1. Identify two ideas from each of the following that demonstrate your thoughts and/or what you’ve learned, appreciated, or have questions about. 

A Rulebook For Arguments, Ch. VII
A Rulebook for Arguments, Appendix II
A Mini-Lesson in Concise Writing
Writing Introductions ( uploaded us ntroduction Sample and a screen shot )

2. After reviewing the MLA In-Text Citation Cheat Sheet – 

Write two-four sentences about the way the sheet is organized, what information it contains, and how you can use it to find formatting information for each kind of in-text citation easily.
Identify 3-4 elements you’d like to work on to create more accurate or new MLA in-text citations.

3. After reading Powerful and Engaging Essay Openers and thinking about your focus related to US Immigration for Essay Four, identify the type of essay opener you’d like to experiment with for Sunday and explain why.






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Anthony Weston
Third Edition
Hackett Publishing Company
Third edition copyright © 2000 by Anthony Weston
All rights reserved
Printed in the United States of America
06 05 04 03 02 01 00
12 3 4 5 6 7
For further information, please address:
Hackett Publishing Company, Inc.
P.O. Box 44937
Indianapolis, IN 46244-0937
Cover and interior design by Abigail Coyle
Cover photograph: www.comstock.com
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Weston, Anthony, 1954—
A rulebook for arguments / Anthony Weston.—3rd ed.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references.
ISBN 0-87220-553-3 (cloth)—ISBN 0-87220-552-5 (paper)
1. Reasoning. 2. Logic. 3. English language—Rhetoric. I. Title.
BC177 .W47 2000
I. Composing a Short Argument:
Some General Rules
Distinguish premises and conclusion
Present your ideas in a natural order
Startfromreliable premises
Be concrete and concise
Avoid loaded language
Use consistent terms
Stick to one meaning for each term
II. Arguments by Example
Give more than one example
Use representative examples
Background information is crucial
Consider counterexamples
A Rulebookfor Arguments
III. Arguments by Analogy
12. Analogy requires a relevantly similar example
IV. Arguments from Authority
Sources should be cited
Seek informed sources
Seek impartial sources
Cross-check sources
Personal attacks do not disqualify a source
V. Arguments about Causes
Explain how cause leads to effect
Propose the most likely cause
Correlated events are not necessarily related
Correlated events may have a common cause
Either of two correlated events may cause
the other
23. Causes may be complex
VI. Deductive Arguments
Modus Ponens
Modus Tollens
Hypothetical Syllogism
Disjunctive Syllogism
Reductio ad absurdum
Deductive arguments in several steps
VII. Composing an Argumentative Essay
A. Exploring the Issue
Al. Explore the arguments on all sides of the issue
A2. Question and defend each argument’s premises
A3. Revise and rethink arguments as they emerge
VIII. Composing an Argumentative Essay
B. Main Points of the Essay
Explain the question
Make a definite claim or proposal
Develop your arguments fully
Consider objections
Consider alternatives
IX. Composing an Argumentative Essay
C. Writing
Follow your outline
Keep the introduction brief
Give your arguments one at a time
Clarify, clarify, clarify
Support objections with arguments
Don’t claim more than you have shown
X. Fallacies
The Two Great Fallacies
Some Classical Fallacies
Appendix: Definition
Dl. When terms are unclear, get specific
D2. When terms are contested, work from the
clear cases
D3. Don’t expect definitions to do the work
of arguments
Next Steps
This book is a brief introduction to the art of writing and assessing arguments. It sticks to the bare essentials. I have found that
students and writers often need just such a list of reminders and
rules, not lengthy introductory explanations. Thus, unlike most
textbooks in argumentative writing or “informal logic,” this
book is organized around specific rules, illustrated and explained soundly but above all briefly. It is not a textbook but a
Instructors too, I have found, often wish to assign such a
rulebook, a treatment that students can consult and understand
on their own and that therefore does not intrude on classtime.
Here again it is important to be brief—the point is to help
students get on with writing a paper or with assessing an
argument—but the rules must be stated with enough explanation that an instructor can simply refer a student to Rule 6 or
Rule 16 rather than writing an entire explanation in the margins
of each student’s paper. Brief but self-sufficient—that is the
fine line I have tried to follow.
