Critical Thinking and Writing

What did you learn.
critical thinking
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Chapter 1
to Critical
After reading this chapter, students should be
able to do the following:
1. Define critical thinking.

2. Discover assumptions and biases.

3. Practice problem solving and decision-

4. Evaluate information.
Thinking about thought
Where are you now?
Assess your present knowledge and attitudes by deciding yes,
unsure, or no for the following statements:
1. I am a good problem solver.
2. I am considered creative by my friends.
3. I have good judgment.
4. I find it easy to make decisions quickly.
5. My decisions usually turn out to be good decisions.
6. I like to think things through before speaking.
7. I am not shy about asking questions when I don’t understand
8. I enjoy good discussions and arguments.
9. I regularly practice an art form (music, acting, painting, etc.)
10. I enjoy hearing other people’s points of view, even when I
disagree with them.
11. I usually question information presented as fact on the
Internet or television.
Where do you want to go?
Think about how you answered the preceding questions. Be
honest with yourself. On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate
your level of thinking skills at this time?
Poor thinking skills Excellent thinking skills

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Assignment 1a
Use this scrolling text box to choose the three most
important areas in which you think you can improve. 

Next, submit your answers to Activity 1 in Canvas under
Reading Assignment 1.

• Applying information
• Analyzing information
• Thinking critically
• Asking questions about information
• Evaluating information
• Coming up with new ideas
• Solving problems
• Making decisions
• Identifying weaknesses in ideas
How to get there
Here is what we will work on in this chapter:
• Understanding what makes thinking in college different from
thinking in high school
• Learning how to think
• Knowing the types of thinking
• Recognizing why all types of thinking are important
• Understanding what critical thinking is
• Recognizing and avoiding logical fallacies and faulty
• Establishing critical thinking habits
• Researching and thinking critically
• Understanding what creative thinking is
• Developing creative thinking habits
• Solving problems
• Making decisions
• Brainstorming
It is all in your head
Remember all the thinking you did in high school? Most of it was
recalling facts or information you had previously committed to
memory. Perhaps in some courses you were asked to support a
statement or hypothesis using content from your textbook or
class. Your thinking in high school was very structured and tied
closely to reflecting what was taught in class.
In college, you are expected to think for yourself; to access and
evaluate new approaches and ideas; to contribute to your
knowledge base; and to develop or create new, fresh ideas. You
will be required to develop and use a variety of thinking skills—
higher-order thinking skills—which you seldom used in high
In college, your instructors’ roles will be not only to supply a base
of new information and ideas, as good instructors will challenge
you to stretch your skills and knowledge base through critical and
creative thinking. Much of their teaching involves the questions
they ask, not the directions they give. Your success in college
education—and in life beyond college—is directly linked to
becoming a better and more complete thinker. Becoming a better
and more complete thinker requires mastering some skills and
consistent practice.
Types of thinking
1. Understand that there are different types of thinking.
2. Identify how each type of thinking contributes to learning.
So, what are the various types of thinking skills, and what kind
things are we doing when we apply them? In the 1950s, Benjamin
Bloom developed a classification of thinking skills that is still
helpful today; it is known as Bloom’s taxonomy.
He lists six types of thinking skills, ranked in order of complexity:
• knowledge,
• comprehension,
• application,
• analysis,
• synthesis, and
• evaluation.

The table on the following page (Types of Thinking Skills), outlines
each skill and what is involved in that type of thinking, as updated
by Lorin Anderson and David Krothwohl.L. W. Anderson and
David R. Krathwohl, eds., A Taxonomy for Learning, Teaching,
and Assessing: A Revision of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Educational
Objectives (Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 2001). Note: Tap on the
table to expand it to full-page view.
All of these thinking skills are important for college work and life in
the real world. You’ve likely had a great deal of experience with
the lower-level thinking skills (yellow section). The midlevel skills
are skills you will get a lot of practice with in college, and you may
be well on your way to mastering them already. The higher-level
thinking skills (red section) are the most demanding, and you will
need to invest focused effort to develop them.
Exercise: thought inventory
Think about the adjacent table. Are you using all six thinking
skills? Reflect on your work in the past and identify specific
examples where you used each of the thinking skills. Write notes
about the skills that are second nature to you and those you
would like to develop further.
Skill set
Remembering and recalling
Next, look at the lists of things you actually did in each case that
has demonstrated the particular skill set. Notice that there are
certain verbs that apply to each skill set. When you see those
verbs as a prompt in an assignment or an exam, you will know
what kind of thinking the instructor expects from you. The
following table (Thinking Verbs) lists some of the most common
verbs associated with each thinking skill.
Throughout this book, there are tips that will help you develop
your thinking skills. This chapter will focus on critical thinking
(evaluating) and creative thinking. They deserve specific focus
because they are likely to be the skills you have least practice
with. These are the skills most helpful for success in college and
in “real life.” Creative thinking will help you come up with possible
solutions for problems and new ideas. Critical thinking will help
you decide which of those ideas have most merit and deserve to
be implemented.

Key takeaways 

• We use different types of thinking skills to address different
requirements, and these skills are classified in Bloom’s

• You have been using many thinking skills since childhood.

• Two very important thinking skills you will need to develop for
success in college and in life are critical (or evaluative) thinking
and creative thinking.
It is critical

Americans have access to:
• 1 million new books each year
• 5,500 magazines
• 10,500 radio stations
• 65,000 iPhone apps
• 1,000,000,000,000 web pages

Tap on the following thumbnail to watch the YouTube video, Did
You Know 4.0.

In today’s environment, it is not so critical to “know” a great deal
of information. The list above indicates how much information we
can easily access. In fact, the abundance of information might be
the greater challenge. Your success will depend on what you can
do with the information, not just on what you know. How we filter
and use that abundance of data is the reason critical thinking has
become so important today.
Critical thinking is the ability to discover the value of an idea, a set
of beliefs, a claim, or an argument. It requires you to use logic and
reasoning to evaluate evidence or information to make a decision
or reach a conclusion. Critical thinking is:

• a foundation for effective communication,
• the principal skill used in effective decision making,
• at the core of creating new knowledge, and
• a way to uncover bias and prejudices.

Critical thinking is a part of everyday life, too. Decisions you make
can have a lasting impact on your life, and these decisions benefit
from critical thinking. Did you ever decide to quit smoking or to
lose weight? Were you successful? How did you decide to attend
the college you are in? Was that the right choice for you? In any
of these cases, could you have made a better decision if you had
better or more information?
The critical thinking process 

The critical thinking process is really nothing more than asking the
right questions to understand a problem or issue and then
gathering the data you need to complete the decision or take
sides on an issue.


What is the problem or issue I am considering really about? 

Understanding this is key to successful critical thinking. What is
the objective? A position? A decision? Are you deciding what
candidate in an election will do a better overall job, or are you
looking to strengthen the political support for a particular cause?
Are you really against a recommendation from your dad, or are
you using the issue to establish your independence?
Do you understand the terms related to the issue? Are you in
agreement with the proponent’s definitions? For example, if you
are evaluating a quotation on the health-care system for use in a
paper, your objective might be to decide to use the quotation or
not, but before you can make that decision you need to
understand what the writer is really saying. If a term like “family”
is used, for example, does it mean direct relations or extended

What are my options? 

What are choices that are available to you (if you are making a
decision), or what are the “sides” (in the case of a position) you
might choose to agree with? What are their differences? What are
the likely consequences of each option? In making a decision, it
might be helpful to ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that
might happen in each scenario?” Examining different points of
view is very important; there may be dozens of alternative
viewpoints to a particular issue—and the validity of each can
change depending on circumstances. A position that is popular or
politically correct today may not have been a year ago, and there
is no guarantee it will be right in the future. Likewise, a solution to
a personal problem that was successful for your roommate may
not apply to you. Remember also that sometimes the best option
might be a combination of the options you identify initially.
What do I know about each option? 

First, make sure you have all the information about each option.
Do you have all the information to support each of your likely
options? What is still missing? Where can you get the information
you need? Keep an open mind and don’t dismiss supporting
information on any position before you evaluate it carefully.

How good is my information? 

Now it’s time to evaluate the quality of the support of each option
or point of view. Evaluate the strengths and the weaknesses of
each piece of supporting evidence. Are all the relevant facts
presented? Are some facts presented in misleading ways? Are
enough examples presented to support the premise? Consider
the source of the supporting information. Who is the expert
presenting the facts? That “expert” may have a vested interest in
the position. Consider that bias, more for understanding the point
of view than for rejecting it. Consider your own opinions
(especially when working with emotional issues); are your
emotional ties to a point of view getting in your way of clear
thinking (your own biases)? If you really like a particular car
model, are you giving the financial implications of buying that car
a fair consideration? Are there any errors or fallacies in your
Fallacies are defects in logic that weaken arguments. You should
learn to identify them in your own thinking so you can strengthen
your positions, as well as in the arguments of others when
evaluating their strength.
Fallacies & how to avoid them
Fallacy: generalizations
Generalizations entail making assumptions about a whole group
of people based on an inadequate sample. Examples include:
“Engineering students are nerds,” and “My economics class is
boring, and my friend says her economic class is boring, too—
therefore all economics classes are boring.” This can be avoided
in your own thinking by considering what kind of sample you are
using. Is it large enough to support the conclusions? You may
want to increase your sample size or draw a more modest
conclusion by using the word “some” or “many.”
Fallacy: false cause

A false cause entails drawing improper conclusions through
sequencing. If A comes before B, then A causes B. An example is
“I studied biology last term, and this term I’m taking organic
chem, which is very confusing. Biology makes chemistry
confusing.” This can be avoided when making causal statements,
if you are sure you can explain the process through which A
causes B beyond their mere sequence.
Fallacy: personalizations
Also known by their Latin names (ad hominem, or “against the
man,” and tu quoque, or “you too”), personalizations entail
inserting personalities inappropriately into an argument (e.g.,
common in political arguments). An example is against the man: “I
won’t support Senator Smith’s education bill. He’s had a mistress
and marital problems.” This can be avoided in your own thinking
by focusing on the merits and supporting data of an argument,
not on the personality or behavior of the people making the
Fallacy: everyone does it

Also known by its Latin name (ad populum, or “against many”),
the everyone does it fallacy is justifying an issue based solely on
the number of people involved. An example is you too: A parent 


explains the evidence of the risks of binge drinking. The child
rejects the arguments, saying, “When you were my age, you
drank too.” Another example would be “It’s healthy to drink only
soda; millions of American kids do.” This can be avoided in your
own thinking by understanding that the popular position is not
always the right one. Be wary of arguments that rely exclusively
on one set of numbers.

Fallacy: appealing to authority
Appealing to authority is using an endorsement from someone as
a primary reason for supporting a point of view. An example is
“We should oppose higher taxes; Curt Schilling does.” Pitcher
Curt Schilling may be a credible authority on baseball, but is he
an authority on taxes? This can be avoided in your own thinking 

by acknowledging that quoting authorities is a valuable tool to
build an argument; make sure the authorities you quote are truly
subject matter experts on the issue you are discussing.
Fallacy: weak analogy
Weak analogy is using irrelevant similarities in two objects to draw
a conclusion. An example is how cars and motorcycles are both
driven at high speeds on the highway. “Car drivers are not
required to wear helmets, so motorcycle riders should not have to
either.” You can draw an analogy between just about any two
objects or ideas. Weak analogy can be avoided in your own
thinking by using analogies that you are sure have identified the
properties relevant to the argument you are making and see if
both share those properties. (In the example, the motorcycle does
not provide protection to the rider, but the car does. Equating the
two vehicles based on traveling speed is not relevant to the
Fallacy: false dichotomy
A false dichotomy is setting up a situation in which it looks like
there are only two possible options. If one option is discredited,
the other must be accepted. The classic example here is
“America, love it or leave it.”
This can be avoided by examining your own thinking. Are there
really only two options? Look for the third option. If you were
asked to develop a compromise between the two positions, what
would it look like? What would its strengths and weaknesses be?
You will need to use critical thinking throughout your college
years and beyond. Here are some common critical thinking
situations and the kinds of questions you should ask to apply
critical thinking.

Personal choices
Examples include “What should I major in?” and “Should I buy a
new car?” What do you know about each of your options? What
is the quality of that information? Where can you get more
(reliable) information? How do those options relate to your
financial and emotional needs? What are the pros and cons of
each option? Are you open to the points of view of others who
may be involved?
Reading, listening, note-taking, and studying
What are the core messages of the instructor or author? Why are
they important? How do these messages relate to one another or
Research papers

What evidence do you need to support your thesis? What
sources are available for that evidence? Are they reliable
sources? Are there any fallacies in your argument?

Essay questions on exams 

What is the professor really asking you to do? What do you know
about the question? What is your personal belief about the
question? What are the beliefs or biases of the professor or
quoted authors? What are the arguments against your point of
view? What are the most important pieces of evidence you
should offer to support your answer?
Tips for critical thinking 

Consider all points of view; seriously consider more than two
(look for grey areas).

• Keep an open mind.
• Answer three questions about your supporting data:

1. Is it enough support?
2. Is it the right support?
3. Is it credible?

• Look for evidence that contradicts your point of view. Pretend
to disagree with the position you are supporting. What parts of
your argument are weak? Do you have the supporting facts to
overcome that evidence?
• Create a set of criteria you will use to evaluate the strength of
information you want to use to support your argument. Ask
questions like these:

1. What is the source of this information?
2. Is the author well respected in the field?
3. When was this information developed? Is that important?
4. Does the author or publisher have an agenda for publishing the
information? How does that agenda affect the credibility of the

• Create a table on which you list your main points, then for each
one, list the evidence you have to support it. This method will
help you visually identify where you have weak evidence and
what points actually lack evidence.
• Be willing to admit that you lack information to support a point
of view or make a decision. Ask questions or do some focused
research to get what you still need.
• Make sure that your assumptions and points of view are
supported by facts, not opinions.
• Learn what types of fallacies you use habitually, and then be on
the lookout for them. Writers will often rely on certain types of
arguments as a matter of habit. Review some of your old papers
to identify which fallacies you need to avoid.
• Question your characterizations of others. Are those authorities
truly competent in the area you are considering? Are you
attacking the opponents of your point of view rather than
attacking their arguments?
• Be careful of broad generalizations. Claims that use absolute
words like “all,” “none,” “always,” “never,” “no one,” and
“everyone” require much more proof than claims that use words
like “most,” “some,” “often,” “rarely,” “sometimes,” and so on.
Where did that come from?

One of the most consistent uses for critical thinking in your work
is in considering the value of research material and deciding how
to use it. The Internet gives you access to an almost unlimited
amount of data, and you must choose what to use carefully. 13
Following are some guidelines.

1. Look at the URL, the Web address. It can give you important
information about the reliability and intentions of the site. Start
with the page publisher. Have you heard of this source before?
If so, would you consider it a reliable source for the kind of
material you are about to read? Now consider the domain type
in the URL, which follows the period after the publisher: “.com”
and “.biz” are used by commercial enterprises, “.org” is
normally used by nonprofit organizations, and “.edu” is
reserved for educational institutions. None of these is
necessarily bad or good, but they may give you a sense behind
the motivation for publishing this material. Are you dealing with
a company or the Web site of an individual—and how might
that affect the quality of the information on that site?
2. What can you learn from poking around with navigation tabs or
buttons, and what do they tell you about the objective of the
Web site? Look for a tab labeled “About Us” or “Biography.”
3. Consider what others are saying about the site. Does the
author offer references, reviews, or quotations about the
material? What do they say? Check the blogosphere to see
what other people think of the author or Web site.
4. Trust your own impressions about the material. Is the
information consistent with what you already know?
5. Ask yourself why the Web site was written. (To inform? To
provide data or facts? To sell something? To promote a cause?
To parody?)
Key takeaways 

• Critical thinking is evaluating the strength of your arguments,
data, and information.
• Three questions to ask about the support for an argument or

1. Is it enough support?

2. Is it the right support?

3. Is it credible?

• Weaknesses in arguments are most commonly logical fallacies.
Recognizing them will help evaluate the strength of an argument
Searching for “Aha!”
Generating new ideas, fostering innovation, and developing
processes or plans to implement them are something that cannot
be easily farmed out, and these are strengths you can develop.
Businesses want problem solvers, not just doers. Developing your
creative thinking skills will position you for lifelong success in
whatever career you choose.

Creative thinking is the ability to look at things from a new
perspective, to come up with fresh solutions to problems. It is a
deliberate process that allows you to think in ways that improve
the likelihood of generating new ideas or thoughts. Let us start by
killing a couple of myths:
• Creativity is an inherited skill. Creativity is not something
people are born with but is a skill that is developed over time
with consistent practice. It can be argued that people you think
were “born” creative because their parents were creative, too,
are creative simply because they have been practicing creative
thinking since childhood, stimulated by their parents’ questions
and discussions.

• Creativity is free-form thinking. While you may want to free
yourself from all preconceived notions, there is a recognizable
structure to creative thinking. Rules and requirements do not
limit creative thinking—they provide the scaffolding on which
truly creative solutions can be built. Free-form thinking often
lacks direction or an objective; creative thinking is aimed at
producing a defined outcome or solution.
Creative thinking involves coming up with new or original ideas; it
is the process of seeing the same things others see but seeing
them differently. You use skills such as examining associations
and relationships, flexibility, elaboration, modification, imagery,
and metaphorical thinking. In the process, you will stimulate your
curiosity, come up with new approaches to things, and have fun!
Tips for creative thinking 

• Feed your curiosity. Read. Read books, newspapers,
magazines, blogs—anything at any time. When surfing the Web,
follow links just to see where they will take you. Go to the
theatre or movies. Attend lectures. Creative people make a
habit of gathering information, because they never know when
they might put it to good use. 

Creativity is often as much about rearranging known ideas as it
is about creating a completely new concept. The more “known
ideas” you have been exposed to, the more options you’ll have
for combining them into new concepts.

• Develop your flexibility by looking for a second right answer.
Throughout school we have been conditioned to come up with
the right answer; the reality is that there is often more than one
“right” answer. Examine all the possibilities. 

To test this, examine all of the items illustrated on the following
page. Note which is different from all the others. What do you
If you chose C, you’re right; you can’t eat a board. Maybe you
chose D; that’s right, too—clams are the only animal on the chart.
B is right, as it’s the only item you can make oil from, and A can
also be right; it’s the only red item.

Each option can be right depending on your point of view. Life is
full of multiple answers, and if we go along with only the first most
obvious answer, we are in danger of losing the context for our
ideas. The value of an idea can only be determined by comparing
it with another. Multiple ideas will also help you generate new
approaches by combining elements from a variety of “right”
answers. In fact, the greatest danger to creative thinking is to
have only one idea. Always ask yourself, “What’s the other right
• Combine old ideas in new ways. When King C. Gillette
registered his patent for the safety razor, he built on the idea of
disposable bottle caps, but his venture didn’t become profitable
until he toyed with a watch spring and came up with the idea of
how to manufacture inexpensive (therefore disposable) blades.
Bottle caps and watch springs are far from men’s grooming
materials, but Gillette’s genius was in combining those existing
but unlikely ideas. Train yourself to think “out of the box.” Ask
yourself questions like, “What is the most ridiculous solution I
can come up with for this problem?” or “If I were transported by
a time machine back to the 1930s, how would I solve this
problem?” You may enjoy watching competitive design,
cooking, or fashion shows (Top Chef, Chopped, Project
Runway, etc.); they are great examples of combining old ideas
to make new, functional ones.

• Think metaphorically. Metaphors are useful to describe
complex ideas; they are also useful in making problems more
familiar and in stimulating possible solutions. For example, if
you were a partner in a company about to take on outside
investors, you might use the pie metaphor to clarify your
options (a smaller slice of a bigger pie versus a larger slice of a
smaller pie). If an organization you are a part of is lacking
direction, you may search for a “steady hand at the tiller,”
communicating quickly that you want a consistent, non-
reactionary, calm leader. Based on that ship-steering metaphor,
it will be easier to see which of your potential leaders you might
want to support. Your ability to work comfortably with
metaphors takes practice. When faced with a problem, take
time to think about metaphors to describe it, and the desired
solution. Observe how metaphors are used throughout
communication and think about why those metaphors are
effective. Have you ever noticed that the financial business uses
water-based metaphors (cash flow, frozen assets, liquidity) and
that meteorologists use war terms (fronts, wind force, storm
surge)? What kinds of metaphors are used in your area of

• Ask. A creative thinker always questions the way things are:
Why are we doing things this way? What were the objectives of
this process and the assumptions made when we developed
the process? Are they still valid? What if we changed certain
aspects? What if our circumstances changed? Would we need
to change the process? How? Get in the habit of asking
questions—lots of questions.
Key takeaways

• Creative thinking is a requirement for success.
• Creative thinking is a deliberate process that can be learned
and practiced.
• Creative thinking involves, but is not limited to, curiosity,
flexibility, looking for the second right answer, combining things
in new ways, thinking metaphorically, and questioning the way
things are.
Checkpoint exercises

Feed your curiosity. List five things you will do in the next month
that you have never done before (go to the ballet, visit a local
museum, try Moroccan food, or watch a foreign movie). Expand
your comfort “envelope.” Put them on your calendar.

1. ______________________________________________________
2. ______________________________________________________
3. ______________________________________________________
4. ______________________________________________________
5. ______________________________________________________
Note: Assignment 1b is on the following page.
Problem solving & decision-making
Much of your college and professional life will be spent solving
problems; some will be complex, such as deciding on a career,
and require time and effort to come up with a solution. Others will
be small, such as deciding what to eat for lunch, and will allow
you to make a quick decision based entirely on your own
experience. But, in either case, when coming up with the solution
and deciding what to do, follow the same basic steps.

• Define the problem. Use your analytical skills. What is the real
issue? Why is it a problem? What are the root causes? What
kinds of outcomes or actions do you expect to generate to
solve the problem? What are some of the key characteristics
that will make a good choice: Timing? Resources? Availability of
tools and materials? For more complex problems, it helps to
actually write out the problem and the answers to these
questions. Can you clarify your understanding of the problem
by using metaphors to illustrate the issue?

• Narrow the problem. Many problems are made up of a series
of smaller problems, each requiring its own solution. Can you
break the problem into different facets? What aspects of the
current issue are “noise” that should not be considered in the
problem solution? (Use critical thinking to separate facts from
opinion in this step.)

• Generate possible solutions. List all your options. Use your
creative thinking skills in this phase. Did you come up with the
second “right” answer, and the third or the fourth? Can any of
these answers be combined into a stronger solution? What past
or existing solutions can be adapted or combined to solve this
Assignment 1b & 1c

Use this scrolling text box and think of as many uses for
the following common items as possible. Can you name
more than five?
1. Peanut butter (PBJ counts as one regardless of the
flavor of jelly)
2. Paper clips
Next, practice this metaphor for life. In the movie Forrest
Gump, Forrest states, “Life is like a box of chocolates;
you never know what you’re gonna get.” Write your own
metaphor for life.
Then, submit your common items lists and your metaphor
for life from in Canvas under Reading Assignment 1.
Group think: effective brainstorming

Brainstorming is a process of generating ideas for solutions in a
group. This method is very effective because ideas from one
person will trigger additional ideas from another. The following
guidelines make for an effective brainstorming session:

• Decide who should moderate the session. That person may
participate, but his main role is to keep the discussion flowing.
• Define the problem to be discussed and the time you will allow
to consider it.
• Write all ideas down on a board or flip chart for all participants
to see.
• Encourage everyone to speak.
• Do not allow criticism of ideas. All ideas are good during a
brainstorm. Suspend disbelief until after the session. Remember
a wildly impossible idea may trigger a creative and feasible
solution to a problem.
• Choose the best solution. Use your critical thinking skills to
select the most likely choices. List the pros and cons for each
of your selections. How do these lists compare with the
requirements you identified when you defined the problem? If
you still can’t decide between options, you may want to seek
further input from your brainstorming team.
Decisions, decisions
You will be called on to make many decisions in your life. Some
will be personal, like what to major in, or whether or not to get
married. Other times you will be making decisions on behalf of
others at work or for a volunteer organization. Occasionally you
will be asked for your opinion or experience for decisions others
are making. To be effective in all of these circumstances, it is
helpful to understand some principles about decision making.

First, define who is responsible for solving the problem or making
the decision. In an organization, this may be someone above or
below you on the organization chart but is usually the person who
will be responsible for implementing the solution. Deciding on an
academic major should be your decision, because you will have
to follow the course of study. Deciding on the boundaries of a
sales territory would most likely be the sales manager who
supervises the territories, because he or she will be responsible
for producing the results with the combined territories. Once you
define who is responsible for making the decision, everyone else
will fall into one of two roles: giving input, or in rare cases,
approving the decision.

