Summer School 2023 is filling up fast. Enol online now or call +44 1865 954800 to book your place
- 9 Ways to Construct a Compelling Argument
You might also enjoy…
- How to Write with Evidence in a Time of Fake News
- 4 Ridiculous Things Actually Suggested in Parliament
But especially in the circumstances that we’re deeply convinced of the rightness of our points, putting them across in a compelling way that will change other people’s mind is a challenge. If you feel that your opinion is obviously right, it’s hard work even to understand why other people might disagree. Some people reach this point and don’t bother to try, instead concluding that those who disagree with them must be stupid, misled or just plain immoral. And it’s almost impossible to construct an argument that will persuade someone if you’re starting from the perspective that they’re either dim or evil. In the opposite set of circumstances – when you only weakly believe your perspective to be right – it can also be tricky to construct a good argument. In the absence of conviction, arguments tend to lack coherence or force. In this article, we take a look at how you can put together an argument, whether for an essay, debate speech or social media post, that is forceful, cogent and – if you’re lucky – might just change someone’s mind.
1. Keep it simple
Almost all good essays focus on a single powerful idea, drawing in every point made back to that same idea so that even someone skim-reading will soon pick up the author’s thesis. But when you care passionately about something, it’s easy to let this go. If you can see twenty different reasons why you’re right, it’s tempting to put all of them into your argument, because it feels as if the sheer weight of twenty reasons will be much more persuasive than just focusing on one or two; after all, someone may be able rebut a couple of reasons, but can they rebut all twenty? Yet from the outside, an argument with endless different reasons is much less persuasive than one with focus and precision on a small number of reasons. The debate in the UK about whether or not to stay in the EU was a great example of this. The Remain campaign had dozens of different reasons. Car manufacturing! Overfishing! Cleaner beaches! Key workers for the NHS! Medical research links! Economic opportunities! The difficulty of overcoming trade barriers! The Northern Irish border! Meanwhile, the Leave campaign boiled their argument down to just one: membership of the EU means relinquishing control. Leaving it means taking back control. And despite most expectations and the advice of most experts, the simple, straightforward message won. Voters struggled to remember the many different messages put out by the Remain campaign, as compelling as each of those reasons might have been; but they remembered the message about taking back control.
2. Be fair on your opponent
One of the most commonly used rhetorical fallacies is the Strawman Fallacy. This involves constructing a version of your opponent’s argument that is much weaker than the arguments they might use themselves, in order than you can defeat it more easily. For instance, in the area of crime and punishment, you might be arguing in favour of harsher prison sentences, while your opponent argues in favour of early release where possible. A Strawman would be to say that your opponent is weak on crime, wanting violent criminals to be let out on to the streets without adequate punishment or deterrence, to commit the same crimes again. In reality, your opponent’s idea might exclude violent criminals, and focus on community-based restorative justice that could lead to lower rates of recidivism. To anyone who knows the topic well, if your argument includes a Strawman, then you will immediately have lost credibility by demonstrating that either you don’t really understand the opposing point of view, or that you simply don’t care about rebutting it properly. Neither is persuasive. Instead, you should be fair to your opponent and represent their argument honestly, and your readers will take you seriously as a result
3. Avoid other common fallacies
It’s worth taking the time to read about logical fallacies and making sure that you’re not making them, as argument that rest of fallacious foundations can be more easily demolished. (This may not apply on social media, but it does in formal debating and in writing essays). Some fallacies are straightforward to understand, such as the appeal to popularity (roughly “everyone agrees with me, so I must be right!”), but others are a little trickier. Take “begging the question”, which is often misunderstood. It gets used to mean “raises the question” (e.g. “this politician has defended terrorists, which raises the question – can we trust her?”), but the fallacy it refers to is a bit more complicated. It’s when an argument rests on the assumption that its conclusions are true. For example, someone might argue that fizzy drinks shouldn’t be banned in schools, on the grounds that they’re not bad for students’ health. How can we know that they’re not bad for students’ health? Why, if they were, they would be banned in schools! When put in a condensed form like this example, the flaw in this approach is obvious, but you can imagine how you might fall for it over the course of a whole essay – for instance, paragraphs arguing that teachers would have objected to hyperactive students, parents would have complained, and we can see that none of this has happened because they haven’t yet been banned. With more verbosity, a bad argument can be hidden, so check that you’re not falling prey to it in your own writing.
4. Make your assumptions clear
Every argument rests on assumptions. Some of these assumptions are so obvious that you’re not going to be aware that you’re making them – for instance, you might make an argument about different economic systems that rests on the assumption that reducing global poverty is a good thing. While very few people would disagree with you on that, in general, if your assumption can be proven false, then the entire basis of your argument is undermined. A more controversial example might be an argument that rests on the assumption that everyone can trust the police force – for instance, if you’re arguing for tougher enforcement of minor offences in order to prevent them from mounting into major ones. But in countries where the police are frequently bribed, or where policing has obvious biases, such enforcement could be counterproductive. If you’re aware of such assumptions underpinning your argument, tackle them head on by making them clear and explaining why they are valid; so you could argue that your law enforcement proposal is valid in the particular circumstances that you’re suggesting because the police force there can be relied on, even if it wouldn’t work everywhere.
