What is the Point
As a professional editor, I try to avoid this phrase. It comes across as sassy, aggressive, condescending. But, really, it’s the most succinct way to remind a writer to clarify his or her point. What is the point of writing this essay? What is the point of writing this sentence? What is the point of quoting this text? What is the point of emphasizing a certain word? So what??
I’m frequently tempted by my little refrain. Outside of the context of editing, it’s too rude to cut off someone’s rambling story with a “so what?” So I hold back. (I don’t hold back when I self-edit. Self-editing already limits the degree to which you can be a critical reader, since you’re approaching the text as a slightly-older version of the original author; so I make every effort to be rude and unsympathetic to my past self when I look back at her words. But enough about my existential editor dilemmas.)
There’s probably a reason why I’m so tempted by my rude “so what” question. (Beyond the fact that I might just be a little impatient.) Nearly every sentence can be plumbed for deeper meaning. This is particularly true in the case of essays. The whole point of your essay is to communicate a “so what” to your readers. The “so what” is the overarching point, the reason for guiding the reader through your thoughts and your logic, for making your writing clear and concise. Your “so what” is your thesis.
Why have I shared my penchant for rudeness for you? Why do I care that you know why this phrase is a tic in my editing process, something I remind myself to ask after every sentence? What in short is the point of my blog today? Writing should always have a point, that’s what. And the need to have a point is hopefully not too confusingly my point.
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