Templates are powerful tools for writing, especially for amateur writers
In the introduction to “They Say / I Say”: The Moves That Matters in Academic Writing, Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein provide templates designed to structure and generate better writing. Specifically, Graff and Birkinstein argue that the types of writing templates they offer engages you in the world of critical thinking and writing and also helps you put those skills directly into practice. As the authors themselves put it, “such templates help you successfully enter not only the world of academic thinking and writing but also the wider worlds of civic discourse and work”.
Although some people believe that such templates will stifle creativity, Graff and Birkinstein insist that templates offer a way to format how you present your content but they don’t control the content of what you say. In sum then their view is that templates are learning tools that help you get started in engaging writing. Once you start to feel comfortable with writing in a specific way using templates, then you can craft your content creatively to include new situations and purposes.
I agree with Graff and Birkinstein’s position on using such templates. In my view, the types of templates the authors recommend offer the language for structuring thoughts in organized ways. For instance, the authors emphasize the importance of the “They say … I say …” structure and encourages the writers to enter into a conversation with what others are saying followed by stating what we want to say in response to other’s claims. In addition, since we are not born knowing the specific ways that a seasoned writer uses in their expert writings, these templates empower us to think like an expert right away and produce compelling writings that deeply engage with others.
Some might object, of course, on the grounds that employing templates goes against originality and makes it sound robotic. Yet I would argue that most seasoned writers and experts were once all amateurs themselves and they learned to use other writers’ techniques before them. For example, some creative works make use of lots of references from well-known works of art but these works are still considered original and creative on their own. Overall, then, I believe that using templates invites us to become more creative — an important point to make given that we are not born with the artificial skills to write as those expert writers.