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Keywords: LM-1362 COURSE READER

Universidad de Costa Rica
Facultad de Letras

Escuela de Lenguas Modernas

LM-1362 English Rhetoric II
Course packet:

Selected readings and exercises

Universidad de Costa Rica

Escuela de Lenguas Modernas
LM-1362 English Rhetoric II

% Grade English Composition Profile1
10-9.0 Description
O 8.9-8.0 Superior development of the topic and writing task as dictated by the course
N 7.9-6.0 objectives; valuable topic sentence or thesis statement (TS) supported by
T sound ideas and substantial, specific relevant details; rich content that is
E 5.9 or original, perceptive and/or persuasive; sources when required, reliable and
N less correctly acknowledged; strong reader interest.
Accurate development of topic and writing task; clear topic sentence or
25% thesis; mostly relevant to topic but lacks detail; minor problems with sources;
considerable reader interest.

Superficial development of topic and writing task; clear topic sentence or
thesis unclear or with little substance; appropriate but predictable content that
is somewhat vague or overly general; occasional repetitive or irrelevant
material; some problems with sources; average to minimum reader interest.

Little or incorrect development of the topic or writing task; poor analysis, topic
sentence or thesis not apparent or weak; insufficient supporting details;
evidence lacking or deficient; irrelevant material; weak logic of ideas;
sources, when required, poorly acknowledged.

% Grade Description
O Clear effective plan connected to topic sentence and/or thesis as dictated by
R 8.9-8.0 course objectives; logical order or ideas; paragraphs(s) coherent, unified,
G and effectively developed; correct use of transitions within; smooth
A 7.9-6.0 transitions between paragraphs; excellent tittle, introduction, and
N 5.9 or conclusion; clear, well-construed outline.
I less
Z Clear plan related to the topic sentence or thesis, minor problems with
A logical order of ideas; paragraph(s) generally unified and effectively
T developed; some problems with transitions within and /or between
I paragraph(s); effective tittle, introduction, and conclusion; outline generally,
O well-construed.
Some evidence of plan; choppy flow of ideas; loosely organized but main
20% ideas clear, routine tittle, introduction and/or conclusion; transitions apparent
but abrupt, monotonous, or misused at times; incorrect outline parts.

Little or no evidence of plan; ideas confused, disconnected, undeveloped, or
developed with irrelevance; weak or ineffective tittle, introduction, and/or
conclusion; deficient use of transitions; outline poor or nonexistent.

1Adapted from Jacobs, H.L., Zingraf., S., Wormuth, D., Hartfiel, V., & Hughey, J. (1981) Testing ESL composition: A practical approach.
Rowley, MA: Newbury House by CUCOL 2019

% Grade Description
G Effective control of major structural aspects: sentence well-constructed, coherent,
R 8.9-8.0 and effectively varied; effective coordination and subordination; isolated errors of
A agreement, verb tense, word order, word form, articles, pronouns, prepositions;
M 7.9-6.0 parallelism; no fragments, run-ons, or comma splices, meaning always clear.
A 5.9 or Control of major structural aspects but lacks sentence variety; simple but effective
R less sentence construction; minor errors of agreement, verb tense, word order, word
form, articles, pronouns, preposition, parallelism; minimum problems with
20% sentence fragments, run-ons, or comma splices; but meaning mostly clear.

Several problems with structural aspects, problems with simple and complex
constructions, frequent errors of agreement, verb tense, word order, word form,
articles, pronouns, prepositions, parallelism, occasional problems with sentence
fragments, run-ons, or comma splices, meaning unclear at times.

Little or no mastery of sentence construction rules; dominated by errors on
various structural aspects; meaning unclear, negative effect on the reader.

% Grade Description
V Effective vocabulary range and usage for the course level: precise word choice,
O 8.9-8.0 wood collocation or word partners (ideas phrased idiomatically), consistent and
C appropriate level of formality (awareness of register), concise expression, (no
A 7.9-6.0 wordiness), and appropriate variety of sentence structure; clear meaning.
U 5.9 or Generally appropriate range and usage of the course level: a few misused
L less word/expressions minor problems with collocations (ideas not always phrased
A idiomatically), fluent expression but inconsistent or inappropriate level of formality,
R fairly concise, (little wordiness), generally good variety of sentence structure,
Y meaning mostly clear.

20% Limited vocabulary range and usage for the course level: frequent errors of word
choice and usage, several problems with collocations, attempt at sentence
structure variety, lacks awareness of formality levels, some wordiness; meaning
unclear at times.

Poor vocabulary for the course level: confusing ideas, topic-related words
misused, considerable transitions, very little sentence structure variety, littler
awareness of formality levels, meaning unclear, negative effect on the reader.

% Grade Description
M Correct application of the conventions regarding: APA, outline format, title page,
E 8.9-8.0 margins, running head, spacing, indentation, heading, spelling, punctuation,
C capitalization, and when pertinent, neat and legible; isolated errors.
H 7.9-6.0
A Generally correct application of the conventions stated above; neat and legible;
N 5.9 or some errors.
I less
C Several errors in the application of the conventions stated above; minor problems
S with neatness and/or legibility (e.g. handwritten corrections or typed paper).

15% Little control of the above conventions; errors seriously diminish the papers
quality; poor handwriting affects communication, messy.

Table of contents Page

Material 2
Introduction to argumentative appeals 22
Persuasive writing and argument 24
Activity One – emotional appeals 25
Activity Two – emotional appeals 26
Activity Three – fallacies 34
Activity Four – fallacies
Activity Five – logos, pathos, ethos 41
Love is a fallacy 45
Fact versus Opinion 46
Writing an editorial letter 47
Sample student letters 48
Costa Rica Belongs to Costa Ricans 49

Killing The Killers 52
No More Cell Phone Scams From Jail! 54
The Mountain Is Going To Your Sandals 68
Activity One – Editorial analysis 86
Activity Two – Brainstorming 95
Arguing in context 98
Writing persuasive compositions 103
Constructing reasonable arguments
Evaluating arguments 110
“In Other Words”: The art of metacommentary 111
Sample student essay
Golden Rings: The Old and Deadly Enemies 113
Activity – Essay analysis 117
Develop a five paragraph essay 124
Sample – Topic outline 128
Sample – Sentence outline 136
Prefer active verbs 153
Balance parallel ideas 157
Add needed words
Untangled mixed constructions
Repair misplaced and dangling modifiers
Eliminate distracting shifts

Emphasize key ideas
Provide some variety
Tighten wordy sentences
Choose appropriate language




Introduction to Argumentative

Reason, Ethics, Emotion While there's no infallible formula for winning over every
reader in every circumstance, you should learn how and when to use three
fundamental argumentative appeals. According to Aristotle, a person who wants to
convince another may appeal to that person's reason (logos), ethics (ethos), or
emotion (pathos).

If we think of these three appeals as independent and of the writer as choosing just
one, however, we miss the point. The writer's job is to weave the various appeals
into a single convincing argument. As you continue to expand and develop your
ideas, look for ways of combining the three appeals to create a sound, balanced


Much of the clear thinking that we do in our everyday lives follows logical
principles, but in a less formal and systematic way than the thinking of a research
scientist. And for most occasions this informal reasoning is adequate. Aristotle
points out that it would be just as much a mistake to expect certain proofs in
argument as to expect only probable proofs in mathematics. That's not to say your
argument can be illogical, only that you shouldn't confuse formal logic with clear
thinking or good sense, the essential qualities your argument should display.
Briefly, informal reasoning requires clearly linking your general claims with
concrete, specific data.

When our thinking begins with specifics and moves toward a generalization, we
are moving inductively. That is, if you were to taste several hard, green apples and
then draw the general conclusion that all hard, green apples are sour, you would
be using inductive reasoning. And, of course, the more apples tasted and the
greater the variation in the times and conditions of tasting, the greater the
likelihood that your general conclusion would be valid. In your writing, then, when
you reason inductively, ask whether you've examined the evidence carefully,
whether it justifies your general conclusion, and whether you've given readers
enough specific evidence to persuade them that your thinking is sound and your
general conclusion is true.

Reasoning that moves in the opposite direction (from general to specific) is called
deductive reasoning. Here, you take a general principle that you know to be true
and use it to understand a specific situation. For instance, you may know from
experience that as a general rule bad weather reduces business at the golf course.
You may also learn that today's weather will be cold and rainy. From these two
pieces of knowledge, you can produce a third, more specific piece: Business at the


golf course will be slow today. In writing, deductive reasoning most often appears
in a shortened version (called an enthymeme) that may be hard to recognize.
That's because one or more links in the chain of reason have not been stated
directly but only implied. Consider the following example:

• Bill never turns in his assignments, so he'll fail the course.

What is not directly stated but only implied is the general principle that students
who don't turn in their assignments will fail the course.

Such shortened forms are perfectly acceptable, but only if the underlying links and
claims are sound. An opponent may want to refute you by challenging some
underlying assumptions in your thinking; likewise, you'll want to look for faulty
reasoning when you refute your opposition.


Read the following statements and comment on their use of informal reasoning.
What details would you need to see to be convinced? Can you find any unstated
assumptions that need to be examined?

a. Coach Ratcliffe should be fired because a coach's job is to win ballgames.

b. I know he's popular because he drives a Corvette.

c. The president hasn't done anything about welfare reform, so he has no
sympathy for the poor.

d. The Sun Belt continues to be the fastest-growing part of the country.

e. Too much smoking ruins a person's health, so you know Louisa's in bad shape.

f. Today's prisons are practically like country clubs.

g. Because several new schools have been built in the past few years, Chicago
has an outstanding school system.

h. Imported cars are higher in quality than American cars.

i. Mr. Price got the contract, so you know he paid a few people off.

j. Arthur Jensen should be elected to the city council because he is a successful
real estate developer.



