Column: Why good writing matters


The Maroon


Keaton Postler

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Each day, Loyola students of all ages, majors and backgrounds visit the university’s writing center (better known as the WAC Lab) with many of the same questions: How do I open my paper with a “hook?” What should I include in my introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion? How do I write transitions? How do I cite my sources? And, of course, what is that infamous thing that my professor calls a “thesis statement”?

Most of these questions address what we in WAC like to refer to as “higher order concerns.” This is just a fancy term for the bigger issues that writers encounter, things like structure and content, as opposed to “lower order concerns” such as style and grammar. It is the common confusion about these higher order concerns that has prompted me to address each of them individually in a semester-long column.

Hopefully a column of this nature will provide a bit of foundational knowledge with which students can approach their writing assignments more confidently. I would also like to think that it might even spark a conversation about writing; to that end, I invite both students and professors to respond to – and even disagree with ­­- the points made in this column.

By primarily addressing higher order concerns, I don’t want to give off the impression that lower order concerns aren’t important. In fact, style is one of the most distinguishing traits of a writer, and proper grammar cannot be stressed enough. But it is quite a bit more difficult to discuss lower order concerns in a column of this length. The details are much subtler, and one cannot easily distill them into basic points.

Finally, you might wonder why you should invest yourself in writing at the college level at all. The obvious answer, of course, is that writing is one of the most important professional skills that an individual can possess. But it is the obvious answers that are the least satisfying, and so we have to dig deeper.

My favorite novelist, Don DeLillo, has called writing “a deeper form of concentration.” By this, he means that writing about something can (and usually does) help us to better understand the topic. By extension, it can (and usually does) improve our critical thinking skills, the value of which I need not argue for at a Jesuit university like Loyola. Admittedly, writing demands much time and energy from us, but it takes a lot of time and energy to comprehend most things of importance, wouldn’t you say?

Writing is also one of the best vehicles through which we can express our opinions and ideas. In other words, if you want to make yourself heard on a particular issue, writing affords you the opportunity to express yourself, either publicly or privately, in as concise or thorough a manner as you wish.

With all of this in mind, I do hope that you’ll follow this column throughout the semester, not just to become a better writer, but also to become more invested in writing itself. Who knows? You may even develop a newfound love (and-hate relationship) for writing.

Keaton Postler is an English literature and history senior and can be reached at [email protected]

In My Opinion is a weekly column open to any Loyola student. Those interested in contributing can contact [email protected]