Analyzing Opinions

As I mentioned in last week’s column, last week’s huge assignment was to analyze an editorial piece objectively. It ended up being surprisingly easy given the right tools and I got an A on the paper/project which was much needed.

I chose to analyze the following editorial from the Los Angeles Times and written by their Editorial Board: “Hillary Clinton would make a sober, smart and pragmatic president. Donald Trump would be a catastrophe.”

You can read the article in full here for reference. 

The argument is pretty straightforward and while I won’t get into personal beliefs or tell you who to vote for, this article makes an excellent exercise in objective analyzing. To analyze an obvious opinion piece the main things you need to look out for are premises and the conclusion. The conclusion is all about figuring out what the piece is trying to tell you or get you to believe. In the case of the article mentioned above, the Editorial Board at the LA Times is telling you that while she may not be perfect, Hillary Clinton is the only viable candidate for president, especially over Donald Trump, who would be a nightmare.

The premises are the reasonings behind the conclusion. The article above has probably thirty or so premises listed. Some of them include Clinton’s qualifications and experience, her pragmatism, and her long-overdue female perspective. It also touches on Trump’s inadequacies and temperament as well as how the third-party candidates are more for show than a real option.

It’s really easy to look at an assignment like this and wonder how this kind of stuff is beneficial to a writer. This type of exercise can apply to all sorts of stuff in the writing world. A huge way it can help is in reading over reviews. As writers we will always be emotionally attached to our work. Naturally that means it’s very easy to to have an emotional, rather than an objective, reaction to any kind of criticism of our writing. This is even regardless of if it is good or bad criticism.

Growing as a writer takes more than just practice (though practice is still rather important). One great way to grow as a writer is to objectively look at your reviews. When you go to read your reviews it’s normal to have a gut reaction. The best thing you can do is take time to process the emotional side of your response. Once that has subsided it’s important to read all the details and really listen to the reviewer and what they are telling your about your work. Good reviewers will often point out strengths and weaknesses in a piece regardless of if they liked it or not. It is all really useful information that can help you grow as a writer.

This kind of critical thinking doesn’t only apply to reviews. These are skills you can use with query responses, rejection or acceptance letters, and even your own work. You can even use skills like this in reverse to write great arguments.

As a student I can honestly say that Critical Thinking courses are absolutely worth taking if they are available. You can learn a lot and the skills you obtain are easily transferable to a writer’s world.