Understanding the role of input is very important for good
decisions. Input is sought or given due to experience or expertise,
but it is up to the decision maker to weigh the input and decide
whether and how to use it. Input should be fact based, or if
offering an opinion, it should be clearly stated as such. Finally,
once input is given, the person giving the input must support the
other’s decision, whether or not the input is actually used.
Consider a team working on a project for a science course. The
team assigns you the responsibility of analyzing and presenting a
large set of complex data. Others on the team will set up the
experiment to demonstrate the hypothesis, prepare the class
presentation, and write the paper summarizing the results. As you
face the data, you go to the team to seek input about the level of
detail on the data you should consider for your analysis. The
person doing the experiment setup thinks you should be very
detailed, because then it will be easy to compare experiment
results with the data. However, the person preparing the class
presentation wants only high-level data to be considered because
that will make for a clearer presentation. If there is not a clear
understanding of the decision-making process, each of you may
think the decision is yours to make because it influences the
output of your work; there will be conflict and frustration on the
team. If the decision maker is clearly defined upfront, however,
and the input is thoughtfully given and considered, a good
decision can be made (perhaps a creative compromise?) and the
team can get behind the decision and work together to complete
the project.
Finally, there is the approval role in decisions. This is very
common in business decisions but often occurs in college work
as well (the professor needs to approve the theme of the team
project, for example). Approval decisions are usually based on
availability of resources, legality, history, or policy.
Key takeaways 

• Effective problem solving involves critical and creative thinking.
• The four steps to effective problem solving are the following:

1. Define the problem

2. Narrow the problem

3. Generate solutions

4. Choose the solution

• Brainstorming is a good method for generating creative
• Understanding the difference between the roles of deciding and
providing input makes for better decisions.

Chapter review

• Your ability to think critically and creatively is a key to your
success in college and in life. You should develop and practice
these skills.

• Bloom’s taxonomy provides a framework to describe the many
kinds of thinking we need to do. Up to this point, you probably
have practiced most of the lower-level thinking skills but have
not had much experience with the higher-level skills (critical
thinking and creative thinking).

• Critical thinking involves evaluating the strength of ideas or
concepts by asking questions about them. Critical thinking will
also allow you to identify and weed out logical fallacies that
weaken the value of an idea.

• Creative thinking is the process of generating new ideas,
concepts, or solutions. This often involves adapting existing
ideas or combining them in new ways to create a new solution.

• Problem solving is effectively achieved by applying both critical
thinking and creative thinking to generate viable solutions and

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Chapter 2
After reading this chapter, students should be
able to do the following:
1. Define academic writing.

2. Demonstrate writing as a process.

3. Distinguish between revision and editing.

4. Interpret how to integrate research in writing.
Where are you now?
Assess your present writing knowledge and attitudes.
Where do you want to go?
Think about how you answered the questions above. Be honest
with yourself. On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your level
of confidence and your attitude about writing?
From the following list, choose the three areas you see as most
important to your improvement as a writer:
• Using time effectively
• Using sources effectively and appropriately
• Understanding instructors’ expectations
• Citing sources in the proper form
• Being productive with brainstorming and other prewriting
• Sharing my work in drafts and accepting feedback
• Organizing ideas clearly and transitioning between ideas
• Understanding the difference between proofreading and
• Developing ideas fully
• Drafting and redrafting in response to criticism
• Using correct sentence mechanics (grammar, punctuation, etc.)
• Using Web sites, reference books, and campus resources
• Developing an academic “voice”
Next, think about the three things you chose: Why did you
choose them? Have you had certain kinds of writing difficulties in
the past? Consider what you hope to learn here.

How to get there
Here is what we will work on in this chapter:
• Understanding why writing is vital to your success in college
• Learning how writing in college differs from writing in high
• Understanding how a writing class differs (and doesn’t differ)
from other classes with assigned writing
• Knowing what instructors in college expect of you as a writer
• Knowing what different types of assignments are most common
in college
• Using the writing process to achieve your best work
• Identifying common errors and become a better editor of your
own work
• Responding to an instructor’s feedback on your work in
progress and on your final paper
• Using sources appropriately and avoiding plagiarism
• Writing an in-class essay, for an online course, and in group
writing projects
The importance of writing
Writing is one of the key skills all successful students must
acquire. You might think your main job in a history class is to
learn facts about events, so you read the textbook and take notes
on important dates, names, causes, and so on. But, however
important these details are to the instructor, they do not mean
much if you cannot explain them in writing. Even if you remember
the facts well and believe you understand their meaning
completely, if you cannot express your understanding by
communicating it—in college that almost always means in writing
—then as far as others may know, you do not have an
understanding at all. In a way, then, learning history is learning to
write about history. Think about it. Great historians do not just
know facts and ideas. Great historians use their writing skills to
share their facts and ideas effectively with others.
Assignment 2a
Take the three choices you made from the list on the
previous page. In Canvas, submit your three areas and
your explanations of why you chose them under 

Reading Assignment 2.
History is just one example. Consider a lab course—a class that
is as much hands-on as any in college. At some point, you will be
asked to write a step-by-step report on an experiment you have
run. The quality of your lab work will not show if you cannot
describe that work and state your findings well in writing. Even
though many instructors in courses other than English classes
may not comment directly on your writing, their judgment of your
understanding will still be mostly based on what you write. This
means that in all your courses, not just your English courses,
instructors expect good writing. Think off your professions and
how effective writing will improve your skill set.
In college courses, writing is how ideas are exchanged from
scholars to students and from students back to scholars. While
the grade in some courses may be based mostly on class
participation, oral reports, or multiple-choice exams, writing is by
far the single most important form of instruction and assessment.
Instructors expect you to learn by writing, and they will grade you
on the basis of your writing.
By paying attention to your writing and learning and practicing
basic skills, even those who never thought of themselves as good
writers can succeed in college writing. As with other college skills,
getting off to a good start is mostly a matter of being motivated
and developing a confident attitude that you can do it.
As a form of communication, writing is different from oral
communication in several ways. Instructors expect writing to be
well thought-out and organized and to explain ideas fully. In oral
communication, the listener can ask for clarification, but in written
work, everything must be clear within the writing itself.
Note: Most college students take a writing course their first year,
often in the first term. Even if you are not required to take such a
class, it is a good idea for all students to learn more about college
writing. This short chapter cannot cover even a small amount of
what you will learn in a full writing course. The goal here is to
introduce some important writing principles, if you are not yet
familiar with them, or to remind you of things you may have
already learned in a writing course. As with all advice, always pay
the most attention to what your instructor says—the terms of a
specific assignment may overrule a tip given here!
What is different about college writing?
Academic writingAnalytical or informative nonfiction writing that is
assigned by college instructors. refers to writing produced in a
college environment. Often this is writing that responds to other
writing—to the ideas or controversies that you will read about.
While this definition sounds simple, academic writing may be very
different from other types of writing you have done in the past.
Often college students begin to understand what academic
writing really means only after they receive negative feedback on
their work. To become a strong writer in college, you need to
achieve a clear sense of two things:
1.The academic environment
2. The kinds of writing you will be creating in that environment
Differences between high school & college writing
Students who struggle with writing in college often conclude that
their high school teachers were too easy or that their college
instructors are too hard. In most cases, neither explanation is fully
accurate or fair. A student having difficulty with college writing
usually just has not yet made the transition from high school
writing to college writing. That should not be surprising, for many
beginning college students do not even know that there is a
transition to be made.
This does not mean that students do not learn a great deal in high
school, but it is easy to see why some students think that writing
is important only in English classes. Many students also believe
an academic essay must be five paragraphs long or that “school
writing” is usually literary analysis.
Think about how college differs from high school. College
instructors may design their courses in unique ways, and they
may teach about specialized subjects. For all of these reasons,
college instructors are much more likely than high school
teachers to:
• assign writing;
• respond in detail to student writing. and
• ask questions that cannot be dealt with easily in a fixed form
like a five-paragraph essay.
Your transition to college writing could be even more dramatic.
The kind of writing you have done in the past may not translate at
all into the kind of writing required in college. For example, you
may at first struggle with having to write about very different kinds
of topics, using different approaches. You may have learned only
one kind of writing genreA kind or type of essay; an approach or a
specific form of organization; a compare-and-contrast essay, for
example, is a genre often assigned by college instructors. (a kind
of approach or organization) and now find you need to master
other types of writing as well.
Your transition to college writing could be even more dramatic.
The kind of writing you have done in the past may not translate at
all into the kind of writing required in college. For example, you
may at first struggle with having to write about very different kinds
of topics, using different approaches. You may have learned only
one kind of writing genreA kind or type of essay; an approach or a
specific form of organization; a compare-and-contrast essay, for
example, is a genre often assigned by college instructors. (a kind
of approach or organization) and now find you need to master
other types of writing as well.
What kinds of papers are commonly assigned in college
Think about the topic “gender roles”—referring to expectations
about differences in how men and women act. You might study
gender roles in an anthropology class, a film class, or a
psychology class. The topic itself may overlap from one class to
another, but you would not write about this subject in the same
way in these different classes. For example, in an anthropology
class, you might be asked to describe how men and women of a
particular culture divide important duties. In a film class, you may
be asked to analyze how a scene portrays gender roles enacted
characters. In a psychology course, you might be asked to
summarize the results of an experiment involving gender roles or
compare and contrast the findings of two related research
It would be simplistic to say that there are three, or four, or ten, or
any number of types of academic writing that have unique
characteristics, shapes, and styles. Every assignment in every
course is unique in some ways, so do not think of writing as a
fixed form you need to learn. On the other hand, there are certain
writing approaches that do involve different kinds of writing. An
approach is the way you go about meeting the writing goals for
the assignment. The approach is usually signaled by the words
instructors use in their assignments.
When you first get a writing assignment, pay attention first to
keywords for how to approach the writing. These will also
suggest how you may structure and develop your paper. Look for
terms like these in the assignment:
• Summarize: To restate in your own words the main point or
points of another’s work.
• Define: To describe, explore, or characterize a keyword, idea,
or phenomenon.
• Classify: To group individual items by their shared
characteristics, separate from other groups of items.
• Compare/contrast: To explore significant likenesses and
differences between two or more subjects.
• Analyze: To break something, a phenomenon, or an idea into its
parts and explain how those parts fit or work together.
• Argue: To state a claim and support it with reasons and
• Synthesize: To pull together varied pieces or ideas from two or
more sources.
Sometimes the keywords listed do not actually appear in the
written assignment, but they are usually implied by the questions
given in the assignment. “What,” “why,” and “how” are common
question words that require a certain kind of response. Look back
at the keywords listed and think about which approaches relate to
“what,” “why,” and “how” questions.
• “What” questions usually prompt the writing of summaries,
definitions, classifications, and sometimes compare-and-
contrast essays. For example, “What does Jones see as the
main elements of Huey Long’s populist appeal?” or “What
happened when you heated the chemical solution?”
• “Why” and “how” questions typically prompt analysis,
argument, and synthesis essays. For example, “Why did Huey
Long’s brand of populism gain force so quickly?” or “Why did
the solution respond the way it did to heat?”
Successful academic writing starts with recognizing what the
instructor is requesting, or what you are required to do. So pay
close attention to the assignment. Sometimes the essential
information about an assignment is conveyed through class
discussions, however, be sure to listen for the keywords that will
help you understand what the instructor expects. If you feel the
assignment does not give you a sense of direction, seek
clarification. Ask questions that will lead to helpful answers. For
example, here is a short and very vague assignment: Discuss the
perspectives on religion of Rousseau, Bentham, and Marx. Papers
should be four to five pages in length.
Faced with an assignment like this, you could ask about the
scope (or focus)A deliberate and purposeful narrowing of
coverage. Writers must define specific limitations to work within
to narrow the scope or sharpen the focus of their subject. of the
• Which of the assigned readings should I concentrate on?
• Should I read other works by these authors that have not been
assigned in class?
• Should I do research to see what scholars think about the way
these philosophers view religion?
• Do you want me to pay equal attention to each of the three
You can also ask about the approach the instructor would like you
to take. You can use the keywords the instructor may not have
used in the assignment:
• Should I just summarize the positions of these three thinkers, or
should I compare and contrast their views?
• Do you want me to argue a specific point about the way these
philosophers approach religion?
• Would it be OK if I classified the ways these philosophers think
about religion?
Never just complain about a vague assignment. It is fine to ask
questions like these. Such questions will likely engage your
instructor in a productive discussion with you.
Key takeaways
• Writing is crucial to college success because it is the single
most important means of evaluation.
• Writing in college is not limited to the kinds of assignments
commonly required in high school English classes.
• Writers in college must pay close attention to the terms of an
• If an assignment is not clear, seek clarification from the
Assignment 2b
Use this scrolling text box to complete the assignment.
First, answer the following two questions:
1. What kind(s) of writing have you practiced most in your
recent past?
2. Explain how the word “what” asks for a different kind of
paper than the word “why.”
Next, after answering these questions, submit them to
How can I become a better writer?
If you approach your writing course merely as another hoop you
need to jump through, you may miss out on the main message:
writing is vital to your academic success at every step toward
your degree, as well as in most careers.
What do instructors really want?
Some instructors may say they have no particular expectations
for student papers. This is partly true. College instructors do not
usually have one right answer in mind or one right approach to
take when they assign a paper topic. They expect you to
engage in critical thinking and decide for yourself what you are
saying and how to say it. But in other ways, college instructors do
have expectations, and it is important to understand them. Some
expectations involve mastering the material or demonstrating
critical thinking. Other expectations involve specific writing skills.
Most college instructors expect certain characteristics in student
writing. Here are general principles you should follow when
writing essays or student “papers.” (Some may not be
appropriate for specific formats such as lab reports.)
Title the paper to identify your topic. This may sound obvious,
but it needs to be said. Some students think of a paper as an
exercise and write something like “Assignment 2: History 101” on
the title page. Such a title gives no idea about how you are
approaching the assignment or your topic. Your title should
prepare your reader for what your paper is about or what you will
argue. (With essays, always consider your reader as an educated
adult interested in your topic. An essay is not a letter written to
your instructor.) Compare the following:
Incorrect: Assignment 2: History 101
Correct: Why the New World Was Not “New”
It is obvious which of these two titles begins to prepare your
reader for the paper itself. Similarly, do not make your title the
same as the title of a work you are writing about. Instead, be sure
your title signals an aspect of the work you are focusing on:
Incorrect: Catcher in the Rye
Correct: Family Relationships in Catcher in the Rye
Assignment 2c
First, create the title for your paper. For example, The
Critical Analysis of John Smith’s Life (insert the name of
your paper topic person.)
Next, after creating the title for your paper, submit it to
Canvas under Reading Assignment 2.
Address the terms of the assignment. Again, pay particular
attention to words in the assignment that signal a preferred
approach. If the instructor asks you to “argue” a point, be sure to
make a statement that actually expresses your idea about the
topic. Without using first point of view: I. Then follow that
statement with your reasons and evidence in support of the
statement. Look for any signals that will help you focus or limit
your approach. Since no paper can cover everything about a
complex topic, what is it that your instructor wants you to cover?
Finally, pay attention to the little things. For example, if the
assignment specifies “5 to 6 pages in length,” write a five- to six-
page paper. Do not try to stretch a short paper longer by
enlarging the font (12 points is standard) or making your margins
bigger than the normal one inch (or as specified by the instructor).
If the assignment is due at the beginning of class on Monday,
have it ready then or before. Do not assume you can
negotiate a revised due date.
In your introduction, define your topic, and establish your
approach or sense of purpose. Think of your introduction as an
extension of your title. Instructors (like all readers) appreciate
feeling oriented by a clear opening. They appreciate knowing that
you have a purpose for your topic—that you have a reason for
writing the paper. If they feel they have just been dropped into the
middle of a paper, they may miss important ideas. They may not
make connections you want them to make.
Build from a thesis or a clearly stated sense of purpose. Many
college assignments require you to make some form of an
argument. To do that, you generally start with a statement that
needs to be supported and build from there. Your thesis is that
statement; it is a guiding assertion for the paper. Be clear in your
own mind of the difference between your topic and your thesis.
The topic is what your paper is about; the thesis is what you
argue about the topic. Some assignments do not require an
explicit argument and thesis, but even then you should make
clear at the beginning your main emphasis, your purpose, or your
most important idea.
Develop ideas patiently. You might, like many students, worry
about boring your reader with too much detail or information. But,
college instructors will not be bored by carefully explained ideas,
well-selected examples, and relevant details. College instructors,
after all, are professionally devoted to their subjects. If your
sociology instructor asks you to write about youth crime in rural
areas, you can be sure he or she is interested in that subject.
In some respects, how you develop your paper is the most crucial
part of the assignment. You will win the day with detailed
explanations and well-presented evidence—not big
generalizations. For example, anyone can write something broad
(and bland) like: “The constitutional separation of church and
state is a good thing for America”—but what do you really mean
by that? Specifically? Are you talking about banning “Christmas
trees” from government property—or calling them “holiday trees”
instead? Are you arguing for eliminating the tax-free status of
religious organizations? Are you saying that American laws should
never be based on moral values? The more you really dig into
your topic—the more time you spend thinking about the specifics
of what you really want to argue and developing specific
examples and reasons for your argument—the more developed
your paper will be. It will also be much more interesting to your
instructor as the reader. Remember, those grand generalizations
we all like to make (“America is the land of the free”) actually do
not mean much at all until we develop the idea in specifics. (Free
to do what? No laws? No restrictions like speed limits? Freedom
not to pay any taxes? Free food for all? What do you really mean
when you say American is the land of the “free”?)
Integrate—do not just “plug in”—quotations, graphs, and
illustrations. As you outline or sketch out your material, you will
think things like “this quotation can go here” or “I can put that
graph there.” Remember that a quotation, graph, or illustration
does not make a point for you. You make the point first and then
use such material to help back it up as evidence. Using a
quotation, a graph, or an illustration involves more than simply
sticking it into the paper. Always lead into such material. Make
sure the reader understands why you are using it, and how it fits
in at that place in your presentation, and analyze it.
Build clear transitions at the beginning of every paragraph to
link from one idea to another. A good paper is more than a list
of good ideas. It should also show how the ideas fit together. As
you write the first sentence of any paragraph, have a clear sense
of what the prior paragraph was about. Think of the first sentence
in any paragraph as a kind of bridge for the reader from what
came before.
Document your sources appropriately. If your paper involves
research of any kind, indicate clearly the use you make of outside
sources. Include correct in-text citations. Careful research and the
thoughtful application of the ideas and evidence of others is part
of what college instructors’ value.
Carefully edit your paper. College instructors require you will
take the time to edit and proofread your essay. A misspelled word
or an incomplete sentence may signal a lack of concern on your
part. It may not seem fair to make a harsh judgment about your
seriousness based on little errors, but in all writing, impressions
count. Since it is often hard to find small errors in our own writing,
always print out a draft well before you need to turn it in. Ask a
classmate or a friend to review it and mark any word or sentence
that seems “off” in any way. Although you should certainly use a
spell-checker, do not assume it can catch everything. A spell-
checker cannot tell if you have the right word. For example, these
words are commonly misused or mixed up:
• there, their, they’re
• its, it’s
• effect, affect
Your spell-checker cannot help with these. You also cannot trust
what a “grammar checker” (like the one built into the Microsoft
Word spell-checker) tells you—computers are still a long way
from being able to fix your writing for you!
The writing process
Writing instructors distinguish between process and product. The
outcome or end result of a writing process; the finished paper you
submit. The expectations described here all involve the “product”
you turn in on the due date. Although you should keep in mind
what your product will look like, writing is more involved with how
you get to that goal. “Process” concerns how you work to
actually write a paper. What do you actually do to get started?
How do you organize your ideas? Why do you make changes
along the way as you write? Thinking of writing as a process is
important because writing is actually a complex activity. Even
professional writers rarely sit down at a keyboard and write out an
article beginning to end without stopping along the way to revise
portions they have drafted, to move ideas around, or to revise
their opening and thesis. Professionals and students alike often
say they only realized what they wanted to say after they started
to write. This is why many instructors see writing as a way to
learn. Many writing instructors ask you to submit a draft for
review before submitting a final paper.
How can I make the process work for me?
No single set of steps automatically works best for everyone
when writing a paper, but writers have found a number of steps
helpful. Your job is to try out ways that your instructor suggests
and discover what works for you. As you’ll see in the following
list, the process starts before you write a word. Generally there
are three stages in the writing process:
1. Preparing before drafting (thinking, brainstorming, planning,
reading, researching, outlining, sketching, etc.)—sometimes
called “prewriting” (although you are usually still writing
something at this stage, even if only jotting notes)
2. Writing the draft
3. Revising and editing
Because writing is hard, procrastination is easy. Do not let
yourself put off the task. One good approach is to schedule
shorter time periods over a series of days—rather than trying to
sit down for one long period to accomplish a lot. (Even
professional writers can write only so much at a time.) Try the
following strategies to get started:
• Discuss what you read, see, and hear. Talking with others
about your ideas is a good way to begin to achieve clarity.
Listening to others helps you understand what points need
special attention. Discussion also helps writers realize that their
own ideas are often best presented in relation to the ideas of
• Use e-mail to carry on discussions in writing. An e-mail
exchange with a classmate or your instructor might be the first
step toward putting words on a page.
• Brainstorm. Jot down your thoughts as they come to mind.
Just write away, not worrying at first about how those ideas fit
together. (This is often called “free writing.”) Take note of
anything that stands out as particularly important to you. Also
consider how parts of your scattered notes might eventually fit
together or how they might end up in a sequence in the paper
you will get to later on.
• Ask and respond in writing to “what,” “why,” and “how”
questions. Good questions prompt productive writing sessions.
Again, “what” questions will lead to descriptions or summaries;
“why” and “how” questions will lead you to analyses and
explanations. Construct your own “what,” “why,” and “how”
questions and then start answering them.
• In your notes, respond directly to what others have written
or said about a topic you are interested in. Most academic
writing engages the ideas of others. Academic writing carries on
a conversation among people interested in the field. By thinking
of how your ideas relate to those of others, you can clarify your
sense of purpose and sometimes even discover a way to write
your introduction.
All of these steps and actions so far are “prewriting” actions.
Again, almost no one just sits down and starts writing a paper at
the beginning—at least not a successful paper! These prewriting
steps help you get going in the right direction. Once you are
ready to start drafting your essay, keep moving forward in these
• Write a short statement of intent or outline your paper
before your first draft. Such a road map can be very useful,
but do not assume you will always be able to stick with your
first plan. Once you start writing, you may discover a need for
changes in the substance or order of things in your essay.
• Write down on a card or a separate sheet of paper what you
see as your paper’s main point or thesis. As you draft your
essay, look back at that thesis statement. Are you staying on
track? Or are you discovering that you need to change your
main point or thesis? From time to time, check the development
of your ideas against what you started out saying you would do.
Revise as needed and move forward.
• Reverse outline your paper. Outlining is usually a beginning
point, a road map for the task ahead. But many writers find that
outlining what they have already written in a draft helps them
see more clearly how their ideas fit or do not fit together.
Outlining in this way can reveal trouble spots that are harder to
see in a full draft. Once you see those trouble spots, effective
revisionA critical reflection of an early draft that leads to
significant changes. becomes possible.
• Do not obsess over detail when writing the draft. Remember,
you have time for revising and editing later on. Now is the time
to test out the plan you have made and see how your ideas
develop. Then work on grammar and punctuation.
• Read your draft aloud. Hearing your own writing often helps
you see it more plainly. A gap or an inconsistency in an
argument that you simply do not see in a silent reading
becomes evident when you give voice to the text. You may also
catch mechanical mistakes by reading your paper aloud.
What is the difference between revising & editing?
Some students think of a draft as something that they need only
“correct” after writing. They assume their first effort to do the
assignment resulted in something that needs only surface
attention. This is a big mistake. A good writer does not write fast.
Good writers know that the task is complicated enough to
demand some patience. “Revision” rather than “correction” 