This rulebook also can be used in a course that gives explicit
attention to arguments. It will need to be supplemented with
A Rulebookfor Arguments
exercises and with more examples, but many texts are already
available that consist largely or wholly of such exercises and
examples. Those texts, however, also need to be supplemented—with what this rulebook offers: simple rules for putting good arguments together. Too many students come out of
“informal logic” courses knowing only how to shoot down (or
at least at) selected fallacies. Too often they can’t explain what
is actually wrong, or launch an argument of their own. Informal
logic can do better: this book is one attempt to suggest how.
Comments and criticisms are welcome.
Anthony Weston
August 1986
Note to the Third Edition
In this millennial reissue the most notable change is a more
rule-oriented approach to the topic of definition. A long talk
with Professor Charles Kay of Wofford College, close reader
and attentive teacher, persuaded me to make this and a number
of other changes. Many examples have been updated or
clarified. Generous feedback from users too numerous to list
continues to improve this little book—my thanks to you all.
May 2000
What’s the Point of Arguing?
Some people think that arguing is simply stating their prejudices in a new form. This is why many people also think that
arguments are unpleasant and pointless. One dictionary definition for “argument” is “disputation.” In this sense we sometimes say that two people “have an argument”: a verbal
fistfight. It happens often enough. But it is not what arguments
really are.
In this book, “to give an argument” means to offer a set of
reasons or evidence in support of a conclusion. Here an argument is not simply a statement of certain views, and it is not
simply a dispute. Arguments are attempts to support certain
views with reasons. Nor are arguments in this sense pointless;
in fact, they are essential.
Argument is essential, in thefirstplace, because it is a way of
trying to find out which views are better than others. Not all
views are equal. Some conclusions can be supported by good
reasons; others have much weaker support. But often we don’t
A Rulebookfor Arguments
know which are which. We need to give arguments for different
conclusions and then assess those arguments to see how strong
they really are.
Argument in this sense is a means of inquiry. Some philosophers and activists have argued, for instance, that the “factory
farming” of animals for meat causes immense suffering to animals and is therefore unjustified and immoral. Are they right?
You can’t tell by consulting your prejudices. Many issues are
involved. Do we have moral obligations to other species, for
instance, or is only human suffering really bad? How well can
humans live without meat? Some vegetarians have lived to very
old ages. Does this show that vegetarian diets are healthier? Or
is it irrelevant when you consider that some nonvegetarians also
have lived to very old ages? (You might make some progress by
asking whether a higher percentage of vegetarians live to old
age.) Or might healthier people tend to become vegetarians,
rather than vice versa? All of these questions need to be considered carefully, and the answers are not clear in advance.
Argument is essential for another reason too. Once we have
arrived at a conclusion that is well-supported by reasons, argument is how we explain and defend it. A good argument doesn’t
merely repeat conclusions. Instead it offers reasons and evidence so that other people can make up their minds for themselves. If you become convinced that we should indeed change
the way we raise and use animals, for example, you must use
arguments to explain how you arrived at your conclusion. That
is how you will convince others: by offering the reasons and
evidence that convinced you. It is not a mistake to have strong
views. The mistake is to have nothing else.
Understanding Argumentative Essays
The rules of argument, then, are not arbitrary; they have a
specific purpose. But students (as well as other writers) do not
always understand that purpose when first assigned argumentative essays—and if you don’t understand an assignment, you
are unlikely to do well on it. Many students, asked to argue for
their views on some issue, write out elaborate statements of
their views but do not offer any real reasons to think their views
are correct. They write an essay, but not an argument.
This is a natural misunderstanding. In high school, the emphasis is on learning fairly clear-cut and uncontroversial subjects. You need not argue that the United States Constitution
provides for three branches of government or that Shakespeare
wrote Macbeth. You only need to master these facts, and your
papers only need to report them.
Students may come to college expecting more of the same.