5. Rest your argument on solid foundations
If you think that you’re right in your argument, you should also be able to assemble a good amount of evidence that you’re right. That means putting the effort in and finding something that genuinely backs up what you’re saying; don’t fall back on dubious statistics or fake news . Doing the research to ensure that your evidence is solid can be time-consuming, but it’s worthwhile, as then you’ve removed another basis on which your argument could be challenged. What happens if you can’t find any evidence for your argument? The first thing to consider is whether you might be wrong! If you find lots of evidence against your position, and minimal evidence for it, it would be logical to change your mind. But if you’re struggling to find evidence either way, it may simply be that the area is under-researched. Prove what you can, including your assumptions, and work from there.
6. Use evidence your readers will believe
So far we’ve focused on how to construct an argument that is solid and hard to challenge; from this point onward, we focus on what it takes to make an argument persuasive. One thing you can do is to choose your evidence with your audience in mind. For instance, if you’re writing about current affairs, a left-wing audience will find an article from the Guardian to be more persuasive (as they’re more likely to trust its reporting), while a right-wing audience might be more swayed by the Telegraph. This principle doesn’t just hold in terms of politics. It can also be useful in terms of sides in an academic debate, for instance. You can similarly bear in mind the demographics of your likely audience – it may be that an older audience is more skeptical of footnotes that consist solely of web addresses. And it isn’t just about statistics and references. The focus of your evidence as a whole can take your probable audience into account; for example, if you were arguing that a particular drug should be banned on health grounds and your main audience was teenagers, you might want to focus more on the immediate health risks, rather than ones that might only appear years or decades later.
7. Avoid platitudes and generalisations, and be specific
A platitude is a phrase used to the point of meaninglessness – and it may not have had that much meaning to begin with. If you find yourself writing something like “because family life is all-important” to support one of your claims, you’ve slipped into using platitudes. Platitudes are likely to annoy your readers without helping to persuade them. Because they’re meaningless and uncontroversial statements, using them doesn’t tell your reader anything new. If you say that working hours need to be restricted because family ought to come first, you haven’t really given your reader any new information. Instead, bring the importance of family to life for your reader, and then explain just how long hours are interrupting it. Similarly, being specific can demonstrate the grasp you have on your subject, and can bring it to life for your reader. Imagine that you were arguing in favour of nationalising the railways, and one of your points was that the service now was of low quality. Saying “many commuter trains are frequently delayed” is much less impactful than if you have the full facts to hand, e.g. “in Letchworth Garden City, one key commuter hub, half of all peak-time trains to London were delayed by ten minutes or more.”
8. Understand the opposing point of view
As we noted in the introduction, you can’t construct a compelling argument unless you understand why someone might think you were wrong, and you can come up with reasons other than them being mistaken or stupid. After all, we almost all target them same end goals, whether that’s wanting to increase our understanding of the world in academia, or increase people’s opportunities to flourish and seek happiness in politics. Yet we come to divergent conclusions. In his book The Righteous Mind , Jonathan Haidt explores the different perspectives of people who are politically right or left-wing. He summarises the different ideals people might value, namely justice, equality, authority, sanctity and loyalty, and concludes that while most people see that these things have some value, different political persuasions value them to different degrees. For instance, someone who opposes equal marriage might argue that they don’t oppose equality – but they do feel that on balance, sanctity is more important. An argument that focuses solely on equality won’t sway them, but an argument that addresses sanctity might.
9. Make it easy for your opponent to change their mind
It’s tricky to think of the last time you changed your mind about something really important. Perhaps to preserve our pride, we frequently forget that we ever believed something different. This survey of British voters’ attitudes to the Iraq war demonstrates the point beautifully. 54% of people supporting invading Iraq in 2003; but twelve years on, with the war a demonstrable failure, only 37% were still willing to admit that they had supported it at the time. The effect in the USA was even more dramatic. It would be tempting for anyone who genuinely did oppose the war at the time to be quite smug towards anyone who changed their mind, especially those who won’t admit it. But if changing your mind comes with additional consequences (e.g. the implication that you were daft ever to have believed something, even if you’ve since come to a different conclusion), then the incentive to do so is reduced. Your argument needs to avoid vilifying people who have only recently come around to your point of view; instead, to be truly persuasive, you should welcome them.
Images: pink post it hand ; megaphone girl ; pencil shavings ; meeting ; hand writing ; boxers ; pink trainers; tools ; magnifying glass ; bridge ; thinking girl ; puzzle hands
Leave a Reply Cancel reply
Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *
Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment.
