CER Framework

Getting your Point Across with Clarity

Karen Caldwell, 11 January 2023

You make points – call them claims, arguments, statements, assertions, your “two cents” – every time you interact with others. But how often do you support your points?

Have a look at the quotes below. What patterns do you see, and where do you stand? In other words, in what ways are the quotes similar, and to what extent do you agree?

You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.

Harlan Ellison

If they don’t depend on true evidence, scientists are no better than gossips.

Penelope Fitzgerald, English writer

Believe what you see and lay aside what you hear.

Arab proverb

A wise man proportions his belief to the evidence.

David Hume, Scottish philosopher (1711-76)

These views share one common understanding: concrete, tangible support – or evidence – is a foundation of effective, meaningful communication. Communication that matters. Forming this habit is not an easy task. And it’s 100% worth the effort.

Effective, trustworthy communicators are critical thinkers who:

  • are aware of their biases,
  • can consider multiple views, or opinions, and
  • make clear, evidence-based arguments.

Whether we want people to agree with us – or at the very least, understand us well – we must communicate our points effectively. In this case, argument does not mean disagreement or fight, of course. Here are three useful definitions/meanings of argument from dictionary.com:

  1. a process of reasoning; series of reasons:
    I couldn’t follow his argument.
  2. a statement, reason, or fact for or against a point:
    This is a strong argument in favor of her theory.
  3. subject matter; theme:
    The central argument of his paper was presented clearly.

Support your argument with CER

Meaningful communication involves argumentation. To frame your argument and incorporate evidence, use the well-known CER – or claim, evidence, reasoning – mindset. It’ll become a habit of thinking – and communicating.

Claim: argument, main point, assertion, answer, or statement

  • about what is true or good, or what should be done or believed, an opinion
  • that is arguable – an assertion or point that people can disagree or agree with

Evidence: support for the claim such as

  • science – based on research (e.g., in-text citation of a published study)
  • reliable sources, with facts, statistics, measurable proof (e.g., hyperlink to data from a government site)
  • examples, definitions (e.g., direct reference to a concrete experience – of yours or others)
  • expert-based, testimonial, reported speech (e.g., quote, hyperlink to an interview or video)

Reasoning: explanation of the claim, connecting it to evidence that

  • often answers the question, “Why do you say that?” and would follow the word “because” or be prefaced with “for this reason,”
  • adds depth and clarity to the claim and its evidence by tying them together
  • can feel redundant to the writer but adds great value to the clarity to the message and therefore impact on the listener/reader/viewer (audience)

A lot of folks struggle with the notion of reasoning but they generally overthink it. This explanation from Monash University helps to clarify reasonining:

Reasoning is the “glue” that holds your argument together. Reasons connect evidence with claims, and show your readers how you are using evidence to make your point. Without good reasoning, even strong evidence may not be enough to make a strong argument.

Monash University, Learn HQ

Examples of CER (Claim, Evidence, Reasoning)

A great place to look for examples of CER communication is journalism. Good journalists communicate with a mix of claim, evidence, and reasoning, though not always in that order, mind you.

In a Boston Globe article, Write shorter messages, scientists Todd Rogers & Jessica Lasky-Fink share their research findings about the importance and power of simple, brief communications. Let’s use one of their paragraphs about the limited time and attention we all grapple with to identify CER – the claim, evidence, and reasoning.

News alert: People don’t have enough time, and they receive too many communications. The average professional spends 28 percent of their work week — over 11 hours — reading and answering email. The average person communicates more than 90 times per day by text and more than 100 times per day by email. Every message received demands attention and time from people who are already too busy.

Write shorter messages by T. Rogers & J. Lasky-Fink, Boston Globe (2020 Dec. 19)

What did you find?

At a glance, you were likely able to identify the evidence first. In digital communication, hyperlinks indicate the writer’s source. The mere act of providing a source for your claim is a habit to form immediately. It suggests that you have evidence to back it up. Though it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s quality evidence, it’s evidence nonetheless. In the example above, if you identified the 2nd and 3rd sentences as evidence, you’re right on track – they hyperlink to sources, or evidence.

How did you do identifying and differentiating the claim and evidence? I’m guessing this may have been more of a challenge. If you settled on the 1st and 4th sentences as a starting point, pat yourself on the back. But how do we differentiate them? It’s not always possible and the good news is, it’s not a big deal: they do the same job, just in different ways.

Huh? Kind of confusing, I get it.