But many college courses—especially those that assign
writing—have a different aim. These courses are concerned
with the basis of our beliefs; they require students to question
their beliefs and to work out and defend their own views. The
issues discussed in college courses are often not so clear-cut and
certain. Yes, the Constitution provides for three branches of
government, but should the Supreme Court really have veto
power over the other two? Yes, Shakespeare wrote Macbeth,
but what does the play mean? Reasons and evidence can be
given for different answers. Students in these courses are asked
to learn to think for themselves, to form their own views in a
responsible way. The ability to defend your views is a measure
of that skill, and that is why argumentative essays are so
In fact, as Chapters VII—IX will explain, to write a good
argumentative essay you must use arguments both as a means of
inquiry and as a way of explaining and defending your conclusions. You must prepare for the paper by exploring the arguments on the opposing sides. Then you must write the essay
itself as an argument, defending your conclusions with arguments and critically assessing some of the arguments on the
opposing sides.
Outline of This Book
This book begins by discussing fairly simple arguments and
moves to argumentative essays at the end.
A Rulebookfor Arguments
Chapters I—VI are about composing and assessing short arguments. A “short” argument simply offers its reasons and evidence briefly, usually in a few sentences or a paragraph.
We begin with short arguments for several reasons. First,
they are common. In fact they are so common that they are part
of every day’s conversation. Second, long arguments are often
elaborations of short arguments, or a series of short arguments
linked together. If you learn to write and assess short arguments
first, then you can extend your skills to argumentative essays.
A third reason for beginning with short arguments is that they
are the best illustrations both of the common argument forms
and of the typical mistakes in arguments. In long arguments it is
harder to pick out the main points—and the main problems.
Therefore, although some of the rules may seem obvious when
first stated, remember that you have the benefit of a simple
example. Other rules are hard enough to appreciate even in
short arguments.
Chapters VII, VIII, and IX turn to argumentative essays.
Chapter VII is about the first step: exploring the issue. Chapter
VIII outlines the main points of an argumentative essay, and
Chapter IX adds rules specifically about writing it. All of these
chapters depend on Chapters I—VI, since an argumentative essay essentially combines and elaborates the kinds of short arguments that Chapters I—VI discuss. Don’t skip ahead to the argumentative essay chapters, then, even if you come to this book
primarily for help writing an essay. The book is short enough to
read through to Chapters VII, VIII, and IX, and when you arrive
there you will have the tools you need to use those chapters
well. Instructors might wish to assign Chapters I—VI early in
the term and Chapters VII-IX at essay-writing time.
Chapter X concerns fallacies, misleading arguments. It summarizes the general mistakes discussed in the rest of this book,
and ends with a roster of the many misleading arguments that
are so tempting and common that they even have their, own
names. The Appendix offers some rules for constructing and
evaluating definitions.
Composing a Short
Some General Rules
Chapter I offers some general rules for composing short arguments. Chapters II through VI discuss specific kinds of short
Distinguish premises and conclusion
The first step in making an argument is to ask, what are you
trying to prove? What is your conclusion? Remember that the
conclusion is the statement for which you are giving reasons.
The statements that give your reasons are called premises.
Consider this quip of Winston Churchill’s:
Be an optimist. There is not much use being anything else.
This is an argument because Churchill is giving a reason to be
an optimist: His premise is that “there is not much use being
anything else.”
Churchill’s premise and conclusion are obvious enough, but
the conclusions of some arguments may not be obvious until
they are pointed out. Sherlock Holmes has to explain one of his
key conclusions in “The Adventure of Silver Blaze”:
A Rulebookfor Arguments
A dog was kept in the stalls, and yet, though someone had been
in and fetched out a horse, the dog had not barked. Obviously the
visitor was someone whom the dog knew well. . . .
Holmes has two premises. One is explicit: The dog did not bark
at the visitor. The other is a general fact he assumes we know
about dogs: Dogs bark at strangers. Together these premises
imply that the visitor was not a stranger.
When you are using arguments as a means of inquiry, as
described in the Introduction, you may sometimes start with no
more than the conclusion you wish to defend. State it clearly,
first of all. If you want to take Churchill at his word and argue
that we should indeed be optimists, say so explicitly. Then
ask yourself what reasons you have for drawing that conclusion. What reasons can you give to prove that we should be
You could appeal to Churchill’s authority: If Churchill says
we should be optimists, who are you and I to quibble? This
appeal will not get you very far, however, since probably an
equal number of famous people have recommended pessimism.