Analyzing Grammar in Context
Section 2: writing and the structure of argument.
A primary ability for any writer in academic and professional writing contexts is constructing effective arguments. Although necessarily brief, this page provides an introduction to the basic elements of argument and strategies for constructing effective arguments.
A typical argument contains three primary elements:
- a claim or thesis
- statement(s) of reason(s)
- evidence / support / proofs / counterarguments
The claim or thesis is a clear statement of the position that you are asking your readers to accept. A claim can encompass the entire text, a particular section of the text, an individual paragraph, or a single sentence. Ideally, claims presented in each of these instances should be consistent throughout the text. The claim includes information you are asking readers to accept as true, or actions you want them to accept and enact, and must be supported by specific reasons, along with evidence that supports those reasons.
In planning an argument, the first step is to define your position and make a claim. Obviously, your stance is your opinion, for your arguments should reflect your point of view in some way. Once you define your position and make a claim, you need to consider the context of the argument—the setting—as well as the data or assumptions that are agreed upon or incontrovertible within that context. This will help your readers understand the background of the argument and the accepted or understood positions.
Statement(s) of Reason(s)
Your reasons state why you are taking this position, why you believe what you do. You must spell it out for the reader, for an argument requires more than a good thesis. Any argument will have a list of supporting reasons and evidence. These reasons should be concrete and supported with evidence. Each statement of reason should include the following elements: the (supporting) reason; an explanation/definition of the reason; evidence; an explanation of the value of that evidence.
Remember your claim needs to be supported by your reasons: your ideas. The key to a strong argument is to start with your ideas , not those of your sources. If you start with the ideas of your sources, it's easy to fall into the trap of writing a paper that mostly summarizes what other people think or say. To avoid this, start planning your argument by listing your supporting reasons. Under each reason, list the information you need to provide in order to explain it. Some of this information will be evidence from your outside sources, but some of it could be based on your own experience or your own explanations of why you think something is important.
Also, as discussed in Writing as Cognitive Process and Social Practice , keep your audience in mind as you develop your supporting reasons.
- What do they know about your topic?
- What do they think about it?
- What kinds of ideas and evidence will they find most persuasive and interesting?
- What questions would they ask about your claim, and would they challenge any part of what you have to say?
From there, you can create a rough outline, listing your main supporting reasons, the evidence you want to use to explain those reasons, and any questions or challenges you need to answer in order to persuade your readers. A rough outline can help you figure out what kind of research you still need to do or help you notice sections of your argument that need more support, or that already have plenty of evidence.
A good argument will explain how each piece of evidence relates to the argument and why the evidence is valuable and credible. The primary purpose of support is to explain why your reasons are legitimate ones. While support may take many forms, you should always think of support as a logical explanation.
Usually, supporting evidence includes facts, ideas, and quotes from current research and/or experts, examples of cases related to your topic, and quotes from people who are affected by it. As you can see, supporting evidence often arises from source material, but never use a quotation or paraphrase without explaining its relevance to your reason immediately, never let a source do the talking for you, and never let a source have the last word in your argument.
In general, the evidence/support that you use in academic writing takes three basic forms:
- Facts (information that has been verified— proved true and information that is not based on personal opinion, though one can have an opinion about it);
- Authoritative Opinion (the testimony of experts on the topic—often found through research—but care must be taken to identify any bias in the position of the source that would affect the validity of the opinion, for the validity of the opinion depends on the authority of the source);
- Logic (logical evidence is created by thinking about facts and authoritative opinions; logical evidence offers proof of a thesis by demonstrating a relationship between the thesis and facts or authoritative opinions; logical evidence is created in the mind of the person making the argument).
Rhetorical Appeals/Proofs: Ethos, Pathos, Logos
Another way to think about the evidence that you provide to support your argument are the rhetorical appeals or proofs. In the Rhetorica , Aristotle identifies the three canonical modes of artistic proof: ethos, pathos and logos. He states that in order to persuade, one must exude good character, move the audience by appealing to emotions, and advance good reasons. Whenever you read an argument you must ask yourself, “Is this persuasive?” Rhetorical appeals are prevalent in almost all arguments and can provide the tools for analyzing and understanding effective argument practices.
Ethos: The Writer's Image
Ethos can be roughly translated as ethics or ethical practice, but a more accurate use of the term would be the “image” of the writer. Aristotle uses ethos to refer to the speaker's character as it appears to the audience, for he believes that if the audience accepts that a speaker has “good sense, good moral character, and goodwill,” they are more inclined to believe what that speaker says. While we might also define ethos in terms of appropriate expertise or authority, the key is for the writer to establish and project credibility to the audience. As such, a writer's ethos is created largely by word choice and style, which can be a problem for novices who may be asked to create texts as if they have authority to speak persuasively, when in fact they may be relative newcomers to the subject matter and the larger field. To develop ethos, you need to use language that is suitable to the rhetorical situation—including an appropriate vocabulary and correct grammar—and offer a sincere and fair-minded presentation of the information. In doing so, you will demonstrate your reliability, competence, and respect for the audience's ideas and values.