suggests seeing again in a new light generated by all the thought
that went into the first draft. Revising a draft usually involves
significant changes including the following:
• Making organizational changes like the reordering of paragraphs
(do not forget that new transitions will be needed when you
move paragraphs)
• Clarifying the thesis or adjustments between the thesis and
supporting points that follow
• Cutting material that is unnecessary or irrelevant
• Adding new points to strengthen or clarify the presentation
Editing and proofreadingA close review of a revised draft that
leads to stylistic refinements and sentence- or word-level
corrections. are the last steps following revision. Correcting a
sentence early on may not be the best use of your time since you
may cut the sentence entirely. Editing and proofreading are
focused, late-stage activities for style and correctness. They are
important final parts of the writing process, but they should not
be confused with revision itself. Editing and proofreading a draft
involve these steps:
• Careful spellchecking. This includes checking the spelling of
• Attention to sentence-level issues. Be especially attentive to
sentence boundaries, subject-verb agreement, punctuation,
and pronoun referents. You can also attend at this stage to
matters of style.
Note: Remember to get started on a writing assignment early so
that you complete the first draft well before the due date, allowing
you needed time for genuine revision and careful editing.
What if I need help with writing?
Writing is hard work. Most colleges provide resources that can
help you from the early stages of an assignment through to the
completion of an essay.
Tutoring services. Most colleges have a tutoring service that
focuses primarily on student writing. Look up and visit your
tutoring center early in the term to learn what service is offered.
Lynn University provides an English Writing Lab available to
students through the faculty of the College of Arts and Sciences.
Also, available are the services:
Writing Web sites and writing handbooks. Many writing Web sites
and handbooks can help you along every step of the way,
especially in the late stages of your work. You will find lessons on
style as well as information about language conventions and
“correctness.” For more help, become familiar with a good Web
site for student writers. There are many, but one recommended is
the Purdue OWL.
Plagiarism—and how to avoid it
Plagiarism is the unacknowledged use of another writer’s words
or ideas. is the unacknowledged use of material from a source. At
the most obvious level, plagiarism involves using someone else’s
words and ideas as if they were your own. Notice that the
definition of plagiarism involves “words and ideas.”
Words. Copying the words of another is clearly wrong. If you use
another’s words, those words must be in quotation marks, and
you must tell your reader where those words came from. But it is
not enough to make a few surface changes in wording. You
cannot just change some words and call the material yours;
close, extended paraphrase is not acceptable. For example,
compare the two passages that follow. The first comes from
Murder Most Foul, a book by Karen Halttunen on changing ideas
about murder in nineteenth-century America; the second is a
close paraphrase of the same passage:
Fist: The new murder narratives were overwhelmingly secular
works, written by a diverse array of printers, hack writers,
sentimental poets, lawyers, and even murderers themselves, who
were displacing the clergy as the dominant interpreters of the
Second: The murder stories that were developing were almost
always secular works that were written by many different sorts of
people. Printers, hack writers, poets, attorneys, and sometimes
even the criminals themselves were writing murder stories. They
were the new interpreters of the crime, replacing religious leaders
who had held that role before.
It is easy to see that the writer of the second version has closely
followed the ideas and even echoed some words of the original.
This is a serious form of plagiarism. Even if this writer were to
acknowledge the author with a citation, there would still be a
problem. To simply cite the source at the end would not excuse
using so much of the original source.
Ideas. Ideas are also a form of intellectual property. Consider this
third version of the previous passage:
At one time, religious leaders shaped the way the public thought
about murder. But in nineteenth-century America, this changed.
Society’s attitudes were influenced more and more by secular
This version summarizes the original. That is, it states the main
idea in compressed form in language that does not come from
the original. But it could still be seen as plagiarism if the source is
not cited. This example probably makes you wonder if you can
write anything without citing a source. To help you sort out what
ideas need to be cited and what not, think about these principles:
Common knowledge. There is no need to cite common
knowledgeKnowledge that is generally accepted as true and that
can be found easily in various sources.. Common knowledge
does not mean knowledge everyone has. It means knowledge
that everyone can easily access. For example, most people do
not know the date of George Washington’s death, but everyone
can easily find that information. If the information or idea can be
found in multiple sources and the information or idea remains
constant from source to source, it can be considered common
knowledge. Always check with your professor as to what is
accepted as common knowledge.
Distinct contributions. One does need to cite ideas that are
distinct contributionsKnowledge or an idea that may be disputed
or that is not found in many sources.. A distinct contribution need
not be a discovery from the work of one person. It need only be
an insight that is not commonly expressed (not found in multiple
sources) and not universally agreed upon.
Disputable figures. Always remember that numbers are only as
good as the sources they come from. If you use numbers like
attendance figures, unemployment rates, or demographic profiles
—or any statistics at all—always cite your source of those
Everything said previously about using sources applies to all
forms of sources. Some students mistakenly believe that material
from the Web, for example, need not be cited. Or that an idea
from an instructor’s lecture is automatically common property.
You must evaluate all sources in the same way and cite them as
Forms of citation
You should generally check with your instructors about their
preferred form of citation when you write papers for courses. No
one standard is used in all academic papers. You can learn about
the three major forms or styles used in most any college writing
handbook and on many Web sites for college writers:
• The Modern Language Association (MLA) system of citation is
widely used but is most commonly adopted in humanities
courses, particularly literature courses.
• The American Psychological Association (APA) system of
citation is most common in the social sciences.
• The Chicago Manual of Style is widely used but perhaps most
commonly in history courses.
Checklists for revision & editing
When you revise…
Check the assignment: does your paper do what it’s supposed
to do?
Check the title: does it clearly identify the overall topic or
Check the introduction: does it set the stage and establish the
Check each paragraph in the body: does each begin with a
transition from the preceding?
Check organization: does it make sense why each topic
precedes or follows another?
Check development: is each topic fully explained, detailed,
supported, and exemplified?
Check the conclusion: does it restate the thesis and pull key
ideas together?
When you edit…
Read the paper aloud, listening for flow and natural word style.
Check for any lapses into slang, colloquialisms, or
nonstandard English phrasing.
Check sentence-level mechanics: grammar and punctuation
(pay special attention to past writing problems).
When everything seems done, run the spell-checker again and
do a final proofread.
Check physical layout and mechanics against instructor’s
expectations: Title page? Font and margins? End notes?
Key takeaways
• A writing course is central to all students’ success in many of
their future courses.
• Writing is a process that involves a number of steps; the
product will not be good if one does not allow time for the
• Seek feedback from classmates, tutors, and instructors during
the writing process.
• Revision is not the same thing as editing.
• Many resources are available to college writers.
• Words and ideas from sources must be documented in a form
recommended by the instructor.
Other kinds of writing in college classes
Everything about college writing so far in this chapter applies in
most college writing assignments. Some particular situations,
however, deserve special attention. These include group writing
projects and writing in an online course.
Group writing projects
College instructors sometimes assign group writing projects. The
terms of these assignments vary greatly. Sometimes the
instructor specifies roles for each member of the group, but often
it is part of the group’s tasks to define everyone’s role. Follow
these guidelines:
• Get off to an early start and meet regularly through the process.
• Sort out your roles as soon as you can. You might divide the
work in sections and then meet to pull those sections together.
But you might also think more in terms of the specific strengths
and interests each of you bring to the project. For example, if
one group member is an experienced researcher, that person
might gather and annotate materials for the assignment. You
might also assign tasks that relate to the stages of the writing
process. For example, one person for one meeting might
construct a series of questions or a list of points to be
addressed, to start a discussion about possible directions for
the first draft. Another student might take a first pass at shaping
the group’s ideas in a rough draft. And so on. Remember that
whatever you do, you cannot likely keep each person’s work
separate from the work of others. There will be and probably
should be significant overlap if you are to eventually pull
together a successful project.
• Be a good citizen. This is the most important point of all. If you
are assigned a group project, you should want to be an active
part of the group’s work. Never try to ride on the skills of others
or let others do more than their fair share. Do not let any lack of
confidence you may feel as a writer keep you from doing your
share. One of the great things about a group project is that you
can learn from others. Another great thing is that you will learn
more about your own strengths that others value.
• Complete a draft early so that you can collectively review,
revise, and finally edit together.
Writing in online courses
Online instruction is becoming more and more common. All the
principles discussed in this chapter apply also in online writing—
and many aspects are even more important in an online course.
In most online courses, almost everything depends on written
communication. Discussion is written rather than spoken.
Questions and clarifications take shape in writing. Feedback on
assignments is given in writing. To succeed in online writing,
apply the same writing process as fully and thoughtfully as with
an essay or paper for any course.
Chapter review
• Successful writers in all contexts think of writing as
– a process,
– a means to learn,
– a social act.
• Paying close attention to the terms of the assignment is
essential for understanding the writing approach the instructor
expects and for shaping the essay.
• Using the writing process maximizes the mental processes
involved in thinking and writing. Take the time to explore
prewriting strategies before drafting an essay in order to
discover your ideas and how best to shape and communicate
• Avoid the temptation, after writing a draft, to consider the essay
“done.” Revision is almost always needed, involving more
significant changes than just quick corrections and editing.
• Virtually all college writing builds on the ideas of others; this is a
significant part of the educational experience. In your writing, be
sure you always make it clear in your phrasing and use of
citations which ideas are your own or common knowledge and
which come from other sources.
• College writing extends throughout the curriculum, from your
first writing class through to your last term, including writing in
class on examinations, group projects, and online courses.
Through all this great variety of writing, however, the main
principles of effective writing remain consistent. Work to
develop your college writing skills at this early stage, and you
will be well served throughout your education and into your
career thereafter.

Assignment 2d

Use this scrolling text box to answer the following five
questions, then submit them to Canvas under Assignment

1. My worst writing habits have been what?
2. To overcome these bad habits in college, I will take
what steps?
3. Sentence-level mechanics: Generally, what specific
errors (things my past teachers have marked) have you
made in your writing?
4. How can you learn to correct errors like these when
proofreading and editing?
5. Writing process: Which of the following stages do you

Tap on the thumbnail above to leave
feedback for your professor.
This chapter has been reproduced in
compliance with the licensing for’s College Success.
Chapter 3
After reading this chapter, students should be
able to do the following:
1. Recognize the complexity of language.

2. Identify meanings of language.

3. Explain the functions of language.
4. Differentiate the definitions of language.
The meaning & definition of language
Reasoning involves thinking. Thinking, in turn, involves language,
for without language we could not express (and probably not
even have) any thoughts. In order to understand reasoning,
therefore, it is necessary to pay careful attention to the
relationship between thought and language. The relationship
seems to be straightforward: thought is expressed in and through
language. But this claim, while true, is an oversimplification.
People often fail to say what they mean. Everyone has had the
experience of having their words misunderstood by others. And
we all use words not merely to express our thoughts, but also to
shape them. Developing our critical thinking skills, therefore,
requires an understanding of the ways in which words can (and
can fail to) express our thoughts.
The complexity of language
Language is an extremely complex phenomenon. The number of
different words in any language is finite, but these words can be
used to generate an infinite number of different sentences with
different meanings. Many of the ordinary things we say every day
have never been said before by anyone. For example: Professor
Sutherland reminds me of my Uncle Tony; they both have the
habit of running their fingers through their hair when they are
thinking hard.
It is likely that when this sentence was first written it had never
before been said. And it is not just the precise wording that is
unique. It is unlikely that anyone has ever had the same thought.
In fact, there is no limit to the number of new sentences with new
meanings that could be created. Conversely, there are often
different ways of saying the same thing. For example: Anne is
older than everyone else in the room. Everyone else in the room is
younger than Anne.
In addition, there are often many different sentences that mean
more or less the same thing. One lexicographer has recorded
over twenty-two hundred synonyms for the word drunk.
Written and spoken language, although closely connected, are
nevertheless not identical: spoken language is more flexible (and
hence more complex) than written language, for we can change
the meaning of words and sentences through our gestures, tone
of voice, and facial expressions.
Note the different meanings that arise when the bold word is
emphasized in the following sentences:
You shouldn’t steal library books. (But it may be acceptable for
others to do so.)

You shouldn’t steal library books. (But I won’t be surprised if you

You shouldn’t steal library books. (But defacing books is

You shouldn’t steal library books. (But stealing
books from the bookstore is acceptable.) 

You shouldn’t steal library books. (But stealing
magazines from the library is acceptable.)
Understanding spoken language, therefore,
requires much more than knowing the written
language. In fact, the close connection between
written and spoken language that exists in
European languages is sometimes absent in other
languages. Chinese spoken dialects (which are as
different from one another as English and
German) all use the same written language, so
that people who speak different dialects can
communicate through writing even though they
may not understand each other’s speech.
Language is always in a state of gradual change,
in ways that are in large part unpredictable even
in principle. A single language can, in a few
centuries, evolve into two languages so different
from one
another that those who speak one will find the
other incomprehensible. Surprisingly, when
languages evolve, they do not evolve into more
complex forms, for the complexity of all natural
languages seems to remain more or less
constant. So-called primitive languages may have
somewhat smaller vocabularies than modern languages (although
we need to remember that the Inuit have eleven different words
for the different kinds of snow), but in other respects they are just
as complex. “Primitive” languages are not really primitive at all.
Given this complexity, it is astonishing that we learn almost
everything we will ever know about language before we are old
enough to go to school. We are all intimately familiar with at least
one language, and we therefore understand what language is, at
least in the sense of knowing how to use language. But at a
deeper level most of us have only the most elementary
understanding of what language is and how it works. Even
linguistic theorists are uncertain about many features of language.
They do not know, for example, whether the basic structure of
language (i.e., its underlying grammar) reflects certain
characteristics of the human mind, or is merely conventional in
nature. Nor do they fully understand the relationship between
language and thinking: we normally use a language when we
think, but is language necessary for human thought? And if it is,
do people who think in different languages think differently?
When we translate a speech from Russian into English, can we be
sure that we understand exactly what it meant to the original
speaker or what it means to a Russian audience? The relationship
between language and reality is also problematic. Does language
describe the world as it really is, or do we use language to
impose a structure on our experience, experience that would
otherwise be chaotic and meaningless?
The meaning of language
Usually it is not difficult to explain what a particular word or
sentence means. But there is much that is puzzling about the
nature of meaning itself. How do words get their meaning, and
how do meanings change? Is the meaning that words have
different from the meaning of sentences? In order to enhance our
understanding of the nature and complexity of meaning, we will
look briefly at three theories of meaning. The first two are
commonsense views that have been held by many people,
including many philosophers and linguistic theorists.
Unfortunately, both are open to serious objections, and many
philosophers now regard them as untenable. The third theory
avoids the weakness of the first two.
The reference theory of meaning
The reference theory of meaning was first expounded by Aristotle
in the fourth century BC. According to this view the meaning of a
word consists in what it refers to. The word dog refers to all the
dogs in the world, so it seems plausible to hold that the meaning
of dog is all the dogs in the world. After all, if we know what dog
refers to we obviously know what the word means. Similarly, the
meaning of tree is every tree in the world, the meaning of
automobile is every automobile, the meaning of joke is every joke,
and so on. The meaning of a term thus consists of its reference
class, that is, the class of objects to which the word refers. At first
glance, the reference theory is a plausible account of meaning,
and its plausibility is enhanced by the fact that pointing to the
reference class is often a good way of explaining the meaning of
a word. If you don’t know what antimacassar means I can easily
explain its meaning by pointing to an antimacassar, and
explaining that other antimacassars vary in size and design but
are essentially the same as this one.
There are, however, serious difficulties with the reference theory.
At the heart of the theory there seems to be a confusion between
understanding the meaning of a word, and having knowledge of
what the word refers to. When we understand the meaning of the
word dog, we usually have knowledge of only a small proportion
of the dogs that exist, and this is puzzling if the meaning of dog is
the reference class of the term. The fact that even small children
can understand the meaning of dog on the basis of direct
knowledge of only a few dogs cannot be explained by the
reference theory. The theory encounters even more serious
difficulties, however, when we consider words that have no
reference class. What do the following words refer to: unless,
after, yes, unlikely, the, nevertheless, was, if, where? Does it even
make sense to suggest that the meaning of unless is the class of
unlesses? In addition, there are certain phrases whose meaning is
easily understood but whose reference is unknown. For example,
we all understand the meaning of the phrase the oldest man in
the world, even when we don’t know to whom it refers. If the
meaning is the reference, then we shouldn’t be able to
understand what the phrase means unless we know who is the
oldest man in the world. The reference theory of meaning,
therefore, has to be rejected.
The idea theory of meaning
The idea theory of meaning was developed by John Locke in the
seventeenth century. He held that the meaning of a word consists
of the idea or mental image that is associated with the word.
When we think of the word dog, it seems that we have a mental
image we associate with the word, and it is plausible to hold that
the meaning of dog is this image in our minds. This theory seems
to be able to deal with phrases like the oldest man in the world,
since it is plausible to suggest that we have a mental image we
associate with this phrase. But the idea theory also encounters
several difficulties. Just as the class of unlesses seems to make
no sense, the mental image of unless also seems to make no
sense. But in addition, the image or idea we associate with a
word like dog turns out on reflection to be very unclear. If we
attempt to describe our image of a dog, we can only describe a
typical dog: one that is black, shorthaired, about eighteen inches
high, with a short tail, etc. Of course, we know that many dogs
are not black, that some are longhaired, that some are very small
and some are very large, and so forth. But we cannot have an
image of a dog which is both black and not black, both
longhaired and shorthaired, and both tall and short. It is
impossible for our image of a dog to include all those
characteristics that we know dogs have. How, then, can our
image be the meaning of the word?
Another difficulty with the idea theory is that it has the
consequence that we can never know what another person
means by certain words. You can never see my mental images
and I can never see yours. If the mental image is the meaning,
how can I know what you mean by dog and how can you know
what I mean by dog? One reply to this objection is that we can
describe our mental images in words that others can understand,
and in this way we can know what others mean by a word. This
reply is adequate for some words, but not for all. The mental
images we have for simple properties (for example, properties
such as red, hot, sour, etc.) can never be stated. We simply
cannot describe the meaning of the word red by using other
words. If we could, then someone who has been blind since birth
would know what red means merely by hearing a description of
our mental image, which is impossible. Words fail us at this point.
So the idea theory must also be rejected.
Meaning as use

A new approach to meaning was developed in this century by
Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889–1951) and John Austin (1911–1960).
They recognized that many words do refer to things, and that
many words have a mental image or idea associated with them,
but they held that the primary bearers of meaning are not words
but sentences. Words have meaning only when they are used in
sentences: without such a context they have no meaning. When
we ask what some particular word means, we seem to be asking
for the meaning of the word itself, as if it had a meaning apart
from the way it is used in sentences. In fact, the only meaning a
word can have is the meaning it gains from the meanings of the
sentences in which the word is typically used.
Notice how the different meanings of a word are expressed by
using that word in different sentences:
• I gave him a hand with his baggage. (i.e., help) The crowd gave
him a hand. (i.e., applause) Please hand me the scissors. (i.e.,
• She is a green lawyer. (i.e., inexperienced)
• He is looking green. (i.e., nauseous)
• We had a green Christmas last year. (i.e., without snow)
• Don’t strike that child. (i.e., hit)
• The strike was over wages. (i.e., refusal to work) Strike three!
(i.e., the batter is “out”)
But if the meaning of sentences is primary and the meaning of
words is derivative — if we cannot derive the meaning of a
sentence from the meanings of the words it contains — how are
we to account for the meaning of sentences? Wittgenstein and
Austin held that the meaning of sentences is to be found in their
use. Language is a tool, and just as we don’t really know what a
hammer is until we know what its use is, so we don’t know what
language means until we know what it is being used to do. In
order to know what a particular sentence means we need to ask,
What is this speaker, in this particular context, using this sentence
to do? If someone says Hold it, we cannot know what the
sentence means until we know what the speaker means, and we
cannot know what the speaker means until we know what he or
she is using the sentence to do. Did the speaker say Hold it to get
someone to stop doing something, or to instruct someone to
grasp hold of an object? Only when we have answered this
question will we know what the sentence means.
It is important to pay attention to the context, for the context
typically gives us the clues we need to determine what the
speaker is using a sentence to do, and thus what the sentence
means. There are various contextual features we can make use
of, such as the social setting, the speaker’s personal goals, the
nature and expectations of the audience, and what has just been
said by other speakers. Changing the context of a sentence can
sometimes dramatically affect its meaning. For example: The
queen is in a vulnerable position: (a) when said by a spectator at a
chess match and (b) when said by a teacher in a lecture on the
role of the monarchy in Britain. The President has been shot and
died a few minutes ago: (a) when said by a character in a film and
(b) when said by a radio announcer in a news broadcast.
More commonly, however, context affects meaning in less
dramatic but equally important ways. Usually, there are only a few
possible uses of a sentence in any particular context, and we can
make a reasonable judgement of its primary or intended use. It is
important, therefore, to understand the various uses or functions
of language.
The main functions of language
Whenever we use language we do so for some purpose, and if we
consider these purposes we can see that there are several
different types. Language, in other words, has several functions.
Language is often characterized as a means of communication,
and although this view is correct, it is not very informative. When
we use language, we almost always communicate something to
someone, but usually our purpose is much more specific, and
frequently we are not primarily concerned with communicating
information at all.
Our purpose is usually not merely to communicate, but to
communicate for a specific purpose. What we mean often reflects
these purposes. Consequently, how we interpret, and therefore
react to, what others say depends upon what we take their
purpose to be. It is therefore important to be aware of the main
purposes for which language is used and how these purposes
affect meaning. Each of these purposes reflects a different
function of language.

1. Descriptive
One very important function of language is to describe (i.e., to
convey factual information about) something. Whenever we
describe something — an object, a situation, or a feeling — we
are stating facts, or what we believe to be facts. For example:
This coffee is cold. I don’t have any change for the coffee
machine. A cup of coffee would calm my nerves.
Almost every time we use language we convey factual
information, even though this may not be our primary purpose.
2. Evaluative
Often we use language not (or not merely) to describe something
but to make a value judgement about it, that is, to evaluate it. For
example: Ellen is the best student in the class.
This is different from a mere factual description, for it presents a
value judgement about Ellen. There are several different types of
evaluations: aesthetic, moral, economic, technological, and even
scientific. For example:That was the worst movie I’ve seen in
years. He is an irresponsible person. The best way to get rich is
by investing in real estate. The safest way of disposing of uranium
waste is to bury it in old coal mines. The theory of evolution
provides the best account of the origin of biological species.
3. Emotive
Language is sometimes used to express emotions, and thus has
an emotive function. When you hit your thumb with a hammer,
you probably say something. If you say, My thumb hurts, you are
describing your feelings. If you say, This is a terrible hammer, you
are evaluating the hammer. But if, like most people, you say,
Damn! (or worse), you are not describing or evaluating anything
but are simply expressing your feelings or emotions. Almost any
emotion can be expressed in words.
For example: I love you. You are a loathsome creature; go away. I
shall die of unrequited love.
Thank heavens that’s over.
Note that these sentences also convey factual information about
the speakers’ feelings, but in most contexts this function would
be secondary.
4. Evocative
Language can also used for the purpose of evoking certain
emotions in an audience. If we want someone to feel sad about
something we can try to evoke that emotion through the careful
choice of words and images. Poets are especially concerned with
this function of language. Consider, for example, the line from T.S.
Eliot’s ”The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” which beautifully
evokes the feeling of a meaningless life: I have measured out my
life with coffee spoons. Again, W.B. Yeats, in “The Lake Isle of
Innisfree,” evokes a feeling of peacefulness:
And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping
Advertisers frequently use language to evoke certain feelings. For
example: At Speedy you’re a Somebody.
And everyone from time to time wants to evoke certain emotions
in their audience. We want others to feel pity for someone, to feel
anger at some situation, or to approve of something, and we use
language for this purpose. Threats are usually intended to evoke
fear in the victim. Political speeches are often aimed at making
voters feel that a government is trustworthy, or untrustworthy.
Sermons often are designed to make us feel ashamed of the
mean things we do.
5. Persuasive
One of the most widespread uses of language is to persuade
people to accept something or to act in a certain way. For
example: You shouldn’t take astrology seriously. There is no
scientific basis for it. I know you don’t like parties, but I hope
you’ll come anyway. There will be several people there that you
have been wanting to meet. I know you will enjoy yourself once
you get
We try to persuade people to recycle waste, that the
government’s budget is likely to increase unemployment, that the
police officer should not give us a speeding ticket, or that lotteries
are a waste of money. Every argument is an example of the
persuasive use of language. There are two ways language can be
used to persuade. Sometimes our purpose is to persuade by
means of rational arguments, even if we often fail to achieve our
purpose. But often we abandon this restriction and use anything
we think might succeed in persuading our audience. This is the
case with propaganda and most advertising.
6. Interrogative
In order to elicit information we usually need to ask for it. Most
often this is done by asking a question. For example: What is the
due date for the essay?But asking questions is not the only way
to elicit information. For example: Tell me your age. I won’t lend
you twenty dollars unless you explain why you need it.
Whatever form of words we use, we are not describing,
evaluating, expressing, or evoking anything, or attempting to
persuade, but seeking to gain information.
7. Directive
We sometimes use language to tell others to do something. For
example: Go to the principal’s office immediately. Take these pills
twice a day.
These sentences would normally be used to tell someone to do
something. They do not describe or evaluate anything, express or
evoke an emotion, seek information, nor, usually, do they attempt
to persuade us of anything. They simply tell us what to do. The
directive use of language covers ordering, commanding,
directing, advising, requesting, and similar types of actions.
8. Performative
There is a small but interesting class of sentences that are known
as performative utterances, i.e., utterances that are not
descriptions, evaluations, directives, and so on, but are
themselves to be regarded as actions. They are actions that
consist of saying certain words. If a question arises of whether
someone actually performed such an action, the only relevant
evidence would consist of showing that the person uttered
certain words under appropriate circumstances. For example: I
find the accused guilty of murder.
If these words are uttered by Judge Bean at the conclusion of a
trial they constitute the action of finding someone guilty of
murder. If someone asks for proof that Judge Bean found the
accused guilty of murder it would be sufficient to quote the
judge’s words. It would make no sense to suggest that Judge
Bean might have been mistaken or lying. If he said the words at
the conclusion of the trial then he did find the accused guilty of
murder. On the other hand, if I say, Judge Bean found the
accused guilty of murder, I could not appeal to the fact that I said
it as proof that it is true, since I might be mistaken or lying. It is
not a performative utterance, but a description: it is true only if it
correctly states or describes a fact. Similarly, if after the trial
Judge Bean says, I found the accused guilty of murder,
this would not be a performative utterance, for we could not
appeal to the fact that Judge Bean uttered this sentence as proof
that it is true, since he might be mistaken or lying.
Here are two more examples of performative utterances:
I now pronounce you husband and wife. I resign, here and now.
When uttered under the appropriate circumstances, each would
constitute an action.
9. Recreational
Finally, we should not overlook the fact that language is often
used to amuse ourselves and others. We tell jokes and stories,
write novels, invent puns, do crossword puzzles, play guessing
games, make up limericks, sing nursery rhymes, and write rude
things on washroom walls. When language is used in any of these
ways it serves a recreational function. People who tell jokes, write
stories, or sing nursery rhymes usually do so out of simple
We noted that words often have more than one use or meaning. It
is important to understand that not all the different uses of a word
need have anything in common; for some words there may be a
common element, but for many there is not. As long as we know
how to use a word for some particular purpose, we know what
the word means when used in that sense. Indeed, it is often
difficult to enumerate all the different accepted uses of a word.
But this is not a problem for the meaning as use theory, for it
denies that words must have a single meaning. Since words
typically have several different uses, it follows that there will be
several different meanings, and as long as we understand a
Assignment 3a