You need to think about it on your own. Again, what is your
reason for thinking that we should be optimists?
Maybe your idea is that being an optimist gives you more
energy to work for success, whereas pessimists feel defeated in
advance and never even try. Thus you have one main reason:
Optimists are more likely to succeed, to achieve their goals.
(Maybe this is what Churchill meant as well.) If this is your
reason, say so explicitly.
Once you have finished this book, you will have a ready list
of many of the different forms that arguments can take. Use
them to develop your premises. To defend a generalization, for
instance, check Chapter II. It will remind you that you need to
give a series of examples as premises, and it will tell you what
sorts of examples to look for. If your conclusion requires a
deductive argument like those explained in Chapter VI, the
rules discussed in that chapter will tell you what types of prem-
Composing a Short Argument
ises you need. You may have to try several different arguments
before you find one that works well.
Present your ideas in a natural order
Short arguments are usually written in one or two paragraphs.
Put the conclusion first, followed by your reasons, or set out
your premises first and draw the conclusion at the end. In any
case, set out your ideas in an order that unfolds your line of
thought most naturally for the reader. Consider this short argument by Bertrand Russell:
The evils of the world are due to moral defects quite as much
as to lack of intelligence. But the human race has not hitherto
discovered any method of eradicating moral defects. . . . Intelligence, on the contrary, is easily improved by methods known to
every competent educator. Therefore, until some method of
teaching virtue has been discovered, progress will have to be
sought by improvement of intelligence rather than of morals.*
Each claim in this passage leads naturally to the next. Russell
begins by pointing out the two sources of evil in the world:
“moral defects,” as he puts it, and lack of intelligence. He
then claims that we do not know how to correct “moral defects,”
but that we do know how to correct lack of intelligence.
Therefore—notice that the word “therefore” clearly marks
his conclusion—progress will have to come by improving
Each sentence in this argument is in just the right place.
Plenty of wrong places were available. Suppose Russell instead
wrote it like this:
* Skeptical Essays (1935: London: Allen andUnwin, reprint, 1977), p.
A Rulebookfor Arguments
The evils of the world are due to moral defects quite as much
as lack of intelligence. Until some method of teaching virtue has
been discovered, progress will have to be sought by improvement
of intelligence rather than of morals. Intelligence is easily improved by methods known to every competent educator. But the
human race has not hitherto discovered any means of eradicating
moral defects.
These are exactly the same premises and conclusion, but they
are in a different order, and the word “therefore” has been
omitted before the conclusion. Now the argument is much
harder to understand. The premises do not fit together naturally,
and you have to read the passage twice just to figure out what
the conclusion is. Don’t count on your readers to be so patient.
Expect to rearrange your argument several times to find the
most natural order. The rules discussed in this book should help.
You can use them not only to tell what premises you need but
also how to arrange your premises in the most natural order.
Start from reliable premises
No matter how well you argue from premises to conclusion,
your conclusion will be weak if your premises are weak.
Nobody in the world today is really happy. Therefore, it seems
that human beings are just not made for happiness. Why should
we expect what we can never find?
The premise of this argument is the statement that nobody in the
world today is really happy. Ask yourself if this premise is
plausible. Is nobody in the world today really happy? At the
very least this premise needs some defense, and very likely it is
just not true. This argument cannot show, then, that human
beings are not made for happiness or that we should not expect
to be happy.
Composing a Short Argument
Sometimes it is easy to start from reliable premises. You may
have well-known examples at hand or informed authorities who
are clearly in agreement. Other times it is harder. If you are not
sure about the reliability of a premise, you may need to do some
research and/or give a short argument for the premise itself. (We
will return to this theme in later chapters, especially in Rule A2
of Chapter VII.) If you find you cannot argue adequately for
your premise(s), then, of course, you need to give up entirely
and start elsewhere!
Be concrete and concise
Avoid abstract, vague, and general terms. “We hiked for hours
in the sun” is a hundred times better than “It was an extended
period of laborious exertion.” Be concise too. Airy elaboration
just loses everyone—even the writer—in a fog of words.
For those whose roles primarily involved the p …
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