During one of the sessions in English class where I worked on a blog post with a group, I was given a sheet to reflect on how well I felt I was doing, along with where my strengths and weaknesses in the writing process lay. I had thought of it as a pretty simple task, and filled it out without much thought. However, when I got the sheet back the next day, I saw that Professor McCoy had left a note. I had written that I was doing a good job in conveying my opinion within the post itself, and she had written that there is a big difference between an opinion and a well-made and evidenced claim. What I gathered from the comment was that, in order for my blog posts to prove a point, they could not be purely opinionated, but rather had to be comprised of well supported claims. However, as I began to think about these seemingly different concepts, I realized that, in order for an essay to work, both opinions and evidenced claims have to be present.
Before going into the importance of using both opinions and claims, it’s important to understand what each actually means. According to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, an opinion is defined as “a view, judgment, or appraisal formed in the mind about a particular matter”. In simpler terms, this means that an opinion is how one decides to view a particular matter using only their current knowledge. A claim, on the other hand, is defined as, “an assertion open to challenge”. And while the definition doesn’t explicitly mention the need for evidence, I interpreted that the claim itself must have evidence in order for it to be challengeable. These two concepts oppose each other pretty strongly, with opinions being one’s personal views and another being grounded in facts. And yet, they also go hand and hand with each other during the course of essay writing; after all, an opinion is necessary for a claim to even exist.
I feel that my writing in the past has encompassed this synonymousness well. In my fourth blog post, I talked about the book I Am Not Sidney Poitier by Percival Everett, and how one of the characters within the story, Ted Turner, embodied the random nature of both the book itself and Percival Everett’s style of writing. This was what I considered to be one of my better blog posts, and part of this reason was that I made sure to back up any claims I made with evidence. For example, when referencing the contrasts between planning and randomness, I made sure to mention a quote from the book itself rather than relying on my own assertions. But in order for me to begin making the claim, I had to hold the opinion that Ted Turner embodied randomness. Had I not believed in this claim, my writing would have most likely suffered. At least for me, in order to get the conviction to write, I need to believe in what I’m writing. Otherwise, I’ll feel as though I’m writing lies. Opinions motivate claims. Therefore, in order to write a proper essay, or really any statement-based piece, I feel that there needs to be a balance between opinion and claim.
If a written work plans to make a convincing statement, it needs to include both backed claims and strongly held opinions in order to be cogent. Take Percival Everett’s Re:f (gesture), a collection of three groups of original poems centered around certain themes. The poems that struck me the most was the poem titled “6”, which concludes the book. In the poem, the following statement is made: “Seven men lost, but not seven.” (70) I interpreted this to mean that the concept of seven would still exist even if humans weren’t around, and I found the claim to be pretty interesting. However, as I thought about it more, I realized that the line didn’t really fit the criteria of being a claim. It has no evidence to back it up whatsoever; and although this poem doesn’t try to be too argumentative, it is still contending the nature of “seven”. Without proper support, the statement is nothing more than food for thought, and doesn’t actually prove anything. Though it is unclear as to whether these poems were written to actually argue any points, they seem to hold pretty strong opinions. But that’s all they really are. Opinions. The poems don’t offer any conclusive evidence. Only one side of the coin is present. And in order for the poems to make any solid argument, I feel that, just like in essay writing, they must include the balance mentioned before.
Not every written piece needs to push an argument. Many famous literary works, such as 1984 or Lord of the Flies, provide the reader with engaging stories and what-if scenarios while not relying too hard on trying to push a belief. But even if it is not necessary, when an argument is made, it must be strong. And in order to be strong, it must have a balance of evidence and opinion. One benefits the other. Their balance is what an argument secure.