Pathos: The Emotions of the Audience
Pathos is the appeal to emotion, for the writer must also stir the emotions in order to move the audience to action. They may be any emotions: love, fear, patriotism, guilt, hate, joy, etc. The more people react without full consideration for the why of an argument, the more effective that argument might be. Although the pathetic appeal can be manipulative, it is the cornerstone of moving people to action. Many arguments are able to persuade people logically, but the apathetic audience may not follow through on the call to action. Appeals to pathos touch a nerve and compel people to not only listen, but to also take the next step and act in the world. To appeal to the emotions of the audience and evoke an emotional response, the writer should use vivid, concrete, and figurative language.
Logos: Logical Arguments
Logos is the appeal to reason and refers primarily to any attempt to appeal to the intellect. Since logic and rationality are highly valued in our society, logos is usually privileged over ethos or pathos. But as a rhetorical appeal, logos is most often based on probabilities rather than certain truth, for we often cannot know a thing with absolute certainty, yet we must act anyway. To appeal to logic and evoke a cognitive, rational response, the writer often uses more theoretical or abstract language that includes literal or historical analogies, definitions, factual data and statistics, quotations and citations from experts and authorities, and informed opinions. Persuasion, to a large extent, involves convincing people to accept our assumptions as probably true. Similarly, exposing questionable assumptions in someone else's argument is an effective means for preparing the audience to accept your own contrary position.
Despite the careful construction of an argument, there may still be counter-arguments that can be used. These may be rebutted either through a continued dialogue, or by pre-empting the counter-argument by presenting a rebuttal as an integral part of your own argument. Remember, any rebuttal is an argument in itself, and thus may include all the elements of an argument.
In short, remember that when addressing a possible counter-argument, you need to know the opposing arguments, refute them by formulating responses to them, and follow all the rules of evidence that you used to support your argument. If you can do this, your argument will be much stronger.
Section 2 Pages
Jump to navigation
- Inside Writing
- Teacher's Guides
- Student Models
- Writing Topics
- Shopping Cart
- Inside Grammar
- Grammar Adventures
- CCSS Correlations
Get a free Grammar Adventure! Choose a single Adventure and add coupon code ADVENTURE during checkout. (All-Adventure licenses aren’t included.)
Sign up or login to use the bookmarking feature.
6 Strategies for Writing Arguments
Over the years, three major modes have dominated academic writing—narrative, explanatory, and argument. Traditionally, writing teachers have devoted equal attention to the Big Three in that order, but modern standards place argument writing at the head of the pack. Why?
A push for rigor may explain the shift. Argument writing requires clear, logical thinking and the know-how to appeal to readers' needs. Clearly, such communication skills come at a premium in today’s information economy, and developing those skills will help students flourish in school and the workplace.
But many developing writers struggle to write clear and compelling arguments. You can help them succeed by teaching the following strategies.
1. Distinguishing Argumentation from Persuasion
National writing standards and the tests that assess them focus on argumentation rather than persuasion. In practice, these approaches overlap more than they diverge, but students should understand the subtle difference between them.
- Persuasion appeals to readers' emotions to make them believe something or take specific action. Advertising uses persuasion.
- Argumentation uses logic and evidence to build a case for a specific claim. Science and law use argumentation.
You can help your students understand the difference between the two by presenting Distinguishing Argumentation from Persuasion .
2. Forming an Opinion Statement
Your students’ message will not make a full impact without a clear main claim or opinion statement. Reading arguments with a missing claim statement is like driving through fog; you're never quite sure where you're headed.
Present Developing an Opinion Statement to help students write a main claim for their argument. In this minilesson, students follow a simple formula to develop a claim of truth, value, or policy.
3. Appealing to the Audience
Once students state a claim, how can they support it in a way that appeals to skeptical readers? Aristotle outlined three types of rhetorical appeals. The first two work best in argumentation and the third in persuasion.
- The appeal to logos means providing clear thinking and solid reasoning to support claims (using logic).
- The appeal to ethos means building trust by citing reputable sources, providing factual evidence, and fairly presenting the issue (using ethics).
- The appeal to pathos means persuading by connecting to readers’ emotions (tugging "heartstrings").
Assign Making Rhetorical Appeals to help students choose supporting details that will appeal logically and ethically (argumentation) or emotionally (persuasion).
4. Connecting with Anecdotes
Though argumentation should de-emphasize emotional appeals, it still should connect to readers on a human level. As Thomas Newkirk advises in Minds Made for Stories , “Any argument that fails to appeal to the emotions, values, hopes, fears, self-interest, or identity of any audience is doomed to fail.”
