Rhetoric & Argumentation

27 Creating Arguments

Melanie Gagich & Emilie Zickel

What are the features of argument?

Argument is not simply the loud, assertive, unwavering statement of your opinion in the hopes of conquering the opposition. Argument is the careful consideration of numerous positions and the careful development of logically sound, carefully constructed assertions that, when combined, offer a worthwhile perspective in an ongoing debate. Certainly, you want to imagine yourself arguing with others—and, you may want to believe your opinion has superior qualities to theirs—but the purpose of argument in the college setting is not to win or shut down a conversation. Rather, it’s to illuminate, expand, and further inform a debate happening on a worthwhile subject between reasonable, intelligent people.

Some of the key tools of an argument are the strategies that students are asked to consider when doing a Rhetorical Analysis. As you plan and draft your own argument, you must carefully use the following elements of rhetoric to your own advantage: rhetorical appeals, structure, and style.


Rhetorical Appeals



Logos is the use of logic, data/evidence, statistics, and related facts to establish the practicality and rationality of your ideas. Applying logos is not relegated to just evidentiary support; it is also applied to the way you structure your ideas, claims, and discussion. To have a logically sound argument, you should include:

  • a debatable and supportable claim,
  • logical reasoning to support your claim,
  • rational underlying premises,
  • sound evidence and examples to justify the reasoning,
  • reasonable projections,
  • and concessions & rebuttals.

Additionally, to ensure you are creating a rational discussion, you should avoid logical fallacies, such as indicating the opposition is stupid, which is an ad hominem attack.



Ethos is an appeal to credibility and how authors establish their trustworthiness. The ethical and well-balanced use of rhetorical strategies will help you to present yourself as trustworthy and intelligent in your consideration of the topic and in the development of your argument. Another aspect of your credibility as a writer of argument, particularly in the college setting, is your attention to the needs of the audience with regard to presentation and style. In college, this means adhering to the genre expectations of your audience. Consider the following questions to ensure you have established the proper ethos as a student author:

  • Have you met the requirements of the writing assignment?
  • Have you thought through the purpose of your writing assignment?
  • Have you kept your audience in mind in developing your writing?
  • Have you cited sources in the manner that your reading audience would expect?
  • Have you applied the formatting that is routine for the genre?



Academic and scholarly writing often puts more emphasis on logos and ethos than on pathos. However, the use of examples and language that evoke an emotional response in your reader—that gets them to care about your topic—are examples of appeals to pathos. Pathos can be helpful in an argument and is a part of most successful attempts at rhetoric. For academic essays, pathos may be particularly useful in introductory sections, concluding sections, or as ways to make your work memorable, an important component of rhetorical considerations.



A well-structured argument is one that is carefully planned. It is organized so that the argument has a fluid building of ideas, one onto the other, in order to produce the most persuasive impact or effect on the reader. You should avoid repeating ideas, reasons, or evidence. Instead, consider how each idea in your argument connects to the others. The following are some questions to consider when ensuring a good structure for the conveyance of your discussion:

  • Should some ideas come before others?
  • Should you build your reasons from simple to complex or from complex to simple?
  • Should you present the counterargument before your reasons? Or, would it make more sense for you to present your reasons and then the concessions and rebuttals?
  • How can you use clear transitional phrases to facilitate reader comprehension of your argument?


Style/ Eloquence

The relative formality and associated genre conventions you choose to compose in will always vary depending on the rhetorical situation in which you’re writing. Be attentive to the audience, genre, purpose, and context of your writing because that will help you decide how to approach your composition.  For some writing assignments, you may choose to use short, concise language, poetic or figurative language that evokes the senses, or you may choose to code-mesh, integrating multiple languages, dialects, or registers.

It is important to understand what kind of style of writing your audience expects, as delivering your argument in that style could make it more persuasive. And not delivering your argument in the expected style may affect the perception of your ethos.




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Creating Arguments Copyright © 2021 by Melanie Gagich & Emilie Zickel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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