Since we talked about informal fallacies a few days ago, I thought I’d expand that post a little bit to help you avoid informal fallacies in your own writing, and the best way I know how is to tell you to think mechanically.
What I mean by this is that you need to not just listen to the basic concept of your sentences, but you need to pinpoint exactly how each word contributes to each sentence and whether that contribution is helpful or not. When debating anything, it’s easy to quickly rattle off your stance before you forget it, but you must be careful to think about what you’re saying or writing.
When I tutor writing and grammar, I often tell students to think mechanically when they are trying to figure out dangling and misplaced modifiers. For example, check out this sentence:
People who laugh rarely are sad.
Most students look at me blankly when they see this sentence. They read it with their ears only and don’t catch that the adverb is ambiguous. In their minds, they assign the adverb to either laugh or are without realizing that rarely could apply to either verb in the sentence.
I think fallacies are the same way: we don’t think mechanically about what we’re saying, so we don’t notice the fallacy. And this can be a serious mistake because using informal fallacies is a good way for people to not trust your judgment.
What do you think? Are there tips you use to avoid slipping into fallacies?