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Chapter 33:
Writing an Argumentative
Writing Clearly (pp. 404-405)
• Two people benefit from clear writing:
– The reader will be able to follow your
argument with ease.
– You, the writer, will be more likely to see and
fix weak points in your arguments.
Getting Started (pp. 405-407)
• Articulate the structure of your essay
– State your thesis and subordinate theses.
– Develop arguments to support your main and
subordinate theses.
– Conclude by restating your main and
subordinate theses.
• Choosing and limiting your thesis is the
most difficult and important element of
writing an argumentative essay.
– A narrow thesis is easier to defend than a
broad thesis.
The Body of the Essay
(pp. 408-410)
• The body consists of arguments
supporting your subordinate theses and,
thereby, your main thesis.
– Use sound deductive arguments whenever
– If you can’t construct sound deductive
arguments with premises your reader will
accept as true or probably true, construct
strong inductive arguments.
The Body of the Essay
(pp. 408-410)
– Ask:
• Are the premises of your argument true?
• Do the premises, if true, provide reasons for
granting that the conclusion is true?
• Will your reader recognize the truth of the
– What is required to show that your thesis is
true? Do you need universal premises, or will
particular premises do?
The Body of the Essay
(pp. 408-410)
• Transitional narrative
– Transitional narrative moves you smoothly
from one argument to the next.
– Guideposts: When moving from the defense
of one subordinate thesis to the defense of
another, guideposts tell your reader where
you’ve been and where you’re going.
• Guideposts make your reader’s task easier.
• Guideposts increase the clarity of your essay.
Keep the Audience in Mind
(pp. 410-415)
• Keep it simple
– Vocabulary must be appropriate for your
– When in doubt, go for simple terms, unless a
more sophisticated word is needed to say
precisely what you want to say.
– Short sentences are generally better than
long sentences.
– Avoid sexist, racist, and any other language
that could offend your audience.
– Avoid stereotypes.
Keep the Audience in Mind
(pp. 410-415)
• Capture Your Audience’s Interest
– Sometimes you will need an opening
paragraph showing:
• that your thesis is significant.
• that you are familiar with the issues your paper
addresses, for example, that you are familiar with
the principal positions taken on an issue.
– If your thesis is controversial, state it
Keep the Audience in Mind
(pp. 410-415)
• Know your topic thoroughly
– You will need to know the alternative positions
on your topic.
– If your thesis is controversial, your arguments
need to be very tight.
– You will need to follow the argument “down” to
premises your opponent will grant.
• If there is no point of agreement, you cannot
convince your reader that your thesis is true.
– Beware of “common knowledge.”
Keep the Audience in Mind
(pp. 410-415)
• Objections and Replies
– You will strengthen your argument if you can
propose objections to your thesis and reply to
those objections.
• Keep focused
– Be willing to say that topics tangential to your
essay are “beyond the scope of the present
And Revise (pp. 415-416)
• Plan to revise your paper at least three
– Check spelling and grammar.
– Tighten your arguments whenever possible.
– Place some time between revisions: You will
see things that you wouldn’t see if the essay
is fresh in your mind.
– Take the position of your opponent seriously:
Strengthen the objections and your replies if
– Have a friend look over the paper and raise