Use this scrolling text box to complete the assignment.
Choose and answer two (2) of the questions from
“SelfTest” and two (2) of the questions from “Questions
for Discussion.” Then, submit your answers to the four (4)
questions to Canvas under Assignment 3.
Using the contextual clues provided, what is the most
likely primary purpose of the speakers of the following
1. If you want to succeed in life you need a good
education. (Said by a father to his seventeen-year-old
daughter who has just told him she wants to drop out of
particular use (i.e., know how to use the word for that purpose)
we understand the meaning of the word when used in that way.
We have seen that the meaning of language depends upon its
use and context, and that it is often difficult to say precisely what
a word means if we ignore its use and context. Normally this is
not a serious difficulty, for we can usually get by with a rough idea
of what words mean as long as they are being used in ordinary
contexts. But sometimes this casual approach is inadequate, and
it becomes important to focus on the precise meanings of a word.
When a lawyer explains what constitutes an assault, or a sales
clerk says the microwave oven has a warranty, or a scientist talks
about energy, we run the risk of misunderstanding if we fail to pay
careful attention to the precise meanings of their words. These
are the kinds of occasions when definitions are important; without
them we may misunderstand what is being said. Of course, we
also need definitions when we come across a word we are
unfamiliar with, or when a familiar word is being used in an
unfamiliar way. In these cases, it is not misunderstanding that we
want to avoid, but not understanding at all.
To understand how definitions work we need to note the
distinction between the sense of a term (sometimes called its
connotation or intension) and its reference (or denotation or
extension). The sense of a word is what we understand when we
understand its meaning, and the reference is the class of things to
which the word refers. The sense of the term bachelor, for
example, is the concept of an unmarried male, and the reference
of the term is the class of all bachelors in the universe, not only
those who now exist but those who have existed in the past and
may exist in the future. All words must have a sense, although
some words have no reference. Words with no reference,
however, are quite rare and, as we saw, pose special difficulties.
The purposes of definition
In order to understand how definitions work, we need to be aware
of the different purposes for which definitions may be put
forward. There are three main types.
1. Reportive definitions
The most common purpose of definitions is to convey the
information needed to use a word correctly. The correct use of a
word consists of its standard usage — how the word is in fact
used by those who make regular use of it. When we want to know
the meaning of a word in its standard usage, we need a reportive
definition, i.e., one that reports its standard usage. Dictionaries
always give reportive definitions. Reportive definitions can
sometimes be troublesome because it may not be clear whether
or not a particular use can be regarded as part of the standard
usage. For example, fifty years ago the word cohort was
standardly used only to refer to a group of persons banded
together. (This reflected its original meaning in Latin, where it
referred to a military unit roughly akin to a platoon.) Now,
however, it is usually used to refer to a friend or associate. The
sentence Fred arrived with his cohort, if used to mean that Fred
arrived with his friend, would have been incorrect fifty years ago,
but is now usually accepted as correct. This shift in meaning was
probably brought about by people who did not understand the
old usage, and who were therefore using the word incorrectly, but
the mistake has become so widespread that it is no longer
regarded as incorrect. Only dedicated linguistic reactionaries
continue to regard the new usage as incorrect. Except for cases
where a meaning shift has not yet been accepted as standard
usage, however, reportive definitions are usually quite
1. Stipulative definitions
Sometimes it is useful to be able to fix a particular meaning for a
word. Someone who is writing a report on land use in Ontario
would find it necessary to define the categories of land use that
are being employed. The report would therefore stipulate how the
words agricultural, residential, industrial, recreational, and so forth
are being used. When we do this we are not attempting to report
the standard usage, although it would clearly be foolish to depart
radically from it. For many specific purposes, such as doing
research or enacting legislation, it makes good sense to stipulate
the precise meaning that is to be attached to key words. As long
as this stipulated meaning is explicitly stated, there is no risk of
misunderstanding, and there is an obvious gain in clarity and
There is nothing to prevent us from inventing a new word by using
a stipulative definition. For example, we might invent the word
spinge to refer to the deposit that builds up between the bristles
on a toothbrush, or the word telerape to refer to obscene
telephone calls. We can also stipulate a new meaning for an old
word: for example, using bubble to refer to a promise made by a
politician. There is, however, no guarantee that these new words
or uses will become part of the standard usage. This is likely to
happen only when there is a need (or a perceived need) for the
new term. If enough people think it is important to be able to talk
about a new object or phenomenon or to refer to something in a
new way, then a new word will usually be forthcoming, and will
soon become part of standard usage. Until this happens,
however, new words depend for their meaning upon stipulative
1. Essentialist definitions
Some words — such as justice, truth, love, religion, freedom,
deity, death, law, peace, health, and science — refer to things or
qualities that have considerable importance. When we ask What
is justice? we are not asking for a reportive definition, since such
a definition might reflect a widespread misconception about the
essential nature of justice. Nor would we be asking for a
stipulative definition, since we can invent these for ourselves as
easily as the next person. We are asking for a definition that
reveals the essential nature of justice.
The correctness of an essentialist definition cannot be determined
merely by an appeal to standard usage, like a reportive definition,
nor by an appeal to its usefulness, like a stipulative definition.
Essentialist definitions really need to be understood as
compressed theories; they attempt to express in succinct form a
theory about the nature of what is being defined. Thus, assessing
an essentialist definition involves assessing a theory, and this
goes far beyond questions about the meaning of words.
These three purposes of definition are important since when we
want to determine whether a definition is acceptable we must first
decide its purpose. Good stipulative definitions and good
essentialist definitions are usually inadequate reportive
definitions, and good reportive definitions are usually
unsatisfactory essentialist definitions.
Methods of definition
There are several different methods that can be used to define
words. These methods can be used for reportive, stipulative, and
essentialist definitions.
1. Genus/species
The most common method of defining a word is to refer to a class
(i.e., a genus) of which the term is a member and to specify how it
is different from other members of the class (i.e., the species). For
example: A seaplane is an airplane that is adapted for landing on
and taking off from a body of water.
The definition states that a seaplane is a member of the class of
airplanes (i.e., it is a type of airplane) that is distinguished from
other airplanes by being adapted for landing on and taking off
from a body of water.
Most words can be defined using the genus species method.
Some, however, cannot because they lack a genus of which they
are a member. A seaplane is a member of the class of airplanes;
an airplane is a member of the class of machines; a machine is a
member of the class of . . . ? At this point we have to look hard to
find an appropriate class. We might use the class of systems: A
machine is a system of interacting parts. But then what is the
appropriate class for systems? At some point, the process of
finding a genus class must end, and at this point we can no
longer use the genus species method.
2. Ostensive
Sometimes the meaning of a word can easily be conveyed by
giving examples, either verbally or by pointing. If someone wants
to know what a bassoon is, it may be sufficient to hold one up
and say, Here is a bassoon. Or we may point one out by saying,
The bald guy in the third row of the orchestra is playing a
bassoon. Sometimes it is necessary to give several examples in
order to ensure that the meaning is clear. If we try to define
vehicle ostensively, we will need to point to more than cars: we
will also need to point to vans, trucks, busses, tractors,
motorcycles, bicycles, and so on. If the range of examples given
is too limited, we will have conveyed only part of the meaning of
the term.
Using ostensive definitions for general terms can be problematic.
If we attempt to define ostensively terms such as fairness or truth,
it may be difficult for someone to grasp what the different
examples have in common. For some words it is difficult to point
to or give examples: for example, neutron, space, or history. And
words that have no reference (for example, very, where, and
forever) simply cannot be defined ostensively because there is
nothing to point to.
3. By synonym
Often all that is needed to define a word is to give a synonym. For
example: Effulgent means the same as radiant.
Obviously, this method only works for words that have more or
less exact synonyms. Words that lack a synonym have to be
defined using one of the other methods. And, of course, such
definitions will only be helpful for someone who understands the
meaning of the synonym.
4. Contextual
Some words can best be defined by using the word in a standard
context and providing a different sentence that does not use the
word but has the same meaning. For example, the concept of
logical strength used in this book can be defined as follows:
This argument has logical strength means the same as The
premises of this argument, if true, provide a justification for
believing that its conclusion is true.
5. Operational
Sometimes it is important that terms be defined very precisely. In
science, for example, it is essential that each concept be defined
in a way that specifies exactly when it can be applied and when it
cannot. One way of achieving such precision is to establish a rule
that the term is to be applied only when a specified test or
operation yields a certain result. For example: A genius is anyone
who scores over 140 on a standard I. Q. test.
Operational definitions are commonly used outside science when
defining terms that are used to distinguish things that form a
continuum, such as the quality of meat, student performance, or
degree of drunkenness. Thus we have operational definitions for
such terms as Grade A beef, honours standing, and legal
intoxication. Operational definitions often arise initially as
stipulative definitions, but may become part of the standard
Assessing reportive definitions
A good stipulative definition is one that fixes a precise meaning of
a term in a way that will be useful for some specific purpose. A
good essentialist definition is one that reflects a true or
reasonable theory about the essential nature of the phenomenon
to which the term refers. But what is a good reportive definition?
The short answer to this question is that a good reportive
definition of a word is one that tells us what others mean when
they use the word and what others will understand us to mean
when we use it. In other words, it will accurately describe the
actual standard usage of the term. There are several ways in
which a reportive definition can fail to be a good definition
Too broad
A definition is too broad when the defining phrase refers to some
things that are not included in the reference of the term being
defined. The definition A typewriter is a means of writing fails as a
definition because the defining phrase (a means of writing) refers
not only to typewriters but also to chalk, pens, and pencils,
among other things. The definition is too broad because it
includes more than it should. Here are some other examples of
definitions that are too broad:
• Soccer is a game played with a ball.
• A beaver is an amphibious rodent, native to northeastern North
• A sofa is a piece of furniture designed for sitting.
If we regard these not as definitions, but as statements, they are
all true. Soccer is, obviously, a game played with a ball. In a
sense, therefore, definitions that are too broad do not say
anything that is actually false. It is when such statements are put
forward as definitions that problems may arise.
Too narrow
A definition is too narrow when the defining phrase fails to refer to
some things that are included in the reference of the term being
defined. The definition
“A school is an institution that aims at teaching children how to
read and write” is a bad definition because the defining phrase
fails to refer to schools that do not aim at teaching children how
to read and write, such as medical schools and dance schools. It
is too narrow; it excludes these other kinds of schools. Here are
some other examples of definitions that are too narrow:
• A parent is a person’s mother or father.
• A farm is a place where crops are grown.
• A bigamist is a man who is married to two women at the same
As with definitions that are too broad, definitions that are too
narrow do not necessarily say anything that is false. A true
statement may be a bad definition.
Too broad & too narrow
A definition can sometimes be too broad and too narrow at the
same time. This happens when the defining phrase refers to some
things to which the term does not (too broad) and also fails to
refer to some things to which the term does (too narrow). For
example: A pen is an instrument designed for writing words.
This definition is too broad because it includes pencils and
typewriters as well as pens, and it is too narrow because it fails to
include pens that are designed for drawing pictures.
In order to determine whether a definition is too broad or too
narrow, it is necessary to compare the reference of the term being
defined with the reference of the defining phrase. Two questions
need to be asked: (1) does the reference of the defining phrase
include things that are not included in the reference of the term
being defined? If it does, then the definition is too broad. And (2)
does the reference of the defining phrase exclude things that are
included in the reference of the term? If it does, then the definition
is too narrow.
Here are some examples of definitions that are both too broad
and too narrow:
• Hockey is a game played on ice in Canada.
• A doctor is a person who treats physical ailments. A professor
is a teacher who does research.
A circular definition is one that includes the term being defined (or
its cognate) in the definition. For example: A golf ball is a small
spherical object used in the game of golf.
The problem here is obvious: anyone who does not already know
what golf is, is not going to be enlightened by the definition.
Circular definitions are therefore usually useless.
When a definition uses a cognate of the term being defined the
circularity may be less obvious. For example: A surgeon is a
person who practises surgery.
This definition is circular because surgeon and surgery are
cognates (i.e., they come from the same root.) Circular definitions
involving cognates may not always be useless, however, since a
person may know the meaning of one and not the other.
People do not often put forward circular definitions that are as
blatant as these examples. But sometimes a pair of definitions,
neither of which is itself circular, can lead to a kind of circularity
when taken together. If someone defines freedom as the absence
of coercion, and then defines coercion as the absence of
freedom, the definitions taken together are circular and therefore
likely to be useless.
A definition can also be useless when it fails, through the use of
vague, obscure, or metaphorical language, to express clearly the
meaning of the term being defined. Consider the following
A marathon is a long footrace.
A grampus is a kind of blowing, spouting, blunt-headed, dolphin-
like cetacean. A fact is anything that rubs the corners off our
The first of these definitions uses a vague expression (long) that
leaves the meaning of the term somewhat obscure. The second
uses a scientific term (cetacean) that is likely to be unenlightening
(to non-biologists, at least). The third is likely to be uninformative
because it uses a metaphor (rubs the corners off). In most
circumstances these definitions will be unsatisfactory. However, a
definition that uses an obscure technical term may nevertheless
be correct (for example, the second of the above definitions), and
if we want to have a precise understanding of the term we will
have to look for a definition of the obscure term and hope that it
is not equally obscure.
A warning
Defining words is an art. It requires good judgement to know what
kind of definition is appropriate in any particular context.
Compilers of dictionaries attempt to provide definitions that can
serve in a very broad range of contexts, but even they make no
claim to give a full and complete account of the meanings of
words. They do not, for example, attempt to cover slang, dialect,
or metaphorical uses.
Most of us are not writers of dictionaries, and we only attempt to
provide definitions when a particular need arises. Sometimes we
are asked what a word means. A friend asks what the difference
is between disinterested and uninterested. A German tourist asks
what street means. A child asks what obstetrician means. In such
circumstances, there is no need to give a full definition: we need
only provide enough information to remove the questioner’s
ignorance. The friend may only need to be told that disinterested
means the same as impartial. The German tourist only needs to
be informed that street means strasse. The child will be content if
told that obstetrician means baby doctor. The appropriate kind of
answer is one that meets the needs of the questioner, and this is
usually less than a full reportive definition.
Sometimes, however, we need to define a word because we want
to increase or deepen our understanding. This is likely to arise
with terms that are abstract or stand for a complex object or
phenomenon; we often have a general idea of what they mean
and can point to examples, but find it very difficult to say
precisely what they mean.
For most people, the following terms fall into this category:
energy, classical, crime, psychiatry, nation, pornography, religion,
imagination, evil, illness, cause, and trust. These are important
matters, and if we want to increase our understanding of them we
must attempt to ensure that we have a clear understanding of the
words. But even here we do not usually want a full reportive
Often we are interested in only one sense of the word (for
example, energy as a scientific term), and sometimes we want
only to be able to distinguish between similar things (for example,
between psychiatry and psychology).
Assignment 3b

Use this scrolling text box to complete the assignment.
Choose and comment on two (2) of the following from
“Questions for Discussion.” Then, submit your answers to
the two (2) questions to Canvas under Assignment 3.
Questions for Discussion
1. A psychological disorder is any personal way of
perceiving or interpreting events which is used repeatedly
in spite of its consistent failure (from G.A. Kelly,
Personality Theory and Research [Toronto: John Wiley and
Sons, 1970], p. 240).
2. The term suicide is applied to all cases of death
resulting directly or indirectly from a positive or negative
act of the victim himself, which he knows will produce his
Clarifying meaning
The failure to understand the meaning of what others say, and the
failure to understand how others can misunderstand the meaning
of what we say, are the seeds of much frustration, resentment,
and discord. In this chapter we examine some of the ways in
which misunderstanding can result from a lack of clarity in the
language we use. Our purpose here is to develop the ability to
recognize obscurity in what others say, and to learn how to say
clearly what we mean.
The principle of charity
Often we are confronted by a choice between two or more
interpretations of what someone has said, and sometimes these
interpretations have different degrees of plausibility. If we adopt
the least plausible interpretation it is often easy to show that the
statement is false. On the other hand, if we adopt the most
plausible interpretation it is usually more difficult to show that the
statement is false. It is tempting, therefore, when faced with a
statement we disagree with, to adopt the least plausible
interpretation of it. After all, if we can get away with foisting an
implausible view on our opponents it makes it easier to show that
they are wrong (or stupid, irrational, foolish, etc). It is especially
tempting to do this when the most implausible interpretation is
the literal one. For example:
• The worst thing that can happen to a worker in this province is
to fall into the clutches of the Workers’ Compensation Board.
• The only difference between an amateur and a professional
musician is that the amateur performs for personal satisfaction
while the professional performs for money.
• Doctors who perform abortions are guilty of first degree murder.
We all recognize that the literal interpretation of such statements
is unlikely to be what the speaker intended. They are
exaggerations or overstatements. If the speaker is present we
may want to have a bit of fun by pointing out the absurdity of
what was actually said. Sometimes this is legitimate; for example,
when debating in parliament. However, when there is an
important issue at stake we should not let our desire to poke fun
at our opponents prevent us from listening to what they are really
trying to say. When our opponents are not present and cannot
clarify what they have said we ought to be prepared to do so on
their behalf. It is up to us to find the fairest interpretation of their
words, the one that best represents their presumed intentions.
Thus, in any discussion we have a moral obligation to treat our
opponents fairly. When they are present we ought to give them
the opportunity to clarify what they have said. When they are not
present, we have a moral obligation to follow the principle of
charity, that is, to adopt the most charitable interpretation of their
words. The most charitable interpretation is the one that makes
our opponent’s views as reasonable, plausible, or defensible as
possible. According to the principle of charity, whenever two
interpretations are possible we should always adopt the more
Why should we be charitable to our opponents? After all, it might
be argued that if the purpose of engaging in a debate is to win,
the principle of charity will make our task more difficult. But
winning is not the primary purpose of rational discussion. The
primary purpose should always be to discover the truth and to
develop views and positions that are as reasonable and
defensible as they can be. It is always possible that our
opponents are right and we are wrong, or that our opponents are
partly right and our position needs to be amended in some way;
in either case we stand to benefit from discussion. Even if our
opponents are totally wrong it is a useful test of the strength of
our own position to be able to show their errors. In any case we
owe it to our opponents as persons to interpret their words in the
most reasonable manner. Anyone who has ever been involved in
a discussion with an opponent who persistently violates the
principle of charity will understand the unfairness of such
treatment and will appreciate the importance of observing the
The principle of charity should be followed not only when we are
interpreting single statements, but also when we are interpreting
longer passages and even entire books. Throughout this book we
shall often find it necessary to invoke the principle of charity.
Being charitable to our opponents should eventually become
second nature.
Linguistic ambiguity
Ambiguity & vagueness
Some sentences are ambiguous. Some sentences are vague. But
ambiguity and vagueness are not the same. An ambiguous
sentence is one that has two or more different but usually quite
precise meanings. A vague sentence is one that lacks a precise
meaning. Ambiguous sentences should be avoided whenever
there is a risk of misinterpretation — whenever there is a risk that
the hearer will select the wrong meaning. Vague sentences,
however, are necessary if we are trying to express a vague
thought or feeling. For example: I don’t care much for
Beethoven’s early string quartets; That was a noisy party they
had last night, and it went on until all hours. Lots of people own
two television sets; Margaret Laurence’s novels have a
disquieting effect upon the reader.
These sentences are vague but they are not ambiguous. In most
contexts there is no need for greater precision about such
matters. If challenged we could easily be a little more precise, but
it would be very difficult (and usually pointless) to attempt to
remove the vagueness altogether. There is nothing wrong with
vagueness when we want to express a vague thought or when
there is no need for precision.
In contexts in which precision is needed, however, we sometimes
come across sentences that look quite precise, but that turn out
to be extremely vague. For example:
• Applicants must hold a diploma in early childhood education or
have equivalent work experience.
The phrase equivalent work experience sounds quite precise, but
without further information it is impossible to tell what kinds of
work experience are going to count as equivalent. Does raising
three children of one’s own count? What about occasional
babysitting over a period of six years? A halftime job as a helper
in a nursery school for three years? Two years’ experience as a
kindergarten teacher? Potential applicants need a precise
statement of the minimum qualifications for the position, but the
sentence fails to provide it.
Those who use vague sentences when precision is needed or
who use vague sentences that look precise, should be
challenged. Sometimes it is quite easy to see precisely what
needs to be challenged. For example:
• The fact that the Liberals won more seats than any other party
in the last federal election shows that the voters want a Liberal
The vagueness here arises with the phrase the voters. We need to
ask, how many voters? We know that the voters cannot refer to
all the voters, since other parties also received votes. Does it
mean most of the voters? This may well be the speaker’s intent,
but if so the claim is false since in fact less than half of the votes
cast were for Liberal candidates. The Liberal victory resulted from
the multiparty system, not from the support of most of the
electorate. This example shows the importance of asking for
quantifiers: Do you mean all, most, or just some? and Do you
mean always, usually, or just sometimes?
In other cases, however, the vagueness arises from the use of
terms that are inherently vague. The cabinet minister who says,
“My officials are monitoring this situation very closely, and I can
promise that we shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that
the situation is resolved in a way that is fair to all the parties
involved,” should be challenged on grounds of vagueness.
Despite the appearance of having promised to do something
specific, the minister has not really promised to do anything at all.
What are appropriate measures? They could be anything or
nothing. What does fair to all the parties mean? We have no clear
idea. Such phrases are inherently vague, and can mean almost
anything. People who use them should be challenged to say more
precisely what they mean.
It is important to understand that ambiguity and vagueness are
properties of sentences and not of the words themselves. This is
because words typically have more than one meaning, and the
context in which they are used usually tells us which meaning is
the intended one. It is the context that makes sentences vague,
and it is when the context lets us down that sentences become
ambiguous. Of course, the ambiguity or vagueness of a sentence
often rests upon the meaning of a word or phrase, but the
ambiguity or vagueness arises only at the level of the sentence.
Here are some other sentences that should be challenged on
grounds of vagueness, at least in normal contexts:
• Essays for this course should be long enough to deal
adequately with the assigned topic.
• You should sign our petition to protest against the violation of
our rights by the government.
• If you persist in this course of action, all hell is going to break
Referential ambiguity
Referential ambiguity arises when a word or phrase could, in the
context of a particular sentence, refer to two or more properties
or things. Usually the context tells us which meaning is intended,
but when it doesn’t we may choose the wrong meaning. If we are
not sure which reference is intended by the speaker, we will
misunderstand the speaker’s meaning if we assign the wrong
(i.e., the unintended) meaning to the word. If someone tells you
that Pavarotti is a big opera star, you will have to guess whether
big refers to fat or to famous. Sometimes, however, it is the
context that creates the ambiguity. If someone is comparing the
merits of two universities and says, It is quite a good university,
the context may not tell us which university is being referred to.
Referential ambiguities are usually easy to spot and, once
recognized, are easily avoided. This is especially true in
conversation, since we can ask for clarification: Do you mean that
Pavarotti is fat or famous? Or, if we select the wrong meaning, it
will not be long before we discover our mistake: Oh, I thought you
meant he was famous! There is, however, one type of referential
ambiguity that deserves special mention: that between the
collective and the distributive use of a term. Most nouns refer to a
class of individual objects: dog, for example, refers to the class
consisting of all dogs and book refers to the class of all books.
Usually when we use such nouns we do so in order to say
something about each and every member of the class. When we
use a term in this way it is being used distributively. But
sometimes we use terms to say something not about each and
every member of the class but about the class as such. When we
use a term in this way it is being used collectively. Consider the
Our university has a large wrestling team.
If we interpret wrestling team distributively, the statement means
that the individual members of the team are large. If we interpret
the term collectively, the statement means that the team has a
large number of members. Usually the context makes it clear
whether a term should be interpreted distributively or collectively,
but sometimes it does not and we can mistakenly assume the
wrong interpretation.
It is useful to develop the ability to recognize referential
ambiguities even when they are unlikely to cause
misunderstandings, for then we are less likely to assume a wrong
interpretation inadvertently. Here are some more examples of
sentences containing referential ambiguities:
• Tom gave Ted’s skis to his sister.
• Harold told me that he would do it next week.
• Americans make more telephone calls than Canadians.
• The government has provided constant funding for
postsecondary education over the last three years.
Grammatical ambiguity
Grammatical ambiguity arises when the grammatical structure of
a sentence allows two interpretations, each of which gives rise to
a different meaning. A few years ago a British newspaper
reported that:
Lord Denning spoke against the artificial insemination of women
in the House of Lords.
The grammar makes it unclear whether it was the speech or the
insemination that took place in the House of Lords. This is
because the phrase in the House of Lords could modify either
insemination or spoke. Here are a few examples:
He promised to pay Patrick and Michael fifty dollars to clear all
the junk out of the basement and take it to the dump. Ashley
strode out of the studio with Nikki following her, saying, ”I’ll never
give him up.”
Olga decided to quit smoking while driving to Toronto.
Jim and I have suffered tremendously; often I wake up in the
morning and wish I were dead and I know Jim does too.
Sometimes we come across sentences that are clearly
ambiguous, but where it is hard to determine whether the
ambiguity is referential or grammatical. Consider the sentence Let
me go. If someone grabs your arm in the midst of an argument
you might say, Let me go, meaning that you want the person to
let go of your arm. If your spouse says that someone is going to
have to go out to get some milk for breakfast and you say, Let me
go, you are obviously volunteering to go and get some milk.
Whether this is a grammatical or referential ambiguity is not
important, however, as long as we can recognize that it is
Use & mention
Another type of linguistic ambiguity arises through the failure to
distinguish between using and mentioning a word or phrase.
Consider the following sentences:
Tom said I was angry. Tom said, “I was angry.”
Clearly these sentences have different meanings, even though the
words are identical. The difference in meaning arises because the
phrase I was angry is being used in the first sentence but is only
mentioned in the second. Quotation marks or italics are
commonly used to mark the difference. But direct quotation is not
the only occasion when we want to mention a word and in these
cases we should also use italics or quotation marks to make our
meaning clear. For example: Paddy is Irish.
As it stands, this sentence means that a particular person, called
Paddy, is an Irishman. But if we put quotation marks around
“Paddy” it would mean that “Paddy” is an Irish name. Here are
some more examples of sentences whose meaning would
change if the word or phrase which is mentioned (as indicated by
Capitalized Words or quotation marks) were being used instead:
The Music of the Renaissance is extremely demanding. The word
“itself” is hard to define.
“John Smith” was placed on the ballot.
The Joy of Sex costs $24.95.
The ability to detect linguistic ambiguities is an important skill, for
undetected ambiguities can create misunderstandings that lead
to those frustrating discussions in which everyone seems to be at
cross purposes. On the other hand, people who delight in finding
linguistic ambiguities that do not in fact mislead anyone may be
amusing for a time but can become extremely annoying. Since
our interest is in clarifying meaning, we are concerned only with
ambiguities that do or may mislead.
Assignment 3c

