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Rhetoric for a copywriter. How to form arguments

Argumentation is the essence of the rhetorical composition. The introduction leads to it, and the ending follows. About how to build arguments, what a syllogism and an entymem is, and what order of thought will be the most convincing.

Let us assume that you have created a text whose thesis or proposition is the sentence, It’s worth writing straightforwardly. Now it is necessary to justify this point of view in order to convince the recipient to it. The combination of convincing with justification is nothing more than argumentation.

Because, what is worth emphasizing, there is also persuasion without justification. You act under its influence if you choose a floor cleaner just because its brand is known, or if you go to a movie where all your friends were present, or drink blackcurrant juice when you have a cold, because it was considered effective in your family home. When you follow an example or herd instinct, you usually do not need justification and thus argumentation.

Thus, whether we are dealing with argumentation is determined by the justification. It also has its other side. When you argue in favor of a thesis, you indicate that it is not obvious and must be justified. So it is worth considering whether argumentation is always necessary.

How to build arguments

The argument consists of:
– premises that justify the thesis,
– thesis, i.e. the conclusion.

It is structured as follows: Because premise 1, premise 2, … .., therefore the conclusion, e.g. because the human foot was formed while walking barefoot, and the feet of young children are just developing, therefore footwear should give children’s feet such an opportunity to develop, as if they were walking barefoot.

Of course, the argument need not be worded because, then, though, such transitions increase the effectiveness of suggestion and facilitate acceptance.

Without transitions, the argument would go like this: A person’s foot was formed when walking barefoot. Little children’s feet are just developing. Footwear should therefore give children’s feet the opportunity to develop as if they were walking barefoot.

Let us have a look at the fluency of the arguments as presented by J. Iwaszkiewicz: There is an author behind the book. So his writing is always a letter to the reader. We usually write letters to friends. The book is the author’s letter to a friend.

If the recipient accepts that sentence A is true, he must also admit that sentence B is true. Sentence A is the basis for accepting sentence B. And so on. This reliable way of inference can take the following form, for example:
– Premise 1: Food without preservatives is healthy.
– Premise 2: Juice X contains no preservatives.
– Conclusion: Juice X is healthy.

Both premises have one term in common (preservatives), each term of the application is included in one premise (healthy – in the first, juice x – in the second). This is how a syllogism arises. The greater premise contains a general truth, the smaller one – a detailed one, the conclusion follows logically from two premises.

When I say that Juice X does not contain preservatives, so it is healthy, I will ignore the first premise (Food without preservatives is healthy), because I will take it for granted. This is how an entymemma is created.

An entymemma can also refute a theorem, and in this role it has even greater power. In the inference Adam could not have committed the crime, I have known him since he was a child, the premise Adam is good by nature was hidden.

However, breaking arguments in an advertisement is dangerous. Now, when we fight a claim, we emphasize, as Perelman writes, that it has “sufficient strength that we must go to the trouble of resisting it.” It will be more advantageous not to invoke counter arguments unnecessarily. “Otherwise, we most often risk enhancing their meaning and presence.” – explains Perelman.

Aristotle attached great importance to enthymmas. However, he emphasized that they should be intertwined with the argument from time to time. In too high a density, they will hurt each other. “For simultaneous movements deny each other: they either destroy completely or weaken one another.” – he explains, and it is a universal truth about language. Entymems will not help to evoke emotion either, because “either the emotion will vanish or the enthem will be used in vain.”

Take care of the recipient’s favor

So what you need to care about the most is the favor of the recipient. Nowadays, it is straightforwardly said that effective arguments are those that are tailored to the audience. Therefore, the starting point should be the theses recognized earlier by those to whom we address.

This is why Aristotle advised: “When speaking, we must always pay attention to whether our audience has the same understanding as we are talking about. For it is likely that such things are easier for them to believe. “

When preparing the argument, we must first of all take care of being favorable to the premises. If we take a point of view that is denied by the audience, we will be mistaken.

The premises may concern reality (Mastering a foreign language is not innate) and desirable things (the way to master a foreign language is systematic).

Even a seemingly obvious rule, such as: If you learn 10 new words every day, improve your knowledge of a foreign language, you may not gain the favor of recipients who say that efficient use of a foreign language is the result of inborn talent.

In what order to present the arguments

First of all: should the argument follow the thesis or lead to it? Cicero claimed that when we want to convince the audience, the first order will work, when we move – the second.

In this series, I propose to present the main idea at the beginning. This approach will be useful in both advertising and expert text, and above all, it is consistent with the knowledge about how we read from the screen. In an online article, the passages above have a greater chance of being noticed, read and remembered.

And in what order are the arguments arranged? The rhetoric theorists distinguished ascending, descending and Nestorian order.

If your audience is interested and sympathetic, you can afford to argue from the weakest to the strongest. The ascending order gives the author a certain comfort. When the recipient accepts weaker arguments, he will become more open to accepting stronger ones.

In the case of indifferent and reluctant recipients, a falling order is better. You start with the strongest arguments. If the strongest argument is accepted, so are the weaker ones.

However, both orders have their weaknesses, which Perelman pointed out. “The weakness of the ascending order is that, starting with the weakest arguments, it discourages the [speaker] audience, it damages its prestige and badly affects the attention given to its speech. The descending order, ending the speech with the weakest arguments, makes a bad impression on the audience, usually the only one that they will remember. ” – explains the author.

The compromise ensures the Nestorian order. This honorable name comes from Nestor, who in the Iliad arranged the military ranks so that the strongest were at the head and at the rear, and the weakest in the middle.

This system intuitively created by the ancients has been confirmed by research into the primacy and freshness effects. What is at the beginning of the text has a chance to be permanently remembered by the reader, while what at the end may have a short but strong impact on him. The effect of freshness appears right after reading the content and does not last long.

How to compose a whole

Bert Decker advises you to first write down each idea on a separate piece of paper. Then analyze the ideas, discard some of the ideas, and categorize the rest with a title. According to the classic rule, 3 key points should be added to the final version. Each of them should contain 3 sub-points (arguments).

Below I will present a diagram of such an argumentation that could support a point of view: It’s worth writing simply. I used the Nestorian order, i.e. I started and ended with stronger key points.

Key point 1: Reading from the screen
– On the Internet, the reader is task-oriented and wants to complete the task quickly and effectively.
– When reading from the screen, the appearance of the text is as important as its content, and the short words and sentences, characteristic of a simple style, are easier to catch the eye.
– When reading from a small screen, the memory is overloaded and the pace of reading difficult texts drops significantly.

Key point 2: Brand language
– Language expresses the personality of the brand. Especially the service feeling is mainly based on language.
– The formal style is intimidating, it blows cold from it and these feelings translate into the perception of the brand.
– Written communication becomes more informal. This is one of the main directions of modern language development.

Key point 3: Good impression
– Simple language makes us sound more intelligent.
– We overly complicate the statement when we want to hide uncertainty.
– What you say or write will make more sense to others if they understand more. They recognize that because you express yourself clearly, you can think so too.

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