Do you make these critical thinking mistakes in your blog writing?
It’s so easy to set up a blog today that anybody with a computer can become a publisher. A blog is an ideal platform for sharing your knowledge and establishing yourself as a thought leader.
However, there is more to blogging than jotting down your points-of-view, controversial opinions or innovative ideas and waiting for your brilliance to be acknowledged. In reality, it takes more than knowledge and intelligence to make a valid argument in writing. If your argument doesn’t stand up to scrutiny, it hurts your credibility.
How do smart people draw fuzzy or erroneous conclusions when they write, making them look less than thought leader-like? It’s usually from a lack of applied critical thinking.
What is critical thinking?
Critical thinking is not determined by intelligence or deep knowledge. Rather, it is a thought process that filters out natural emotional-psychological-sociological biases that get in the way of reaching rational conclusions.
If you’re like me, it has been a while since studying this in philosophy and logic class. But in the interest of more cogent writing and improving your stature as a thought leader, it is worth reviewing some of the key principles. You do want to be more awesome, don’t you?
There are two fundamental ways to evaluate an argument. (By argument, I mean the reasons or premises used to support your conclusion). You can look at the structure of the argument, and you can look at the content to determine its validity.
The classic structure of an argument in the critical thinking process calls for presenting two or more valid premises in support of a conclusion. The following example helps to show how faulty structure can lead to a false conclusion:
- All humans are mammals (true premise)
- All dogs are mammals (true premise)
- All humans are dogs (false conclusion)
When the content or facts of a premise are misleading or in the wrong context, an argument with valid structure can appear to reach a reasonable but faulty conclusion:
- Geological events produce rock (true premise)
- Rock is a type of music (true premise)
- Geological events produce music (false conclusion)
Intentional or not, using invalid arguments in the content you write can lead you to false conclusions that tarnish your thought leadership credibility.
Types of faulty content
Language or meaning is the most fundamental component of your argument. How you use factual information, direct statements, indirect metaphors or emotion-laden words will affect the validity of your argument. There are a number of ways your content can lead to weak or invalid conclusions in your writing, including:
- Grammatical context. Wording in your argument that is grammatically close to valid premises, but distracts the reader into thinking an erroneous conclusion is valid.
- Ambiguity. Using ambiguous language in either the premise or conclusion.
- Relevance. Using premises that are logically irrelevant to your conclusion.
- Presumption. Stating a premise that already assumes your conclusion to be true.
- Weakness. The logical connection between your premise and conclusion is weak.
This infographic illustrates some of the most common types of flawed arguments found in persuasive writing.
How to avoid critical thinking mistakes in your writing
Here are 12 tips for identifying weak links in your reasoning and turning them into stronger arguments:
- Use solid premises that are true and relevant.
- Keep your focus on using only premises that support your conclusion.
- Learn to recognize distinctions between correlation and cause.
- Look for faulty assumptions behind false analogies.
- Identify fixed versus variable probabilities behind events.
- Make sure your comparisons are apples-to-apples.
- Evaluate the logic behind your asserted chains of events.
- Think independently from conventional wisdom of the crowd or popular opinion.
- Distinguish appeals to authority from logic and fact.
- Look for potential bias from your sources.
- Examine either/or assumptions.
- Be aware of your own beliefs and emotional attachments to your viewpoint.
Applied critical thinking is an important process for effectively writing about your area of expertise. It will give you greater confidence in presenting your ideas with the authority and credibility of a thought leader. There is much more that can be said on this subject than I can cover in one post. I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments below.
I’d like to leave you with this funny clip from a favorite movie of mine, Office Space: the scene where Tom explains how he used his mind to come up with an idea about jumping to conclusions.