Apt anecdotes allow students to add interest and emotive impact to their writing. Give students practice Using Anecdotes in Formal Writing , and encourage them to add appropriate anecdotes to connect to readers.
5. Answering Objections
Students' arguments lose steam when they ignore key opposing ideas. Help them realize that addressing readers' disagreements does not weaken their arguments, but in fact strengthens them. Introduce these two ways to respond to opposing points of view.
- Counterarguments point out a flaw or weakness in the objection (without belittling the person who is objecting).
- Concessions admit the value of an opposing viewpoint, but quickly pivot back to the writer's side of the argument.
Then present Answering Objections in Arguments .
6. Avoiding Logical Fallacies
An effective argument uses clear and logical thinking. Sometimes, though, students get so eager to fight for a point of view that they accidently (or intentionally) make misleading or illogical claims to prove their points. You can help students look for and avoid fuzzy thinking by introducing common logical fallacies in the following minilessons:
- Recognizing Logical Fallacies 1
- Recognizing Logical Fallacies 2
These six strategies can help your students write stronger and more convincing argument papers. Also know that many of the skills you teach during your narrative and explanatory units will translate well to argument writing. Sometimes an argument needs a touch of description, a careful analysis, or even a poetic turn of phrase. Good writing is good writing.
Want more ideas for argument writing?
- Share 7 C’s For Building a Rock-Solid Argument .
- Browse 15 Awesome Persuasive Writing Prompts .
- Explore the handbooks in our K-12 writing program for full and grade-specific support for argument writing.
- Look out for future blog posts from the team at Thoughtful Learning.
Click to find out more about this resource.
The State Standards provide a way to evaluate your students' performance.
- LA 10.2.1.b
- LA 10.2.2.a
- LA 10.2.1.c
- LA 10.2.2.b
- LA 12.2.1.b
- LA 12.2.2.a
- 15 Engaging Explanatory Writing Prompts
- 15 Awesome Persuasive Writing Prompts
- Distinguishing Argumentation from Persuasion
- Ways to Maximize Learning in English Language Arts
- Of Personal Importance: How Narration Drives Meaningful Writing
- Writing Character Analyses
- Writing Literary Analyses
- Inquire Online Middle School Classroom Set
- Inquire Online Middle School Teacher's Guide
- Write on Course 20-20
- Inquire Middle School Teacher's Guide
- Inquire Middle School
- Inquire Elementary Teacher's Guide
- Inquire Elementary
Jan 6, 2018
The 5 Principles of Good Argument
In our daily lives, we’re constantly hearing or making persuasive arguments. We may be listening to a colleague’s argument for why we should support one of her initiatives. We may hear an argument for why we should buy a certain product. Or we may need to make our own argument to get approval for one of our projects.
How should we evaluate arguments that people make to persuade us? And how should we construct our own arguments to be the most effective?
T. Edward Damer shares an excellent framework for creating good arguments in his book Attacking Faulty Reasoning . Damer begins by explaining what an argument is. At its core, an argument consists of a conclusion and one or more premises, or claims. The conclusion is what the communicator wants his or her audience to accept, and the premises are the reasons for believing the conclusion to be true. According to Damer, here’s the formal definition of an argument:
“An argument is constituted by two or more explicit and/or implicit claims, one or more of which supports or provides evidence for the truth or merit of another claim, the conclusion.”
So how do you craft a good argument? Damer shares the five principles for developing a good argument:
Let’s look at each of these principles in more detail.
A good argument must meet the fundamental structural requirements of a well-formed argument.
“Such an argument does not use reasons that contradict each other, that contradict the conclusion, or that explicitly or implicitly assume the truth of the conclusion.”
To evaluate any argument for whether it violates the principle of Structure , ask the following questions:
- Does the communication include at least one reason to support the conclusion as being true? If it doesn’t, then it’s not an argument — it’s merely an opinion. An unsupported conclusion is an opinion ; a conclusion supported by reasons is an argument .
- Could any of the key premises be interpreted as making the same claim as the conclusion? If so, then it’s a “circular argument” — there’s no independent reason given to support the conclusion. Since A, therefore A. No one is likely to use the exact same words in both the premise and the conclusion, so you need to ask yourself if a premise can be interpreted as making the same claim as the conclusion. “Joe is nuts,” Gary says. “Why do you say that?” I ask. “Because he’s so crazy,” Gary replies. Since A, therefore A .
- Do any of the premises contradict another premise, or does the conclusion contradict any of the premises?
The reasons that a communicator provides as part of his or her argument must be relevant for the truth or merit of the conclusion. What makes a premise relevant?
“A premise is relevant if its acceptance provides some reason to believe, counts in favor of, or has some bearing on the truth or merit of the conclusion. A premise is irrelevant if its acceptance has no bearing on, provides no evidence for, or has no connection to the truth or merit of the conclusion.”
