Argumentative Strategies

The following argumentative strategies, like commonlines, are typical methods for convincing someone who holds an opposing view. However, while commonlines emphasize logical progression and can represent the underlying logic of either a paragraph or an entire text, the following strategies develop ideas on the paragraph level and aren’t necessarily logical.

Any number of strategies may be combined to develop an idea in any one of your paragraphs. Below are some common ways to develop an argumentative idea in a paragraph, along with an example of each strategy in use.

1. Ask and answer questions: By asking a question and then answering that question, you can grab and focus your reader’s attention, particularly if the question is one that your reader would ask.

“You may well ask: ‘Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?’ You are quite right in calling for negotiation. Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.” (King, “Letter from Birmingham Jail”).

2. Compare and contrast: By comparing or contrasting an unfamiliar or new thing to something else already known by the reader, you can increase your reader’s understanding of the new thing.

With germline therapy, parents can choose the physique, intelligence, and temperament of their child. To some, this seems as if the parents are playing God. To others, it seems as if they are playing doctor.

3. Consider limitations and objections: By considering limitations or objections to your idea, you can clarify your idea or deal with audience objections to your point.

While video games may improve people’s ability to communicate online, they do not necessarily improve communication skills in real life.

4. Consider problems and solutions: By beginning with a statement of a problem and then offering a solution, you can focus on the positive aspects or usefulness of your idea.

Obesity, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s are decimating our nation’s health. Gene selection and gene therapy can reduce the risks these diseases pose for our population.

5. Describe: By using descriptive details, you can show your reader rather than just tell your reader. Descriptive details create a mood and help the reader see, understand, and believe your point.

 “But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters…then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait” (King, “Letter from Birmingham Jail”).

6. Narrate: By narrating, you can offer a personal or historical account that supports your idea and creates impact because it tells a story. Narration also allows you to show how your idea affects people. You can narrate events in a chronological order, leading to a climax, or use flashbacks and flash-forwards to focus the reader’s attention on different aspects of the story.

“What happened in a church in Charleston, South Carolina on Wednesday night is a lot of things, but one thing it’s not is ‘unthinkable.’ Somebody thought long and hard about it. Somebody thought to load the weapon. Somebody thought to pick the church. Somebody thought to sit, quietly, through some of Wednesday night bible study. Somebody thought to stand up and open fire, killing nine people, including the pastor” (Pierce, “Charleston Shooting: Speaking the Unspeakable, Thinking the Unthinkable”).