Analytical writing skills are at the core of nonfiction writing. Why, you may ask? Because their audience demands it.
Nonfiction audiences, for the most part, are looking for the solution to a problem. When they but a book, they are looking for practical, well-researched, well documented answers to remove a blockage in their lives.
Be it weight loss, a toxic relationship, improved financial well being, or the latest fitness craze, these audiences desperately want to find a cure for their ailments, be it emotional, physical or both, but will also demand a clear explanation why your offer will do the job.
And the only way to convincingly communicate this information is through analytical writing, in other words, a way for you to present complex ideas and arguments in a clear and organized manner that’s easy for anyone to understand.
In this article, we’ll explore the characteristics of analytical writing, why it’s important, and how you can improve your skills. We’ll also provide an example of analytical writing to help you see it in action.
Whether you’re a seasoned nonfiction writer or just starting out, you’ll find practical tips and strategies that you can apply to your own writing.
Let’s dive in!
What is Analytical Writing?
Analytical writing involves breaking down complex ideas and arguments into smaller, more manageable parts, and examining them closely to help your audience gain a deeper understanding.
It’s a critical thinking process that requires you to analyze, interpret, and evaluate information to make an informed conclusion or argument.
Some key characteristics of analytical writing include:
- Focus on facts, evidence, and data to support your arguments
- Identification and analysis of patterns, relationships, and trends
- Breaking down complex ideas into simpler components that are easier to relate to and understand
- Evaluation of arguments, theories, and systems
Analytical writing is different from other types of nonfiction writing, such as descriptive or narrative writing, because it requires you to go beyond simply presenting information or telling a story.
In addition, it requires you to critically examine and analyze the information and present your findings in an organized and unambiguous manner.
By mastering analytical writing, you’ll be able to:
- Develop and articulate your own opinions and arguments based on evidence
- Identify and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of other arguments and theories
- Provide evidence to support your conclusions or recommendations
- Communicate complex ideas and concepts in a clear and concise manner
What’s a Typical Application of Analytical Writing?
An example of analytical writing in a nonfiction context could be analyzing the impact of climate change on agricultural production in a specific region.
To do this, you would need to:
- Gather data on temperature and precipitation changes in the region
- Analyze the impact of these changes on crop yields and production
- Evaluate the effectiveness of existing agricultural practices in adapting to these changes
- Provide recommendations for future strategies and policies to mitigate the impact of climate change on agricultural production
In this example, we’re using analytical writing to break down complex data and information into its components, evaluate arguments and theories, and present recommendations based on the findings of the analysis.
How Can I Improve My Analytical Writing Skills?
As a starting point, here are some basic tips you can follow to start developing your analytical writing skills:
1. Focus on clarity and organization
Analytical writing requires you to present your ideas in a clear and organized way. So, make sure that your writing is well-structured and that your arguments are clearly presented.
Use headings, subheadings, and bullet points to break up the information into a logical hierarchy that’s easy for readers to follow.
2. Practice critical thinking
Practice critical thinking by questioning assumptions, evaluating evidence, and identifying patterns and relationships in the information you are analyzing.
Don’t try to force a conclusion on your readers that’s not fully baked – they’ll see through it and then question you in public forums, like social media and comment sections.
Make sure that you use critical thinking to find holes in your thesis that’ll need to be patched before you publish. If your arguments don’t hold water, someone will call you out.
3. Seek Feedback from Others
One of the most effective ways to improve your analytical writing skills is to seek feedback from others.
You can get feedback from your professional peers, colleagues, writing coaches, and as a last resort, family and friends (although be aware of their tendency to be subjective because they won’t want to hurt your feelings.)
In other words, it’s important to find people who will provide honest feedback and constructive criticism. This feedback can help you identify your strengths and weaknesses as a writer and give you specific suggestions for improvement.
4. Read widely
Reading is an important part of developing your analytical writing skills. The more you read well-received nonfiction literature from acclaimed authors, the more you’ll expose yourself to analytical writing mastery.