To assess whether an argument violates the principle of Relevance , ask these two questions:
- If the premise were true, does it make you more likely to believe that the conclusion is true? If yes, the premise is probably relevant. If no, then the premise is probably not relevant.
- Even if the premise were true, should it be a consideration for accepting the truth of the conclusion? If no, then the premise is probably not relevant. “Jerry is over 6 ft. tall. So he must be good at basketball.” “ Avatar is an artistic masterpiece. After all, it was the highest grossing film of the year.”
The reasons that a communicator provides in his or her argument should be likely to be accepted by a mature, rational adult. As Damer writes, a premise should be acceptable to a mature, rational adult if it meets the following standards of premise acceptability :
- “A claim that is a matter of undisputed common knowledge.”
- “A claim that is confirmed by one’s own personal experience or observation.”
- An “uncontroverted eyewitness testimony,” or an “uncontroverted claim from a relevant authority.”
- “A relatively minor claim that seems to be a reasonable assumption in the context of the argument.”
By contrast, a premise should be rejected by a mature, rational adult if it meets the following conditions of premise unacceptability :
- “A claim that contradicts credible evidence, a well-established claim, or a legitimate authority.”
- “A claim that is inconsistent with one’s own experiences or observations.”
- “A claim that is based on another unstated but highly questionable assumption.”
An argument meets the acceptability principle when each of its premises conforms to at least one of the standards of acceptability and none of its premises conforms to the conditions of unacceptability.
To assess whether an argument violates the principle of Acceptability , ask the following questions:
- Is the premise provided one that a mature, rational adult would likely accept?
- What evidence is provided as part of the claim, and does it conform to the standards of acceptability or the conditions of unacceptability?
- Is the premise based on an unstated assumption that a mature, rational adult not be willing to accept?
A communicator making an argument should provide reasons that are sufficient to justify the acceptance of his or her conclusion.
“There must be a sufficient number of relevant and acceptable premises of the appropriate kind and weight in order for an argument to be good enough for us to accept its conclusion.”
This principle is one of the most difficult to apply, because it’s a judgment call. There are no black-and-white guidelines for what constitutes a “sufficient” number and weight of reasons to accept a conclusion. Often, it’s a disagreement about the weight or sufficiency of the premises in an argument that prevents two intelligent and well-meaning people from reaching the same conclusion based on the same available evidence.
To evaluate whether an argument violates the principle of Sufficiency, ask the following questions:
- Are the reasons provided enough to drive to the arguer’s conclusion? If not, the argument violates the sufficiency principle.
- Is the premise based on insufficient evidence or faulty causal analysis? Some premises provide evidence that is based on too small a sample or unrepresentative data. Or the evidence is based on the personal experience of the arguer, or of a small set of acquaintances that the arguer knows. The premise may be based on faulty causal analysis — assuming A caused B, even though the two events were unrelated.
- Is some key or crucial evidence missing that must be provided in order to accept the argument?
A good argument includes an effective rebuttal to all anticipated serious criticisms of the argument.
“An argument cannot be a good one if it does not anticipate and effectively rebut or blunt the force of the most serious criticisms against it and the position that it supports… A good arguer should be constantly mindful of the fact that an argument is not finished until one has ‘finished off’ the criticisms and counterarguments.”
There are multiple ways that an argument can violate the Rebuttal principle. Arguers often use diversionary tactics instead of making effective rebuttals.
“For example, arguments that misrepresent the criticism, bring up trivial objections as a side issue, or resort to humor or ridicule are using devices that clearly fail to make effective responses. The same can be said of those arguments that ignore or deny the counterevidence against the position defended. Finally, some arguers try to avoid responding to a criticism by attacking the critic instead of the criticism.”
To assess whether an argument fails to meet the Rebuttal principle, ask the following questions:
- Does the argument provided address the strongest counterarguments effectively?
- Does the arguer anticipate and address serious weaknesses in the argument?
- Does the argument show why alternative positions are flawed?
Making your own argument stronger
We can use the five principles above to evaluate arguments that others present to us. But how do we strengthen our own arguments when we craft them? Using each principle, Damer provides some suggestions for how to improve our arguments.
- Structure: Explicitly call out your conclusion and the supporting reasons, so that they are easy to recognize and follow. Ensure that your premises (1) do not contradict each other or the conclusion, and (2) do not assume the truth of the conclusion. Make explicit any key assumptions that you’re using.
- Relevance : Ensure that all materials you’re presenting as part of your argument are relevant. Cut out anything that’s not relevant. Don’t weaken your argument by including irrelevant premises.
- Acceptability : Whenever possible, substitute less controversial claims for more controversial ones. Soften, if possible, any absolute claims to make them more acceptable. (e.g. “most politicians” instead of “all politicians”) Don’t use highly questionable evidence or assumptions.
