How to make your point.
A woman asked me, “What’s the secret to making your ‘point’ really clearly and powerfully?”
She explained that her son is struggling with his essays at school. He tends to ramble a bit (don’t we all!) and he struggles to organize his thoughts effectively.
His teachers recommend adhering to the classic “5 paragraph essay format” but really, is that the only way to convey a point?
No, it’s not.
There are lots of different ways that you can make your point sing clearly, so that your reader really gets it, feels it, and remembers it.
This is my personal process.
It works for me. It might not work for you. But I figured I’d share it, just in case it helps at least one high school student (or blogger, or podcaster, or author, or entrepreneur) to feel a little less panicky about writing today.
Enjoy the ride…
HOW TO MAKE YOUR POINT
1. Choose your point before you start writing.
Decide what you are trying to say before you actually start writing.
If “talking” helps you organize your thoughts, then talk it out. Try explaining your point out loud — to yourself — almost as if you are speaking to your imaginary future-reader.
“The lesson, here, is that…”
“The point of this article is…”
“Ultimately, the moral of the story is…”
“What I learned from this experience is that…”
“What I want you to remember after reading this is…”
“I am telling you this story because I want you to understand that…”
Once you’ve talked it out, whittle it down. Make sure you’re really making one point, not fifteen points. Make your point clear and simple.
Here are some examples of very clear, simple points:
– “Today is not over yet. There’s still time for you to do something meaningful and satisfying.” [full article here]
– “You are a grown up. You can make your own choices. You can do what you want.” [full article here]
– “Trying, even if you struggle or fail, is always worth it.” [full article here]
Got a point? Great. Now prove it.
2. Gather evidence to prove your point.
You’ve got a point you want to make. Now, how will you inspire your reader to understand or believe that point?
There are various ways you can do this.
You could compile a list of statistics to prove your point.
You could reference a research study, also, to prove your point.
You could create a series of helpful steps that spell out your point.
You could write about something that happened to a friend / relative / colleague / etc., as a way to prove your point. (“See, this happened to them, so that means…”)
Or you could tell a true story from your own life.
For example, when I wrote my article “Today is not over yet,” I told a true story about a grumpy, sad, lazy day where I just wanted to curl up and watch TV, and where nothing interesting was happening in my life. But then, I had a moment of awakening. I realized, “Today is not over yet.” I wrenched myself out of my funk. I went to yoga. I called my mom. I did some writing. I completely turned my day around and it felt amazing. That experience taught me that no matter how disastrous your day has been up until this point, today is never over yet. There’s always still time to turn things around.
I could have made my point without telling that particular story. I could have told a different story. Or no story. I could have made a bullet point list instead (“10 ways why today is not over yet!”). Lists can be fun! But in this instance, I chose to tell a true story, and that’s what made that particular article “work.”
Often, one true story is all the “evidence” that you need.
3. Deliver your evidence and then trim away unnecessary material.
After you’ve written your list, essay, story, etc., then read what you’ve written so far out loud. See how it sounds. Hopefully, it sounds like “you.” If not, make adjustments.
Then… edit. Remove excess material that does not prove your point.
If the point you are trying to make is that “Trying, even if you struggle or fail, is always worth it,” and you tell a story to prove your point, but then you also tell a side-story about that one time you went to Las Vegas and you ate a crispy popsicle made out of pork, and the Vegas scenario has nothing to do with your point, then remove it. Save that story for another time. Make sure everything in your piece of writing serves to deliver your point, not distract from it or dilute it.
However, if you are a rambly, go-off-on-side-tangents sort of writer and that’s part of your style, then ignore what I just said. If that’s your jam, then by all means, take your reader on a wild, whimsical adventure! Just make sure that, at some point, you circle back to the point.
4. Drive it home.
You’ve chosen your point. You’ve gathered evidence to prove your point. You’ve written it out. You’ve removed unnecessary material that distracts from your point (or not, depending on your style). Now it’s time to bring ‘er home.
To really, intensely emphasize my point, I will often take my point and make it the final sentence of my article.
Boom. Grand finale. There it is. Impossible for my reader to miss it.
Other times, I will use my point as the title of my article. Again, impossible to miss.
Sometimes I do both — I’ll make my point the final line AND the title (like this, and this) basically sandwiching my essay or story between two slices of point-bread. A point sandwich! Nutritious and inspirationally delicious.
5. Really, do whatever you want. But do it with intention and decisiveness.
I love to loudly, clearly declare my point. But you don’t have to.
You certainly don’t have to turn your next blog post into a “point sandwich,” as I often do.
Maybe you want to be a bit subtler and more mysterious with your point. Or maybe you want to leave it up to your reader to decide what the point of your story is. Maybe you’re very cool, hip, and avant-garde and the point is that there is no point. That’s all great.
Have a point. Or don’t. Proclaim it loudly. Or whisper it softly.
You can structure your writing however you want, but whatever you do, do it with intention.
Make a choice about what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it.
Be decisive. Commit.
When you set a clear intention before you start writing, it’s a lot like setting an intention before you begin your workday, or before you begin doing yoga, or before you get on the phone for an important conversation. It’s like setting up your GPS system to carry you to a specific destination. (“Here’s what I intend to express… here’s where I want my reader’s heart and mind to go…”)
With a clear intention guiding you along, you know where you’re going and you tend to arrive there a lot faster, with fewer calamities along the way.
It’s a gift to yourself, as a writer, and to your future readers. They’ll appreciate that you took the time to collect and organize your thoughts before you hit “send” or “publish” or “print.”
Intentionality can always be felt, and it will make your point — if you choose to include one — even more clear and bright.
If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy the free writing workbooks in my Shop. You’ll find workbooks on how to write better emails, how to write beautiful, heartfelt handwritten letters, plus lots more advice on how to write with purposefulness and intention. Happy writing!