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Understand the fundamentals of page and Web design; use visual language to convey meaning; use design to assert authority and organize work for readers.

Writers use critical questions to find cracks and crannies, places where they need to develop or clarify their thinking. In their relentless pursuit of clearly expressed, well-developed ideas, they find soft spots—that is, passages that need to be developed or discarded and sections that just don't feel right—that feel mushy like cereal that has been sitting for too long in sour milk. They ruthlessly ask "So what?" and "Who cares?" and reexamine their work, because they know reconsidering a line or a metaphor or even a word may give birth to a new idea or to reconsideration of what has been written. Below provides many questions you can use to interrogate your writing or your peers' writing.

  • What is my thesis? Have I expressed it, either explicitly or implicitly?
  • Will readers understand my reasons for writing? Have I provided the specific examples, concrete language, careful reasoning, and supporting evidence that they need in order to understand my position?
  • Can I make my manuscript more enjoyable to read by incorporating more images and metaphors, by offering more creative examples?
  • Have I provided enough background information for readers to understand my opinions and the significance of the subject matter I am addressing?
  • Have I expressed my meaning with detail and forcefulness so that my readers will be able to "see" what I have written?
  • Am I presenting a consistent voice throughout the text? If there are variations in the tone of the document, are they intentional and effective?
  • Is my conclusion an effective summary, restatement, or challenge?

In addition, you should consider the questions that are invoked by the particular project you are addressing. For example, the critical questions you would ask of a Web site differ from the questions you would ask of a personal narrative.

  • Are there any templates available that I could use to make my work more visually appealing?
  • Can I make my work more scannable by using headers, bullets, or lists?
  • Could I use a picture, a graph, or a table to visually represent my meaning?