Avoiding Fallacies

As you write, be careful to avoid logic fallacies and ideological reasoning that would undermine the focus of your topic. Logic fallacies are errors in reasoning or connecting ideas. As a writer, you should avoid these logical errors in your own writing, and watch for them in the opinions and arguments of others—especially when you are doing research. Common fallacies include:

  • Ad hominem: Also known as name‐calling, this fallacy is a direct or indirect attack on a person.

Bob can't be right because he is an idiot.

  • Bandwagon/celebrity appeal: This fallacy implies that the reader should agree with a premise because a majority or a well‐known person agrees with the premise.

Everyone recognizes this bill will help our children.

  • Either/or reasoning: This fallacy assumes that there can be only one cause or one solution in an issue.

The only way to keep our children safe is to ban video games.

  • Slippery slope: This fallacy assumes that because one minor fact is true, then a larger premise must be too, without any further proof.

Congressman Smith voted against tax increases last week; therefore, Congressman Smith will always be against tax increases.

  • Ad populum: This fallacy bases its argument on emotional appeals rather than facts from reliable sources.

All true Americans want to ban this book.

  • Circular reasoning: This fallacy presents a restatement of the problem itself as a cause of the problem.

There are not enough parking spaces because there are too many cars.

Ideological reasoning is the use of cultural, religious, or moral values and beliefs to prove a position. While there is nothing wrong with making personal judgments, you should be aware that your audience might not share your ideological views. To reach the greatest number of readers, avoid making ideological reasons the foundation of your arguments.