No matter how solid your reasoning, readers may not accept your argument unless
they're also convinced that you're a person of wisdom, honesty, and good will. If
you misrepresent the evidence, misunderstand the implications of your own value
structure, or seek to hurt some individual or group, you can expect to alienate your

The appeal to character is often subtle, affecting readers almost unconsciously, yet
often decisively.

"Ah, I see. This writer pretends to be a friend of Mexican-Americans, but her word
choice shows that she understands almost nothing of our culture. And her proposal
would undermine our whole way of life. Of course, she'd get to build her
apartments, and it's obvious that's all she really cares about."

If you realize that readers are likely to analyze your character and intentions this
way, you'll see that the best way to put ethical appeal in your writing is to build a
strong, healthy relationship with your readers. Convince them that they can trust
you to be fair, honest, well-informed, and well-intentioned. Then, having
established that trust, don't betray it.


Letting 10 represent the highest and 1 the lowest, rate the following public figures
for their appeal to character. Of course, you'll be considering more than just writing,
but the activity should still give you some insight into what ethos is and how it
affects credibility. When you've finished, compare your ratings with those of a
partner. Discuss the reasons for your scoring.

a. Abraham Lincoln

b. Adolf Hitler

c. Michael Jackson

d. Madonna

e. George W. Bush

f. Bill Gates

g. Ann Landers

h. Jay Leno


i. Sandra Day O'Connor

j. William J. Clinton


Many people believe that emotional appeals by their very nature subvert reason
and are therefore better left to TV hucksters than to writers who want their ideas
taken seriously. Because this common view has some validity, emotional appeals
must be used with restraint and discretion, or they may prove counterproductive.
Nevertheless, while an argument founded mostly on feelings and emotions may be
superficial and biased, an argument that is carefully reasoned and honestly
presented probably won't be hurt by a bit of pathos. In fact, it may be helped.

One way to build pathos is to illustrate or dramatize an idea. This may involve little
more than folding short descriptive and narrative examples into the argument. Are
you arguing that your city needs to take stiffer measures against drunk drivers?
Why not find a place to include a description of the face of a child who was injured
in an accident caused by drinking? Or you might want to tell the story of a driver
who caused several accidents because the individual's license was never revoked.
Including such narrative and descriptive passages can help readers feel the
urgency of your proposition so that it gets beyond the level of abstract intellectual
speculation and becomes a matter of immediate human concern.

Careful word choice also influences an argument's emotional appeal. With this in
mind, you might review the discussion of The Best Word in Revising Your Writing.
The point here is that the overall emotional texture of your argument is the result of
many individual choices about which word to use.

• Should I speak of "drunk" or "intoxicated" drivers?

• Should I call them a "menace" or a "concern"?

• Should they be "thrown into jail" or "incarcerated"?

• Do we need to "teach them a lesson" or "make them aware of the
consequences of their actions"?

Such choices, even though they must be made one at a time, can't be seen as
independent of each other. Their force is cumulative. They communicate how you
feel--and by implication think the reader ought to feel--about your subject. If you
want the reader to identify with you emotionally, you'll choose words carefully,
making sure they're appropriate for you as a writer, for your readers, and for your
overall purpose in writing.



Read the following speech by Mark Anthony from William Shakespeare's play,
Julius Caesar. Do you think Mark Anthony is appealing to the emotions of his
audience? If so, what is his purpose in doing so? What parts of the speech seem
especially designed to appeal to the audience's feelings? Does the speech contain
any appeal to reason? To character? Are the various appeals balanced and
harmonious or unbalanced and contradictory?

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious;
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer'd it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest--
For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men--
Come I to speak in Caesar's funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
He hath brought many captives home to Rome,
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And, sure he is an honourable man.
I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?
O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me.

Material adapted for pedagogical purposes from paradigm Online Writing Assistant (by Bonilla, M.)


Persuasive Writing and Argument

Much of the formal and informal writing and speaking you do—from literature
papers to business memos and presentations—falls into the category of
"persuasive" communication, in that you try to convince your reader or listener of
the validity of what you are saying. The cornerstone of persuasive writing is having
a clear argument. There are two main things to know about argument.

1) An argument is a proposition or assertion. "You should drink Pepsi" or "Coke is
better than Pepsi." It is probably an assertion if an appropriate response is "I agree
with you" or "I disagree."

2) An argument must involve at least two propositions—the central claim and the
back-up claim, or evidence. "You should drink Pepsi because . . ." or "The fact that
most people prefer Coke to Pepsi shows that Coke is better than Pepsi."

Every paper you write in this class should be persuasive—you will try to convince
your readers of something (i.e. that your interpretation of an advertisement is valid,
or that your stand on a public issue is correct). The statement of your argument
should always appear in the first portion of your paper, usually in your thesis

Rhetorical Appeals in Persuasive Writing

Though these rhetorical appeals have their roots in the ancient Greek educational
curriculum that prepared young orators to influence their fellow citizens, the three
categories characterize much of our persuasive writing and advertising today.

Ethical (ethos)

This rhetorical technique can appeal to a sense of ethics in two ways.

1) A speaker might emphasize his/her trustworthiness to boost the validity of
his/her argument. In the 1992 presidential campaign, for example, George Bush
presented himself as a highly moral grandfather figure. Advertisers often highlight
their community activities (Big Brother programs, etc.) to win the trust of

2) The speaker might also try to appeal to the audience's ethics; that is, he or she
will try to convince the audience that it is making the "good" or "right" choice. For
example, an insurance agency asks, "Don't you owe your family protection?"


Logical (logos)

The rhetorician employing a logical appeal relies on reason. Logical appeals often
include lots of "facts"—statistics, percentages, and studies. Remember the TV
advertisement phrase, "Studies show that more kids prefer…," or "Three out of four
dentists surveyed recommend…"? Logical appeals may also present what seems
to be the only sensible choice. In persuasive academic writing, the logical appeal
is common.

Very few speeches, articles, or advertisements utilize only one appeal. Many
examples of persuasive writing employ all three. In your own writing, you should
rely mainly on logical appeal (requests for more evidence, concrete facts/data, and
sources to support your stance relate to this approach). As your craft your own
persuasive papers, however, you should not forget emotional and ethical
strategies—they are often quite effective in backing up the logical point you are

However, beware of logical fallacies, which are errors and manipulation of rhetoric
and logical thinking. Fallacies can be either illegitimate arguments or irrelevant
points and are often identified because they lack evidence that supports their claim
and invalidate your arguments as a result.

Avoid these common fallacies (i.e., faulty reasoning appealing to the mind) in your
own arguments and watch for them in the arguments of others.

Slippery Slope: This is a conclusion based on the premise that if A happens, then
eventually through a series of small steps, through B, C,..., X, Y, Z will happen, too,
basically equating A and Z. So, if we don't want Z to occur, A must not be allowed
to occur either.
If we ban Hummers because they are bad for the environment eventually the
government will ban all cars, so we should not ban Hummers.

In this example, the author is equating banning Hummers with banning all cars,
which is not the same thing.

Hasty Generalization: This is a conclusion based on insufficient or biased
evidence. In other words, you are rushing to a conclusion before you have all the
relevant facts.
Even though it's only the first day, I can tell this is going to be a boring course.

In this example, the author is basing his evaluation of the entire course on only the
first day, which is notoriously boring and full of housekeeping tasks for most
courses. To make a fair and reasonable evaluation the author must attend not one


but several classes, and possibly even examine the textbook, talk to the professor,
or talk to others who have previously finished the course in order to have sufficient
evidence to base a conclusion on.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc: This is a conclusion that assumes that if 'A' occurred
after 'B' then 'B' must have caused 'A.'
I drank bottled water and now I am sick, so the water must have made me sick.

In this example, the author assumes that if one event chronologically follows
another the first event must have caused the second. But the illness could have
been caused by the burrito the night before, a flu bug that had been working on the
body for days, or a chemical spill across campus. There is no reason, without more
evidence, to assume the water caused the person to be sick.

Cum hoc ergo propter hoc: This is the conclusion that assumes that because two
events occur together, there is a cause-and-effect relationship (i.e., mistaking
correlation for causation).
Teenagers in gangs listen to rap music with violent themes. Rap music inspires
violence in teenagers.

President Clinton has great economic policies; just look at how well the economy is
doing while he's in office!

The problem in these examples is that two things may happen at the same time
merely by coincidence. To illustrate, the President may have a negligible effect on
the economy, and the real driving force is technological growth), or the causative
link between one thing and another may be lagged in time (e.g., the current
economy's health is determined by the actions of previous presidents), or the two
things may be unconnected to each other but related to a common cause (e.g.,
downsizing upset a lot of voters, causing them to elect a new president just before
the economy began to benefit from the downsizing).

Genetic Fallacy: This conclusion is based on an argument that the origins of a
person, idea, institute, or theory determine its character, nature, or worth.
The Volkswagen Beetle is an evil car because it was originally designed by Hitler's

In this example the author is equating the character of a car with the character of
the people who built the car. However, the two are not inherently related.

Begging the question (petito principii): The conclusion that the writer should prove
is validated within the claim.
Filthy and polluting coal should be banned.


Arguing that coal pollutes the earth and thus should be banned would be logical.
But the very conclusion that should be proved (i.e., that coal causes enough
pollution to warrant banning its use) is already assumed in the claim by referring to
it as "filthy and polluting."

Here is a similar example where the claim itself is already assumed in the premise:
God exists because this is what the Bible says, and the Bible is reliable because it is
the word of God.

Circular Argument/Circular reasoning (circulus in probando): This restates the
argument rather than actually proving it; a logical fallacy in which the reasoner
begins with what they are trying to end with.
George Bush is a good communicator because he speaks effectively.

In this example, the conclusion that Bush is a "good communicator" and the
evidence used to prove it "he speaks effectively" are basically the same idea.
Specific evidence such as using everyday language, breaking down complex
problems, or illustrating his points with humorous stories would be needed to prove
either half of the sentence.

