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Chapter 13: Style in Arguments

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Ken Billings

on 11 March 2015

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Transcript of Chapter 13: Style in Arguments

Chapter 13: Style in Arguments
Style and Word Choice
The vocabulary that you choose for an argument helps to define its style.
Style and Sentence Structure
Choices about sentence structure also can define the style of an argument.
Style and Punctuation
Clint Eastwood said, "You can show a lot with a look....It's punctuation."
Style and Figurative Language
The two purposes of figurative language:

aids understanding by drawing parallels between what is known and what is unknown
makes arguments memorable
Response #1
Turn to something you read frequently--a blog, a sports or news magazine, or a friend's page on Twitter--and look closely at the sentences. What seems to be distinctive about them? Do they vary in terms of their length and the way that they begin? If so, how? Do they use parallel structures or other structural devices to good effect? How easy to read are they, and what accounts for that ease? Be prepared to discuss your findings to the class.
Response #2
Try your hand at writing a brief movie review for your school newspaper, experimenting with punctuation as one way to create an effective style. Consider whether a series of questions might have a strong effect, whether exclamation points would add or detract from the message you want to send, and so on. When you've finished the review, compare it to one written by your classmate, and look for similarities and differences in your choices of punctuation. Be prepared to discuss to the class.
Response #3
Some writers or public speakers are well known for their use of figurative language. Using the Internet, find the text of an essay or a speech by someone who uses figures of speech liberally. Pick a paragraph that seems particularly rich in figures, and rewrite it, eliminating every trace of figurative language. Then read the two paragraphs--the original and your revised version--aloud to your class. With your classmates' help, imagine rhetorical situations in which the figure-free version would be most appropriate. Be prepared to show and discuss both versions to the class.
Response #4
Find an example of prose that seems dry and nonfigurative (such as a technical manual, instructions for operating appliances, or a legal document). Rewrite parts of the piece in the most figurative language that you can come up with. Then read the two paragraphs--the original and your revised version--aloud to your class. Then try to list rhetorical situations in which this newly figured language might be most appropriate. Be prepared to show and discuss both versions to the class.
Not Just Words
Choose an image above, and study it for a few minutes. How would you describe the style of the person depicted--just by thinking about choice of pants, stance, and so on?
What is Gordon Gecko's style?
How would you describe his language?
Arguments have their own style.

We can identify them as high (formal or ornate), middle (understated and very clear), and low (everyday or humorous).

A speech or essay with the wrong style is like lipstick on a pig.
Students from the Labor Action Committee (LAC) carried out a hunger strike to call attention to the below-minimum wages that are being paid to campus temporary workers, saying, "The university must pay a living wage to all its workers."
Left-wing agitators and radicals tried to use self-induced starvation to stampede the university into caving in to its demands.
Champions of human rights put their bodies on the line to protest the university's tightfisted policy of paying temporary workers scandalously low wages.
"There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"
"His [Henry Roth's] hands were warped by rheumatoid arthritis; the very touch of his computer keyboard was excruciating. But he still put in five hours a day, helped by Perocet, beer, a ferocious will, and the ministrations of several young assistants."
As we reached the end of the cell-block, hysterical shouts, in broken English, erupted from a caged exercise area nearby. "Come here!" a man screamed. "See here! They are liars! . . . No sleep!" he yelled. "No food! No medicine! No doctors! Everybody sick here!"

--Jane Meyer, "The Experiment"
The men may also wear the getup known as Sun Belt Cool: a pale beige suit, open-collared shirt (often a darker shade than the suit), cream-colored loafers and aviator sunglasses.

--Alison Lurie, "The Language of Clothes"
As the scenes of destruction cease, one has to ponder the oddity of a science-fiction movie without science, or even routine curiosity. Who are the aliens? What is their chemical makeup and how might they be vulnerable? What does the attack mean? Nobody raises any of these issues.

--David Denby, "Stayin' Alive"
-- --
Even when [Vice President Dick Cheney] can easily--and retroactively--get snooping warrants, he doesn't want their stinking warrants. Warrants are for sissies."

--Maureen Dowd, "Looking for a Democratic Tough Guy, or Girl"
. . .
Then the voice, husky and familiar, came to wash over us--"The winnah, and still heavyweight champeen of the world . . . Joe Louis."

--Maya Angelou, "Champion of the World"
Every year, whether the Republican or the Democratic party is in office, more and more power drains away from the individual to feed vast reservoirs in far-off places; and we have less and less say about the shape of events which shape our future.

--William F. Buckley Jr., "Why Don't We Complain?"
A comparison between two things
a figure of speech that uses like or as to compare two things
the use of overstatement or exaggeration for effect
the presentation of something as being smaller, worse, or less important than it actually is
Rhetorical Questions
a figure of speech in the form of a question that is asked in order to make a point and is posed not to elicit a specific answer, but rather to encourage the listener to consider a message or viewpoint.
HAMLET: Let me question more in particular: what have you,
my good friends, deserved at the hands of fortune,
that she sends you to prison hither?

GUILDENSTERN: Prison, my lord!

HAMLET: Denmark's a prison.

ROSENCRANTZ: Then is the world one.

HAMLET: A goodly one; in which there are many confines,
wards and dungeons, Denmark being one o' the worst.
"Taking in my opponent's performances is a little like watching a big summer blockbuster, and an hour in, realizing that all the best scenes were in the trailer you saw last fall."

--John McCain about then Senator Obama, 2008
"Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world."

Ralph Waldo Emerson, The Concord Hymn
And how many deaths will it take till we know, that too many people have died?

--Bob Dylan, "Blowin' in the Wind"
These responses will be due on Thursday, 31 October.

Everything's an Argument, 5th edition, 2010
Editors Andrea A. Lunsford, John J. Ruszkiewicz, and Keith Walters
Full transcript