A Lawerly Take on Argument

So many student papers simply describe or summarize when they should argue a point.  Given the popularity of courtroom dramas, you might suggest students think like lawyers.  In a precis of his book, The 12 Secrets of a Persuasive Argument, trial lawyer Paul Mark Sanders counsels colleagues on how to impress a reader–erhh, a jury.

On holding the attention of the judge and jury:

Adopt an appropriate style – Pay attention to the form in which you put the content of your argument. Use plain English. Avoid long sentences. Use vivid language, and choose your words carefully.

On dealing with contrary evidence:

Few cases are perfect. You are bound to have facts or substance that cuts against you. One tip in dealing with contrary facts is to invoke the doctrine of immunization. Like a flu shot to immunize against the flu, relating some of the facts against you, or bringing out on direct examination some of the facts against your case before the opposition does, and explaining your version of those facts either by argument or proper questioning of the witness, can blunt those unfavorable facts.

The article includes a handy list in plain English of common logical fallacies.


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