QUALIFYING YOUR STATEMENTS
Whenever you're writing an argument, you should be sensitive to the impression you might be making on your reader. How will s/he react to what you've just written? Will s/he think that you are over-stating your case? Will s/he think that you have lost control of yourself by making statements which you could never possibly prove? Have you left a chink in your armor (i.e. your argument) by making a statement which could easily be refuted?
If, for example, you have written, "The teachers at PCC are terrible!" Well, that may be your opinion. Still, all it takes is for a reader to find one fantastic teacher (I'm sure you can all think of at least one) and s/he will decide that you are ignorant, overly-emotional, or have bad judgment. This may be a minor point in your argument, but it could be the one thing that causes the reader to lose confidence in you.
What do you do about it? Qualify That Statement! Here are several ways to do that:
1. Root the statement in your own experience. "Every teacher I've had at PCC has been terrible." (then go on to give examples of their terrible teaching, and perhaps speculate on the causes of the trend; if you can do both, you've proven your point and achieved your desired aim--to trash PCC.
2. Replace "is" with "may" or "might": "The end of the world may be near."
3. Use a "frequency" qualifier: "Most of the teachers at PCC are terrible." (and most teachers would probably agree with you-- as long as they're not included) Other such words: "for the most part," "on the whole," "generally," "usually," "many," "almost never," "almost" always, "a number," "an alarming number," "an impressive number," "a disappointing number," etc.
4. Use a "speculative" qualifier: "It may be that the teachers at PCC are terrible." "It seems that the teachers at PCC are terrible." "The teachers at PCC are perhaps terrible." "Probably" is a little stronger. Others: "seemingly," "possibly," "apparently," "presumably," "allegedly"
5. Add a qualifying phrase or subordinate clause to your statement: "Although a few exceptions do exist (e.g., Michael Dembrow), the teachers at PCC are on the whole a miserable bunch." "The teachers at PCC are terrible, with only a few exceptions."
As you can see, one can frequently use combinations of these devices.
As usual, don't overdo this. Qualifying every statement will make your writing seem wishy-washy. When it's time to take a strong stand, do so. You won't regret it. You probably won't regret it. You'll almost never regret it. You may not regret it. Anyway, most of you won’t regret it!
Qualify the following statements:
1. President Bush never says anything intelligent.
2. Studying Writing is a waste of time.
Environmentalists are taking over
4. No one will try to tamper with Cascade's budget now.
5. Contributing to the Dembrow Fund is the best investment you could make.
RETURN to WR122 Page.
RETURN to WR122 Page.