So What?

So What? is an important component writing well, though it is more appropriate to ask yourself this question during the editing process.

When writing a long paper, you’ll likley find you’ve done quite a lot of research and reading. It can be challening to figure out how to fit all this information into a paper that is clear, concise, and meeting the assignment expectations. Your paper needs to flow well, so that it reads well; ideally there is nothing extra that would have your reader wondering why that information was included. However, after doing all the reading and research, students often want to throw everything . . . after all, that must be the best way for your professor to see just how much work you did, right? Wrong!

It is crucial that you be strategic in your writing; include only the information that gets to the point. Extra sentences or even paragraphs that go off on a tangent do not demonstrate extra effort; instead, it demonstrates your paper has no flow. Even worse, it could indicate you weren’t really sure what to write about so just threw it all in hoping something would make sense. Sometimes this “let’s throw it all in” approach is because of anticipated word or page counts. When a paper isn’t quite long enough, there can be a desperate urge to add more “just because.” However, most professors would rather a clear, concise, and to the point paper that is a bit on the short side than something that “meets” the word/page count but meanders all over the place.

This is where “So What?” comes in handy. When during your research (e.g., finding and reading articles), ask yourself “So What?” or perhaps “Why?”; if you can’t answer those questions then the article likely isn’t useful. It is also handy for the editing process. As you read your work, ask yourself “So What?” If you can’t answer the question or can’t demonstrate how that piece adds value then you either need to demonstrate its value or take it out altogether.

Remember – good writing is clear and concise. Avoid adding extra pieces that don’t have value.