When you read works from the nonfiction pros, pay attention to the way those authors present their arguments. Analyze their writing style, the structure of their argument, and how they support their claims.
Take notes on what you find effective that you could incorporate into your own writing. This practice will help you develop a strong analytical writing muscle.
5. Write regularly
Finally, analytical writing is a skill that takes practice, and the more you write, the better you will become.
Set aside time each day to work on your writing, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Develop a consistent and focused analytical writing routine.
And when you write, focus on clarity and organization. Make sure your ideas are presented in a logical and easy-to-follow way.
For this purpose, enlist a small group of test readers so that you can get near-real time feedback on segments of your writing before you fall into a deep and time-consuming rabbit hole.
What Should Be Avoided In Analytical Writing?
Talking about rabbit holes, here are some things to avoid as you develop your analytical writing skills:
Avoid using personal opinions without backing them up with evidence. All arguments you present to readers should be based on credible sources and logical reasoning, not just your beliefs.
Remember, you’re providing your readers with a well-researched solution, not a solution based on hunches or gut feelings.
Avoid making broad generalizations. Analytical writing requires attention to detail and careful analysis, so avoid making sweeping statements that can’t be supported with evidence.
Avoid using overly complex language or jargon. While you want to demonstrate your knowledge and expertise on a topic, you don’t want to make it difficult for your readers to understand your writing.
Never write at a level that’s beyond the comprehension of your audience or you’ll suffer a high level of attrition.
Conversely, don’t write in a condescending way either. In short, make sure you know exactly who your audience is and write to their level.
Avoid using too many quotes. While quotes can be a useful tool to support your arguments, don’t rely too heavily on them.Your original analysis and interpretation of the evidence should be the focus of your writing.
People are seeking you out as an expert, not a student of someone else parroting their findings. If that’s the case, they’ll find out they are and follow them instead.
Avoid getting sidetracked or going off-topic. Stay focused on the central question or issue at hand, and make sure that all of your arguments and evidence are relevant to the topic.
There’s nothing worse for readers than being taken off multiple tangents on their way to learning the solution they’re seeking. Don’t skip steps to get there, but don’t delay their discovery unnecessarily either.
Avoid using the passive voice. This is more general writing advice, but it’s particularly important in nonfiction.
The passive voice can make your writing sound impersonal and unclear, as if you’re trying to hide your expertise behind words.
Instead, use active verbs to convey your ideas firmly, with authenticity and full ownership..
Avoid plagiarism. Finally, always give credit to your sources and make sure to properly cite any quotes or paraphrased information.
Plagiarism is a serious nonfiction offense that’s super easy to prove and can lead to legal consequences.
By avoiding the above common pitfalls, you’ll be able to improve the clarity, accuracy, and effectiveness of your analytical writing without taking unnecessary risks to your credibility and reputation as an expert in your field.
Remember, the key to successful analytical writing is to approach your topic with curiosity, open-mindedness, and a willingness to engage with different perspectives and ideas.
As you hone your analytical writing skills, you’ll be able to delve deeper into your research, communicate effectively with your readers, and make meaningful contributions to your field.
So, whether you’re a student, a professional, or a lifelong learner, keep practicing your analytical writing skills and enjoy the journey of discovery and creativity that comes with it!
Harry Wallett is the Managing Director of Cascadia Author Services. He has a decade of experience as the Founder and Managing Director of Relay Publishing, which has sold over 3 million copies of books in all genres for its authors, and looks after a team of 50+ industry professionals working across the world.
Harry is inspired by the process of book creation and is passionate about the stories and characters behind the prose. He loves working with the writers and has shepherded 1000s of titles to publication over the years. He knows first-hand what it takes to not only create an unputdownable book, but also how to get it into the hands of the right readers for success.
Books are still one of the most powerful mediums to communicate ideas and establish indisputable authority in a field, boosting your reach and stature. But publishing isn’t a quick and easy process—nor should it be, or everyone would do it!
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