Wellformed claims Writing clear claims

Smart thinking requires, first of all, that our claims be well formed. Before we even think about how the links between claims might develop—and before we even consider whether or not our claims are acceptable—we need to write or speak clear claims. While this task is similar to all clear writing or speaking, it is not exactly the same. Some of the rules of narrative exposition (such as not repeating words too frequently, the proper use of clauses within sentences, and so on) do not apply at this stage. Most of these rules generate implied links between clauses and sentences; but since your analytical diagram clearly shows these links, we do not need to complicate the claims in this way. Remember, the analytical structure format is designed first and foremost for planning; the good exposition will come later.

So, the primary aim in writing well-formed claims in an analytical structure format is to make each a separate statement that contains all the information necessary for it to express what we mean. The very act of writing the claim carefully will, of itself, help us to understand better what it means. For example, the claim 'Violence against indigenous Australians is wrong' is unclear and vague—even though we would all agree with the sentiment, it is not a 'good' claim. If it is rewritten (for example, to read 'Violence against indigenous Australians by white settlers colonising Australia had and continues to have a negative effect on the moral order of the nation'), then the claim is not as easy to read but clearly shows the meaning of the claim, ready for linking analytically to other claims.

Even at this first stage, as we put together our claims as the basis for our text, we cannot avoid the role of context. The meaning of every word we use is not a fixed absolute, but a socially and culturally constructed convention. By this I mean that the meaning of a word is always determined in relation to all the other words and meanings that are in use within a particular society.1 Though, for most purposes, the words (and hence the claims) we use seem to be clear in what they mean, we can never simply assume that our audience will always grasp our exact meaning. In particular, while the surface meanings of various words are usually commonly accepted, the connotations (or hidden implications and understandings) of words can vary subtly between different groups of people.

For example, many people in Cuba (still governed within a Marxist system) would not consider the USA a democracy, since people in the USA do not have equal access to education, health, and welfare, whereas in Cuba they do (and thus

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  • peter
    What is a wellformed claim?
    8 years ago

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