When you think about it, we do critical writing almost every day. When I see a movie my habit is to email a friend of mine in another city and tell them exactly what I thought of it. She gets to hear all about whether the characters in the story acted the in a realistic manner, or what I thought of the ending. That is the essence of critical writing. It’s the ability to analyze some piece of information and created conclusions based on reasonable assumptions, argumentation and facts. Almost every class you take in your college degree will put you through the same exercise in thought and communication.
Critical writing first involves critical thinking. You have to be able to take an experience, art work, essay or event and analyze it with precision. Your writing should not be, “that story made me happy”, but rather, “what it was about that story that made me happy.” In the 5 W’s of writing (who, what, when, where and why) it’s the “why” that makes your criticism valuable. College level writing is about meaning making and sustaining your opinion with examples, reasons and rational. It is never enough to say, “That book was stupid.” What a critical writer would do is talk about why the characters didn’t act like most people would, and how the plot deviated from an intelligent point of view into a hopelessly jumbled resolution. Analysis and explanation are the bones of critical writing.
Critical writing is also technical in nature and follows an organized thought flow and pattern. A critical essay sets out the thesis of the thought clearly in the first paragraph then uses the rest of the essay to develop supporting ideas and evidence to support the thesis. The sign of someone with a college degree is their ability to reason and use reasonable judgments in the determinations that person makes. Every time you review a new song with a friend or write a letter about meaning in relationship, art or faith you are engaging in a critical enterprise. Learn to do it well and with this skill and your college degree you can write your own ticket to anywhere you want to go.