Either/or (false dilemma; false dichotomy): This is a conclusion that oversimplifies
the argument by reducing it to only two sides or choices.
We can either stop using cars or destroy the earth.

In this example, the two choices are presented as the only options, yet the author
ignores a range of choices in between such as developing cleaner technology, car-
sharing systems for necessities and emergencies, or better community planning to
discourage daily driving.

Ad hominem: This is an attack on the character of a person rather than his or her
opinions or arguments.
Green Peace's strategies aren't effective because they are all dirty, lazy hippies.

In this example, the author doesn't even name particular strategies Green Peace
has suggested, much less evaluate those strategies on their merits. Instead, the
author attacks the characters of the individuals in the group.

Ad populum (also Bandwagon Appeal): This is an appeal that presents what most
people, or a group of people think, in order to persuade one to think the same way.
Getting on the bandwagon is one such instance of an ad populum appeal.
If you were a true American you would support the rights of people to choose
whatever vehicle they want.


In this example, the author equates being a "true American," a concept that people
want to be associated with, particularly in a time of war, with allowing people to buy
any vehicle they want even though there is no inherent connection between the

Red Herring: This is a diversionary tactic that avoids the key issues, often by
avoiding opposing arguments rather than addressing them.
The level of mercury in seafood may be unsafe, but what will fishers do to support
their families?

In this example, the author switches the discussion away from the safety of the
food and talks instead about an economic issue, the livelihood of those catching
fish. While one issue may affect the other it does not mean we should ignore
possible safety issues because of possible economic consequences to a few

Straw Man: This move oversimplifies an opponent's viewpoint and then attacks that
hollow argument.
People who don't support the proposed state minimum wage increase hate the

In this example, the author attributes the worst possible motive to an opponent's
position. In reality, however, the opposition probably has more complex and
sympathetic arguments to support their point. By not addressing those arguments,
the author is not treating the opposition with respect or refuting their position.

Moral Equivalence: This fallacy compares minor misdeeds with major atrocities,
suggesting that both are equally immoral.
That parking attendant who gave me a ticket is as bad as Hitler.

In this example, the author is comparing the relatively harmless actions of a person
doing their job with the horrific actions of Hitler. This comparison is unfair and

Appeal to Authority: This fallacy happens when we misuse an authority. This misuse of
authority can occur in a number of ways. We can cite only authorities — steering
conveniently away from other testable and concrete evidence as if expert opinion is
always correct. Or we can cite irrelevant authorities, poor authorities, or false authorities.
A typical example is using a generalized group (like 'scientists') to claim something
is true.
"They say that it takes 7 years to digest chewing gum."


Non sequitur (Latin for “it does not follow.”): This fallacy occurs when the
conclusion does not follow from the premises. In more informal reasoning, it can
be when what is presented as evidence or reason is irrelevant or adds very little
support to the conclusion.

It was a spring day, the sort that gives people hope: all soft winds and delicate
smells of warm earth. Suicide weather.
- Girl, Interrupted, Susanna Kaysen

"You should learn not to make personal remarks," Alice said with some severity.
"It's very rude." The Hatter opened his eyes very wide on hearing this; but all he
said was, "Why is a raven like a writing-desk?"
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

In the examples above it is evident that the line of logic does not follow. Non-
literary examples would be “My refrigerator is acting up. I’d better finish that book
by Friday” or “It's time to take my car in for service. I wonder if my stylist is
available this Saturday.”

Emotional (pathos)

Emotional appeals seek to rouse the emotions of the audience. Some emotional
appeals will make the audience feel good; picture those sentimental "Kodak
moment" or Hallmark commercials teeming with cute children, family reunions, and
fuzzy pets. On the other end of the spectrum, some emotional appeals play on
fears and insecurities; consider the assertion that maximum strength Clearasil will
save you from the embarrassment of pimples on a first date.

Below is a list of some emotional appeals (i.e., faulty reasoning that appeals to the

Appeal to Pity (Ad Misericordiam)
The argument attempts to persuade by provoking feelings of sympathy.
The phrase "ad misericordiam" is a Latin phrase meaning "(appeal) to sympathy
(or compassion)."
"You should not find the defendant guilty of murder, since it would break his poor
mother's heart to see him sent to jail."
"Is it not better to be unjust than just, when the just man, while obeying the law not
to resist arrest, may be beaten, kicked, clubbed, insulted and abused, by those
arresting him?"

Logicians have a reputation for being cold, heartless and unemotional. No
character has captured this stereotype better than Mr. Spock, as played by


Leonard Nimoy on the television series Star Trek. Leonard Nimoy makes logicians
seem almost alien and inhuman. Probably the Ad Misericordiam fallacy has more
to do with this stereotype than anything else. It is an ancient fallacy, recognized
even by Plato. Hence, the idea that feelings of human sympathy are "illogical" (as
Mr. Spock would say) has had a long time to become entrenched.
There are, of course, cases in which appealing to human suffering is fallacious,
namely those in which the appeal is used to distract attention away from the issue
at hand. In deciding the guilt or innocence of a person on trial, the question is "Did
he do it?" His feelings, our feelings, and the feelings of his mother are irrelevant to
the issue.

But the Ad Misericordiam fallacy is able to masquerade as good reasoning
precisely because in most cases considerations of human suffering are the issue at
hand. Should we take steps to reduce poverty? Should we permit doctor-assisted
suicide for suffering, terminally ill patients? Should our foreign policy support
dictators who abuse human rights? If we were not concerned with human suffering,
there would be no motive to be rational. The most important thing we reason about
is the alleviation of suffering. We want to reason well precisely because this will
improve our chances of success. Logicians are not heartless and unemotional.
Just the reverse: the more compassion and sympathy one feels, the more one
understands the importance of doing something effective to help. We must reason
well in order to know what to do.

Appeal to Utility
The argument attempts to persuade by invoking a sentiment favoring practicality
and reason (without, however, actually engaging in reasoning), and professing to
despise sentimentality.
"Despite the overwrought emotionalism of the abolitionists, slavery cannot be
immoral, since it would destroy the southern way of life if we were to free our
"Arguments that we have an obligation to provide tax money to feed the poor are
based on sentimental mush."

This fallacy exploits the long-held prejudice that logic must be cold and
unemotional. It is able to masquerade as good reasoning because, of course,
emotions can be used to distract attention away from the issue at hand. In fact - as
this entire category of fallacies shows - there are many ways to use irrelevant
emotional appeals to distract attention away from relevant concerns.
However, it is important to remember that concern for human suffering is relevant
more often than it is irrelevant. It is our emotions, including our compassion for
others, that provide us with our chief motive to think rationally. In cases involving
questions of human suffering, the plea to be "practical," or even "logical," (i.e.
unemotional), may itself be a distraction from the issue at hand.

Curiously, the Appeal to Utility fallacy qualifies as an emotional appeal, even
though the sentiment of practicality is often invoked by claiming to despise


"emotionalism" or "sentimentality." Lack of compassion is just as much a
"sentiment" as compassion, and just as prone to be fallacious.

Appeal to Fear (Scare Tactics)
The argument attempts to persuade by invoking feelings of insecurity and fear.
Appeal to Fear is sometimes confused with Appeal to Force. The distinction is this:
Appeal to Fear is only a warning. The speaker is foretelling that something bad will
happen to the listener but is not threatening to be the cause of that harm. Appeal to
Force is a threat. The speaker will personally do something to punish the listener.
"Goodyear. Because a lot is riding on your tires."
"Listerine: kills the germs that can cause bad breath."

It is a good idea to be prepared. It is even a good idea to be prepared for
some things that are not very likely to happen (depending on the severity of the
consequences). There are mathematically precise formulas for determining rational
risks when playing games of chance. Believe it or not, these same formulas (based
on laws of probability) can be applied to risks in daily life. Indeed, that is just how
insurance companies operate. How much should you spend to be prepared for a
flood? How much for a fire? The answer depends upon two factors: (1) what are
the chances that the disaster might occur, and (2) how much would you loose if it
did? Unfortunately, in most cases we can only estimate both probabilities and
costs, but this often doesn't matter. We can make instinctive guesses, and our
instincts are usually not far off base. Probabilities are not exact numbers in any
case. The object is to be close enough.

The fallacy of Appeal to Fear imitates rational risk analysis, but exploits
natural fear, and the inherent inaccuracy of guessing, to inflate our estimate of the
costs and/or our estimate of the risks. By getting disasters to seem more likely to
occur or making them seem more devastating if they do occur, the fallacy tries to
get us to spend more on preparing for a disaster than is genuinely rational.

Appeal to Hope (Wishful Thinking)
The argument attempts to persuade by invoking hopes and desires.
This fallacy includes appeals to sex since being sexier, or meeting sexy people, is
something that most people hope for.
"Using Ultra-Brite will give you sex appeal."
"These people all won a million dollars by playing the state lottery. Some day it
might happen to you. Play to win!"

Obviously certain actions will make a desirable outcome more likely. You
are more likely to get an A on a test if you actually study, for example. We
frequently reason (and reason well) about how to achieve desirable results. This


reasoning (when it is done well) is based on genuine causal connections between
what we desire and how we behave. Furthermore, hope is not a bad state of mind
to be in. While some recommend that it is better to be pessimistic, and then be
pleasantly surprised, it makes just as much sense to be "cautiously optimistic," on
the grounds that there is no reason to suffer until something bad actually happens.
The fallacy of Appeal to Hope imitates reasoning about achieving desirable
outcomes, but it tries to get us to do something that doesn't significantly increase
the likelihood of the outcome we desire. By getting us to focus on the desire itself,
rather than on the genuine causal connections, the fallacy may even distract us
away from performing actions that would more effectively achieve what we desire.

Appeal to Flattery
The argument attempts to persuade by flattering the person to be persuaded,
implying that the flattery is deserved because he or she accepts the position being
"An intelligent and discerning person like you naturally sees the force of my
"I use Love Soap. I'm worth it, and so are you!"

