TumblingLetters-LRThese ten items are from the laws of rhetoric. They were formulated to help debaters stay on track with an argument. In modern life they serve mostly or tell politicians how to convince gullible voters of some non-reality (by violating them). But, as with most items in rhetoric, awareness of these fallacies should help a writer avoid their unintentional use. Put these errors into the mouths of characters you dislike or ones who are likely to use such fallacious approaches in discussions.
1. Do not attack a person’s character, only their argument. (No ad hominem counters.)
2. Do not misrepresent or exaggerate a person’s argument in order to make them easier to attack. (Avoid the straw man fallacy.)
3. Do not use small numbers to represent the whole. (Don’t make a hasty generalization.)
4. Do not argue by assuming one of your premises is true. (Do not beg the question.)
5. Do not claim that, just because something occurred before, it must be the cause. (Post Hoc ergo propter hoc or False Cause arguments, a specialty of political air-heads.)
6. Do not reduce the argument to two possibilities. (Do not create a false dichotomy.)
7. Do not argue that because of our ignorance, your claim must be true [or false]. (Ad ignorantum arguments only show the ignorance of the speaker.)
8. Do not lay the burden of proof on the questioner. (Do not reverse the burden of proof.)
9. Do not assume “this” follows “that” when there is no logical connection. (Do not make non sequitur arguments.)
10. Do not claim that a premise is true because it is popular. (Avoid the bandwagon fallacy.)
Item 3, hasty generalization, seems especially common in news stories in the last few decades. Even otherwise reputable reporters seem to frequently fall into this trap. Their error is to report a rare occurrence as though it is common. When a news report on climate change, say, gives equal time to a denier (a few percent of scientists, if that) as to the overwhelming majority of scientists, he is, in effect, hastily generalizing the denier’s argument. This is not political correctness; it is a rhetorical fallacy.