Writing the Argumentative Essay

By Caryl Bishop


“. . . the art of influencing others, through the medium of reasoned discourse, to believe or act as we wish them to believe or act.”

Structure of Argument   Claim – Proposition Support – Evidence – Motivational Appeals  Warrant – Assumption(s) that have been taken for granted .

Features of Argumentation  Writer – Develop your own ETHOS or borrow from established authority  Audience – Know your audience and be sensitive to their views  Text – Use the language to make your point. but be careful not to misuse language .

The Writer  Ethos Your own  You must look like you know what you’re talking about  Educate yourself on the issue(s) before writing Borrow from authority  Be sure to give appropriate credit where due .

– Assume they could be fundamentally opposed to your argument and be sensitive to their prejudices –  Don’t Alienate Your Audience .The Audience   Who is your audience? Qualities you should presume of your audience: – Assume they are as knowledgeable about your topic as you are. – Assume they are aware of common knowledge.

known as FALLACIES .The Text  Argue from logic and reason – Do NOT base your entire argument on: Emotion  Religious Conviction  Tradition   Avoid fallacious logic – There are a multitude of formal errors in logic.

Some Common Fallacies        Hasty Generalization Faulty Use of Authority Post Hoc. Ergo Propter Hoc False Analogy Ad Hominem False Dilemma Slippery Slope .

Hasty Generalization     Black or White thinking Prejudice Drawing Hasty Conclusions Insufficient Evidence .

don’t use the one dentist who prefers Crest as your authority! .Faulty Use of Authority    Misuse of a source Misquoting Fitting the quotation to your own needs – If four out of five dentists prefer Colgate.

Ergo Propter Hoc  “After this.Post Hoc. therefore because of this” – Faulty Cause and Effect Reasoning .

False Analogy  Faulty Connection Between Two Things Being Compared .

address the issues you want changed. – If you don’t like this administration’s policies. . don’t attack the President. and want to see them changed.Ad Hominem   “Against the Man” Attacking the person rather than attacking an issue.

Nearly every issue has at least two sides. no room for compromise and no grey areas.False Dilemma  “Black or White Fallacy” – There are only two alternatives. and somewhere. someone has determined that the OTHER side is the only legitimate approach. there are shades of grey everywhere!  .  Nothing is black and white.

Slippery Slope  The assumption that “A” will inevitably lead to “B”  Then “B” will inevitably lead to “C”  And so on…  And so on… .

More Common Fallacies        Begging the Question The Straw Man Fallacy “Two Wrongs Make a Right” Non-Sequitur Ad Populum Appeal to Tradition Faulty Emotional Appeal .

An argument that assumes itself .Begging the Question   The statement being argued actually assumes the issue has already been proven true.

Straw Man Fallacy  Set up a slightly different problem and attack it. rather than the problem at issue – Diverts attention away from the real issue  “Wag the Dog” .

“Two Wrongs Make A Right”  “But all my friends are doing it…” – Diverts attention away from the question at issue .

Non-Sequitur  “It does not follow” – Erroneous Cause and Effect Reasoning – Uses irrelevant information to back of a claim .

Ad Populum    Appeals to the prejudices of the people Appeals to popular opinion Appeals to what you believe your teacher wants to hear .

Appeal to Tradition  “But we’ve always done it that way before…” – Just because it has always been that way doesn’t make it right .

Faulty Emotional Appeals   Don’t base your whole claim on an appeal to emotion Don’t use emotional appeals that are – Irrelevant to the argument – Draw attention away from the real issue – Appear to conceal another purpose .

Rottengberg .Adapted from: Elements of Argument: A Text and Reader By: Annette T.

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