Saturday, July 08, 2006

Logical Fallacies, Part 1: Straw Man

Establishing faulty assumptions, asserting opinions as facts, and drawing improper conclusions are colossal credibility killers. When I point them out to people who have committed them, they often confess to being unaware of the misstep or to having let their strong emotional attachment to the issue override their otherwise logical approach to argumentation.

As an example, below the writer interjects a straw man, an easily refutable argument which one attributes to an opponent who has not made that argument.

Since Mr. Vella is opposed to capital punishment, he clearly favors rewarding murderers by allowing them to live. This just goes to show that Mr. Vella cares more about murderers than their victims.

The straw man is only one of numerous persuasive missteps that muddle the meaning and heighten the hostility of what could otherwise be a principled argument. These rhetorical flaws fall under the broad category known as logical fallacies. They are often used, little understood, and easy to recognize and remedy. Since avoiding them in favor of sound argument is vital to excellent writing, they will be the topic of coming installments of WORDS ON THE LINE.

To purchase your copy of The Art of On-the-Job Writing by Philip Vassallo, click here: