Argument Arrangement

The arrangement of the argument


When we talk about “arrangement” in an argument paper, we don’t necessarily mean a set formula of organization. What we do want to do, however, is present our position in the most effective way. When we say “effective” we first must remember our purpose and audience. What do we want whom to do after reading the paper?


First of all, in considering common ground as an efficient means of gaining our audience’s trust, we don’t want to give them any surprises. Therefore, it is best to tell them right up front what you are going to talk about. Remember the old saying:


     Tell ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em

     Then tell ‘em

     Then tell ‘em what you told ‘em.


So present your thesis, or your claim, in one of the first few paragraphs.


You can start with an anecdote, scenario, rhetorical question, quote, or other “hooks.” Introduce your claim after that.


Next cover any definitions necessary for the sake of your argument. One important term might mean something different for you than for your audience, depending on point of reference. So clearly define key terms in a friendly way. Another old saying comes up: “for the sake of argument, let’s agree this terms means....”


After that, you will go into the body of your argument.


The arrangement of the body depends on your claim and your purpose. But you must handle the other side of the issue. This is a matter of respecting common ground and appealing with pathos and ethos. You’ll be saying to your audience something like, “I understand you may believe such and such, but...”


You can present your entire argument first, using your logos appeals. Then you can address the counterarguments by acknowledging their validity and then refuting them. You can do this one at a time: acknowledge/refute one point, acknowledge/refute the next point and so on. Or you can discuss all their counterarguments and then refute them. Remember to refute the counterarguments in a friendly, non-threatening way.


Another way of handling refutations is to present one point of your argument, the counterargument, then the refutation, one at a time.


There is also the choice of presenting the counterarguments first, then refute all of those with your argument.


Just ensure there is a logical, consistent arrangement to your discussion.


After you handle the presentation of your argument, using research (logos), appeals of sympathy and understanding (pathos), and maintaining ethics and integrity (ethos), you will conclude.


Your conclusion may include recommendations for a change, but it doesn’t have to. Remember again your purpose. You will sum up your claim and reinforce the reasons for your audience to accept your claim.


This is really important: DO NOT include any new information in your conclusion. If you do present recommendations, make that a whole section before the final wrap up.


Another common error in concluding your argument, besides presenting new information, is getting too general: “therefore, the whole world will be better.” Keep the conclusion, as the whole argument, specific.


Some other points in the rhetoric of your argument:

1.     You may use “I” and “you” if kept specific

2.     You may ask rhetorical questions

3.     Do not use these phrases and words:

a.  “in society today”

b.  “everybody”—“always”—“never”

c.  “the general public”

4.     Be nice and friendly to your audience. Never put them down in tone or wording.