In any conversation we must try to understand what the other person is
saying. Perhaps the other person is offering reasons for holding an opinion, and
perhaps his reasons are complex, requiring some effort to understand. (Not all
good reasoning is easy to follow.) Supposing you do understand his reasoning, he
may be inclined to praise your ability to follow the argument. He is not wrong to
offer such praise, and you are not wrong to feel pleased with yourself. You can
even take such praise as evidence that you are understanding his point correctly,
and this, in turn, may indicate that, since you can understand his reasoning, his
reasoning is sound.

The fallacy of Appeal to Flattery mimics this situation in which a reasoner
praises his listener for correctly following and agreeing with a complex logical
argument. However, in the fallacy of Appeal to Flattery, only the praise is still
present. This creates the mere illusion that the complex logical argument, and the
agreement that would come from following it, are present as well. In fact, no
argument was given except the praise, and the agreement was implied rather than

Appeal to Guilt
The argument attempts to persuade by making the person to be persuaded feel
guilty for not accepting the position.
"Aren't you ashamed of yourself for not buying this car, after I've gone to all the
work to fill out the credit application?"
"It would break your mother's heart to hear you defend those immoral Harry Potter
books in that way."


It is sometimes difficult to understand what someone else is saying,

especially when that person is trying to give a complex argument in support of an
opinion. Naturally, we tend to interpret what we are hearing in light of our own
experience. Words and phrases can carry different meanings for different people.
As a result, we may fail to follow an argument that is perfectly sound. When this
occurs, it is to be expected that the other person - the person making the argument
- will criticize our inability to understand. Being permitted to point out that a
misunderstanding has occurred is necessary in a conversation in which
misunderstandings might occur.

Hence, it is only good reasoning to permit criticism. Moreover, if my own
understanding of an argument turns out to be deficient in some way, it is even
natural for me to feel a degree of shame or guilt. The fallacy of Appeal to Guilt
mimics this situation in which a reasoner criticizes his listener for failing to correctly
follow the offered reasoning. However, in this case, the reasoner has not actually
offered any reasoning for the listener to follow. The criticism and accompanying
guilt create an illusion that a complex logical argument has been offered, implying
that anyone who fails to be persuaded by it has simply failed to understand.

Appeal to Humor
Description: The argument attempts to persuade by invoking feelings of good
humor and laughter. To laugh with someone seems to imply agreement with his
position. Often the argument takes the form of a cleverly worded or humorous
Calling a position "absurd" or "laughable" without actually telling a joke should
probably be considered an Ad Hominem - Abusive rather than an Appeal to
Humor. Sometimes a good comedian can make us laugh merely by saying that
something is funny, but generally this is more abusive than humorous. Be careful
not to confuse Appeal to Humor with other fallacies (notably Amphiboly) that tend
to be funny. The fallacy of Appeal to Humor uses humor to persuade. The speaker
is aware of the joke. Some other fallacies are funny because we see through them.
In those cases, the speaker is not aware that he is the butt of a joke.

"I notice that everyone in favor of abortion has already been born."
--Ronald Reagan
"Keep Bush, Cheney, Ashcroft and Rumsfeld in office! After all, why change
horsemen in mid-apocalypse?"

Any stand-up comic will tell you that the secret to humor is: tell the truth. A

good comic tells us things about ourselves that we normally wouldn't want to hear
since they are too embarrassing or sensitive. But by getting us to laugh at the truth
about ourselves, we learn to recognize our own foibles, and we learn to forgive the
foibles of others. Humor is the ultimate defense mechanism. We laugh at human
foibles because this allows us to live with them. Laughter is a natural and healthy


way to respond when we recognize that someone has offered us a bravely-spoken,
but possibly uncomfortable, truth.

Of course, we laugh for other reasons as well. The fallacy of Appeal to
Humor exploits our natural response to bravely-spoken truth. The fallacy presumes
that any view that can be expressed in a way that elicits laughter must be true.
However, we actually laugh for many reasons, only one of which is the recognition
of the truth of the sentiment expressed. We may also laugh at a slogan because it
is cleverly worded. We may laugh only because everyone around us is laughing.
We laugh at slap-stick humor. An argument mimics our response to bravely-
spoken truth when it gets us to laugh for a reason that is unrelated to our
recognition of truth, yet seems to imply that laughter entails assent.

Appeal to Gravity
The argument attempts to persuade by invoking a wish to be serious.

Some characteristic ways to express this fallacy may be to defend a position as
"responsible" and "mature," or to attack an opposing position by calling it "frivolous"
or "disrespectful."
"The President's tax cut proposal lacks detail. Clearly it does not come to grips with
genuine problems in a serious manner.

"John Kerry is a serious man for a serious job in a serious time in our country's

--Hillary Rodham Clinton (at the 2004 Democratic Convention)

Naturally, we wish to reason carefully and well when we are reasoning about

especially serious and important subjects. As far as that goes, reasoning well
about frivolous subjects may also be difficult, and require serious concentration.
Hence careful reasoning often has an air of seriousness and intensity about it.
People who are thinking hard tend to frown.
The fallacy of Appeal to Gravity imitates this air of seriousness and intensity,
without, however, actually being serious and intense. Saying that something is so
doesn't make it so. Just because an arguer tells us that he is being serious, it does
not follow that he is actually being serious; and just because a person is frowning,
it does not follow that he is thinking hard. He may just have a headache.

Appeal to Force (Ad Baculum)

The "argument" is actually an explicit or veiled threat. In effect the argument says,
"Accept my position, or I'll punish you."


The phrase "ad baculum" is a Latin phrase meaning "(appeal) to the stick." A
baculum or baculus (both forms were used) was a walking-stick or cane. Naturally,
such sticks were sometimes used to give an opponent a good drubbing.
Appeal to Force is sometimes confused with Appeal to Fear. The distinction is this:
Appeal to Force is a threat. The speaker will personally do something to punish the
listener. Appeal to Fear is only a warning. The speaker is foretelling that something
bad will happen to the listener, but is not threatening to be the cause of that harm.
"It's bedtime. Give me any sass about it, and you'll get a spanking!"
"The Grand Inquisitor might be very interested in your views denying the dual
nature of Christ."

Of all the fallacies, the Ad Baculum fallacy may be the most difficult to

reconcile with some form of legitimate reasoning. The Ad Baculum fallacy does not
so much imitate good reasoning as announce that every effort at reasoning has
come to an end. Now violence will be used instead. Persuasion is not the point,
only compliance. For this reason, I have doubts that Ad Baculum should be
considered a "fallacy" at all.

However, while it is hard to imagine that anyone could actually be persuaded by an
Ad Baculum argument, the Ad Baculum argument may be able to create the
illusion that someone has been persuaded. If I can get my opponent to shut up,
then he is at least no longer arguing with me. This may create the false impression
that I have won.

More seriously, a well-regulated society does need to have the power to
enforce its laws, even on people who do not accept those laws. On matters of
behavior, we cannot always take the time to reason with people. A thief must be
stopped, whether he agrees with our moral views on thievery or not. The
appropriate governing authority simply makes a pronouncement - and the
discussion is over.

The Ad Baculum fallacy may mimic those situations in which a legitimate
governing authority simply declares the discussion to be at an end in order to
preserve order. However, the Ad Baculum fallacy only mimics this situation.
Generally, it is guilty of at least one significant error. While one can enforce
appropriate behavior, one cannot enforce opinions. Compliance does not entail
assent. The fallacy may be guilty of a second error as well: in a discussion aimed
at arriving at the truth on some question, neither party to the discussion counts as
a "legitimate governing authority" over the other, so neither has the right to decide
the outcome of the discussion through force.

Appeal to Bribery
The "argument" is actually an explicit or veiled bribe. In effect the argument says,
"If you accept my position, I'll reward you."


"Children who know how to behave themselves just might get an ice cream cone."
"I am the best candidate for the office, and I promise to give working families like
yours a big tax cut."

It is very typical in human interactions to reward others for doing what we

want. Parents frequently reward children for good behavior, and it is right that they
should do so. What incentive would any of us have to behave well if we got nothing
out of it? Indeed, human interactions can be seen as a complex web of mutual
rewards as we promote our own interests by serving the interests of others. The
system of work for pay is part of this web. Political promises, diplomatic
agreements, contracts, etc. are also part of the network of mutual rewards. It is not
necessarily fallacious to think that I should do something because someone else
has promised to reward me for doing it.

The fallacy of Appeal to Bribery tries to mimic this legitimate exchange of
rewards for desirable behavior. However, truth operates under different rules of
exchange than goods and services do. One cannot agree to believe a falsehood in
exchange for a reward. It is a mistake to think that belief is a commodity or
behavior, like work, that can be bought and paid for.

Jingoism (Appeal to Patriotism)
The argument attempts to persuade by calling on ones community spirit,
specifically on ones love of country. Alternatively, the argument may attempt to
refute a position by calling it treasonous or unpatriotic.
"The war in Iraq is clearly justified. Support our troops!"
"Questioning the president's tax cut is tantamount to treason."

The English lexicographer Samuel Johnson once remarked, "Patriotism is

the last resort of scoundrels." Indeed, appeals to patriotic pride were used during
the 20th century to legitimize some of the most unspeakable crimes in human
history. Flag waving and the use of other symbols of national pride in place of
reasoning is an old tradition in America as well, and we should not imagine that we
are immune to the evil that the appeal to such strong emotions can cause.

