Author: Ian McAllister
“A man convinced against his will
Is of the same opinion still.”
If you want to win friends and influence people, you must never argue. But arguing is such fun! Can you never enjoy a good argument?
Yes, you can still enjoy a good argument by writing argumentative essays, or letters to the editor. Even if nobody ever reads the letters to the editor, they are great fun to write.
How to get good marks
The main thing is to keep the reader from being bored, but that is easy. Nobody gets bored by a good argument, especially if you take an unusual point of view.
Always try to think what point of view everyone else will take, then take the opposite, or better still, a third, really weird point of view in your argumentative essay.
Easier than a factual essay
You aren’t marked on the facts in an argumentative essay, so you don’t have to get them right. You aren’t even marked on getting the right answer, because that is what arguments are about – doubt.
Straight and Crooked Thinking
This is the title of a book by R.H. Thouless which you should get second-hand if you can. It lists several dozen dishonest tricks in argument, and I have used most of them in my argumentative essays.
Poisoning the Well
When you poison a well, nobody dares to trust the water from that well again. You can do that in an argument. Once we had an inter-school debate on the subject “This house believes that honesty is the best policy.”
My school was given the opposition viewpoint and won by poisoning the well like this. “Our honorable(?) opponents really believe that dishonesty is the best policy, and are following it by trying to deceive us into believing that they are honest. Everything that they say is part of their aim to deceive us! So honesty is not the best policy.”
You can see examples of this trick every day on TV. An expert drug manufacturer gives an opinion about nutrition, about which he knows nothing at all. However, because he is an expert, he is believed. Use the trick in your argumentative essays.
I once described a “man-eating caraguata plant, from the jungles of the Paraguayan Chaco” in an essay. My teacher knew that I was born in Paraguay, so accepted my expertise, even though I had just made it up.
Blinding with science
People accept explanations that they don’t understand. A secretary’s job is to prevent phone calls disturbing the boss. When you do a mass phone around to find a job, you have to get past that barrier somehow. I always used this dishonest trick.
When I said “I want to discuss your use of first, second and third generation algorithms in programming computers.” I never once got a knock-back! The secretary invariably said something like “Oh. Um. Well… I suppose I’d better put you through.” Can you see the opportunities opening up for you in your argumentative essays to bamboozle the teacher?
Remain in control
You can remain in control when you are writing argumentative essays. Nobody can interrupt your arguments. You get a marvelous feeling of power. Remember – power corrupts and absolute power is even more fun.