Use this scrolling text box to complete the assignment.
Choose and comment on two (2) of the following from
“SelfTest” prompts. Then, submit your answers to the two
(2) to Canvas under Assignment 3.
1. Billy gave his sisters a box of candy for Christmas.
2. He’s a chicken.
3. Melissa only has one dress.
4. General Loses Battle With Nurses. (A newspaper
5. Conversational German is extremely difficult.
Analytic, contradictory & synthetic statements
Usually, when we know what a statement means we still do not
know whether it is true or false. If I say, I was born on October 22,
you understand the meaning of what I have said, but you do not
know whether what I have said is true or false. There are,
however, certain statements whose truth or falsity is determined
by their meaning. Consider the following statements:
All bachelors are unmarried adult males. Some bachelors are
Once we understand the meaning of these statements, we know
that the first is true and the second is false. They are true, or
false, by definition. We do not need to investigate the facts in
order to know whether they are true or false. Someone who tries
to discover their truth or falsity by sending a questionnaire to a
group of bachelors asking whether or not they were married
obviously does not understand the meaning of the statements.
A statement that is true by definition is called an analytic
statement. A statement that is false by definition is called a
contradictory statement. A statement whose truth or falsity is not
solely dependent upon the meanings of the words in it is called a
synthetic statement. All statements can be placed in one of these
three categories.
These distinctions are useful in clarifying the meaning of certain
statements whose meaning is imprecise. When a statement
seems false, we can ask whether it is a false synthetic or a
contradictory statement. When a statement seems true, we can
ask whether it is a true synthetic or an analytic statement. For
example, if someone claims that every successful person is
wealthy it is useful to know whether they are interpreting the word
successful as meaning financially successful. If so, their claim
becomes analytic, for it really means that all wealthy people are
wealthy. It is usually a waste of time arguing against an analytic
statement. In practice, however, people do not usually approach
discussions with precise definitions of the key terms. It is when
they are challenged — for example, when someone says, I know
several very successful poets and artists who are not wealthy —
that the temptation arises to define words in a way that makes
their claim analytic. Since analytic statements are true by
definition, such a move seems to ensure victory in the debate.
But such victories are usually hollow, for analytic statements are
always in a sense trivial. Obviously, all successful people are
wealthy — if by successful you mean wealthy. But why should
anyone think it interesting to claim that all wealthy people are
wealthy? It is true, but trivially true. The interesting question in
such a debate is whether one should regard financial success as
the only kind of success, and this cannot be determined merely
by defining words. In practice, people who attempt to win a
debate by making their claim analytic usually shift back and forth
between analytic and synthetic interpretations in the course of the
debate. To show that their claim is true they adopt the analytic
interpretation; to show that it is important they adopt the
synthetic interpretation. In this way they convince themselves that
their claim is both true and important; but the true meaning is
trivial and the important meaning is unproven and possibly false.
Sometimes a claim is made into an analytic one in ways that are
indirect, and it may take some perseverance to uncover these
moves. Usually, these indirect moves arise from arguments that
are used to defend a claim. The claim that a free enterprise
system is superior to a socialist system, in its most plausible
interpretation, is a synthetic statement. But suppose the following
argument were put forward to support this claim:
1. In a free enterprise system market forces determine how
resources are allocated within the society.
2. It is more efficient to allocate resources through market forces
than through decisions by government officials.
3. An efficient system is superior to an inefficient system.
4. Therefore, a free enterprise system is superior to a socialist
This is a logically strong argument, in the sense that if the first
three statements are true then the conclusion must also be true.
The danger arises when attempting to show that premises (2) and
(3) are true. It is all too easy to assume their truth by regarding
them as analytic. Premise (2) becomes analytic if it is assumed
that an efficient allocation of resources is by definition one that is
produced by market forces. Premise (3) becomes analytic if it is
interpreted to mean that an economically efficient system is
economically superior to an economically inefficient system. But if
the premises are interpreted in this way, then the conclusion
needs to be re interpreted to mean that a system that allocates
resources efficiently is more efficient than one that does not
allocate resources efficiently. In this way the conclusion itself
becomes analytic. It is true, but trivially so, since its truth
depends not on the facts but only on the way the key terms are
defined. The real argument will, of course, resurface as an
argument about the truth or adequacy of the interpretations of
premises 2 and 3.
Descriptive & evaluative meaning
The main uses of language include the first two of these — the
descriptive and the evaluative — are probably the most common
uses of language, and probably also the most fundamental. As a
result, we find that many words have come to have meanings that
are both descriptive and evaluative. When someone says that
Fritz Kreisler was a renowned violinist, the word renowned has a
double meaning. First, it means that Kreisler was well known as a
violinist. Second, it means that he was an excellent violinist. The
first meaning is descriptive, since it refers to the fact that Kreisler
was well known. If there is a disagreement about this fact it can
be settled by looking for historical evidence regarding how widely
known he was during his lifetime. The second meaning, however,
is evaluative; the speaker is giving his or her opinion that Kreisler
was an excellent violinist. This opinion is not factual, since if there
is a disagreement over whether Kreisler was an excellent violinist
it cannot be settled by consulting the facts. Someone who thinks
that Kreisler was not an excellent violinist would be able to accept
the descriptive meaning but would have to reject the evaluative
meaning of our statement.
There are many descriptive words and phrases that also have an
evaluative meaning. It is common to find two or more words or
phrases that have more or less the same descriptive meaning but
different evaluative meanings. We have seen that renowned and
well known have the same descriptive meaning, but the former
has a positive evaluative meaning that the latter lacks. The word
notorious has the same descriptive meaning, but has a negative
evaluative meaning. The evaluative meanings of renowned and
notorious convey an evaluation of the person as being good or
bad, whereas well known conveys nothing about the speaker’s
evaluation. Notice the shift in the evaluative meanings in the
following pairs of sentences while the descriptive meaning
remains more or less unchanged:
• He is very self-confident. He is arrogant.
• She is sexually liberated. She is promiscuous.
• He is a dedicated conservative. He is a fanatical conservative.
• They are freedom fighters. They are terrorists.
It is important to be aware of such differences in meaning, since
we can sometimes be led to accept a particular evaluation
through a failure to distinguish descriptive and evaluative
meanings. The facts that would show that someone is very self-
confident and the facts that would show that someone is arrogant
are very similar, and a skilled arguer can easily create the
impression that someone who is self-confident is really arrogant
(or vice versa). But the same facts can only be used to justify two
statements with different evaluative meanings if the evaluative
meaning is ignored and they are regarded as purely descriptive
statements. The evaluative part of the meaning requires a
separate justification.
Necessary & sufficient conditions
A special kind of ambiguity can arise when talking about the
conditions that have to be met in order for something to occur.
Referring to such conditions is common when we are talking
about the causes (i.e., the causal conditions) of certain events: for
example, Under what conditions would a major economic
depression occur again? It is also common when we are talking
about entitlements or justifications for certain actions: for
example, What are the conditions for graduating with distinction?
It seems that all we need to do to answer such questions is to list
the conditions that, if they existed, would lead to a depression or
to graduating with distinction. Unfortunately, the relationships
between conditions and what they are conditions for are often a
great deal more complex than they seem, and in order to clarify
these relationships philosophers and scientists have developed a
distinction between two types of conditions, necessary conditions
and sufficient conditions. Much confusion and ambiguity can
result when these two types of conditions are not clearly
To understand the ambiguity that results when the two types of
conditions are not distinguished, consider the following:
1. Being at least eighteen years of age is a condition for being
eligible to vote in federal elections in Canada.

This could mean either of the following:
2. Anyone who is at least eighteen years of age is eligible to vote
in federal elections in Canada, or
3. Anyone who is not at least eighteen years of age is not eligible
to vote in federal elections in Canada.

These sentences have different meanings. We can see the
difference by asking what each says about a particular case,
for example, a twenty-seven-year-old prison inmate. According
to 2 such a person is eligible to vote, but 3 says nothing about
whether such a person is eligible to vote. In fact the correct
interpretation of 1 is 3. By law, every eligible voter must be at
least eighteen years of age — that is, if you are not eighteen
you can’t vote — but the law also states that judges, persons
serving prison sentences, and insane persons are not eligible
to vote. This means that not everyone who is eighteen years of
age is eligible to vote, which means that 2 is false. Being at
least eighteen years of age is a condition, but it is not the only
condition that has to be satisfied for someone to be an eligible
voter. To avoid this ambiguity we should revise 1 to read:
4. Being at least eighteen years of age is a necessary condition
for being eligible to vote in federal elections in Canada.
A necessary condition is defined as follows: X is a necessary
condition for Y if, and only if, when X is false Y must also be false
(or, when X is absent Y cannot occur). In other words, a
necessary condition for Y is something whose falsity or absence
prevents Y, but whose truth or presence does not guarantee Y.
This yields a simple test for the truth of a necessary condition
statement: look for an instance of Y that is not also an X. If we
can find one such case then the statement must be false, since
we have discovered an instance where X is not a necessary
condition for Y. If we cannot find such a case then we should
accept the statement.
A sufficient condition is quite different from a necessary condition.
Consider the following:
(1) Holding a B.A. from the University is a condition for being a
member of the University Alumni Association.
This is ambiguous between:
(2) Anyone holding a B.A. from the University is a member of the
University Alumni Association, and
(3) Anyone not holding a B.A. from the University is not a member
of the University Alumni Association.
Obviously, (2) is the most likely interpretation of (1). Notice the
structural difference from our first example, where (3) was the
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interpretation. This is because here we are dealing with a
sufficient condition. A person who holds a B.A. from the
University does not need to meet any additional conditions in
order to be a member of the University Alumni Association,
although obviously holding a B.A. is not the only way one can
become a member of the University Alumni Association. To
remove the ambiguity we need to revise (1) to read:
(4) Holding a B.A. from the University is a sufficient condition for
being a member of the University Alumni Association.
A sufficient condition is defined as follows: X is a sufficient
condition for Y if, and only if, when X is true Y must also be true
(or, when X is present Y must occur). In other words, a sufficient
condition for Y is something whose truth or presence guarantees
Y, but whose falsity or absence does not prevent Y. This yields a
simple test for the truth of a sufficient condition statement: look
for an instance of an X that is not also a Y. If we can find one such
case then the statement must be false, since we have discovered
an instance where X is not a sufficient condition for Y. If we can
find no such case then we should accept the statement.
The essential difference between a necessary and a sufficient
condition for some Y is that a necessary condition is something
whose falsity or absence guarantees that Y is false or won’t
occur, and a sufficient condition is something whose truth or
presence guarantees that Y is true or will occur.
Sometimes, a condition can be both necessary and sufficient at
the same time. Consider the following:
It is a condition for a candidate being declared the winner in an
election for the Ontario legislature that the candidate received
more votes than any other candidate in the election.
In this example, receiving more votes than any other candidate is
a sufficient condition for being declared the winner (since any one
who receives more votes than any other candidate must be
declared the winner); and it is also a necessary condition (since
every candidate who is declared the winner must have received
more votes than any other candidate). Another example of this
sort is the relationship between Today is Tuesday and Tomorrow
is Wednesday. Each of these statements is both a necessary and
sufficient condition for the other.
Now, just to make things more complicated, we need to note
what can happen when two or more conditions for the same thing
are joined together. Being at least eighteen years of age is not the
only necessary condition for being eligible to vote in federal
elections in Canada; we have already noted that one must not be
a judge, a person serving a prison sentence, or an insane person,
but in addition one must also be a Canadian citizen. We can set
out these necessary conditions as follows:
The necessary conditions for being eligible to vote in federal
elections in Canada are: (1) being at least eighteen years of age,
(2) not being a judge, a person serving a prison sentence, or an
insane person, and (3) being a Canadian citizen.
These constitute all the necessary conditions for being eligible to
vote in federal elections in Canada. But notice that these three
necessary conditions are, when taken together, a sufficient
condition. This is because any person who satisfies all three of
these conditions is eligible to vote. Whenever we can list all the
necessary conditions for something we will have listed the
conditions that are jointly sufficient conditions.
So far, all our examples have dealt with criteria or entitlements.
When dealing with causes, necessary and sufficient conditions
work in the same way. When scientists search for a full account of
the causes of some phenomenon, they are looking not only for
the conditions that are individually sufficient, but also for the
conditions that are individually necessary and jointly sufficient.
However, if our sole interest is in controlling some phenomenon
all we need is a partial account of the causes of that
phenomenon. If we want to prevent something from happening
we don’t need a full account of its causal conditions, since if we
can eliminate one necessary condition then we can prevent the
event from occurring. For example, if we want to prevent a
disease from spreading all we need to do is find and eliminate
one of the necessary conditions for the spread of the disease. On
the other hand, if we want to produce a certain effect, all we need
to do is to find one (or one set) of its sufficient conditions that we
can bring about. For example, if we want to lose twenty pounds
we need to find only one way (for example, exercise) that works
(i.e., is sufficient), and can ignore all the other ways (for example,
dieting, diet pills).

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Chapter 4
After reading this chapter, students should be
able to do the following:
1. Discover the mistakes in communication.

2. Illustrate the effect of grammar.

3. Identify innuendo.

4. Examine the complexities of communication.
This chapter is designed to reveal some of the major pitfalls in
normal communication. Usually your goal is to communicate well.
You want to be clear, to be precise, and to get the message
across with the proper tone. But not always. There are many
reasons for not wanting to directly say what you mean. That
birthday present from Aunt Bessie deserves a thank you, but you
don’t want to tell her that the present itself is useless to you.
When you insert into your history essay the famous remark
“History is a pack of tricks played on the dead,” you don’t intend
to be taken literally. However, this chapter explores the logical
aspects of good communication when you do want to say what
you mean and mean what you say. This goal is not always easy to
Not realizing what you are saying
All of us sometimes say things that aren’t quite what we mean,
but those whose native language is not English have special
troubles in this regard. Here are some examples of items written
in English by non-native speakers:
• Sign outside a doctor’s office in Rome: “Specialist in women
and other diseases.”
• Bucharest hotel lobby: “The lift is being fixed for the next day.
During that time, we regret that you will be unbearable.”
•In a Serbian hotel: “The flattening of underwear with pleasure is
the job of the chambermaid.”
•On the menu of a Swiss restaurant: “Our wines leave you
nothing to hope for.”
• In a Norwegian cocktail lounge: “Ladies are requested not to
have babies at the bar.”
(These errors and many others have been circulating widely, but
the above list is part of a longer list reported on by Jon Carroll in
the San Francisco Chronicle, July 30, 1990.)
You wouldn’t make errors like these, would you?
Concept check
You’ve been hired by a Tokyo car rental firm to revise the
following paragraph of its brochure in order to improve the
English. How would you rewrite it?
When passenger of foot heave in sight, tootle the horn. Trumpet
him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage then
tootle him with vigor.
There are many ways to rewrite the statement more clearly. Here
is one: “Lightly honk your horn if a pedestrian blocks your path. If
he continues to block your path, honk more vigorously.”
Abusing rules of grammar
Bad spelling is a source of communication problems,
though not an especially subtle one. The great
individualist from Tennessee, Davy Crockett (1786-1836),
was a frontiersman who had little respect for book
learning; he spelled words any way he wanted and said
“The rules of English spelling are contrary to nature.”
He had a point, because English spelling isn’t designed
for easy learning—ask anyone from another country. But
none of us can change that situation. Crockett couldn’t,
and you can’t. So, if we are to communicate effectively,
we’ve all got to spell words the way most everybody else
One of the first rules of good communication is to use
grammar and semantics correctly. For example, the
sentence “She is a person lovely” is bad grammatically,
but the semantics is OK. The sentence “She is a negative
square root” uses good grammar but bad semantics,
although people will know what you mean if you say the
sentence is grammatically weird. The primary goal as a
communicator is to communicate your meaning clearly.
Don’t make your audience do extra work to figure out
what you mean when they encounter bad grammar or
bad semantics.
A common error is to make phrases modify unintended parts of a
sentence. The reader can get the wrong idea.
Here is an example from a newspaper article:
Coach Pucci offered his resignation effective at the end of the
current school year, on Christmas.
This report puzzles the reader because the school year ends in
the spring, not at Christmastime. It would have been better to put
the words on Christmas closer to the part of the sentence they
relate to, as in the following rewrite:
Coach Pucci offered his resignation on Christmas, to be effective
at the end of the current school year.
The original sentence was odd—odd enough that the reader had
to stop and do extra work to figure out what you meant. In doing
this, readers apply a special principle of logical reasoning:
The reader applies the principle of charity by taking the writer to
mean something sensible when the writer could easily be
interpreted as unintentionally having said something silly or
obviously false.
According to the principle of charity, you should give the benefit
of the doubt to writers or speakers whose odd statements you
are trying to understand; if the statements appear to be silly, then
look for a less silly, but still likely, interpretation. In a conversation,
when a new speaker makes a comment, we listeners apply the
principle of charity by assuming that what they said is intended to
be a relevant contribution to the conversation. In fact, it’s a sign
of mental illness if a person too often makes a comment that is
irrelevant to the conversation. Mentally healthy people try to make
contributions that can be easily understood to be relevant.
The lesson the principle of charity offers to speakers rather than
listeners is that we should clearly say what we mean so that our
listeners or readers won’t be put through unnecessary mental
gymnastics trying to figure out what we really intended to say.
Communication is often hampered when people are sloppy and
don’t realize what they are saying. Here are some humorous but
authentic examples. Imagine being a teacher at an elementary
school and receiving these two excuses from Anne’s parents:
(From The Sacramento Bee newspaper, February 24,1988.)
• Anne didn’t come to school. She was in bed under the doctor
and could not get up.
•Please excuse Anne. She was sick and I had her shot.
With a little charity and empathy, you can figure out what the
parent meant.
What would you think if you were a welfare department employee
and you received this letter from a woman applying for financial
• I am forwarding my marriage certificate and six children. I had
seven, but one died which was baptized on a half sheet of
If you take her literally, you might wonder when the six kids will be
arriving. Can you imagine the scene as that seventh child was
baptized while it sat balanced on a half sheet of soggy paper?
There are effective ways to clear up such writing problems. Here
is one way:
I am mailing you my marriage certificate and the birth certificates
of my six children. I had a seventh child, but he died. That child’s
baptismal certificate is on the enclosed half sheet of paper.
Writers need to take some care in expressing themselves or run
the risk of saying something they don’t mean; conversely, readers
must be continually aware of not taking writers too literally.
Concept check
The person receiving the following letter at the welfare
department knew not to take it too literally:
“I want money quick as I can get it. I have been in bed with the
doctor for two weeks, and he doesn’t do me any good.”
Select one of the following choices as the better rewrite of the
welfare letter:
a. “I am in urgent need of funds. For two weeks I have been in
bed with the doctor, but I am still ill.”
b. “I want money quick as I can get it. At my doctor’s request, I
have been in bed for the last two weeks, but I am still ill.”
Answer (b). The point is to eliminate the sexual allusion.
Over-using euphemisms
When you replace a harsh-sounding phrase with one that means
more or less the same but is gentler, you are using a euphemism.
Taking a brick from King Tut’s tomb during a visit to the Egyptian
pyramids is really stealing, but the person who does so is likely to
cover it up with the
euphemism “souvenir hunting.” If the mortician mentions your
“dearly departed” grandmother, that’s a euphemism for your dead
grandmother. The term dead is a more accurate though harsher
one. If you’re the type of person who tells it like it is, you will have
a hard time being a successful mortician or politician.
The connotations of a term are what it suggests to the reader or
hearer. Euphemisms have fewer negative connotations; they have
fewer associations that are unpleasant to think about or that
might offend the hearer’s morality or sensitivities. Euphemisms
include genteelisms such as “disrobed” for naked and “bosom”
for “breasts. ” A “Rocky Mountain oyster” is not an oyster at all, is
it? The Bowlers’ Association has resolved to use euphemisms to
make bowling a more upscale sport. They plan to get bowling out
of the bowling “alleys” and into the bowling “centers.” They also
plan to get the balls out of the “gutters” and into the “channels.”
Concept check
What is a euphemism for “armpit sweat-stopper”?
Underarm antiperspirant.
Using a euphemism in place of a negatively charged term can
keep a discussion going past sensitive points that might
otherwise end the discussion or escalate hostilities. However,
euphemisms have their down side. They can be used for very
serious deception. In the 1930s and 1940s, the German
bureaucratic memos called their Nazi mass murder of the Jews
by the euphemism “the final solution to the Jewish problem.”
Sometimes we pay insufficient attention to the connotations of
what we say. Suppose you were asked one of the following
1. Is the government spending too much for welfare?
2. Is the government spending too much for assistance to the
In a public opinion poll, it was found that twice as many
Americans said “yes” to question 1 than to question 2. Can you
see how connotations accounted for the difference? Pollsters,
poets, and advertisers are the three groups in our society who
need to be the most sensitive to connotations.
Two words that are synonymous according to a dictionary or a
thesaurus can often have radically different connotations. Some
Concept Check
Which terms are euphemisms for “American”?
a. Yankee
b. Capitalist pig
c. Imperialist
d. All of the above
e. None of the above
Answer (e). Answers (b) and (c) are more negative than
“American.” Answer (a) is not more negative than
“American” in some regions of the world; New
Englanders have no problem with being called “Yankee”
as long as they aren’t called “Yankee dogs.” But even in
New England “Yankee” isn’t a euphemism, just a
public relations people make their fortunes by trading on their
appreciation of these subtleties. Others achieve success by
finding synonyms that disguise what is meant. The U.S.
Department of Defense purchasers have paid a lot more money
for a hammer when it was called a “manually powered fastener-
driving impact device.” The phrase isn’t a euphemism for
hammer, but it does serve to obscure what is really meant. Such
cover-up phrases are called doubletalk. One D.O.D. purchase
order called a steel nut a “hexiform rotatable surface compression
The Navy reported a 90 percent success rate for its Tomahawk
missiles. By “success rate” the Navy meant the rate of
successfully leaving the launch pad when the fire button was
pressed. An even worse cover-up term was “collateral damage,”
which was what the military called damage to non-military
citizens and their homes and vehicles.
Unintended innuendo
Here is a letter from Anne’s parents to her elementary school
Anne was late because she was not early. . . . She is too slow to
be quick.
If you were Anne’s teacher, you would notice the implication that
Anne is dimwitted, but you’d discount it as sloppy
communication because you would apply the principle of charity
and figure out what the parent probably meant instead.
An innuendo is a negative suggestion made by disguised
references or veiled comments about a person. If your professor
were to write a letter of recommendation to graduate school for
you that said, “This student always managed to spell his (or her)
name correctly,” you would be upset by the innuendo. The
professor is using innuendo to suggest you have few talents;
being able to spell one’s own name correctly is such a minor
positive feature that the reader is likely to believe the writer
cannot find anything more positive to say. This letter is an
example of damning with faint praise.
Concept check
Identify the innuendo in the following passage.
The vice president is a man who projects the image of being
honest. The innuendo is that the vice-president is not as honest
as his public relations image would suggest. If you call your
opponent a “possible liar,” you are insinuating something. You
aren’t specifically charging that he is a liar, but you aren’t exactly
withholding the charge either.
Imagine that you are a university professor who has been asked
to write a short letter of recommendation for a student, Juanita
Barrena, who wants to be admitted to social work graduate
school. Here are two recommendation letters. Notice that they
both state the same facts, yet one is positive, and one is
negative. How could that be?
To whom it concerns:
Ms. Juanita Barrena, one of my ex-students, surprised me by
asking that I write a letter of recommendation to you. Although
she got an A- instead of an A, she was friendly and, if I remember
correctly, organized a study group for the tests. Occasionally, she
spoke in class. I recommend her.
Yours truly,
Washington Carver
To the Graduate School of Social Work:
I am delighted to have been asked by my student Juanita Barrena
to write a letter of recommendation to your graduate school of
social work. Juanita excelled in my European History course,
capturing an A- in a difficult course. In addition to her good
grade, she stands out in my mind as being quite exceptional. Not
only did her insightful comments capture the attention of the
entire class while demonstrating an excellent grasp of the
material, but she also showed special initiative by organizing a
study group for my tests. Organizing this group demonstrated her
special talent for using her social skills to achieve a specific goal
that contributed to the group as a whole, an asset that will serve
her well in the field of social work. Regarding her personality, I am
again happy to be able to add more favorable comments; she is
very friendly, an especially appropriate asset for her future career.
I know of nothing about her that would reflect unfavorably upon
her application. I am convinced that Juanita has demonstrated a
high level of academic and social skills and shows promise of
succeeding in graduate school. Again, I am happy to recommend
her wholeheartedly for admission to your graduate program.
Yours truly,
Prof. Washington Carver History Department 

