Writers of an argumentative essay must consider what others will say to refute their argument. (That's why it's called an argumentative essay!) This is the source of energy for this kind of paper. Raising the objections of your opposition and then — carefully, kindly, perhaps even wittily — showing how your way of seeing things is better reveals you, the author, as a thoughtful, reasonable, thorough individual. Don't cheat by raising only the weak or silly arguments that your opponents might raise; your paper becomes strong by taking on the strength of the opposition. (You hear this sometimes in the commentary of a football or basketball game — how the weaker team "takes it to" the strength of the stronger team, knocks them back on their heels. It's a good strategy.) Also, never belittle or threaten your opposition in any way. What is the point of defeating someone who isn't as strong or even stronger than you are? Respect for the opposition goes beyond sportsmanship; giving the enemy its due makes your argument all the stronger.

In considering your opposition's argument(s), it's a good idea to prepare a chart that graphically represents your main points and the points that your opposition might try to make against you. Try that exercise as you read the sample student essay below. Notice how the author of that essay sounds most reasonable, most persuasive, when she is conceding the fact that the opposition might have a good point. Making up a chart of points and counter-points will enable you to see weak elements in your own and in your opposition's arguments. A good exercise is to watch the Sunday morning news programs that end with a round of debating points — like "Point, Counterpoint." Do you see any situations in which commentators anticipate their opposition's point of view before driving home their own point?

The other sub-sections of this part of Principles of Composition are as follows:

  • #Citing Authorities
  • #Using Personal Experience
  • #Using Statistics
  • #Using Facts
  • #Using Analogies
  • #Logic: An Introduction to Fallacies
  • #A Sample Essay (with commentary)