AP English Language

Review the Knowledge You Need to Score High


Comprehensive Review—Argument

The Argument


Your argument can be:

• Ethical–an appeal to the reader’s good sense, goodwill, and desire to “do the right thing”

• Emotional–an appeal to the reader’s fear, patriotism, and so forth

• Logical–an appeal to inductive and deductive reasoning

— Induction: forming a generalization from a set of specific examples. (Example: Margo has 17 stuffed teddy bears, 3 stuffed cows, 11 monkeys, 4 camels, and 6 stuffed elephants. Margo loves to collect stuffed animals.)

— Deduction: reaching a probable conclusion based on given premises. A premise is a proposition that is proven or taken for granted. (Example: All high school seniors at this high school must write a research paper. Sean is a senior at this high school. Therefore, Sean must write a research paper.)

Be aware that conclusions can be drawn from implicit premises. These can include:

• Universal truths

• Possibilities that the reader will readily accept

• Familiar sayings

• Facts that everyone, including the reader, knows

Deduction uses the syllogism. A syllogism is the format of a formal argument that consists of a


You could also say, “Because Leonard is a lion, he is a cat.” In this instance, you have suppressed one of the premises. However, you are confident that most people would agree that all lions are cats. Therefore, you would feel confident in leaving out that premise. But, you must be very careful, because you could end up with what we call a logical fallacy.

Logical fallacies are mistakes in reasoning and fall into several categories.

• Non sequitur argument: This Latin phrase means “does not follow.” This is an argument with a conclusion that does not follow from the premise. (Example: Diane graduated from Vassar. She’ll make a great lawyer.)

• Begging the question: Here is a mistake in which the writer assumes in his or her assertion/premise/thesis something that really remains to be proved. (Example: Taking geometry is a waste of time. High school students should not be required to take this course.)

• Circular reasoning: This mistake in logic restates the premise rather than giving a reason for holding that premise. (Example: I like to eat out because I enjoy different foods and restaurants.)

• Straw-man argument: Here is a technique we’ve all seen and heard used by politicians seeking election. The speaker/writer attributes false or exaggerated characteristics or behaviors to the opponent and attacks him on those falsehoods or exaggerations. (Example: You say you support allowing people under eighteen to drive alone. I’ll never be able to understand why weak-willed drivers like you are willing to risk your life and the lives of all other drivers with these crazy teenagers on the road.)

• Ad hominem argument: This literally means to “argue against the man.” This technique attacks the person rather than dealing with the issue under discussion. (Example: We all know Sam has several speeding tickets on his record. How can we trust him to vote for us on the issue of a trade agreement with Europe?)

• Hasty generalization: A person who makes a hasty generalization draws a conclusion about an entire group based on evidence that is too scant or insufficient. (Example: The veterinarian discovered a viral infection in five beagles. All beagles must be infected with it.)

• Overgeneralization: This is what we call stereotyping in most cases. Here, the writer/speaker draws a conclusion about a large number of people, ideas, things, etc. based on very limited evidence. (Example: All members of group A are not to be trusted.) Words such as all, never, always, and every are usually indicative of overgeneralization. It’s best to use and to look for qualifiers (some, seem, often, perhaps, frequently, etc.) that indicate that the writer has an awareness of the complexities of the topic or group under discussion.

• Post hoc argument: This fallacy cites an unrelated event that occurred earlier as the cause of a current situation. (Example: I saw a black cat run across the street in front of my car five minutes before I was hit by a foul ball at the ball park. Therefore, the black cat is the cause of my bruised arm.)

• Either/or argument: With this fallacy, the writer asserts that there are only two possibilities, when, in reality, there are more. (Example: Tomorrow is April 15; therefore, I must mail in my tax return, or I will be arrested.)

There are several other categories of logical fallacies, but these are the most frequently encountered.


During the year, carefully read editorials or ads in the print media. Check to see if you can locate any logical fallacies. It might be beneficial to do this with your class or study group.

The following activities provide you with some practice with induction, deduction, and analogy.

Induction: If induction is the process that moves from a given series of specifics to a generalization, these are the possible problems:

• The generalization covers many unobserved persons, objects, etc.

• If the conclusion begins with ALL, any exception would invalidate the generalization.

• Cited facts are incorrect.

• Assumed connections are incorrect.

• Assumption is a conclusion NOT supported by the evidence.


A. Write a conclusion for the following:

1. Television network USBC’s drama series won this year’s Emmy for Best Dramatic Series.

2. USBC won the Emmy for Best Comedy Series.

3. USBC won the Emmy for Best Talk Show.

4. Thereforeimages.

Are there any possible weaknesses in your conclusion?

B. Carefully read the following and briefly explain the possible error in the conclusion.

1. The 43rd U.S. President is a Yale graduate.

2. The 42nd U.S. President was a Yale Law School graduate.

3. The 41st U.S. President was a Yale graduate.

4. The last seven presidents were college graduates.

5. Therefore, the President of the U.S. must have a college degree.

Deduction: If deduction is the process of moving from a general rule to a specific example (A = B; C = B; Therefore, C = A.), these are the possible problems:

• Not all of the given A falls into the given B category. There are exceptions.

• The given category B is incorrect.

• The second statement is not true or is incorrect. Therefore, the conclusion is invalid.

• The truth of the third statement is in question.


A. Carefully read the following. Assume that statements 1 and 2 are true. Briefly state the possible error of the conclusion.

1. Some Japanese cars are made in the United States.

2. Toyota is a Japanese car.

3. Therefore, all Toyotas are made in the United States.

B. Carefully read the following. Assume that statements 1 and 2 are true. Briefly state the possible error of the conclusion.

1. No eagles are flamingos.

2. All flamingos are birds.

3. Therefore, no eagles are birds.

Analogy: If analogy is an argument based on similarities, these are the possible problems.

• Accepting the totality of the analogy by never questioning that there are differences between/among the items being compared that could invalidate the argument or conclusion.

• Exaggerating the similarities.


A. Briefly identify the analogy in the following:

Both the doctor and the teacher must have special knowledge. People select their own doctors; therefore, people should be allowed to pick their own teachers.

B. Briefly explain the mistake in the following:

Both 2-year-olds and 10-year-olds have two legs, two eyes, two ears, and two arms. Ten-year-olds can read and write. Therefore, 2-year-olds should be able to read and write.