Phone: (996) 486-9433
The emotional tone of the second letter is more animated and
positive. For example, the second says “capturing an A-,” which
is more positive than “getting an A- instead of an A.” In the
second letter, Carver says he is “delighted to have been asked” to
write the letter, but in the first letter he says he is “surprised” to
have been asked, raising the possibility that the request was an
unpleasant surprise.
The second letter is longer, showing that the professor gave more
attention to the student’s request. The typos in the first letter are
a sign of Carver’s inattention. In the second letter, Carver added
his phone number, demonstrating his willingness to talk further if
the admissions committee desires; doing so is evidence he
believes Barrena is worthy of some extra effort on his part.
Disobeying rules of discourse
A cardinal rule of good communication is to imagine yourself in
the shoes of the person you are trying to communicate with. Here
is another rule: If you don’t like what someone has to say, don’t
let him say it again. That is not a rule of good communication, just
a joke. This one is, though: Obey the rules of discourse. The rules
of discourse are the rules that guide communicators in normal
writing and conversation. These rules are the guidelines most
everyone follows and expects others to follow. We try, for
example, to interpret other people’s speech the way they intend it
to be interpreted. We try not to be long winded or roundabout. We
try to be courteous. We violate a rule of discourse when we praise
faintly. If we are going to praise something, we are normally
expected not to praise it at a lower level than it deserves.
Some of the rules of discourse are rules of logical reasoning, and
some are not. Interpreting someone’s speech the right way is a
rule of logical reasoning, but being courteous is not.
It’s a rule of discourse not to ask someone to do the impossible,
and it’s a rule not to say something unless you believe it. That is
why it is so odd to say, “That is true, but I don’t really believe it.”
It is also a rule of discourse not to give too little information, or
too much information, or irrelevant information.
These rules are for normal situations. You don’t follow the rules
when you want to keep information secret or when you want to
distract people by providing them with so much information that
they won’t think to ask you the questions you don’t want asked.
Concept check
What rule of discourse are you violating if, when there is a knock
on your door, you open it smiling and say, “You’re not unwelcome
to come in”?
Don’t be roundabout.
Being sarcastic is a technique that intentionally violates the rules
or that conveys a pessimistic opinion. Saying in a sarcastic tone
“Yes, I believe you” conveys just the opposite. It is an interesting
way to say, “No, I do not believe you.” Isn’t it fascinating to
analyze the rules of language?
Not sticking to the issue & not treating it fairly
Let’s consider the notions of accepting the burden of proof,
identifying the issue in a disagreement, sticking to the issue, fair
play in argumentation, and creating a counterargument.
Not accepting the burden of proof
If a neighbor says, “Jeff slit the tires on my son Jeremy’s bike,” he
is expressing his opinion. An opinion is a belief. But is his opinion
also a fact? Maybe. He can show it is a fact if he can prove it to
be true. If he expects to convince other people of his opinion, it is
his duty to prove it. A proof of a statement is an argument for that
statement that ought to be convincing; it doesn’t need to be the
sort of thing you would find in a math book. You prove a
statement to other persons if you give them reasons that ought to
convince them, even if those reasons don’t actually convince
them. The important point is that people don’t know something if
they are not justified in believing it.
Sometimes, it isn’t obvious who has the burden of proof. If two
people each make a statement disagreeing with the other, who
has the heavier burden of proof? You can’t tell by asking, “Who
spoke first?” Usually the burden is on the shoulders of the person
who makes the strangest statement. A statement is considered
strange if it would be likely not to be accepted by the majority of
experts in the area under discussion. People who make
controversial statements have the greater burden of proving their
The claim that an alleged mass murderer is innocent may be
unacceptable to people in a community because the community
members have been convinced of his guilt by media coverage.
Nevertheless, the burden of proof does not rest with those who
make the controversial claim of his innocence; it still rests with
those who assert his guilt. The legal experts would say that the
controversial claim is the claim that he is guilty before the trial has
There are other problems in determining where the burden lies. In
the late twentieth century, an English researcher discovered a
poem inserted between two pages of an obscure book in the
Bodleian Library of Oxford University in England. The poem was
handwritten by a seventeenth-century scribe who attributed it to
William Shakespeare. Surprisingly, however, this poem was not
part of the currently known works of Shakespeare. Was it really
by Shakespeare? That’s the question. Examination of the paper
and ink verified that the poem was indeed copied in the
seventeenth century. Shakespeare himself died in the early
seventeenth century. The poem is clearly written in the style of a
Shakespearean poem, although it is not an especially good
poem. The researcher is convinced the poem is Shakespeare’s.
At this point, does the researcher have
the burden of providing more proof, or does the skeptic have the
burden of proving the poem is not Shakespeare’s?
The burden of proof has now shifted to the skeptic, not on the
person who said it was written by Shakespeare. Unfortunately, it
takes expertise to know this. Because of how the poem was
discovered, when it was copied, and the style it is written in,
experts on English poetry generally concede that the case has
been made in favor of Shakespeare, as author, and the burden is
on somebody to show he was not the author. Many skeptical
researchers have analyzed the poem, looking at such things as
the number of words that aren’t in any of Shakespeare’s other
works, but they have failed to prove their case.
Concept check
Jeremy says, “My goldfish are dumb, dumb, dumb. They don’t
know one-tenth as much about the world as I do.” David
responds, “You can’t say that. Maybe we just can’t communicate
with your fish.” Who has the greater burden of proof in this
Jeremy doesn’t. He is simply making a claim that agrees with
common sense. Since David is challenging common sense, he
has the greater burden of proving his claim.
Diverting attention from the issue
Besides shouldering one’s share of the burden of proof, an
equally important duty for a logical reasoner is to stick to the
issue during an argument. The issue in a piece of reasoning is
what the reasoning is specifically about; it’s the central question
under discussion as opposed to the more general topic or
subject. In the example of the neighbor accusing Jeff of slitting
the bicycle’s tires, suppose another neighbor says, “Quit picking
on Jeff. You’ve hassled him before, and now you are doing it
again. You never liked the fact that your son got beat up when he
started that fight with Jeff.” Now the second neighbor is raising a
different issue. The issue was whether Jeff did it, but the new
neighbor is trying to divert attention from this to a new issue,
whether the accuser of Jeff has a hidden agenda. Even if you
settle that second issue and find that the neighbor does have a
hidden agenda, that does not settle the issue of whether Jeff did
slight the bicycle tires.
A good reasoner follows the principles of sticking to the issue and
treating it fairly. The goal is to pursue the truth about the issue,
not to sidetrack, confuse, or con one’s opponent. Logical
reasoners argue in good faith. The purpose is not to win, but to
discover the truth. However, political debaters usually don’t
pursue such a high ideal. Similarly, lawyers fight for their client;
they don’t try to convince the jury their client is guilty, even when
they believe that the client is indeed guilty.
It is possible to learn a lot about good reasoning by examining the
major errors in faulty reasoning. Errors in reasoning are called
fallacies, and this chapter explores some of the major fallacies
having to do with getting off the issue. These are often called the
fallacies of irrelevance, because when you stray off the issue you
make irrelevant remarks.
When trying to spot the issue in an argument, one technique you
can use is to search for some conclusion that is being defended.
Then try to see if the reasoner is promoting the conclusion as
their way of settling a controversy. That controversy will be the
issue. Figuratively, the technique works like this. Imagine that you
are walking along the top of a fence, and someone is giving you
reasons to come down on one side. The issue in the argument is
whether to come down on one side or on the other. The arguer is
not arguing in good faith if he is pulling you off the fence onto his
side by some means other than giving good reasons.
Concept check
Identify the issue in the following discussion.
Jennifer: You are worrying too much. You should spend less time
thinking about the consequences for police officers and more
about the consequences for the mayor’s office. If the mayor or
vice mayor were injured, there would be an outpouring of grief
throughout the city.
James: Police put their lives on the line for us every day. Each
police officer’s life is valuable, as valuable as the life of the mayor.
Our police deserve our respect.
Jennifer: You are thinking of TV shows. Being a farmer is a lot
more dangerous than being a cop, but that’s a side issue. Look, if
some of the police guarding the mayor and her staff get shot
during the event we are planning, well, that’s life. They know the
risk. That’s why we politicians pay them so much money.
James: That sounds pretty callous to me. I don’t think you should
write off police lives the way you write off the latest 2 percent
budget cut.
Jennifer: Wake up to the realities. I’m talking political power, and
you’re just talking sentiment and morality.
The issue is:
a. that police lives are valuable.
b. whether political power is more important than morality.
c. that Jennifer is being callous about police lives and James is
being sensitive and showing respect for them.
d. whether the lives of the police are as valuable as those of the
mayor and vice mayor.
e. that if the mayor or vice mayor were injured, there would be an
outpouring of grief all through the city.
Answer (d). (a) is not the answer because it makes a statement on
James’s side of the issue, (b) is not the answer because, although
it does give an approximate statement of the topic, the more
specific issue is better stated by answer (d). Answer (c) states
James’s position on the issue, but it does not state the issue
itself, (e) states something that James and Jennifer might agree
to, but it is not the specific subject of their controversy.
The normal goal of an arguer is to provide convincing reasons for
a conclusion that takes a position on the issue at hand.
Arguments that do not achieve that goal are said to be bad,
illogical, or fallacious. If the issue is whether a particular Toyota
will start in the morning, the following argument doesn’t speak to
the issue:
The Toyota is owned by Barack, who is a citizen of the state of
Hawaii, and aren’t Hawaiians Americans? So, the car is owned by
an American citizen.
The argument is fallacious, given the content. Yet the same
argument would be on target in another context where the issue
is the nationality of the car’s owner, but it’s not relevant to the
issue of whether the car will start. Intentionally diverting
someone’s attention from one issue to another is called the red
herring fallacy and the irrelevant issue is called the red herring.
The name comes from a prison break in which the prisoners are
being chased by prison guards using dogs. The prisoner throws a
red herring fish in some direction to divert the dogs in that
direction. (Dogs presumably will be attracted more by the smell of
the herring than the smell of the prisoners.) The bottom line here
is that knowing the issue is key to deciding whether an argument
is any good.
One extremely common technique of providing a red herring
works like in this example. It is the 1950s and you are
manufacturing cigarettes. Your opponent is complaining that
statistics show cigarette smoking causes several kinds of health
problems. To throw the discussion off track you comment, “Can
you be certain? Surely the link between cigarettes and health
problems isn’t definitive, is it?” Raising doubt is what you are
selling now, and it is the best means of competing with the body
of facts. The current debate around climate change is a similar
Scientists are some of our society’s best examples of critical
thinkers, and it is their professional responsibility to pay careful
attention to the evidence and to use the best methods of
acquiring that evidence carefully. It is true that there are many
examples of scientists who have not acted as critical thinkers, but
pointing out these examples is not a good reason to conclude
that scientists cannot be trusted any more than anyone else on
scientific issues. This sub-issue of whether scientists are always
totally reliable is a red herring.
Concept check
What is the specific issue about minority politics referred to in the
headline of the following newspaper article? The article’s author
isn’t taking a position on either side of the issue.
Minority politics at issue in merger
a. If Johnson County voters approve the merger of city and
county governments into one mega-government in the November
election, how minorities exercise political power could be
dramatically transformed.
b. At least two current elected officials—both minorities—contend
that the transformation means that minority communities will lose
what little influence they now have.
c. Those minorities who helped write the proposal insist, however,
that the local community councils formed under the merger will
offer an unprecedented opportunity for minorities to hold office
and to sway the debates on issues vital to their communities.
d. There will be no loss of adequate representation, they contend.
Answer (d). The issue is whether the merger of the city and
county governments of Johnson County will result in loss of
adequate political representation for minorities. Answer (e) is not
as good because it doesn’t say what minorities might lose.
Answers (a) and (b) are too imprecise, though they say nothing
false. Answer (c) is the worst answer because it comes down on
one side of the real issue by using the word that instead of
• a. The issue is whether the result of the election for a merger in
Johnson County will hurt minorities.
a. The issue is the election in Johnson County.
b. The issue is minority politics in Johnson County.
c. The issue is that the local community councils formed under
the merger will offer an unprecedented opportunity for minorities
to hold office and to sway the debates on issues vital to their
d. The issue is whether the merger in Johnson County will
weaken minority influence in government.
A discussion is easier to follow if everybody stays on the topic
and doesn’t stray off on tangents. The duty of the logical reasoner
is to avoid getting lost and diverting the attention of others from
the topic at hand. Stacey doesn’t do her duty in the following
Macey: Would the Oakland A’s be in first place if they were to win
tomorrow’s baseball game?
Stacey: What makes you think they’ll ever win tomorrow’s game?
Stacey has committed the fallacy of avoiding the question. Her
answer does not answer the question; it avoids it. This fallacy
(error) is one kind of fallacy of avoiding the issue, because
answering the question is the issue here. Answering a question
with a question is a common way of avoiding an issue.
Like magicians, most politicians are experts at steering our
attention away from the real issue. A politician was once asked,
“Do you think either the U.S. National Security Council or the
Pentagon is actively involved in covert activities in this region of
Central America?” The politician responded with, “I think the fact
that the president has sent troops into Central America in the past
is not necessarily a reason to expect that he will do so now in this
region of the world. There has been a lot of pressure by the U.S.
banking community to upset the economic situation, but I
seriously doubt that we can expect anything as overt as the
sending of U.S. troops into the region. On the other hand,
neighboring countries may be upset, so there is always a threat of
invasion from that direction.”
The issue was whether the government was involved in covert
(secret) activities in Central America. The politician avoided that
issue by directing attention toward overt (public) activities. The
politician cleverly and intentionally committed the fallacy of
avoiding the issue. Because politicians are so likely to use this
avoidance technique, reporters at press conferences are often
permitted a follow-up question. A good follow-up here would be,
“Thank you, sir, but I asked about the likelihood of covert
operations, not overt ones. Can you speak to that issue?”
Concept check
In the following interview, does Pee-Wee Herman answer the
question put to him, or does he avoid it?
Interviewer: Did you include the romance in your film as a
response to people labeling you as asexual or of indeterminate
Pee-Wee: It’s just something I wanted to do. I never understand
why people say that, though. A lot of the reviews of the show
mentioned stuff like “His gender is confusing to children.” To me
it’s clearly male on my TV show. I don’t see the confusion. I don’t
wear wigs or cross-dress. My name is Pee-Wee. There aren’t a lot
of women named Pee-Wee. Probably from this interview a lot of
them will write to me, [gruffly] “Mah name is Pee-Wee and ah’m a
Pee-Wee’s comments do answer the question that was asked;
they don’t sidestep it. When asked whether he included the
romance in order to overcome accusations about his sexuality, he
directly answered the question by saying he included it just
because he wanted to and not because he wanted to overcome
accusations about his sexuality. He then went on to address the
accusations about his sexuality. You may believe he has a weak
answer, or you may believe he didn’t say enough. However, a
weak answer is still an answer, so Pee-Wee did not commit the
fallacy of avoiding the question.
A final note about the fallacy of avoiding the question. If
somebody asks you a question, you wouldn’t automatically be
committing the fallacy by refusing to answer the question. Only if
you should answer but don’t do you commit the fallacy.
An arguer might suggest several issues while addressing another
issue. The distinction is important in this conversation:
Sanderson: These Korean video cassettes are a lot cheaper than
the ones Sony makes.
Tamanaka: Yeah, it’s a shame. It’s time Congress quit
contemplating its navel and created tariffs against Korean
electronic imports.
Sanderson: I don’t see any reason for tariffs. Tariffs just restrict
free trade.
Tamanaka: There should be more U.S. tariffs against Korean
electronic imports because Koreans are getting unfair assistance
from their government to subsidize their electronics
manufacturing and because Koreans already have too much
influence in the American economy.
The issue in the conversation is whether there should be more
tariffs against Korean electronic imports. The argument in
Tamanaka’s last remarks addresses this issue. However, his
remarks also suggest other issues, such as: Is there anything
wrong with having Korean influence on the American economy? If
it being right or wrong depends on how much Korean influence,
then how much is too much? Are Korean electronics
manufacturers really getting a government subsidy? If so, is that
unfair? These side issues get suggested, but they don’t get
addressed in Tamanaka’s argument. An argument will normally
address one issue at a time. If you create an argument, your
reasoning will be easier to follow if you take the issues one at a
time and not try to handle everything at once.
Giving too many details
Communicators sometimes communicate ineffectively by offering
too many details for the purpose at hand. The common metaphor
here is that their audience will fail to see the forest because
they’re being told to look at too many individual trees.
Re-defining the issue
It is one thing to argue about an issue but another to agree on
what the issue is. For example, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of
the first U.S. government report on smoking, the Surgeon General
said that cigarette smoking was responsible for more than one
out of every six deaths in the United States. Noting that nearly 30
percent of American adults still smoke, despite the Government’s
warnings, the Surgeon General said that many publications that
carry cigarette advertisements also refuse to run articles on the
danger of smoking. In addition, the Surgeon General defended
taxes on cigarettes. The issue, said the Surgeon General, is
health. Not so, said
the cigarette companies; the issue is individual freedom—whether
our society should have more or less government interference in
private enterprise. The issue is whether the government should
be involved, by taxation and by requiring warnings on cigarette
packs, in an unconstitutional attempt at censorship. It’s time for
more people, including the Surgeon General, to wake up to the
fact that “smokers and the tobacco industry are productive forces
in the economy,” said the director of media relations for the
Tobacco Institute, which is the lobbying organization for the
Notice that both parties in this argument are trying to redefine the
issue or “frame the issue” for their own benefit. In this scenario it
is probably a mistake to say that one party has identified the right
issue and the other has not. All these issues should be
addressed. Bringing them all out into the open gives the public a
better appreciation of the situation and the ability to make more
informed choices.
Progress can also be made in some disagreements by focusing
on the issue in other ways: by defining the issue more precisely,
by narrowing the issue, and by noticing when one issue must be
settled before another can be fully addressed. For an example of
the dependence of issues, consider the lobbyist for San
Francisco who is deciding whether the city should take a position
to support or oppose a proposed state law to redefine the
formula for distributing state monies to county hospitals. The
lobbyist will probably not be able to decide whether to
recommend support for or opposition to the bill until another
issue is settled—whether the bill will give more or less money to
San Francisco County Hospital. Local governments usually don’t
take a stand for or against a bill based solely on fiscal impact, but
they always keep fiscal impact in mind.
Here is an example of progress by narrowing the issue. Suppose
a student in a government or political science class is asked to
write a four-page essay on a topic of their own choosing.
Choosing the issue of whether capitalism is better than
communism would be inadvisable because this issue is so large
and the essay is supposed to be so short. That big issue would
not be manageable. The essay would have to discuss every
country in the world and its economics, political freedom, military,
lifestyles, and so forth. The essay would be improved if the
student narrowed the issue to, let us say, whether race relations
were better under American capitalism or under Soviet
communism during World War II.
Concept check
State the issue in the following letter to the editor. Then sketch
the argument for the other side of the issue—that is, the side that
the letter writer is opposed to.
Regarding “Driver Dies after Chase on 1-5,” Oct. 28: The article
seemed to be really confused. It stated, “The death was the fifth
this year in the Sacramento area resulting from high-speed police
chases.” In fact, it resulted, as most if not all of them do, from
some low-life scumbag fleeing officers attempting to apprehend
him─in this case for auto theft.
What would you suggest officers do, wave good-bye as soon as
someone’s speed exceeds the limit? Or would you prefer that
police just never arrest anyone who travels at high speeds? I’m
sure suspects would like that, but I’m also sure decent, law-
abiding citizens wouldn’t.
Covering up the reasons that favor your opponent
The reasoner who is trying to be fair and seek the truth not only
stays on the issue but also avoids misrepresenting the views of
the opposition. In addition, the logical reasoner doesn’t hide the
opponent’s reasons under the carpet. The reasoner who does so
is guilty of a cover-up. Take this passage, for instance:
When you are considering which kind of apartment to live in, you
should prefer wooden buildings to brick buildings. Brick buildings
are more dangerous during earthquakes because wood will bend
during the quake, but brick will crack and crash down on you.
Also, and even more important, brick has been discovered to be
radioactive. If you put a sensitive Geiger Counter up to a brick,
any brick, it will click, and it won’t with wood. We already have
enough sources of radiation in our lives without living surrounded
by hundreds of brick sources. So, next time you are apartment
hunting, remember to look for wood.
Did you spot the cover-up? It sounds well-reasoned, but it is
covering up the bad aspects of wood while scaring you away
from bricks. Although it is true that earthquakes are more of a
danger for brick apartments than for wood apartments,
earthquakes are rare, while fire is a much greater danger
everywhere, and bricks don’t burn. Second, although it is true
that bricks are radioactive, the radioactivity is so trivial that it is
not worth bothering about. The danger of wood fires is far more
serious. The moral is:
Critical thinkers give opponents a fair hearing, and do not
misrepresent what they say or do.
Very often we all selectively use information in order to help or
hurt another person. The Reverend Jesse Jackson tells this story.
One cold February afternoon, the newly inaugurated Republican
President of the U.S. was on the Presidential Yacht off the coast
of Maine. He had some engine trouble, but nobody on board
could fix it. Being in a hurry, he got out of the boat and walked
across the water to get help on shore. The newspaper reporters
on shore who saw him were astonished. Off they raced to
compose and call in stories to their editors. All the reporters
phoned in essentially the same story, but the next day’s headlines
in the Republican newspapers said, “President Walks on Water.”
The headlines in the Democratic newspapers said, “President
Cannot Swim.” We all tend to process new evidence through the
lens of what we already believe.
Review of major points
This chapter examined a variety of ways that writers and
speakers communicate less well than we and they expect.
Sometimes a writer will unwittingly make statements with low
information content, will mask the true meaning with euphemism,
doubletalk, or innuendo, will use sloppy sentence construction, or
will violate the rules of discourse. The chapter also introduced the
principle of charity, which readers use to help interpret materials
by writers who do not say what they mean nor mean what they
People who make statements have the burden of proving their
statements. Their goals should be to stick to the issue, to pursue
the truth about the issue, and not to sidetrack, confuse, or con
the opponent. Progress can sometimes be made when issues are
identified, or they are identified more clearly. It is important to
distinguish between the issue that is addressed and the side
issues that are suggested. Some disagreements can be settled by
drawing attention to the issue, by more precisely defining the
issue, by narrowing the issue, and by noticing when one issue
must be settled before another one can be fully addressed.
In this chapter we briefly distinguished fact from opinion,
introduced the notions of taking a position on an issue, shifting
the burden of proof, making a fallacy, and offering a

Burden of proof: The duty to prove some statement you’ve
advocated. The burden is usually on the shoulders of the person
who wants others to accept his or her statement. When two
people make statements that disagree, the burden falls on the
shoulders of the person making the more controversial statement.
Counterargument: An argument that attempts to undermine
another argument.
Euphemism: A gentler word or phrase used to replace a harsh-
sounding one.
Fallacies: Reasoning errors.
Fallacy of avoiding the issue: Failing to address the issue at
hand by going off on tangents. However, the fallacy isn’t
Assignment 4a

Use this scrolling text box to complete this assignment’s
three (3) exercises. Then, submit your answers to the
three (3) to Canvas under Assignment 4.

