) Considering Your Audience
As you plan your essay, keep a specific audience in mind. Are your readers unbiased observers or people deeply concerned about the issue you plan to discuss? Can they be cast in a specific role—concerned parents, victims of discrimination, irate consumers—or are they so diverse that they cannot be categorized?
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Always assume that your audience will question your assumptions. Even if your readers are sympathetic to your position, you cannot assume that they will accept your ideas without question; they will still need to see that your argument is logical and that your evidence is solid. More skeptical readers will need reassurance that you understand their concerns and that you concede some of their points. However, no matter what you do, you may never be able to convince hostile readers that your conclusion is valid. The best you can hope for is that these readers will acknowledge the strengths of your argument even if they reject your conclusion.
5) Refuting Opposing Arguments
As you develop your argument, you should briefly summarize and then refute—that is, disprove—opposing arguments by showing that they are untrue, unfair, illogical, unimportant, or irrelevant. (If an opponent’s position is so strong that it cannot be refuted, concede the point, and then identify its limitations.) In the following paragraph, a student refutes the argument that Sea World is justified in keeping whales in captivity.
Of course, some will say that Sea World wants to capture only a few whales, as George Will points out in his commentary in Newsweek. Unfortunately, Will downplays the fact that Sea World wants to capture a hundred whales, not just “a few.” And, after releasing ninety of these whales, Sea World intends to keep ten for “further work.” At hearings in Seattle last week, several noted marine biologists went on record as condemning Sea World’s research program.
NOTE: When you acknowledge an opposing view, be careful not to distort or oversimplify it. This tactic, known as creating a straw man, can seriously undermine your credibility.
Computer Tip For Refuting Opposing Arguments
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