How to Formulate an Argument

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The big idea

An argument is not where people shout at each other in anger. An argument is the key point of any persuasive essay or speech; it is the part where the actual persuasion gets done.

Before you begin

Be sure you know exactly what point you want to prove. Brainstorm a number of reasons why your point of view is the right one, and think of proof for those reasons.

How to do it

For our purposes, an argument has three basic parts, and, if you want to get full credit in a persuasive speech or essay, you will address each one. Look at the color-coding to see how it all fits together:

  1. A point of view: This is the statement of what you believe.
  2. A reason for that point of view: This is why you feel that way.
  3. Proof to back up your reason: This is the evidence you use to drive your point home and make your argument real.

Some examples:

  1. Superman is clearly a better superhero than the Power Rangers because he has better superpowers. Among other things, Superman can fly, lift enormously heavy objects, and fry hamburgers with his heat vision. The Power Rangers, on the other hand, can only do kung fu and drive their Zords. What's so super about that?

  2. One of the reasons that basketball is better than baseball is because there is so much more action. You'll see basketball players do a thousand amazing things in each game: making long three-pointers, slamming home 360-degree tomahawk jams, and displaying astounding ballhandling ability. In baseball, on the other hand, the better a pitcher is, the more you see everyone just standing around, watching the ball slam into the catcher's glove. A basketball score can be 105-100; taken together, the teams scored over 100 baskets. An "exciting" baseball game can have a final score of 1-0, and even that one run could have been walked in by the pitcher. That is not very exciting at all.

  3. Being left-handed is difficult because this is a right-handed world. Nothing, it seems, has been designed for use by lefties, and that fact makes things tough. Ice cream scoops have the scoop trigger on the wrong side; measuring cups are marked so that you have to hold them with your right hand to read them; even binders are difficult to use because you have to rest your hand on the spiral (or the rings, in a loose-leaf binder) just to write. Clearly, almost all the items we use on a daily basis are designed by right-handers for use by right-handers.

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Copyright 1996-2004 by Michael Klingensmith

This page was last modified Sunday, January 22, 2006 at 12:04 AM