1. Find a newspaper headline that distorts the facts for
attention and rewrite it to be more accurate. Explain
2. Match the harsh words in the first column (on the left)
with their euphemisms in the second column (on the
retreat adjust downward
mad neutralize
3. Create a euphemism for the term “lobbyist.”
committed by a reasoner who says that some other issue must
first be settled before the original issue can be adequately
Fallacy of avoiding the question: A type of fallacy of avoiding
the issue that occurs when the issue is how to answer some
question. The fallacy would be committed if someone’s answer
were to avoid the question rather than answer it.
Innuendo: A negative suggestion made by disguised references
or veiled comments about a person.
Issue: The specific topic, subject, or central question under
discussion, as opposed to the general topic, subject or question.
Knowledge truths: you are justified in believing.
Principle of charity: Giving the benefit of the doubt to writers
and speakers who have said something silly or obviously false,
and not taking them too literally.
Position on an issue: Your belief about how an issue should be
Proof: An argument that ought to be convincing. It doesn’t need
to be the sort of thing you would find in a math book. You prove a
statement to other persons if you give them reasons that ought to
convince them, even if those reasons don’t actually convince
Red herring fallacy: The error of intentionally distracting
someone with a side issue or irrelevant issue.
Shifting the burden of proof: By making a reasonable case for
your position on an issue, you thereby shift the responsibility of
proof to the shoulders of your opponent who disagrees with your

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Logical Reasoning by Bradley H.
Chapter 5
After reading this chapter, students should be
able to do the following:
1. Defining a statement.

2. Formulate an argument.

3. Developing proof in a position.

4. Constructing deductive and inductive
What is a statement?
Statements are what is said. More accurate, statements are
things that are said that are either true or false. They are also
called claims. Here is one: “The homicide rate in England was fifty
times higher in the fourteenth century than it is today.” Here is
another: “Neptune has the fastest winds in the solar system.”
Both of these statements happen to be true. A statement that is
especially important to us might be called a proposition,
assertion, judgment, hypothesis, principle, thesis, or, in some
situations, a law. Statements have to be capable of being true or
false even if we don’t know which. So, if you say, “Is it midnight?”
then you’ve not made a statement. Suggestions, commands, and
proposals aren’t statements either. The suggestion “We should
get a new refrigerator,” and the command, “Stand back!” and the
proposal, “Let’s quit studying,” are not statements. It would be
very odd to call any of them “true” or “false.” The following are
statements: “She suggested we should get a new refrigerator,”
and “He said, ‘Stand back!’”
Although there is a difference between a declarative sentence
used to make a statement and the statement made with that
declarative sentence, this book will often not honor that fine
distinction and will speak of declarative sentences themselves as
being statements.
Concept check
Is the following sentence a statement?
The biggest question your pre-historic ancestors faced was, “Is
that thing behind the bushes my next meal, or am I its next
Answer: The question itself is not a statement, but the larger
sentence containing the question is. The larger sentence is used
to make a statement about the question.
You can’t spot the claims if you don’t speak the language. In the
passage below from a famous Valley girl, try to decide whether
the phrase in italics is (used to make) a claim. You won’t be able
to figure this out if you don’t understand a little Valley-girl-ese.
So, I loan Whitney my copy of GQ, right, and she drops
strawberry yogurt right on the cover, and like I could totally be so
edged, but I tried to be cool.
To tell whether it’s expressing a claim, you don’t have to be able
to figure out whether it’s true, but only whether it could
be─whether it’s the sort of thing that might be true or might be
false. The passage does make the claim. Its claim is that the
speaker could be upset by Whitney’s dropping strawberry yogurt
on her copy of GQ Magazine.
In spotting statements or claims, you need to pay close attention
to language. One of the following is a claim and the other is not.
Which is which?
I promised to give you $5. I promise to give you $5. 26
What is an argument?
The word argument has more than one meaning. In this book we
will not use the word in the sense of being unpleasantly
argumentative. Instead, it will mean at least one conclusion
supported by one or more reasons, all of which are statements.
It takes only one person to have our kind of argument, not two.
Saying that two people are “in an argument” means that there are
two arguments, not one, in our sense of “argument.” Each of the
two persons has his or her own argument. In short, our word
argument is a technical term with a more precise meaning than it
has in ordinary conversation.
Statements that serve as reasons in an argument are also called
premises. Nothing to do with the yard sign that says, “Keep off
the premises.” Any argument must have one or more premises.
And it will have one or more “inference steps” taking you from the
premises to the conclusion. The simplest arguments have just
one step. Here is an example of a very simple argument that
takes you to the conclusion in just one inference step from two
If it’s raining, we should take the umbrella.
It is raining.
So, we should take the umbrella.
Concept check

Match the numbers with the letters.
a. Only a claim, with no reasons given to back it up.
b. An argument using bad reasons.
c. An argument using good reasons (assuming that the
arguer is being truthful).
d. None of the above.
1. What time does the movie start?
2. This card can save you a lot of money.
3. Vote Republican in the next election because doing so
will solve almost all the world’s problems.
4. John Adams was the second president of the United
States. My history teacher said so, and I looked it up on
Wikipedia with my phone.
(d 1, a 2, b 3, c 4.) Passage (1) is a question, not a claim. A
claim is an assertion that something is true, and it is usually
made with a declarative sentence.
To find out whether an argument is present, you need to use your
detective skills. Ask yourself whether the speaker gave any
reason for saying what was said. If you get a satisfactory answer
to your own question, then you probably have detected an
argument, and you’ve uncovered its conclusion and premises. In
detecting an argument, your main goal is to locate the conclusion,
then the reasons given for that conclusion, while mentally deleting
all the other sentences and phrases that are not part of the
For any conclusion, the premises used directly to support it are
called its basic premises. In a more complicated argument, there
may be reasons for the reasons, and so on. But these reasons for
the reasons are not part of the core. The core of the argument is
the conclusion plus its basic premises.
Every argument has to start somewhere, so it is not a good
criticism of an argument to complain that all its premises have not
been argued for.
Concept check
Select the one best choice for the conclusion of Sanderson’s
argument in the following disagreement.
Sanderson: Do you realize just what sort of news you get on a
half-hour American TV news program?
Harris: Yes, newsy news. What do you mean?
Sanderson: Brief news, that’s what.
Harris: Brief news like boxer shorts?
Sanderson: Ha! Look at a time breakdown of the average half-
hour news program broadcast on American TV. It is nine minutes
of news!
Harris: What’s the rest?
Sanderson: Eleven minutes of commercials, six of sports, and
four of weather. You can’t do much in nine minutes. I say nine is
not enough if you are going to call it the “news.” What do you
Harris: It is enough for me. News can be boring. Besides, if the
American public didn’t like it, they wouldn’t watch it.
Sanderson: Now that’s an interesting but ridiculous comment.
But I’ve got to go now; we can talk again later.
Sanderson’s conclusion is
a. If the American public didn’t like brief TV news, they wouldn’t
watch it.
b. Do you realize just what sort of news you get in a half-hour
American TV news program?
c. That’s an interesting but ridiculous comment [about the
American public’s taste].
d. There is not enough news on a thirty-minute TV news program
in America.
e. An average half-hour American TV news program is eleven
minutes of commercials, nine of news, six of sports, and four of
After choosing Sanderson’s conclusion from the above list,
comment on the quality of his argument for that conclusion.
Answer (d) is correct. Sanderson’s conclusion is that more time
should be spent on the news during a thirty-minute TV news
program. Answer (e) is wrong because it is simply a fact that
Sanderson uses in his argument. It is something he wants the
reader to believe, but it is not something he is arguing for.
Regarding the quality of Sanderson’s argument, saying only “I
don’t like his argument” is insufficient; it doesn’t go deep enough.
This kind of answer is just opinion. To go deeper, the opinion
should be backed up by reasons. The weakest part of
Sanderson’s argument is that he isn’t giving us good enough
reasons to believe his conclusion. He makes the relevant
comment that news occupies only nine minutes out of thirty. He
then suggests that you cannot “do much in nine minutes,” and he
evidently thinks this comment is a reason to believe his
conclusion, but by itself it is weak. He probably believes it is
obvious that nine is brief, but he ought to argue for this. It’s not
obvious to his opponent, Harris. Harris could respond by saying,
“You can do nine minutes’ worth of news in nine minutes. What
do you want instead, ten minutes?” Sanderson should have
mentioned that too much important news is left out in nine
minutes and then tried to back up this remark.
What is the issue?
We argue in order to settle issues. Issues arise when there is
uncertainty about whether to accept or reject a claim, or about
what to do or not do. For example, someone argues for the claim
that you ought to quit eating strawberry yogurt because it causes
cancer, and you wonder whether it really does cause cancer. You
are wondering about the following issue:
whether eating strawberry yogurt causes cancer.
It’s common to express an issue by using the word “whether” to
indicate the uncertainty involved. You don’t want to express the
issue by taking just one side of the issue.
When two people are “in an argument,” they are divided on the
issue. The metaphor is that they are on opposite sides of the

A second, common way of expressing an issue is to present it as
a question:
Will eating strawberry yogurt cause cancer?
The question also brings out the uncertainty and doesn’t take a
side. It would be a mistake to say the issue is that eating
strawberry yogurt causes cancer. That way of present the issue
destroys the uncertainty and presents only one side of the issue.
The issue is not the same as the topic. The topic is food and
health. Topics are more general than issues; issues are more
specific than topics. When you find an argument, the issue is
whether the argument’s conclusion is correct.
Concept check
The following sentence shows that the writer is confused about
the difference between an issue and a claim:

The issue of whether an oppressive government is better than no
government is a claim open to refutation.
What is the best way to rewrite the sentence in order to remove
the confusion?
a. The claim of whether an oppressive government is better than
no government is an issue open to refutation.
b. The issue of whether an oppressive government is better than
no government is a refuted claim.
c. The claim that an oppressive government is better than no
government is controversial and open to refutation.
d. The issue of whether an oppressive government is better than
no government is a position open to refutation.
The topic is oppressive governments. The issue is whether an
oppressive government is better than no government. One
position on that issue is the claim that an oppressive government
actually is better than no government. This claim is controversial.
Thus you should select c as the answer to the above question.
That answer is the only one that isn’t using one of the following
terms incorrectly: issue, position, claim.
Our example above used the slippery term “refutation.” If you
claim what somebody just said is false, then you aren’t refuting
their claim; you are simply disagreeing with it. In order to refute it,
you’d have to make a successful case that what they said is false.
You can’t refute someone’s claim merely by contradicting it.
Concept check
What is the issue in this argument?
You politicos keep arguing that institutions can’t be changed
when, in fact, they change all the time. Haven’t they ever heard of
the institution of slavery? It’s gone from this continent, isn’t it?
a. Can institutions be changed?
b. Whether the institution of slavery changed.
c. That institutions can be changed.
d. That institutions can’t be changed.
Answer (a). A yes answer and a no answer would be giving
opposite answers to this issue.
What is a proof?
People often argue in order to prove something. But that word
“proof” is a tricky word. There are different standards of proof in
different situations. You have to meet a higher standard if you are
proving a new theorem in mathematics than if you are proving to
your neighbor that you saw the same film he did last week.
Basically, though, a proof is a convincing argument, an argument
that should convince your audience, not simply an argument that
does convince them.
Concept check
Suppose you cannot locate that favorite blue shirt you want to
wear. You’ve looked in the closet where you usually keep your
shirts. You remember washing it at the Laundromat in your
apartment building last week. Maybe you hung it back in the
closet after that, or maybe you didn’t. You can’t remember. You
don’t remember any other time it has been out of the apartment
recently. Could you be having a memory problem? You do
remember your worst case of bad memory; last year you were
sure your apartment key was on the kitchen table, but then you
found it an hour later on a shelf in your refrigerator. But after
thinking about this you decide that is very unlikely the shirt loss is
because of memory failure. You decide to do a more careful
search. You look through each item of clothing in your closet, on
the closet floor, and in the drawers in your dresser where you
place other clothes. You look a few more places in your
apartment. Then you remember that occasionally you hang
clothes in the closet on top of other clothes hanging there
because you don’t have enough coat hangers. So, you search
your closet one more time looking under everything hanging
there. Still no shirt. So you conclude, “This proves the shirt was
stolen.” You start thinking about your three friends who have been
in your apartment since the last time you saw that blue shirt.
David was there when you went out for an hour to get party
supplies. The shirt would fit him. That proves the shirt was stolen.
A logical reasoner hearing this story might say, “That’s not really a
proof,” and this judgment would be correct. What else would it
take for you to have a real proof the shirt was stolen by David?
It’s more likely you lost your shirt in the Laundromat than to a thief
in your apartment. You can’t have a proof without being sure that
the shirt wasn’t lost at the Laundromat or on your travels back
from there. If you could rule this out, then you’d have a stronger
case that it was stolen. Even so, that evidence about the
Laundromat is not going to be available to you. Also, for a decent
proof you’d need some more direct evidence of a thief, such as a
friend telling you he saw David wearing it yesterday, or a neighbor
telling you she noticed someone leaving your apartment
yesterday carrying a blue shirt. Most probably you’ll never get a
proof your shirt was stolen even if it was, because having a proof
requires having a totally convincing case.
Spotting an argument and evaluating whether the argument is any
good are two distinct abilities. Usually you use them both at the
same time. Before you can evaluate an argument, you have to
identify it, so let’s begin with this skill. When you are reading a
passage, ask yourself, “Is the writer intending to prove
something? Am I being given any reasons intended to convince
me to believe something or do something?” Detecting arguments
can be difficult sometimes, but there are verbal clues to look for.
The start of a conclusion is often indicated by the word therefore,
so, or thus. In addition to these conclusion indicators, the terms
because and suppose-that signal that a reason is coming. Since
the technical term for reasons is premises, the terms because and
suppose-that are called premise indicators. The logical reasoner
is always on the alert for premise indicators and conclusion
Often, however, arguers are not so helpful, and we readers and
listeners have to recognize an argument without the help of any
indicator terms. Even when we have indicator terms, we can’t rely
on them 100%. Those same terms might have other uses. For
example, do you see why the conclusion indicator “so” is not
working as a conclusion indicator in the following?
Air contains molecules. Dirt does, too. So does water.
There is no argument here, just a sequence of claims. The word
“so” is indicating another term in the sequence. It is working as
the word “and” usually works, not as a conclusion indicator of an
Premise indicators are verbal clues that you are being given a
reason or premise. Then ask yourself, “What are the reasons for
the conclusion?” or “How is this point being supported?” Your
answers supply the premises. There are verbal clues for finding
premises, too. The words “since” and “because” are the most
common premise indicator terms, but there are many others.
Concept check
Does this sentence by Albert Einstein contain a conclusion
indicator word that is actually working to indicate a conclusion?
The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save
our modes of thinking, and we thus drift toward unparalleled
a. yes b. no
Answer (a). Einstein is giving an argument, and he is using the
word “thus” to indicate his conclusion that the human race is
drifting toward unparalleled nuclear catastrophe. (If you are
reading this sentence, then the chances are that we haven’t
arrived there yet, even if we are drifting there.)
Concept check
Do all strong arguments have two or more premises plus at least
one conclusion?
a. yes b. no
Answer (b). Some good arguments have only one premise. Here
is an example: “Viruses are the simplest life forms, so that virus
you are looking at with your microscope is simpler than other life
When looking for an argument within a passage, you need to be
alert that sometimes the conclusion is stated before the premises,
sometimes after the premises, and sometimes embedded in the
middle of the premises. Often, sentences are included that are
neither premises nor conclusions; they are there for elaboration or
for some other purpose, such as to entertain, to describe, to
explain, to discount a possible complaint, and so forth.
Here is an example of an argument from authority that contains
both kinds of indicator phrases:
Because the encyclopedia says that the whale shark is the
biggest fish in the ocean, it follows that the whale shark really is
the biggest fish on Earth.
The word Because indicates a premise, and the phrase it follows
that indicates the conclusion. Indicators come before what they
indicate. After identifying this argument, you might go on to
evaluate it as being fairly strong, but as leaving out the crucial
information about whether there are freshwater fish bigger than
any fish in the ocean. Can you think of one? There aren’t any.
Here are lists of some more indicator phrases:
Answer (b). Some good arguments have only one premise. Here
is an example: “Viruses are the simplest life forms, so that virus
you are looking at with your microscope is simpler than other life

The following phrases by themselves are not indicator phrases:
if on the contrary
yet and
nevertheless also
So, do not trust these words to reliably indicate either a premise
or a conclusion. Occasionally words that could be indicators do
not function as indicators. Look at the word “since” in this
Since November when the inflationary spiral ended, state taxes
have been high. State farm subsidies will therefore continue to
This passage does contain an argument, and the conclusion
indicator word therefore signals the conclusion, but the premise
indicator word since isn’t functioning to indicate a premise. It is
Use this scrolling text box to learn premise indicators 

and conclusion indicators.

Premise indicators

• since
• because
• for the reason that
• assuming
• suppose
• as indicated by
• is implied by
• given that
• in view of the fact that
• for
• granted that
• one cannot doubt that

• therefore
• consequently
• thus
• this means
• so
• it follows that
• shows that
• implies that
• proves that
• leads me to believe that
• hence
• in conclusion
• for this reason
• accordingly
• the moral is
• means that
• we can infer that
• as a result
• can only be true if
working as a time indicator. Because since has multiple
meanings, you need to determine whether it is functioning as a
premise indicator in the particular situation you are looking at. The
good news is that when it is a sign that some element of an
argument is present, it always indicates a premise and never a
Notice how different these two arguments are.
She’s not here, so she’s gone to the supermarket.
She’s not here, since she’s gone to the supermarket.
The two arguments have different conclusions, don’t they? One of
the arguments is much stronger than the other. Which one is that?
Concept check
Identify the indicator phrases in the following passage:
I’ve been in love with you ever since you began going out with my
friend Charles. So you shouldn’t say no one loves you now that
he doesn’t love you anymore.
So is a conclusion indicator. Since is not operating as a premise
When you are suspicious that an argument is present in a
passage, the best strategy for finding it, besides simply asking
the arguer whether they are arguing, is to ask yourself which
statements in the passage would be reasonably convincing
premises for which other statements.
Concept check
Do these passages contain arguments? If so, locate the
conclusion. Identify each indicator phrase as being either a
conclusion indicator or a premise indicator.
Rewriting arguments in standard form
Can you spot the conclusion and premises in this argument?
All machines have a finite working lifetime, and even though that
big tree doesn’t look like a typical machine it is really just a
biological machine; therefore, I believe it will stop working
someday, too.
The claim “That big tree doesn’t look like a typical machine” is a
discount claim. The argument’s conclusion is “That big tree will
stop working someday.” This conclusion does not occur explicitly
in the passage. The conclusion is slightly hidden in the words that
follow the indicator word therefore. We readers have to figure out
that the word it is referring to “that big tree,” and we must also
mentally strip away the word too and the phrase I believe. The
reason to remove “I believe” is that it is clear the arguing isn’t
trying to convince that he or she believes the conclusion, but is
trying to convince you that the conclusion is true. After
appreciating all this, we can give the following more explicit
picture of the argument:
• All machines have a finite working lifetime.
• That big tree is really just a biological machine.
• That big tree will stop working someday.
Creating this clear list with the conclusion below the line is called
rewriting the argument in standard form. In place of a line, if you
add the symbol ∴ before the conclusion, then that is also putting
the argument into standard form. The term “standard form”
means standard format.
The argument we’ve been analyzing was originally a single
sentence, but this one sentence now has been shown to be
composed of four statements, one being a discount claim and the
other three being the core argument.
The process of transforming an argument into its standard form is
like the subconscious mental process that occurs when a logical
reasoner “sees the argument” in a passage. Normally, you would
take the trouble to display the argument in standard form only
when confronted with an especially complicated argument that
you must figure out very carefully. Nobody is suggesting that from
now on you sit down with the morning newspaper and rewrite all
its arguments into standard form. However, trying your hand at
rewriting a few simpler arguments will help build up your skill so
you can succeed with more complicated arguments when the
stakes are higher.
Here is a list of what you should pay attention to when rewriting
an argument in standard form:
• List the premises, followed by the conclusion
• Remove extraneous sentences including discount phrases
• Remove indicator phrases
• Replace pronouns with their antecedents if possible
• Draw a line between the premises and the conclusion (or else
place a ‘1∴’ before the conclusion)
• Add implicit premises
• Remove ambiguity wherever possible
• There is no need to number the premises because premise
order should not make any difference.
Conditionals & the word if
The word if is not in the list of premise indicator words. You
cannot rely on if to indicate a premise. Here is why. In argument A
below, the word if is followed by a premise, but in argument B it is
part of the conclusion.
A. If, as we know, all men are mortal and Jeremiah is a man, not a
god, then he is mortal, too.
B. If a mercury thermometer is given prolonged heating, it will
break. This is because prolonged heating will cause the mercury
to expand a great deal. But the thermometer will break apart
whenever the mercury expands this much.
Let’s examine argument B more carefully. Does it assume that a
mercury thermometer is actually given prolonged heating? No.
Notice also that the conclusion is not that the mercury
thermometer will actually break, but only that it will break if
heated. The conclusion is an if-then statement: if the thermometer
is heated, then it will break. So, the if is not indicating a premise,
nor is it indicating a conclusion; it is performing another function.
These if-then statements are called conditional statements or
conditionals. When we say, “If we cancel the picnic, I’ll be happy,”
we are offering a conditional, but not offering an argument.
Worse yet, the occurrence of the word “if” in a sentence is not a
reliable indicator that the sentence contains a conditional. For
example, the sentence, “If you don’t mind, you’re standing on my
foot” is not a conditional. It is a special idiom in English and is not
a conditional because it cannot be rewritten equivalently as “P
implies Q.”
A statement can be a conditional even if the companion word
then is not present. For example:
If the Campbell’s Soup Company puts less salt in its soup, sales
of Campbell’s soup will increase.
Does it follow from this conditional claim that Campbell’s Soup
Company does put less salt in its soup? No. Is the speaker
committed to the claim that sales of Campbell’s soup will
increase? No, the commitment is only to an increase on the
condition that the company does something about the salt. That
is why conditionals are called “conditionals.”
Should you conclude from the original conditional statement that,
if Campbell’s sales do not increase, then the company failed to
put less salt in its soup? Yes, this last conditional statement,
follows with certainty from the original conditional statement. It is
the contrapositive of the original statement. Conditionals have a
standard form which is “If A, then B.”
Often conditionals are expressed in other ways. For example,
here is a conditional that contains neither an “if” nor a “then:”
The larger a star the quicker it burns up and dies.
Rewriting it in standard form produces:
If a star is larger, then it burns up and dies quicker.
Concept check
The Governor of Alaska
Suppose you were to learn for certain that if a person is the
governor of Alaska, then he or she is a U.S. citizen. If so, can you
be absolutely sure that if somebody is not a U.S. citizen, then he
or she is not the governor of Alaska?
Yes, you can be sure. This is the contrapositive of the original
Is the following conditional making a true statement about the real
If President John F. Kennedy was born in Bangladesh, then he
was born in Asia.
Deductively valid & inductively strong
The primary goal in argumentation is for the conclusion to follow
from its basic premises either with certainty or with high
probability. Technically, this means the arguer desires the
argument to be deductively valid or to be inductively strong.
The concept of deductive validity can be given alternative
definitions to help you grasp the concept. Below are five different
definitions of the same concept. It is common to drop the word
deductive from the term deductively valid:
An argument is valid if the premises can’t all be true without the
conclusion also being true.
Concept check

Answer “yes” or “no, not always” to these conditional
• a. If it’s an apple, then it’s a fruit.
• b. If it’s a fruit, then it’s an apple.
• c. It’s an apple if it’s a fruit.
• d. It’s a fruit if it’s an apple.
• e. It’s not a fruit if it’s not an apple.
• f. It’s not an apple if it’s not a fruit
(a) yes (b) no (c) no (d) yes (e) no

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Chapter 6
After reading this chapter, students should be
able to do the following:
1. Analyze the media.