Claims communicate the bottom line, “let me boil it down for you” point. It’s usually one sentence and captures your main point, argument, statement, assertion, etc. Reasoning, on the other hand, connects the dots. Reasoning explains the link between your claim and evidence, often by re-stating the claim but with different words. I like to think of reasoning illustrating how the evidence supports the claim.

Let me show you:

  • claim, 1st sentence: people don’t have enough time and receive too many communications
  • evidence, 2nd & 3rd sentences: people spend 28% (11 hours) of their work week on email, communicate 90 times/day via text and 100 times/day via email
  • reasoning, 4th sentence: people are already too busy

Notice how straightforward the claim is? And would you agree that the reasoning more or less re-states the claim? The evidence is pretty clear, I’d say – look at the data the journalists share.

Want to take another crack at it? Have a look at this excerpt from my article, Are you Career Ready? Once again, identify the claim, evidence, and reasoning.

The only constant in life is change. Are you sick of the word “pivot”? Well, something tells me you’d better get used to it. Pivoting relies on adaptability and readiness for change, and success and failure in the work world depend on it.

Let’s look at some evidence.

CNN Business’s (2019) Julia Chatterley recently interviewed IBM’s Chief HR Officer, Diane Gherson, about some surprising findings from a worldwide survey and the head-spinning, rapid-fire pace of change for employers. The survey was run twice, first in 2014, and again in 2019. Over 5,500 executives across 48 countries participated and their responses indicate a major shift in the most sought-after skills for new hires. Adaptability – or readiness for change – came up over and over in the interview.

Seriously. A flexible mindset was more important to employers worldwide than technical skills.

Are you Career Ready? by Karen Caldwell (2021 Aug. 17)

What do you think? The evidence part, I’m guessing, was the easiest. I try to be pretty “meta” in my writing. How about the claim and reasoning? Here’s my take:

  • claim, 1st paragraph: change is constant and the work world depends on adaptability
  • evidence, 3rd paragraph: especially the last sentence where the study findings are stated, Adaptability came up over and over.
  • reasoning, last sentence: flexible mindset was more important to employers

Writing tips & expressions to get you started

Sometimes we just need a nudge or some concrete tools to get on the right track. Here are some “sign posts” or signals – sentence starters and common expressions – to indicate your C, E, and R.


A simple, concise, direct sentence works best for your claim, subject verb object.


  • People are more likely to read, understand, and respond to shorter messages. (from Write shorter messages by Rogers & Lasky-Fink)
  • Modern workplaces are learning organizations. (from Are you career ready? by Karen Caldwell)


These common expressions and language are clear signals or markers to your audience that you’re supporting your claim with evidence.

Example expressions: Evidence

For example,…, such as
For instance,In particular, / Particularly,
To illustrate,Specifically,
To demonstrate,According to {source},

You can also signal evidence with direct and indirect indications of your source.



Remember, it helps to think of reasoning as “connecting the dots” to someone who really does not know your topic. You’ve made a claim and you have evidence, now make it crystal clear to your audience, even if you have to repeat the message in a different way. The key is to make your point loud and clear and the following sign posts can help.

Example expressions: Cause or Reason

We use these expressions naturally in conversation but sometimes it helps to have a list!

sincedue to
because ofas a result of

Example expressions: Result or Effect

I find these sign posts are powerful to introduce my reasoning, clearly signalling that I’m connecting the dots and describing the “result” or “effect” of the evidence I’m sharing.

For this reason,This (evidence) demonstrates that
As a result, Therefore,
Consequently, Thus,
So, Hence,

Keep in mind…

By now you’re getting the hang of things, I’m sure and I want to share a few points with you in closing:

  1. CER is not neat’n’tidy but you’ll find it in effective, quality, trustworthy communication. By neat’n’tidy, I mean always in the same order: claim, evidence, reasoning and always crystal clear to the audience (reader, listener, viewer).
  2. Start your CER with a direct and clear claim, as a habit. Whether you follow with reasoning or evidence is up to you. Mix things up.
  3. Always question sources and their “evidence” with an emphasis on being skepticle but not cynical.
  4. The origins of CER lie in scientific communication, not surprisingly. But it has spread far and wide because it is a framework for critical, analytical thinking to share ideas that matter.
  5. Make a habit of using CER in the workplace and classroom. Often. You’ll notice that folks perk up and learn forward when you communicate.

%d bloggers like this: