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Arts & Letters Daily


Essay: Fallacies



      Dr. Otto

In the Tutorial on Persuasion, I cautioned you about arguments that seem to be sound when, in fact, they are not. I pointed out that whenever readers detect that a writer has used this kind of argument, which is called a fallacy, they become wary.

There are numerous fallacies …the following are some of the more commonly used fallacies.

YouTube Tutorial – click HERE
Text for Tutorial –   PowerPoint Writing Tutor 19 – Fallacies
Sample – scroll down to Sample
Practice oral English – click HERE



When an argument seems sound but isn’t, readers can be turned off. For example, sometimes a writer makes a statement about a class of people based on the behaviour of one or a few people in that class of people. The writer has suggested that what is true of the part is also true of the whole. This is the Fallacy of Composition. When readers detect these ‘tricks’, they become wary of what the writer has to say. The writer has lost the readers’ trust.  

A fallacy is an argument that seems to be sound when, in fact, it is not. The following are some of the more commonly used fallacies:

  • Composition: what is true of the part is true of the whole

I need no evidence to convince me that your dog has been annoying my cat. For it is well known that dogs bother cats.


  • Argument Leap: jumping to a conclusion that does not follow from the premises

The country is tired of the present administration. We shall have a change after the next election.

  • Equivocation: deliberate use of words in more than one sense

The sign said ‘fine for parking here’, and since it was fine, I parked there.


  • Slogan: use of catch words, slogans and proverbs

‘the forgotten man” at the bottom of the economic pyramid.

  • Ad Hominem: argue the person and not what he says

If you weren’t so stupid you would have no problem seeing my point of view.


  • Emotional Appeal: appeal to pity, prejudice, vanity, ridicule or force

I did not steal that bread! Please don’t find me guilty; I’m suffering enough through being an orphan.