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Humanities Libertexts

4.5: Claims and Appeals

  • Page ID
    15246
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    We all know the person who offers unsolicited advice or repeats an opinion over and over without offering solid evidence. Don’t be that person. Once you have stated your claim, move on to the evidence and appeals necessary to persuade your readers that your idea is worthy. [Image: Cortney Shegerian | Unsplash]

     

    Definition to Remember:

    • 4 Claims = Fact, Value, Cause and Effect, Policies
    • 3 Appeals = Reason, Emotion, Character

    Rules to Remember:

    1. Your thesis is a claim that must be debatable. Reasonable claims typically fall into one of four categories: fact, value, cause and effect, and policy.
      • Claims of Fact are logical claims that sound like facts but are not easily measured, which makes them debatable. When you make a claim of fact, be careful to include both sides of the argument to demonstrate why your claim is the most reasonable.
        • Women are more effective multi-taskers than men.
        • Dogs are better listeners than cats.
        • The United States Postal Service will cease to exist in the next 10 years.
      • Claims of Value suggest a statement of value that typically requires an evaluative approach. When you make a claim of value, be sure you define your terms meticulously since your audience may not hold to the same values that you do.
        • Wallace Stegner was the best Western American writer of his generation.
        • The Jeep Wrangler is an excellent car for value and durability.
        • The K-12 public school system is always a better choice than paying for private school.
      • Claims of Cause and Effect argue for a link between a cause and an effect that is not necessarily self-evident. Similarly to the value claim, a writer must define his or her terms carefully to ensure that the audience understands and agrees with the foundation of values.
        • Kids who play team supports are harder-working employees when they reach adulthood.
        • The introduction of the smart phone in 2007 has impeded the younger generation’s ability to engage socially.
        • Exposure to violent video games has led to an increasingly more violent American society.
      • Claims of Policy often occur alongside any of the previous three kinds of claims, suggesting a solution or policy change as a strategy for solving the problem that was introduced. A policy claim is an effective way to call your readers to action, although be sure to define clearly what steps you believe should occur in order for the new policy or solution to be put into place.
        • The punishment for drunk driving should be an automatic loss of license, jail time, and community service hours.
        • All Protestant pastors should undergo emotional intelligence assessment before ordination.
        • Airlines should be required to allow each passenger one checked suitcase and one carry-on bag free of charge.

        All of the above claims may be used individually or in combination.

    2. As you support your claim and refute opposing arguments, your appeals will typically fall into one of three categories: reason, emotion, and character.
        • Appeals to Reason include facts, evidence, surveys, and specific examples. In most cases, if an appeal to reason cannot be seen and measured, it will not be considered reasonable and, therefore, persuasive.
        • Appeals to Emotion include stories and anecdotes that trigger an emotional response in a reader. While emotional appeals can sometimes seem manipulative or overused, they can be surprisingly effective even when a readership presents as grounded in logic and postmodern skepticism. An example of an appeal to emotion might be a story about children playing a game of stick ball on the streets of a war-torn city.

      “As a teacher, writing helps me to communicate with students’ families. Maintaining a positive connection between home and school helps my students be more successful.” Katrina Jones, Science Teacher

        • Appeals to Character rely on your ability to show your audience that you are a person of sound, moral judgment and solid reputation, and, therefore, your audience should believe the claims you have made. We are typically more likely to accept advice from people we know and trust, which is where this appeal can be effective. Even if your readers have never heard your name before, you can lead them to trust you by sounding confident and authoritative, offering solid evidence, and assuring them that you are a calm and well-reasoned person.

        As with the claims listed above, appeals may be used in combination – and typically are. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of the most effective orators and persuasive writers of the 20th century, and his writings frequently engaged appeals to reason, appeals to emotion, and appeals to character all in the same piece.

    Common Errors:

    • Ignoring the simple math of persuasion. If your thesis is a debatable claim, both sides of the argument must have some merit. How will you rationally and effectively demonstrate to your readers that your claim is the worthy choice?
    • Hurrying to an end result without walking through the appropriate claims and appeals. Just as the simple math of the sentence equation, paragraph equation, and essay equation is critical to clear and effective communication, the proper use of claims and appeals are essential for successful persuasion. Consider your audience, choose wisely, and write intentionally.
    • Repeating a claim increasingly, more vehemently, rather than offering solid evidence. We all know a person who offers unsolicited advice or repeats an opinion over and over without offering solid evidence. Don’t be that person. Once you have stated your claim, move on to the evidence and appeals necessary to persuade your readers that your idea is worthy.

    Exercises:

    Exercise 18.1

    For each of the following topics, write a sample (1) claim of fact, (2) claim of value, (3) claim of cause and effect, and (4) claim of policy:

    1. Health care
    2. Term limits
    3. Marijuana

    Exercise 18.2

    For each of the topics in Exercise 18.1, select one of the possible claims and consider how you would present an (1) appeal to reason, (2) appeal to emotion, and (3) appeal to character:

    1. Health care
      • Claim:
      • Appeal:
    2. Term limits
      • Claim:
      • Appeal:
    3. Marijuana
      • Claim:
      • Appeal:

    Exercise 18.3

    Consider a writing assignment you intend to write in the near future, whether for work, school, or personal use. What is you purpose, and who is your audience? What claim(s) will you include? Why? What appeal(s) will you include? Why?

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