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10 Common Errors of Logic in Argumentative Writing

adapted from Steve Moiles, Southern Illinois University (www.siue.edu/~smoiles/fallac.html)

1. Hasty Generalization: basing conclusions on irrelevant, incomplete, or inaccurate evidence: ʺMy account canʹt be overdrawn; I still have checks left.ʺ

2. Faulty Cause and Effect: assuming that because B follows A in time, A must be the cause of B: ʺAfter thousands of immigrants came to the U.S., the Civil War broke out. Immigration caused the Civil War.ʺ

3. Reductive Reasoning: reducing a complex effect to a single cause: ʺDrug abuse wouldnʹt be a problem if kids would just say no.ʺ

4. False Analogies: comparing two things that are more different than they are similar: ʺWhy do I have to take certain courses before I can graduate? No one requires me to buy certain groceries before I can leave the supermarket.ʺ

5. Circular reasoning: restating the conclusion instead of supporting it: ʺHe can’t be married, he’s a bachelor.ʺ

6. Equivocation: using a term in a completely different way than oneʹs opponent uses it: ʺI shouldnʹt be prosecuted for stealing a copy of the Detroit Free Press. Weʹre guaranteed our right to a free press by the Constitution.ʺ

7. Ad Hominem Argument: attacking the opponent personally rather than his or her argument: ʺThe president’s economic stimulus program shouldn’t be taken seriously. He had an affair with a White House intern, after all.ʺ

8. False Either/Or Argument: assuming that only two alternatives exist in a complex situation: ʺEither we support the death penalty or we allow crime to run rampant.ʺ

9. Bandwagon Appeal: arguing that readers should accept something because it is popular: ʺ80% of the American public are practicing Christians, so God must exist.ʺ

10. Begging the Question: avoiding the point to be proven: “Q: Why are you banging on that pan so loudly?” “A: To keep the wild tigers away.” “Q: There aren’t any wild tigers in Wisconsin!” “Q: Works really well, doesn’t it?”


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