Patriotic pride is a powerful and ennobling emotion. Like any emotion rooted
fundamentally in love, it takes us outside of ourselves. When moved by such
emotions we transcend our narrow personal interests and become part of
something large and meaningful. We realize that there are some things worth dying
for. What things? Well, perhaps different patriots are moved by different ideals, but
modern democracies have in common this ideal (from John Locke), that the
legitimate basis of government resides in the consent of the governed. That idea,
replacing the old notion of the divine right of kings, is one that American patriots
died for in 1776. French patriots died for it a few years later, and around the world
that idea has toppled dictators and broken the chains of injustice. No ideal has


more profoundly shaped the course of history and made the world a better place to
live. When an idea is that important, there is no illogic in asking for some sacrifice -
even the ultimate sacrifice - on its behalf. Ideas matter, and the ideas that define
our civic identity matter more than most.

But, of course, this creates an opportunity for bad reasoning. An argument
commits the fallacy of Jingoism when it makes reference to the noble ideals that
define our civic identity, but does so only symbolically, making no real connection
between the ideals and the actual actions or opinions defended by appeal to them.
For example, the so-called "Patriot Act" is named specifically to evoke feelings of
patriotism, which for most Americans is associated with such ideals as "freedom"
and "equal protection under the law," yet the content of the act actually increases
the power of law enforcement agents to spy on citizens without their knowledge or
consent and to engage in discriminatory practices in the treatment of suspects.
Some such strengthening of the powers of law enforcement agents may be
justified - a debate that must be conducted elsewhere - but should more properly
be called the Investigative Powers Act in any case. The disconnect between the
name of the law and its actual content is darkly ironic, but it perfectly illustrates the
lack of relevant connection that distinguishes genuine patriotic appeals (calling for
sacrifice on behalf of noble ideals) from mere jingoism.

Material adapted for pedagogical purposes from and Purdue Online Writing Lab (for fallacies)
(by Bonilla, M.)



ONE. Write down the fallacy that occurs in each passage. These will all be
deductive irrelevancies in the Emotional Appeals family: Appeal to Pity, Utility,
Fear, Hope, Flattery, Guilt, Humor, Gravity, Force, and Bribery.

1. ______________You can never tell when bad breath might strike. Be
prepared with Flirts Breath Mints

2. ______________There must be something wrong with your sense of
compassion if you can't see how important it is to prevent children from
bringing guns to school.

3. ______________You may already be a winner! Yes, you are a finalist in our
drawing for A HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS! And if you buy a subscription
to one of our magazines, we will mark your entry for priority treatment.

4. ______________I'm sure you'll agree with me. It's always nice to argue with
someone who is rational and willing to keep an open mind.

5. ______________I realize you are concerned about human rights violations
in my country. But a leader who gave in to such tender-hearted sentiments
would never be able to maintain control in our country.

6. ______________Perhaps a visit to the principal's office will convince you
that students shouldn't talk in class.

7. ______________We need to raise salaries for teachers. Our country can no
longer afford the wasted lives and grinding despair that results from

8. ______________Teacher: Chances are that you'd get an 'A' in this class, if
you would just admit that I am right.

9. ______________My opponent's light-hearted approach to the problem of
post-gustatory flatulence does a disservice to this important topic.

10.______________How many Scientific Creationists does it take to change a
light bulb? They don't know how to change a light bulb: they still use oil

Material adapted for pedagogical purposes from (by Bonilla, M.)


Two. Write down the emotional appeal that occurs in each passage. Consult the
theory on Pathos if necessary.
1.__________ “Don’t let others decide for you. It’s your country. It’s your vote.
Costa Rica needs you.”
2._________ “Yes, your honor, I’m guilty of shoplifting, but I’m the only support of
my family. My sick mother and five children need me.”
3.__________ “Indeed, that Nicaraguan guy died in a horrible way, but that isn’t as
important as knowing what he was doing there. That should be the focus of the
4._________ “You voted for that man four years ago and look at where we are
now. I hope you think it over next time since you contributed to this crisis.”
5.__________ “Those dogs ought to be killed. Today, it was that Nicaraguan guy;
tomorrow, it could be any of us.”
6.___________ “I have always known of the good judgment and capacity of the
African American community in Costa Rica. That is why, it’s my commitment to
continue fighting in my presidency.”
7.___________ “CAFTA isn’t an issue to be discussed lightly. It’s three months
before the elections; we simply can’t come to an agreement in such short time.”
8.__________ “More job opportunities, cheaper prices, and more technological
development…vote for me.”

Created by Bonilla, M.


THREE. Identify the fallacies of reasoning in the following statements. Explain what,
if anything, may be wrong or illogical in each statement.

1. __________ If we don't do something about the problem of overpopulation
soon, the planet simply will be unable to accommodate this spiraling
increase in people with sufficient food or adequate living space.

2. __________Those who are ignorant of history are condemned to repeat it.
3. __________ He is the best senatorial candidate: he is tall and good looking;

he is an eloquent speaker, and he gets along well with his colleagues.
4. __________ Something horrible must have happened to them. They would

have called if they were going to be this late.
5. __________ Joanne's intelligence is her outstanding quality. Even though

she is attractive and socially graceful, it is her mental ability that is her
strongest asset.
6. __________ People are not really free. They only think they are. Their lives
are actually determined by forces that control them without their being
aware of it. No one can prove that he or she is impervious to the multitude of
influences that bombard us through our lives.
7. __________ Astrologers must know what they're doing. My horoscope for
the past week has been right on target.
8. __________ Students should grade themselves in their courses. After all, no
one knows better than they do how hard they have worked and how much
they have learned.

Material taken from Hacker, D. (2009). Rules for writers (6th edition).


FOUR. Write the fallacy or emotional appeal that is illustrated in the statements

below. Only one option is possible.

Ad Hominen Bandwagon appeal

False dichotomy Red herring

Post hoc Non sequitur

Appeal to fear Appeal to pity

Appeal to patriotism (Jingoism) Appeal to authority

1. Seven out of ten dentists recommend Trident gum for their patients who chew

gum. ____________________________

2. It´s important that every family be protected by a whole life-insurance plan.

After all, what would happen if you died? Your family would be destitute and

would probably end up on welfare. __________________________

3. This was a commonly heard argument after the September 11 terrorist

attacks: Everybody, with one exception, in the U.S. Congress voted to support
the administration’s decision to bomb Afghanistan after the September 11
attacks on New York’s World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The lone
dissenter was Barbara lee, who represents Berkeley. It’s outrageous that she
had the temerity to vote against her colleagues. She’s completely out of step

with the rest of the country since the nation is 100% behind the campaign.


4. When Oliver North and John Poindexter admitted that they were committing

illegal acts when they plotted to sell arms to Iran and divert money to the

Contras during the Irangate scandal, they defended their actions out of love

for their country. _____________________

5. How could an employer be so cruel as to fire a worker like Robert Gonzalez?

Of course, his absenteeism has been significant, and he has difficulty getting
to work on time. And it’s true that customers have complained about his

rudeness. But he has seven children to support, house payments to make,

and college loans to repay. _____________________
6. During the Republican presidential primaries, Trump pointed to the “horse

face” of rival candidate Carly Fiorina: “Look at that face. Would anyone vote
for that?” _________________

7. Trump on a televised event: North Korea could choose denuclearization or
face “fire and fury like the world has never seen.” __________________

8. Two days after Attorney General Sessions recused himself from Justice

Department investigations of Russian meddling in the election of 2016, Trump
tweeted, “Terrible. Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump
Tower just before the victory.” ________________________
9. “It was a spring day, the sort that gives people hope: all soft winds and
delicate smells of warm earth.” Suicide weather. - Girl, Interrupted, Susanna

Kaysen __________________

10. The temperature has dropped this morning, and I also have a headache. The

cold weather must be causing my headache. __________________________

Created by Bonilla, M.


FIVE. Write down whether the sentences below use Logos, Pathos, or Ethos as a
driver of persuasion.

1. ___________ There's no price that can be placed on peace of mind. Our
advanced security systems will protect the well-being of your family so that
you can sleep soundly at night.

2. ___________ As a doctor, I am qualified to tell you that this course of
treatment will likely generate the best results.

3. ___________ More than one hundred peer-reviewed studies have been
conducted over the past decade, and none of them suggests that this is an
effective treatment for hair loss.

4. ___________ If my years as a Marine taught me anything, that is that
caution is the best policy in this sort of situation.

5. ___________ You'll make the right decision because you have something
that not many people do: you have a heart.

Adapted for pedagogical purposes from Quizlet (by Bonilla, M.)


Max Shulman: Love is a Fallacy

Cool was I and logical. Keen, calculating, perspicacious, acute and astute—I was all of these.
My brain was as powerful as a dynamo, precise as a chemist’s scales, as penetrating as a
scalpel. And—think of it!—I only eighteen.

It is not often that one so young has such a giant intellect. Take, for example, Petey Bellows,
my roommate at the university. Same age, same background, but dumb as an ox. A nice
enough fellow, you understand, but nothing upstairs. Emotional type. Unstable.
Impressionable. Worst of all, a faddist. Fads, I submit, are the very negation of reason. To be
swept up in every new craze that comes along, to surrender oneself to idiocy just because
everybody else is doing it—this, to me, is the acme of mindlessness. Not, however, to Petey.

One afternoon I found Petey lying on his bed with an expression of such distress on his face
that I immediately diagnosed appendicitis. “Don’t move,” I said, “Don’t take a laxative. I’ll
get a doctor.”
“Raccoon,” he mumbled thickly.
“Raccoon?” I said, pausing in my flight.
“I want a raccoon coat,” he wailed.
I perceived that his trouble was not physical, but mental. “Why do you want a raccoon coat?”
“I should have known it,” he cried, pounding his temples. “I should have known they’d come
back when the Charleston came back. Like a fool I spent all my money for textbooks, and
now I can’t get a raccoon coat.”
“Can you mean,” I said incredulously, “that people are actually wearing raccoon coats again?”
“All the Big Men on Campus are wearing them. Where’ve you been?”
“In the library,” I said, naming a place not frequented by Big Men on Campus.
He leaped from the bed and paced the room. “I’ve got to have a raccoon coat,” he said
passionately. “I’ve got to!”
“Petey, why? Look at it rationally. Raccoon coats are unsanitary. They shed. They smell bad.
They weigh too much. They’re unsightly. They—”
“You don’t understand,” he interrupted impatiently. “It’s the thing to do. Don’t you want to
be in the swim?”
“No,” I said truthfully.
“Well, I do,” he declared. “I’d give anything for a raccoon coat. Anything!”
My brain, that precision instrument, slipped into high gear. “Anything?” I asked, looking at
him narrowly.
“Anything,” he affirmed in ringing tones.