- Sufficiency : Continue adding relevant premises if they contribute to the number and weight of the reasons that drive to your conclusion. Put yourself in your audience’s place, and ask if the reasons are sufficient to accept your conclusion. If an important premise is controversial, support it with sub-premises and additional evidence.
- Rebuttal : Be as exhaustive as necessary in your rebuttal. Some arguments may need to rebut a single criticism, but more controversial or divisive issues may require multiple rebuttals. Declare up front what the weakest parts of your argument are and proactively address them to blunt the force of your opponent’s counterarguments.
In our professional and personal lives, we’re bombarded by persuasive messages — arguments — designed to get us to accept a conclusion. On the flip side, we ourselves may need to make a persuasive argument to get support for our proposals and positions. What makes a good argument? T. Edward Damer shares five key principles for every good argument:
Arguments must conform to a well-formed structure : first, they must contain reasons (or else they’re merely opinions); and second, they must contain reasons that don’t contradict each other or assume the truth of the conclusion. The reasons provided in an argument must be relevant to the truth or merit of the conclusion. Furthermore, these reasons should be acceptable to a mature, rational adult. The reasons should be sufficient in number and weight to drive to the argument’s conclusion. And finally, the argument should anticipate and address any serious criticisms proactively, to rebut the criticisms and blunt the force of any counterattacks.
We can use these principles to critically evaluate the arguments of others, and thus arrive at independent, well thought-out conclusions. Just as importantly, we can use these principles to clarify our logic and craft compelling arguments ourselves. If all of us use these five principles, the quality of our communication — and our thinking — will vastly improve.
More from Ameet Ranadive
Entrepreneur. Product management @ Instagram.
About Help Terms Privacy
Get the Medium app
Text to speech
What Makes An Effective Argument Ineffective?
Analyzing arguments: those you read and those you write.
In this article titled “Analyzing Arguments: Those You Read and Those You Write” goes over multiple strategies and examples to help you analyze the meaning and purpose of a specific argument and how to strengthen your own.
The Argument And Critical Inquiry Essay
The last time that I was involved in an argument, was on the drive to Cypress Hills. The argument was based on whether the Cypress Hills are Mountains or Hills. An argument is a set of claims, that is supported by premises. Although an argument may lead to a shouting match or a brawl, they are speaking of the word argument in a different context. There is more than one definition to the word argument. In our case we are interested in arguments as a set of claims, not a yelling match between two people. Arguments are related to critical thinking, since you must evaluate the issue and form a reasoned judgement.
Gun Control Speech Outline
Introduce the first main point of the argument. Then, provide evidence from the sources. Multiple pieces of evidence should be provided to support the main point.
The Color Of Family Ties Summary
An argument is a claim supported by reasons and pieces of evidence. Arguments have five primary attributes. Firstly, argumentation is a social process which involves two or more parties responding to one another’s proposal or claim. For the case of a written argument, the writer responds to the content of the essay through a critique process. The responses should not only involve restating the same claims and reasons but rather providing supportive pieces of evidence to the positions taken accordingly. Secondly, the aim of an argument is to make the audience adhere to the written critique. The objective is to influence the audience with the aim of gaining support to
Moral Relativism, By James Rachels
An argument is an attempt to prove that something is true (or probably true) by offering evidence. In philosophy there are usually three premises that are part of the argument. Premises are evidence used to attempt to prove the conclusion. The third premise is the one that sums up that argument. Arguments can be objectively true or subjectively true. For an argument, x is objectively true if and only if x is the case, and x is subjectively true for S if and only if x coheres with S’s worldview of X is simply a matter of taste.
Many important events in our nation's history were influenced by persuasive arguments. Many sides have gained support due to the writings or speeches gave by an effective speaker. These arguments take a lot to be effective. There are three key components, and if an argument lacks any one of them, it is not effective. Organization, diction, and bias words are all important aspects to any effective argument. Using these three elements, Thomas Paine was able to make a triumphant case, whereas James Chalmers' writing did not and was therefore ineffective.
Rhetorical Analysis Of Arguments
Previously I would have defined an argument as a heated debate between two parties about who was "right," and who was, "wrong," about a specific subject. Now however, I understand that arguments (at least effective ones) are meant to be rhetorical. Effective arguments take advantage of logical appeals that we've learned about in our reading called, "Ethos, Logos, and Pathos." The rhetorical appeal of the author's credibility, the logic of the argument, and the emotional appeal of the audience respectively. We see rhetorical arguments constantly in our everyday lives, most notably within advertisements. When crafting an argument there can be three argumentative sub-types to follow. These sub-types include an Argument to Convince (in which the author is trying to change the audience's way of thinking about the subject), an argument to persuade (where the author is
Should Flag Burning Be Legal
An argument is a disagreement between two or more individuals based on ones beliefs or opinions with the purpose of disproving the other person’s beliefs or opinion. There are four elements to make an argument legitimate, and then you have to present the evidence for that argument. Then there is the counterargument where you have to defend your claims followed by your rebuttal where you will have to show all of the evidence you have to disprove the other person argument that they have against yours. If you can present these elements it will show your level of research and intelligence about the subject that is in question.