2. Distinguishing bias.

3. Evaluate between objective and subjective

4. Interpret the effects of the media.
Critiquing the media
For most of us, the main source of information about the world
beyond our immediate personal experience is the media. Most of
the skills we need to assess this information have already been
covered in earlier chapters; however, there are some special
problems associated with the media that require more detailed
discussion. In this chapter, we will discuss how to critique the
media and consider some of the problems that arise in doing so.
In particular, we will examine how the media reports factual news
stories and consider how to determine whether or not these
reports are unbiased. In addition, we will examine the ways in
which the media can influence how we interpret the information
that comes to us from all sources as well as how the media can
shape many of our deeply held values.
It is important to remember that the media plays a very important
role in democratic societies, namely, that of watchdog on the
actions of government. This role is so important that in many
countries the media is given special legal protection against direct
interference by the government. Indeed, in some countries this
protection is entrenched in the constitution in order to make
government interference virtually impossible. In Canada, for
example, section 2 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms
specifically protects “freedom of the press and other media of
communications.” In the U.S., the first amendment to the
constitution protects freedom of speech, which the courts have
interpreted as including freedom of the media. This protection is
important because the threat of exposure by a legally protected
media is the best way to deter governments who may be tempted
to lie to the people about their competence or to cover up their
misdeeds or to manipulate public opinion. As we all know, even in
the face of a protected media, governments still try to deceive the
public with some regularity. Of course, usually we know that
these attempts have been made only because of exposure by or
through the media. In addition, there is no reason to think that all
such attempts have been detected and exposed by the media.
However, it is clear that without a legally protected media we
would be utterly helpless in the face of government manipulation.
But the very fact that the media enjoys special protection against
interference carries with it the risk that the media may abuse its
role. Of course, the media is subject to the laws of libel, and may
be sued for publishing false information which harms someone.
But apart from this restriction, which applies to all of us, the
media is free to publish whatever it chooses. Of course, if we
value a free media, we cannot advocate additional legal
restrictions in order to ensure that the media performs its role in a
responsible manner. If the media is free to report as it sees fit,
then sometimes it will see fit to report irresponsibly. This is the
price we have to pay for a free media. That is the nature of human
freedom. However, while we have an obligation to respect and
defend the freedom of the media, we also have an obligation both
as citizens and as reasoning human beings to react intelligently to
the media. There are two aspects to this obligation.
First, we have an obligation to scrutinize the media in order to
ensure that we understand its limitations and possible biases. If
we don’t do this, we risk being unknowingly misled and
Second, we have an obligation to criticize the media when it
behaves irresponsibly. The underlying reason for protecting the
freedom of the media is that the health of a democracy depends
crucially upon the freedom of the media to criticize the
government and to advocate policies that are at variance with
those of the government. When the media behaves irresponsibly
it is weakening its role as a defender of democracy, and it is
important to challenge the media whenever this happens.
It is important to understand the difference between criticizing the
media and attacking the freedom of the media. Some people
respond to criticism of the media by appealing to the principle of
the freedom of the media. This response in effect claims that
freedom of the media includes freedom from criticism. Such a
response sadly misunderstands the nature of the freedom of the
media. Freedom of the media requires only that the government
not control the media. In a society where freedom of the media is
respected, publishers and editors will be free to publish whatever
they think is appropriate, and anyone who wants to start a
newspaper or other news organization will be free to do so. In
other words, freedom of the media means that control of what
gets published should remain in the hands of private citizens.
Criticizing the media does not challenge in any way the principle
that the media should be free. Criticizing the media assumes only
that editors and journalists sometimes do their job badly, and that
when they do they can legitimately be criticized for their failings.
People who criticize the media are almost never calling for
government intervention. On the contrary, they are calling for the
particular editors concerned to do their job better voluntarily.
Determining bias
The most obvious failing of the media is biased reporting. Loaded
terms are used most often and most blatantly in newspaper
Assignment 6a

Answer each of the following two (2) questions. Then,
submit your answers to Canvas under Assignment 6.
1. Should the media be regulated?
2. Should social media be regulated?
headlines, but can, of course, also occur in the text of stories.
Consider the following pair of headlines:
(a) PM Blames Staff for Fiasco
(b) Military Accepts Responsibility for Embarrassing PM
The first headline conveys the idea that the Prime Minister has
refused to accept responsibility for something that is his or her
responsibility, which strongly suggests that the Prime Minister is a
moral and political coward. The second headline makes no such
suggestion and is consistent with the idea that the Prime Minister
has behaved responsibly. Here are some other pairs of headlines
in which loaded terms convey quite different views:
In each case it is easy to see that one of the two headlines relies
upon loaded terms to convey a specific value judgment. The use
of quotation marks in the first example (“Cover Up”) is interesting
because it allows the newspaper to deny a bias by saying that the
headline did not claim that there was a cover up but merely
quoted someone else’s allegation of a cover up. In fact, most
readers will not notice the quotation marks and will take the
alleged cover up as a fact and assume that the newspaper
endorses the negative judgement conveyed by the phrase.
Selectivity is a more complex source of biased reporting.
Selectivity occurs in three ways. First, editors have to make
decisions as to what to report and what to ignore. After all, there
are thousands of incidents that occur every day that we would all
agree are not worth reporting. No one could blame a television
network for failing to report that someone spilled a cup of coffee
at breakfast. Every television news broadcast and every issue of a
newspaper or news magazine reflects the editors’ judgments as
to what should be reported and what should not.
There is no way around this; some selection has to be made by
someone. Second, selectivity occurs when decisions are made as
to the prominence that is given to each story. For newspapers,
the question is which story will be the main front page headline,
and which stories will be mentioned on page 38. For television
news programs, the question is which story comes first and
which stories are left to the end. Once again, these decisions are

(a) City Council “Cover Up” of Hospital Fraud
(b) Councillor Alleges Cover Up of Hospital Fraud
(a) Critics Disgusted by More Olympic Corruption
(b) Olympic Scandal Deepens: IOC Will Investigate New
(a) More Food Aid Disappears: Canadians Conned by Corrupt
(b) Food for Starving Gets Through: Delays Blamed on Rebels
(a) Butchered 7 Teenage Girls: Now Seeks Freedom
(b) Serial Killer’s Parole Application Denied
unavoidable. Only two or perhaps three stories can receive front
page coverage, and only one story can come first in a television
news broadcast. Third, editors have to make decisions as to the
amount of coverage to be given to each story. Should it receive
detailed treatment, perhaps with additional related stories on the
same topic from different reporters, or does it warrant only short
cursory coverage? These three types of selectivity make it
possible for the media to present biased coverage of a certain
event, or certain types of events. They make it easy to play up or
play down a particular story to make it seem more or less
important to the audience. The story is covered and all the
relevant facts may be mentioned, but the impact of the story can
be significantly affected by the prominence given to it.
It is usually easy to identify and describe biased reporting that
results from the use of loaded terms. Bias that arises from
selectivity is a little more difficult to recognize. Often it only
becomes apparent when a pattern of bias is detected. For
example, a newspaper that routinely gives front page prominence
to stories about welfare fraud and relegates to the back pages a
government report that shows that only 6% of welfare claims are
fraudulent can legitimately be suspected of attempting to create
an anti-welfare sentiment. Similarly, a newspaper that always
gives prominence to reports of high salaries of business
executives and record profits of corporations may legitimately be
suspected of attempting to foster antibusiness sentiment. In both
cases, however, the bias becomes apparent only through the
identification of a pattern of coverage.
Is objective reporting possible?
Identifying bias in reporting is usually a straightforward task
requiring only the use of critical thinking skills. But how easy is it
to remove bias from a story? At first sight, this task seems equally
straightforward. After all, since a bias is something present in a
story that shouldn’t be there, once we identify it we should be
able to remove it, thus leaving an unbiased story. Removing a
bias is only difficult if we cannot identify it; once we recognize
and identify a bias removing it is no more difficult than removing a
pair of spectacles with tinted lenses. Many people think of bias
this way because it seems to follow directly from the method we
use to identify bias in a story. We identify a bias in a story, they
argue, by comparing the actual story with an ”ideal” unbiased
account. We compare the two and note the differences: the bias
will consist of whatever is in the actual story that is not in the
ideal story, and/or whatever is in the ideal story that is not in the
actual story. On this view, bias is simply a failure to achieve
objectivity. It is assumed that we understand what objectivity is
and can recognize it when we see it. The ability to understand
objectivity is thus a precondition for recognizing bias.
But this view is frequently attacked on the ground that it is
unrealistic and naive to think that we know what objectivity is.
There is no “ideal” objective story, the critics argue, and objective
reporting is therefore impossible. All reporting is necessarily
subjective and reflects the values and biases of the reporters and
editors. It may appear that some accounts are unbiased, but this
is misleading, for an “unbiased” account is simply one whose
biases coincide with our own. I may think my favorite newspaper
is unbiased and yours is biased, but from your point of view my
favorite newspaper is biased while yours is unbiased. In reality,
the critics argue, we are both wrong, for objectivity is
unattainable. It is not only unattainable in practice, but is also
unattainable in principle. Objectivity is not some ideal goal we can
strive for even though we know we can never achieve it, like a
sprinter who strives to run 100 meters in under nine seconds.
Objectivity is an unintelligible goal, like trying to draw a round
square. This attack raises an extremely important issue which
must be addressed in any assessment of the media. If the critics
are correct and objective reporting is impossible, it makes no
sense to criticize the media for biased reporting. All we can do is
seek to identify bias so we can screen it out if we don’t agree with
it, or turn to a different media source for our information.
Initially, the view that unbiased objective reporting is impossible
looks plausible. We all know from our own experience how
difficult it is to attain objectivity. No matter how hard we might try
to describe some event in totally objective terms we realize we
can never produce anything other than our interpretation of it.
Two people who are asked to produce detailed objective
descriptions of the same event will never agree down to the last
detail. They might produce closely similar accounts but this will
be merely a coincidence that arises only because they happen to
share the same biases. It seems that every conceivable
description of a given event can never be anything other than
someone’s interpretation of it. And since the media is just as
inescapably biased as individuals, it makes no sense to expect
anything other than some particular interpretation when we watch
the news on television or read a newspaper. It therefore makes no
sense to criticize the media for bias. How can we criticize anyone
for doing what is unavoidable? We might as well criticize water for
running downhill.
But does this conclusion really follow? Does the fact that
interpretation is inescapable make nonsense of the idea that we
can aim at objectivity and impartiality? Does it really rule out the
possibility of criticizing media bias? It certainly would if all
interpretations are equally legitimate. But is this so? Are all
interpretations of an event equally reasonable? If we are
confronted by two conflicting interpretations of some event can
we only shrug and treat them as equally valid?
Consider the following hypothetical example of conflicting news
(a) Ronald Smith, a science teacher at Oak Lane High School, lost
his temper yesterday and threw a book at a student, 17-year-old
David Jones, hitting him on the head. Jones has complained
about Smith’s behavior to the school principal, Marion Lee, but
Lee has so far refused to take any action against Smith. Jones
was unavailable for comment, but his friends say he is planning to
charge Smith with assault. When contacted by reporters, Smith
refused to answer questions and referred reporters to Mr. L.
Rostock, Director of Education for the county Board of Education,
also refused to comment on the incident.
(b) Ronald Smith, a science teacher at Oak Lane High School,
was attacked yesterday by one of his students. The student, 17-
year-old David Jones, had refused to stop laughing and talking in
class despite repeated requests from Smith. When Smith ordered
Jones to leave the room, Jones threw his text book at Smith, who
caught it and tossed it back to Jones. Jones then stormed out of
the room and left the school. When contacted, the school
principal, Marion Lee, said she had interviewed both Smith and
Jones, and that Jones had already apologized to Smith. She said
she now regards the matter as closed.
These two accounts present quite different interpretations of the
event. There are also certain factual discrepancies. Did Smith
throw a book at Jones and hit his head? Or did Smith merely toss
the book back to Jones after Jones had thrown it at Smith?
Surely anyone who actually witnessed the event would be able to
say which account is correct. After all, either the book actually hit
Jones on the head, or it did not. Similarly, either Jones did in fact
apologize to Smith, or he did not. Since it is the reporter’s job to
uncover the relevant facts the discrepancies between the two
stories show that one of the reporters has failed to do his or her
job properly and has misreported the facts. But there is also a
significant discrepancy in how the two accounts interpret the
actions of the principal. The first account suggests that the
principal is attempting to cover up the incident. The second
account makes it appear that the principal acted appropriately.
Which of these is the more reasonable interpretation? The
information provided by the two accounts doesn’t answer this
question, but further investigation into the incident would likely
make the answer clear. For example, would it be reasonable to
interpret Smith’s action of throwing or tossing the book to Jones
as an assault? In some cases, observers might find it hard to say,
but usually it will be obvious whether it really was a threatening
action or not. These are all legitimate questions that arise out of
the discrepancies between the two stories. Asking them is
reasonable and natural. The answers to them will enable us to
decide which story is closer to the truth, or which is the more
reasonable interpretation. People who think that there is no way
to decide between the two accounts (because all reporting is
biased) are forced to view such questions as illegitimate. But this
is surely just wrong. Further investigation will almost certainly
favor one story or the other, or perhaps a third version combining
elements from both. People who hold that there is no way to
decide which story is more reasonable are in effect refusing to
carry out further investigation. They have closed their minds to
the possibility of further reasonable inquiry.
When dealing with conflicting accounts of an event, we are led to
ask certain questions in order to decide which account is better.
The fact that we ask these questions shows that we reject the
suggestion that all interpretations are equal. We ask them
because we believe that some interpretations are better (i. e.,
more reasonable, or more defensible, or closer to the truth) than
others. And the questions we ask are of a type that should
already be familiar to anyone with well developed critical thinking
skills. For example, we asked whether certain factual statements
were true, and whether other statements were relevant. These are
both questions we need to ask when assessing arguments. This
does not mean that news reports are actual arguments, but it
does mean that we can use our critical thinking skills to assess
How to assess news reports
There are two primary purposes of news reports and the news
media in general: (a) to describe some event to the reader, and (b)
to persuade the reader to accept an interpretation of the event.
We sometimes get so caught up in the factual descriptions that
we forget about the second purpose of news reports. Journalists,
however, are always aware of the need to present the factual
description in a way that gives it a certain interpretation. For
example, a story about a fire in a retirement home may highlight
the narrow escapes of the residents and the heroism of the fire
department, or it may focus on the failure of smoke alarms and
inadequate safety inspections. Both stories may include the same
factual descriptions of the incident, but the interpretations will be
different. The presence of the interpretive element does not mean
that reporters and editors deliberately present a biased story. In
most cases, they see what they are doing as presenting a
responsible interpretation. If challenged to defend the content of
a story they will usually claim that the facts are true and that their
interpretation is a reasonable one. When we assess news
coverage by news organizations (newspapers, magazines, radio
and television stations), it is important to realize that there are
these two different aspects — the factual and the interpretive —
to consider because they are different they require different types
of assessment.
Assessing factual claims
Descriptions in news reports consist of empirical truth claims. The
factual truth of news reports is in practice relatively easy to
assess because news reports are usually quite explicit in
identifying the source of their factual claims. Reporters
sometimes present their own eyewitness accounts, as when they
describe a riot or flood that they have themselves witnessed.
Sometimes they quote what witnesses have said about some 

event, as when they interview the victims of fraud. They may
quote from official police reports. They may quote someone with
relevant expertise. In each case the source of the information is
identified so that the reporter can justify the claims made in the
report. It is sometimes important to remind ourselves that when a
reporter quotes witnesses or experts the reporter cannot
guarantee the truth of what is said. Occasionally, we may suspect
that a reporter may not be telling the truth, or may be deliberately
attempting to create a misleading impression of the facts.
However, most news organizations are careful to avoid publishing
anything whose factual truth is in doubt. They believe, probably
correctly, that if they are perceived as unreliable on factual
matters their audience or readership will decline. This is why they
are quick to publish corrections and apologies whenever they
make a mistake and publish a false statement.
Normally we do not need to check the factual reliability of the
news media with respect to particular news reports. But if we are
concerned about the general reliability of a news organization
there are certain questions we should ask. Does it have a
reputation for carefully checking its factual claims? Does it
apologize whenever it makes a factual error? If there are
conflicting reports of an event by different news organizations is
there internal evidence that would indicate which story is correct?
When we have personal knowledge of an event being reported or
background knowledge of a situation, does the report match our
knowledge of the facts? Sometimes, however, a factual story may
be so important to us that we will want to do some independent
checking to determine whether the story is correct. This may
present us with a difficult practical challenge for it may require us
to interview witnesses for ourselves, and to obtain documents
and reports that may be difficult to obtain.
Assessing interpretive frameworks
Assessing interpretations presented in news stories is much more
complex. The interpretive aspect of a news report needs to be
understood in the context of the kind of interpretation that is
present in the overall news coverage of a particular news
organization. To understand the interpretation in a news story
requires more than merely recognizing that a bias is present. For
example, we need to know more than that the news organization
dislikes the Prime Minister. We need to know what reasons they
would give to explain or justify their hostility. This requires us to
pay attention to the pattern of coverage and bias over a
significant period of time. Is the hostility based on dislike of the
Prime Minister’s character and personal qualities? Or the
government’s policies? Or the inability to overcome government
inefficiency? If we want to understand the interpretation being
given to stories about the Prime Minister we need to know what
reasons lie behind the hostility. What these reasons will reveal is
an interpretive framework that influences and is present in all the
coverage. This framework will always include a political
perspective, sometimes including a commitment to a particular
political party, but it extends far beyond the political sphere. It
may, for example, include a view of the role of the arts, the value
of amateur sport, support for certain educational policies, and
concern about the role of organized religion in society. There are
often subtle interconnections within an interpretive framework. It
may be, for example, that although the hostility directed towards
the Prime Minister is most evident with respect to certain
personal qualities, it is the government’s policies that underlie the
hostility. The news organization may believe that the best way to
undermine public support for the government’s policies is not by
attacking them directly but by ridiculing the Prime Minster’s
personal qualities. If we decide that the news organization is
hostile to the government’s policies, we need to understand
which particular policies are disliked most strongly. Is it the
government’s support for NATO? Is it the refusal to introduce
major tax cuts? Is it that the government is soft on crime, or
hostile to minority rights, or that it treats certain regions of the
country unfairly? Only when we can answer these questions will
we really understand the interpretive framework that lies behind
the interpretations given to particular stories.
Once we understand the interpretive framework in the coverage
provided by a particular news organization, we are in a position to
assess it. It may be that some of the Prime Minister’s personal
qualities are less than admirable, but if we are aware that news
stories that focus on these personal qualities are part of an
attempt to undermine public support for certain government
policies, we will no longer regard these stories as innocuous. We
will want to object that the Prime Minister’s accent or clothes or
protruding ears have nothing to do with any significant political
issue. It may be that the law deals too leniently with criminals, but
we will want to know whether news reports that focus on crimes
committed by repeat offenders really show a failure of
government policy and precisely what that failure consists in. In
short, we will want to use our own judgment to decide what we
think is the most defensible social policy regarding the treatment
of offenders, and on this basis decide whether we agree with the
interpretation presented by a particular news organization. This is
the kind of thing we must do for every element of the news
organization’s interpretive framework. We must identify each
policy stance that is part of the interpretive framework and then
decide for ourselves whether we agree with it or not.
Of course, an interpretive framework may not include a position
on every controversial social and political issue. Sometimes a
news organization is neutral with respect to certain issues. For
example, it may be neutral on the question whether more
government action is required to achieve significant reductions of
greenhouse gas emissions. Such neutrality can sometime be
deceptive, however, for while a news organization may be neutral
on whether government action is needed it may have strong
views on what the government should do if further action is
needed. For example, it may insist that if further government
action is needed it should only take the form of tax incentives to
Assignment 6b

Use this scrolling text box to complete the assignment.
Choose one (1) of the following sets of questions. Then,
submit your answers to Canvas under Assignment 6.
1. Find an article on a controversial topic. How strong are
the arguments? Are there counterarguments that
should be taken into account? Is it factual or fake
news? Comment on the impact of the article. Submit in
2. Find Twitter tweets by a politician or celebrity. Do they
manufacturers. The neutrality may extend only to one specific
aspect of an issue.
It would be a mistake to think that an interpretive framework must
be accepted or rejected as a whole. There will likely be some
coherence among the various elements that make up an
interpretive framework, but this does not mean we cannot be
selective in our judgments about the framework. We may, for
example, agree with a news organization on matters of foreign
policy and disagree with it on domestic policy issues. Or we may
agree with it on the need to strengthen the role of religion and
religious institutions in our society and disagree with it on the
need for welfare reform.
Note: The so-called “tabloid” press — weekly newspapers that
are sold mainly in supermarket checkout aisles — feature two
types of stories. (1) Bizarre stories about space aliens, two-
headed babies, UFOs, and Elvis sightings. They are always
presented as true accounts and never acknowledge that there are
good reasons to be skeptical about their claims. In many cases
the claims are so outlandish that they could not possibly be true.
(2) Reports of scandals involving Hollywood and pop music
celebrities. These reports are often heavily criticized for violations
of privacy and sleazy journalistic practices, and have led to many
lawsuits from angry celebrities. They are frequently shown to be
blatantly false or wild exaggerations.
Some people regard the tabloids as simple entertainment that is
designed to amuse, rather than as serious attempts to report
news. They think the tabloids are good for a laugh and that it is a
mistake to criticize them. According to one media watcher, the
usual criticisms of tabloids miss the point; the only legitimate
criticism of a tabloid is when it isn’t funny. But this is surely far too
glib. It is true that some people buy tabloids just for their humor
value. What ought to concern us, however, is their effect on those
readers who think that the tabloids are reporting news. Surely for
these readers the effect of a steady diet of tabloids must be to
blunt their critical faculties and to encourage them to accept
outrageous claims at face value. Instead of improving their ability
to understand the world around them the tabloids make them
more ignorant and more likely to listen to any demagogue who
comes along. Not only are the tabloids an insult to human
intelligence, they are a dangerous influence in our democratic
society. No-one is suggesting that they should be banned but
surely we should try to create a society in which the average
citizen would be too embarrassed to buy a tabloid.
There is a bottom line in all this. Newspapers and television
stations are subject to the constraints of the marketplace. If they
cannot sell their product they will go out of business and their
product will no longer be available for anyone. Giving the public
what it wants is not only not reprehensible, it is actually a
requirement of a free market society. It is healthy when
newspapers and television shows compete for the public’s
attention. A society in which there is vigorous competition within
the media is a society that is vibrant and alive. What the critics fail
to recognize is that there is no realistic alternative to “pandering
to the public’s taste” through marketplace competition. The only
way to remove the media from the competition of the
marketplace would be to abolish private ownership. No sane
person wants state ownership of the media.

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This chapter has been reproduced in
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Chapter 7
• References
• Image credits
Chapter 1
College success [eBook edition]. (2012). Saylor Academy. https://
Chapter 2
College success [eBook edition]. (2012). Saylor Academy. https://
Chapter 3
Jackson, R., & McLeod, M. (2015). The logic of our language: An introduction to
symbolic logic. Broadview Press.
Seuren, P. A. M. (2010). The logic of language: Language from within volume II
[eBook edition]. Oxford University Press. EBSCO eBooks. (See http://lynn-
Chapter 4
Dowden, B. H. (2020). Logical reasoning. California State University Sacramento.
Chapter 5
Dowden, B. H. (2020). Logical reasoning. California State University Sacramento.
Chapter 6
Jackson, R., & McLeod, M. (2015). The logic of our language: An introduction to
symbolic logic. Broadview Press.
Seuren, P. A. M. (2010). The logic of language: Language from within volume II
[eBook edition]. Oxford University Press. EBSCO eBooks. (See http://lynn-
Section 1
Copyright page
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Cover art:
Chapter 1
Title page:
Man in thought:
Bloom’s taxonomy:
Question marks:
Chapter 2
Title page:
Rewrite, edit, rewrite:
Chapter 3
Title page:
Chalkboard talk:
Chapter 4
Title page:
Section 2
Image credits
Pee Wee Herman:
Chapter 5
Title page:
Pointing fingers:
Chapter 6
Title page:
Social media:
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