I stroked my chin thoughtfully. It so happened that I knew where to get my hands on a
raccoon coat. My father had had one in his undergraduate days; it lay now in a trunk in the
attic back home. It also happened that Petey had something I wanted. He didn’t have it
exactly, but at least he had first rights on it. I refer to his girl, Polly Espy.

I had long coveted Polly Espy. Let me emphasize that my desire for this young woman was
not emotional in nature. She was, to be sure, a girl who excited the emotions, but I was not


one to let my heart rule my head. I wanted Polly for a shrewdly calculated, entirely cerebral

I was a freshman in law school. In a few years I would be out in practice. I was well aware of
the importance of the right kind of wife in furthering a lawyer’s career. The successful
lawyers I had observed were, almost without exception, married to beautiful, gracious,
intelligent women. With one omission, Polly fitted these specifications perfectly.

Beautiful she was. She was not yet of pin-up proportions, but I felt that time would supply the
lack. She already had the makings.

Gracious she was. By gracious I mean full of graces. She had an erectness of carriage, an ease
of bearing, a poise that clearly indicated the best of breeding. At table her manners were
exquisite. I had seen her at the Kozy Kampus Korner eating the specialty of the house—a
sandwich that contained scraps of pot roast, gravy, chopped nuts, and a dipper of sauerkraut—
without even getting her fingers moist.

Intelligent she was not. In fact, she veered in the opposite direction. But I believed that under
my guidance she would smarten up. At any rate, it was worth a try. It is, after all, easier to
make a beautiful dumb girl smart than to make an ugly smart girl beautiful.
“Petey,” I said, “are you in love with Polly Espy?”
“I think she’s a keen kid,” he replied, “but I don’t know if you’d call it love. Why?”
“Do you,” I asked, “have any kind of formal arrangement with her? I mean are you going
steady or anything like that?”
“No. We see each other quite a bit, but we both have other dates. Why?”
“Is there,” I asked, “any other man for whom she has a particular fondness?”
“Not that I know of. Why?”
I nodded with satisfaction. “In other words, if you were out of the picture, the field would be
open. Is that right?”
“I guess so. What are you getting at?”
“Nothing , nothing,” I said innocently, and took my suitcase out the closet.
“Where are you going?” asked Petey.
“Home for weekend.” I threw a few things into the bag.
“Listen,” he said, clutching my arm eagerly, “while you’re home, you couldn’t get some
money from your old man, could you, and lend it to me so I can buy a raccoon coat?”
“I may do better than that,” I said with a mysterious wink and closed my bag and left.

“Look,” I said to Petey when I got back Monday morning. I threw open the suitcase and
revealed the huge, hairy, gamy object that my father had worn in his Stutz Bearcat in 1925.
“Holy Toledo!” said Petey reverently. He plunged his hands into the raccoon coat and then his
face. “Holy Toledo!” he repeated fifteen or twenty times.
“Would you like it?” I asked.
“Oh yes!” he cried, clutching the greasy pelt to him. Then a canny look came into his eyes.
“What do you want for it?”
“Your girl.” I said, mincing no words.


“Polly?” he said in a horrified whisper. “You want Polly?”

“That’s right.”

He flung the coat from him. “Never,” he said stoutly.

I shrugged. “Okay. If you don’t want to be in the swim, I guess it’s your business.”

I sat down in a chair and pretended to read a book, but out of the corner of my eye I kept
watching Petey. He was a torn man. First he looked at the coat with the expression of a waif at
a bakery window. Then he turned away and set his jaw resolutely. Then he looked back at the
coat, with even more longing in his face. Then he turned away, but with not so much
resolution this time. Back and forth his head swiveled, desire waxing, resolution waning.
Finally he didn’t turn away at all; he just stood and stared with mad lust at the coat.

“It isn’t as though I was in love with Polly,” he said thickly. “Or going steady or anything like

“That’s right,” I murmured.

“What’s Polly to me, or me to Polly?”

“Not a thing,” said I.

“It’s just been a casual kick—just a few laughs, that’s all.”

“Try on the coat,” said I.

He complied. The coat bunched high over his ears and dropped all the way down to his shoe
tops. He looked like a mound of dead raccoons. “Fits fine,” he said happily.

I rose from my chair. “Is it a deal?” I asked, extending my hand.

He swallowed. “It’s a deal,” he said and shook my hand.

I had my first date with Polly the following evening. This was in the nature of a survey; I
wanted to find out just how much work I had to do to get her mind up to the standard I
required. I took her first to dinner. “Gee, that was a delish dinner,” she said as we left the
restaurant. Then I took her to a movie. “Gee, that was a marvy movie,” she said as we left the
theatre. And then I took her home. “Gee, I had a sensaysh time,” she said as she bade me good

I went back to my room with a heavy heart. I had gravely underestimated the size of my task.
This girl’s lack of information was terrifying. Nor would it be enough merely to supply her
with information. First she had to be taught to think. This loomed as a project of no small
dimensions, and at first I was tempted to give her back to Petey. But then I got to thinking
about her abundant physical charms and about the way she entered a room and the way she
handled a knife and fork, and I decided to make an effort.

I went about it, as in all things, systematically. I gave her a course in logic. It happened that I,
as a law student, was taking a course in logic myself, so I had all the facts at my fingertips.
“Poll’,” I said to her when I picked her up on our next date, “tonight we are going over to the
Knoll and talk.”

“Oo, terrif,” she replied. One thing I will say for this girl: you would go far to find another so

We went to the Knoll, the campus trysting place, and we sat down under an old oak, and she
looked at me expectantly. “What are we going to talk about?” she asked.



She thought this over for a minute and decided she liked it. “Magnif,” she said.

“Logic,” I said, clearing my throat, “is the science of thinking. Before we can think correctly,
we must first learn to recognize the common fallacies of logic. These we will take up

“Wow-dow!” she cried, clapping her hands delightedly.

I winced, but went bravely on. “First let us examine the fallacy called Dicto Simpliciter.”

“By all means,” she urged, batting her lashes eagerly.

“Dicto Simpliciter means an argument based on an unqualified generalization. For example:
Exercise is good. Therefore everybody should exercise.”

“I agree,” said Polly earnestly. “I mean exercise is wonderful. I mean it builds the body and

“Polly,” I said gently, “the argument is a fallacy. Exercise is good is an unqualified
generalization. For instance, if you have heart disease, exercise is bad, not good. Many people
are ordered by their doctors not to exercise. You must qualify the generalization. You must
say exercise is usually good, or exercise is good for most people. Otherwise you have
committed a Dicto Simpliciter. Do you see?”

“No,” she confessed. “But this is marvy. Do more! Do more!”

“It will be better if you stop tugging at my sleeve,” I told her, and when she desisted, I
continued. “Next we take up a fallacy called Hasty Generalization. Listen carefully: You can’t
speak French. Petey Bellows can’t speak French. I must therefore conclude that nobody at the
University of Minnesota can speak French.”

“Really?” said Polly, amazed. “Nobody?”

I hid my exasperation. “Polly, it’s a fallacy. The generalization is reached too hastily. There
are too few instances to support such a conclusion.”

“Know any more fallacies?” she asked breathlessly. “This is more fun than dancing even.”

I fought off a wave of despair. I was getting nowhere with this girl, absolutely nowhere. Still,
I am nothing if not persistent. I continued. “Next comes Post Hoc. Listen to this: Let’s not
take Bill on our picnic. Every time we take him out with us, it rains.”

“I know somebody just like that,” she exclaimed. “A girl back home—Eula Becker, her name
is. It never fails. Every single time we take her on a picnic—”

“Polly,” I said sharply, “it’s a fallacy. Eula Becker doesn’t cause the rain. She has no
connection with the rain. You are guilty of Post Hoc if you blame Eula Becker.”

“I’ll never do it again,” she promised contritely. “Are you mad at me?”

I sighed. “No, Polly, I’m not mad.”

“Then tell me some more fallacies.”

“All right. Let’s try Contradictory Premises.”

“Yes, let’s,” she chirped, blinking her eyes happily.

I frowned, but plunged ahead. “Here’s an example of Contradictory Premises: If God can do
anything, can He make a stone so heavy that He won’t be able to lift it?”

“Of course,” she replied promptly.


“But if He can do anything, He can lift the stone,” I pointed out.

“Yeah,” she said thoughtfully. “Well, then I guess He can’t make the stone.”

“But He can do anything,” I reminded her.

She scratched her pretty, empty head. “I’m all confused,” she admitted.

“Of course you are. Because when the premises of an argument contradict each other, there
can be no argument. If there is an irresistible force, there can be no immovable object. If there
is an immovable object, there can be no irresistible force. Get it?”

“Tell me more of this keen stuff,” she said eagerly.

I consulted my watch. “I think we’d better call it a night. I’ll take you home now, and you go
over all the things you’ve learned. We’ll have another session tomorrow night.”

I deposited her at the girls’ dormitory, where she assured me that she had had a perfectly terrif
evening, and I went glumly home to my room. Petey lay snoring in his bed, the raccoon coat
huddled like a great hairy beast at his feet. For a moment I considered waking him and telling
him that he could have his girl back. It seemed clear that my project was doomed to failure.
The girl simply had a logic-proof head.

But then I reconsidered. I had wasted one evening; I might as well waste another. Who knew?
Maybe somewhere in the extinct crater of her mind a few members still smoldered. Maybe
somehow I could fan them into flame. Admittedly it was not a prospect fraught with hope, but
I decided to give it one more try.