The Declaration Of Independence By Thomas Jefferson
An effective argumentative source develops consistency in reasoning and has logos that influences people through logic. Logos explains and establishes the ideas of the writer in
Ap English Reflection
I am able to use evidence to back up my ideas and prove my point. My writing this year has helped me grow in this area. I have learned about the different types of claims, like claim of value, fact, and policy, and different methods of arguing, like induction and deduction. I have used all of these techniques throughout my writing. When I am struggling with a prompt, like for my quotation essay, I look at it like an argument. This helps me make my purpose clear. A good example of my strength of argumentation is my paper on why schools should not have letter grades. In this essay, I used points and evidence to argue my claim. I also used a deductive method, meaning that I started with an observation and worked my way to a conclusion. This allowed me to effectively argue my claim and use evidence to support it. I know that I am good at writing an argumentative piece and I believe that it is my biggest
Rhetorical Triangle Argument
What all is a demonstrated when an argument essay is being written? A writer, when discussing a good argument, will use four important sections. They are the introduction, the presentation of the writer’s position, the summary and critique of alternative views, and finally the conclusion (Ramage, Bean, & Johnson, 2012). Argumentative essays are in a form of the writer’s way to either have their audiences be in agreement with the topic or being in a disagreement. Creating a rhetorical triangle argument, a template or order of structure in an argument can be the best form of question development to begin an argumentative paper. (Ramage, Bean, & Johnson, 2012). The different appeals that are called persuasive
A Rogerian Analysis of the Debate over Arizona's Immigration Law
1. An introduction to the problem and a demonstration that the opponent's position is understood.
Toulmin Model: The Part Of An Argument
The part of an argument have six point according to Toulmin model. The six point are the claim, support, backing, warrant, qualifier and rebuttal. The claim is what the writer is trying to say, basically the thesis statement. The support is the claim or evidence. The backing is like building a connection to the reader’ opinion. The rebuttal create what is wrong about the argument and represent the different point of view. Lastly the qualifier are word used in the argument like always, never, might, all, never change to sometimes and etc.
Essay about Is Abortion Morally Permissible or Not?
To fully understand the argument we should first define the parameters of the debate and the
Essay about Rogerian Arguments
- 5 Works Cited
The expression argument has two meanings in scholarly writing. First, it means a composition that takes a position on one side of a divisive issue. You might write an argument against the death penalty, or for or against censorship of pornography. But argument has another meaning, too. It means an essay that, simply, argues a point. You might assemble an argument about the significance of ancestor myths in a certain aborigine culture, or you might write an argument defending your understanding of any poem or essay that is read in your philosophy class. (Winthrop University) You are not necessarily taking one side of a divisive issue, but you are required to defend your points with credible evidence. You are taking a position. In a sense,
A central argument is the cornerstone of any good paper. It is either what the writer wants to persuade the readers to think or the purpose of the essay. It can be summed up in one or two sentences, and should always be concise and straight...
There are a number of arguments against utilitarianism; many of these take issue with utilitarianism’s seeming lack of concern with the principles of justice, promises and personal loyalty. Other criticisms focus on utilitarianism’s apparen...
A deliberative argument addresses a controversial or contested issue or unsolved problem with the intent of moving others to agreement regarding the issue or problem being discussed.
Facts: Factual arguments claim something is true or false. · Causes and effects: · Definitions: · Values: · Policies: · Research. · Prioritize clarity
Understanding how to present an argument is a versatile skill that can enable professionals to accomplish high-level objectives and make
1. Keep it simple · 2. Be fair on your opponent · 3. Avoid other common fallacies · 4. Make your assumptions clear · 5. Rest your argument on solid foundations · 6.
A good argument will explain how each piece of evidence relates to the argument and why the evidence is valuable and credible. The primary purpose of support is
That doesn't quite make sense, does it? This is what's known as a fallacy. Logical fallacies are. Page 2. arguments where the conclusion does not
An overview of the key elements you need to include in order to produce a strong argument.0:00 Introduction to arguments1:41 Hook - an
1. Distinguishing Argumentation from Persuasion · Persuasion appeals to readers' emotions to make them believe something or take specific action. Advertising
1. Structure. A good argument must meet the fundamental structural requirements of a well-formed argument. · 2. Relevance · 3. Acceptability · 4.
An effective argument has three simple parts. The Claim: What you're trying to prove. Something that goes like, “Nuclear Reactors are bad because they can
1. The basic parts of an effective argument are a stated clearly defined issue, makes a claim, and offers support for that claim. · 2. What makes an argument
The Seven C's of Building an Argument · Consider the situation. Think of all aspects of the communication situation What are the subject and purpose of your