics, and science/social studies skills. I always scored well in the mathematics, social studies and science portions, but always scored lower on the language part. The language portion of the test would cover vocabulary, reading, word analysis, and spelling (“The IOWA Tests”), all of which I consistently scored below the national average. This really hurt my self-esteem and confidence in my writing, which began to show in my lack of enthusiasm towards English and language assignments. Attempting to offset my lack of excitement, I continually tried to work on my language scores by reading each summer and renting out books from my local Library. Although I put forth an effort, year after year my language scores were still significantly lower than the national mean. On top of that, my younger brother excelled in language as a kid with exceptional spelling and vocabulary skills, which was always comparing myself too. I felt embarrassed going to my younger brother for spelling help.
All of the sudden I was in high school and writing quickly became an everyday requirement. High school is where I struggled the most in terms of advancing my writing skills. I simply didn’t have the drive or the ambition to put an effort forth in my writing due to my lack of confidence. In high school, I would simply write to complete assignments looking for the best grade possible. I hadn’t developed my desire to write influentially yet, which is why writing was bland and single sided. Most of my writing was composed of one sided arguments that explained my point of view. It wasn’t until my Critical Thinking and Writing class at Santa Clara University that I learned to acknowledge the opposing viewpoints to strengthen my arguments. Once I got to college I realized that I had taken multiple English courses in high school, but I never learned how to reflect on my writing or write influentially for that matter.
Once I arrived at Santa Clara University, I had the honest intention of learning how to write effectively and persuasively, and I believe the Critical Thinking and Writing course helped me accomplish that goal. I remember reading Slant 2, written by Nicholas Leither and Barry Horwitz, and I finally could see the structure needed to write an engaging and interesting essay. Before taking the course, I would have never thought to discuss opposing viewpoints in my essays. Following the trifecta structure, as described in Slant 2, encourages the writer to actively seek out and research the opposing viewpoint on a said topic (Leither 51). I believe this not only can strengthen an essay, but it can make it much more persuasive too.
Thanks to Slant 2, I learned to bring in multiple viewpoints into my writing just like David Foster Wallace does in Consider the Lobster. In his writing, he addresses the Main Lobster Festival from a practical, scientific, moral, and ethical standpoint, which makes his slant much more effective (Wallace). By the end of his article, I was convinced that it was my own selfish interests leading me to ignore the ethical issues of consuming my favorite kinds of meat. I attribute his influential writing to his broad lens of critical thinking. By looking at the Maine Lobster Festival through multiple different perspectives, David Foster Wallace validates his argument over and over without getting redundant. Not only do multiple viewpoints validate a personal slant, but they also strengthen an individual’s argument by repeating the slant without nullifying its effectiveness.
Now when I write essays, I attempt to follow David Foster Wallace’s method of introducing various perspectives, while still following the structure outlined by Slant 2. I believe this deliberately engages me into my writing, which makes it much easier to write with an influential purpose. This is partially because the trifecta structure makes the writer actively think and reflect on his or her own writing. It’s simply the nature of writing an essay that follows the Slant 2 organization.
I now enjoy actively writing about sustainability, consumerism, or whatever topic I happen to be researching because I am driven to investigate and research different ways to support my slant. The primary research and investigative portion of the Slant 2 essay structure is what appeals to me the most. For example, in the last essay I wrote for Critical Thinking and Writing 2, I investigated the food options offered in the school cafeteria and the neighborhood Safeway store. What I discovered is that Safeway and our cafeteria offer a few truly healthy food options, but for the most part they advertise processed foods, which are nonnutritive. This has made me actively think about what I ate and what I decided to consume when shopping at these places. Consequently, I used my primary research and investigation to analyze my topic from a new perspective which effectively conveyed the purpose of my argument. When I participate in primary research and investigation I become actively involved in my learning and tend to gain a new understanding regarding my topic.
After reading this, you might have realized that I failed to utilize an opportunity to apply investigation and research into my writing, but I would argue that this was intentional. The purpose of this blog post isn’t to strategically prove my point, but rather reflect on my writing throughout my first year at Santa Clara University. This year has brought about many insights and realizations in regards to my writing, which only leads me to the question: What will I learn next year? This question will remain unanswered until that time comes, but if I were to extrapolate what I have learned this year, I can only expect to continue to advance my writing even more in the years ahead.
“The IOWA Tests.” Seton Testing Services. Seton Testing Services. Web 11 Jun. 2017.
Wallace, David Foster. “Consider the Lobster.” Gourmet. Gourmet, Aug. 2004. Web. 11 Jun. 2017.
Nicholas, Leither, and Barry Horwitz. “Slant 2.” Heteroclite, 7 Jul. 2016.