Seated under the oak the next evening I said, “Our first fallacy tonight is called Ad

She quivered with delight.

“Listen closely,” I said. “A man applies for a job. When the boss asks him what his
qualifications are, he replies that he has a wife and six children at home, the wife is a helpless
cripple, the children have nothing to eat, no clothes to wear, no shoes on their feet, there are
no beds in the house, no coal in the cellar, and winter is coming.”

A tear rolled down each of Polly’s pink cheeks. “Oh, this is awful, awful,” she sobbed.

“Yes, it’s awful,” I agreed, “but it’s no argument. The man never answered the boss’s
question about his qualifications. Instead he appealed to the boss’s sympathy. He committed
the fallacy of Ad Misericordiam. Do you understand?”

“Have you got a handkerchief?” she blubbered.

I handed her a handkerchief and tried to keep from screaming while she wiped her eyes.
“Next,” I said in a carefully controlled tone, “we will discuss False Analogy. Here is an
example: Students should be allowed to look at their textbooks during examinations. After all,
surgeons have X-rays to guide them during an operation, lawyers have briefs to guide them
during a trial, carpenters have blueprints to guide them when they are building a house. Why,
then, shouldn’t students be allowed to look at their textbooks during an examination?”

“There now,” she said enthusiastically, “is the most marvy idea I’ve heard in years.”

“Polly,” I said testily, “the argument is all wrong. Doctors, lawyers, and carpenters aren’t
taking a test to see how much they have learned, but students are. The situations are altogether
different, and you can’t make an analogy between them.”

“I still think it’s a good idea,” said Polly.


“Nuts,” I muttered. Doggedly I pressed on. “Next we’ll try Hypothesis Contrary to Fact.”

“Sounds yummy,” was Polly’s reaction.

“Listen: If Madame Curie had not happened to leave a photographic plate in a drawer with a
chunk of pitchblende, the world today would not know about radium.”

“True, true,” said Polly, nodding her head “Did you see the movie? Oh, it just knocked me
out. That Walter Pidgeon is so dreamy. I mean he fractures me.”

“If you can forget Mr. Pidgeon for a moment,” I said coldly, “I would like to point out that
statement is a fallacy. Maybe Madame Curie would have discovered radium at some later
date. Maybe somebody else would have discovered it. Maybe any number of things would
have happened. You can’t start with a hypothesis that is not true and then draw any
supportable conclusions from it.”

“They ought to put Walter Pidgeon in more pictures,” said Polly, “I hardly ever see him any

One more chance, I decided. But just one more. There is a limit to what flesh and blood can
bear. “The next fallacy is called Poisoning the Well.”

“How cute!” she gurgled.

“Two men are having a debate. The first one gets up and says, ‘My opponent is a notorious
liar. You can’t believe a word that he is going to say.’ … Now, Polly, think. Think hard.
What’s wrong?”

I watched her closely as she knit her creamy brow in concentration. Suddenly a glimmer of
intelligence—the first I had seen—came into her eyes. “It’s not fair,” she said with
indignation. “It’s not a bit fair. What chance has the second man got if the first man calls him
a liar before he even begins talking?”

“Right!” I cried exultantly. “One hundred per cent right. It’s not fair. The first man
has poisoned the well before anybody could drink from it. He has hamstrung his opponent
before he could even start … Polly, I’m proud of you.”

“Pshaws,” she murmured, blushing with pleasure.

“You see, my dear, these things aren’t so hard. All you have to do is concentrate. Think—
examine—evaluate. Come now, let’s review everything we have learned.”

“Fire away,” she said with an airy wave of her hand.

Heartened by the knowledge that Polly was not altogether a cretin, I began a long, patient
review of all I had told her. Over and over and over again I cited instances, pointed out flaws,
kept hammering away without letup. It was like digging a tunnel. At first, everything was
work, sweat, and darkness. I had no idea when I would reach the light, or even if I would. But
I persisted. I pounded and clawed and scraped, and finally I was rewarded. I saw a chink of
light. And then the chink got bigger and the sun came pouring in and all was bright.

Five grueling nights with this took, but it was worth it. I had made a logician out of Polly; I
had taught her to think. My job was done. She was worthy of me, at last. She was a fit wife
for me, a proper hostess for my many mansions, a suitable mother for my well-heeled

It must not be thought that I was without love for this girl. Quite the contrary. Just as
Pygmalion loved the perfect woman he had fashioned, so I loved mine. I decided to acquaint


her with my feelings at our very next meeting. The time had come to change our relationship
from academic to romantic.
“Polly,” I said when next we sat beneath our oak, “tonight we will not discuss fallacies.”
“Aw, gee,” she said, disappointed.
“My dear,” I said, favoring her with a smile, “we have now spent five evenings together. We
have gotten along splendidly. It is clear that we are well matched.”
“Hasty Generalization,” said Polly brightly.
“I beg your pardon,” said I.
“Hasty Generalization,” she repeated. “How can you say that we are well matched on the
basis of only five dates?”
I chuckled with amusement. The dear child had learned her lessons well. “My dear,” I said,
patting her hand in a tolerant manner, “five dates is plenty. After all, you don’t have to eat a
whole cake to know that it’s good.”
“False Analogy,” said Polly promptly. “I’m not a cake. I’m a girl.”

I chuckled with somewhat less amusement. The dear child had learned her lessons perhaps too
well. I decided to change tactics. Obviously the best approach was a simple, strong, direct
declaration of love. I paused for a moment while my massive brain chose the proper word.
Then I began:
“Polly, I love you. You are the whole world to me, the moon and the stars and the
constellations of outer space. Please, my darling, say that you will go steady with me, for if
you will not, life will be meaningless. I will languish. I will refuse my meals. I will wander
the face of the earth, a shambling, hollow-eyed hulk.”

There, I thought, folding my arms, that ought to do it.
“Ad Misericordiam,” said Polly.

I ground my teeth. I was not Pygmalion; I was Frankenstein, and my monster had me by the
throat. Frantically I fought back the tide of panic surging through me; at all costs I had to keep
“Well, Polly,” I said, forcing a smile, “you certainly have learned your fallacies.”
“You’re darn right,” she said with a vigorous nod.
“And who taught them to you, Polly?”
“You did.”
“That’s right. So you do owe me something, don’t you, my dear? If I hadn’t come along you
never would have learned about fallacies.”
“Hypothesis Contrary to Fact,” she said instantly.
I dashed perspiration from my brow. “Polly,” I croaked, “you mustn’t take all these things so
literally. I mean this is just classroom stuff. You know that the things you learn in school
don’t have anything to do with life.”
“Dicto Simpliciter,” she said, wagging her finger at me playfully.
That did it. I leaped to my feet, bellowing like a bull. “Will you or will you not go steady with


“I will not,” she replied.
“Why not?” I demanded.
“Because this afternoon I promised Petey Bellows that I would go steady with him.”

I reeled back, overcome with the infamy of it. After he promised, after he made a deal, after
he shook my hand! “The rat!” I shrieked, kicking up great chunks of turf. “You can’t go with
him, Polly. He’s a liar. He’s a cheat. He’s a rat.”
“Poisoning the Well ,” said Polly, “and stop shouting. I think shouting must be a fallacy too.”
With an immense effort of will, I modulated my voice. “All right,” I said. “You’re a logician.
Let’s look at this thing logically. How could you choose Petey Bellows over me? Look at
me—a brilliant student, a tremendous intellectual, a man with an assured future. Look at
Petey—a knothead, a jitterbug, a guy who’ll never know where his next meal is coming from.
Can you give me one logical reason why you should go steady with Petey Bellows?”
“I certainly can,” declared Polly. “He’s got a raccoon coat.”


Is that a fact?

A fact is something that you know is true. You can prove it.
An opinion is something you think or believe to be true. You can’t prove it.

It’s raining now. It’s going to rain

I can look outside and I think it will rain, but I
check this is true so it can’t be sure, so it is

is a fact. an opinion.

Smoking is bad Smoking is
for your health. relaxing.

There is a lot of I might think this,
medical evidence but other people
to prove this, so it might disagree, so
it is an opinion.
is a fact.

Entry 1 & 2 Factsheet © BBC 2012


Distinguishing between fact and opinion

Michael Owen bemused by Newcastle United boos

Manchester United striker Michael Owen says he was
disappointed after being booed by Newcastle fans during
Tuesday's 0-0 draw at St James's Park.

The former Magpies man was jeered when he came on after 81

Owen said on Twitter: "Got a poor reception off the home fans which was disappointing. Was
desperate to score!"

He added: "Knew I would get booed as that's what a lot of fans do but if they knew the facts then
they may have a different opinion."

Michael Owen is clear that there is a difference between fact and opinion. He is disappointed by
the fans’ opinion of him but believes that knowing the facts might change that opinion.

 A fact is something that can be proved to be correct.
 An opinion is what someone thinks or believes. It cannot be proved to be correct or

Owen joined Newcastle from Real Madrid for £16m in 2005 and scored 30 goals in 79
Haeprpeeaarraenscoems einfaacntsinfjruormy-hthitefosuarmyeeaarrsticolne:Tyneside.

 Owen joined Newcastle from Real Madrid.
 The transfer cost £16 million.
 The transfer took place in 2005.
 He scored 30 goals in 79 appearances.
 He spent four years on Tyneside (another name for Newcastle)

All these statements can be checked and proved by looking at the records.

Owen said: "When I meet Newcastle or Liverpool fans they all respect what I've done for their
clubs. In stadiums it changes, one boo and the rest follow.
Here are some opinions from the same article:

 Newcastle or Liverpool fans respect what he has done. (Some probably do, but do all of
them? How could it be proved?)

 One boo and the rest follow. (It may seem so, but how could it be proved?)
Facts can be proved to be correct; opinions might also be correct but they can’t be proved.

© BBC 2011


The language of fact and opinion

How do we distinguish between fact and opinion?
One way to distinguish between fact and opinion is to look at the language used. Language helps
us to decide whether a statement can be backed up with evidence and verified in some way. Or it
can help to show whether the statement is someone’s point of view, judgement or belief.
Examples of the language we use to express facts:

 This review has demonstrated…
 According to the results of the latest poll…
 The latest findings confirm…
 Researchers have recently discovered…
Tip: look at the key words used to express facts - demonstrated, according, confirm,
Examples of the language we use to express opinions:
 The company claims that…
 The research team argues that…
 In Professor Donald’s view…
 Most experts in this field suspect that…
Tip: Look at the key words used to express opinion - claims, argues, view, suspect.
NOTE: Facts and opinions can be manipulated. Opinions can be presented as facts, simply by
using the language of facts to present them. For example:

Recent statements made by the council confirm that most residents
do not want a further expansion of the one-way system of streets.
Although facts are expressed in the language in the above statement, there is very little evidence
to back it up. The council may have made statements about increasing the number of one-way
streets, but this doesn’t mean that local residents were surveyed and that their responses were
recorded in any way.

© BBC 2011


Fact, opinion and news 1

To follow is the first part of an article from the BBC’s news website. The facts are highlighted in
bold and the opinions are underlined.
The facts are taken from a survey that can be verified. The opinions are taken from comments
made by various people such as journalists and writers. They express the viewpoint of that
particular person.
Look at the sentence that is not in bold (facts) or underlined (opinion). Is it fact or opinion?

Indians “world’s biggest readers”

Indians are the world’s biggest bookworms, reading on average
10.7 hours a week, twice as long as Americans, according to
a new survey.

The NOP World Culture Score index surveyed 30,000 people
in 30 countries from December 2004 to February 2005.

Analysts said self-help and aspirational reading could explain
India’s high figures.

Britons and Americans scored 50% lower than the Indians’
hours and Japanese and Koreans were even lower at 4.1 and
3.1 hours respectively.

R. Sriram, chief executive officer of Crosswords Bookstores, a Fact or
chain of 26 book shops around India, says Indians are extremely
entrepreneurial and reading “is a fundamental part of their being”.

The NOP survey of 30,000 consumers aged over 13 saw
China and the Philippines take second and third place
respectively in average hours a week spent reading books,
newspapers and magazines.

Correct answer: The sentence that is not in bold or underlined is an opinion. The comment is
R. Sriram’s point of view and is not backed up by evidence. To substantiate this comment he
would have had to ask a large sample of readers from India if they felt reading is a “fundamental
part of their being”?

© BBC 2011


Where you live: fact

Write a report about your local town or the county in which you live. Give facts only in the
report (below).
These facts should include the following information: population, main industry, main attractions
and factual details. Here’s an example of how you could begin this section of your report:

I live in Leeds, West Yorkshire. It has a population of 715,404 and
has become a major financial and legal centre outside London.
Remember: you will have to do some research to find out these things.
The following websites will help your research:
• To find the population of the area in which you live, visit the Office for National Statistics
• To find census information for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, visit:
• To find out more about your local area (from news and activities to local entertainment) visit
your local BBC site:

Write your report in the box below:

Now look at the worksheet ‘Where you live: opinion’ and write your opinion of where you

© BBC 2011


Where you live: opinion

Write a report about your local town or the county in which you live. Give opinions only in
the report (below).
Here are some questions to help you:

• What do you think about where you live?
• Where are your favourite places?
• What do you like to do there in your free time?
• What would you change about where you live?
Remember: this is your view of the place you live. You don’t have to do any research. To follow is
an example of how you could begin this section of the report:

I love Leeds. It’s a great place to live. There are lots of things to
do and lots of good shops to visit. For example…
Write your report in the box below:

© BBC 2011




Writing an editorial letteri


You feel strongly about an issue, and you want to let people know what you think. You
believe you can even influence people to take some action if you speak your mind. But
you want to reach an audience larger than just your friends or your group membership.
Letters to the editor can be an effective way to get the word out.

A letter to the editor is a written way of talking to a newspaper, magazine, or other
regularly printed publication. Letters to the editor are generally found in the first section
of the newspaper, or towards the beginning of a magazine, or in the editorial page. They
can take a position for or against an issue, or simply inform, or both. They can convince
readers by using emotions, or facts, or emotions and facts combined. Letters to the
editor are usually short and tight, rarely longer than 300 words.

Using a few carefully placed letters, you can generate plenty of community discussion.
You can also keep an issue going by preventing it from disappearing from the public
eye. You can stimulate the interest of the news media and create more coverage for the
matters you are working on. You can also send a "good news" letter to bring recognition
to people who deserve it or acknowledge the success of an effort.


Letters to the editor are among the most widely read features in any newspaper or
magazine. They allow you to reach a large audience. You can probably think of many
more specific reasons why you might want to write to the editor, but here are a few
general ones:

• You are angry about something and want others to know it.
• You think that an issue is so important that you must speak out.
• Part of your group's strategy is to persuade others to take a specific action.

Or you want to:

• Suggest an idea to others.
• Influence public opinion.
• Educate the general public on a specific matter.
• Influence policymakers or elected officials directly or indirectly
• Publicize the work of your group and attract volunteers or program participants.



Letters to the editor can be written any time you want to shape public opinion, tell others
how you feel about people, programs, or ideas, or just inform the public on a certain
issue. They are a great way to increase awareness of the issues that you or your
organization are working for, as well as to advocate for your cause.

Letters to the editor can also be used to start a community conversation about an issue
important to you. A planned series of letters to the editor can stimulate public interest
and media coverage. It is up to you to determine when the best time is to start writing
the letters, allowing time for them to be published—if that is the case.

Professors assign editorials in class to determine
your skill at persuasive writing, while writers at
newspapers and magazines create editorials to
make a claim or create discussion about their
publication. Either way your editorial should make
a clear argument that reflects your stance and that
appeals to your audience.


There are those that:

1. Explain or interpret: Editors often use these editorials to explain the way the
newspaper covered a sensitive or controversial subject. School newspapers may
explain new school rules or a particular student-body effort like a food drive.

2. Criticize: These editorials constructively criticize actions, decisions or situations
while providing solutions to the problem identified. Immediate purpose is to get
readers to see the problem, not the solution.

3. Persuade: Editorials of persuasion aim to immediately see the solution, not the
problem. From the first paragraph, readers will be encouraged to take a specific,
positive action. Political endorsements are good examples of editorials of

4. Praise: These editorials commend people and organizations for something done
well. They are not as common as the other three.


1. Pick a significant topic that has a current news angle and would interest readers.
2. Collect information and facts; include objective reporting; do research.


3. Open the letter with a simple salutation. Do not worry if you don't know the
editor's name. A simple "To the Editor of ___________," or just “To the Editor:” is
sufficient. If you have the editor's name, however, you should use it.

4. State your opinion briefly in the fashion of a thesis statement (not necessarily the
very first sentence but one after a few engaging introductory statements).

5. Explain the issue objectively—as a reporter would—and tell why this situation is
important. Newspaper editorials should have at least three arguments. These
arguments, of course, should be backed up with facts and evidence from your
research on the topic:
• Use statistics to help prove your argument.
• Make sure your strongest argument is left for last.
• Do not be passive in the arguments that come before the strongest. If this
happens you likely will not have readers reading your entire newspaper

6. Give opposing viewpoint first with its quotations and facts.
7. Refute (reject) the other side and develop your case using facts, details, figures,

quotations. Pick apart the other side's logic.
8. If necessary, concede a point of the opposition — they must have some good

points you can acknowledge that would make you look rational.
9. If you draw attention to an issue in an editorial, provide possible solutions to the

problem. You want to avoid simply complaining so that the audience can find value in
your work and consider taking action themselves. Whatever solution(s) you provide,
make sure they are realistic and beyond common knowledge.
10. Wrap it up in a concluding punch that restates your opening remark (thesis
11. Keep it to 300-400 approximately words; make every work count; use "I" only if
allowed. (Consult with your instructor)


I. Lead with an objective explanation of the issue/controversy.

Include the five W's in writing (Who, What, When, Where, Why).

Example: Members of Congress, in an effort to reduce the budget, are looking to cut
funding from public television. Hearings were held …

• Pull in facts and quotations from the sources which are relevant.
• Additional research may be necessary.

II. Present your opposition first.

As the writer, you disagree with these viewpoints. Identify the people (specifically who
oppose you.


Example: Republicans feel that these cuts are necessary; other cable stations can pick
them; only the rich watch public television.

• Use facts and quotations to state objectively their opinions.
• Give a strong position of the opposition. You gain nothing in refuting a weak


III. Directly refute the opposition's beliefs.

You can begin your article with transition.

Example: Republicans believe public television is a "sandbox for the rich." However,
statistics show most people who watch public television make less than $40,000 per

• Pull in other facts and quotations from people who support your position.
• Concede a valid point of the opposition which will make you appear rational, one

who has considered all the options. Example: Fiscal times are tough, and we can
cut some of the funding for the arts; however, …

IV. Give Other, Original Reasons/Analogies

In defense of your position, give reasons from strong to strongest order. (Taking money
away from public television is robbing children of their education …)
Use a literary or cultural allusion that lends to your credibility and perceived intelligence
(We should render unto Caesar that which belongs to him …)

V. Conclude with some punch.

Give solutions to the problem or challenge the reader to be informed.

Example: Congress should look to where real wastes exist — perhaps in defense and
entitlements — to find ways to save money. Digging into public television's pocket hurts
us all.

• A quotation can be effective, especially if from a respected source.

• A rhetorical question can be an effective concluder as well. Example: If the

government does not defend the interests of children, who will?

i Adapted for pedagogical purposes from (by Bonilla, M.)


Sample letters

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