Weston, Anthony. A Rulebook for Arguments. 4th ed. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub., 2009. Kindle Electronic Edition.
Chapter I “Short Arguments: Some General Rules” pp. 1-8
Weston gives us a preview statement on p. 1. This chapter consists of general rules of short arguments while chapters 2-6 detail different kinds of arguments.
The first step in creating an argument is to identify the conclusion. Reasons which lead to the conclusion are called “premises” (Weston 2009, 1). These reasons may be very brief and sometimes even rather obscure, as Weston illustrates with a quote from Sherlock Holmes, taking for granted that dogs tend to bark at strangers. When creating arguments, Weston suggests writing a list of possible premises so as to find those which are most useful.
The second step in creating an argument is to develop ideas and put them into a natural order. This order should make clear sense and lead the reader or listener to the intended conclusion.
A third step in creating an argument is to use reliable premises. Regardless of order, weak premises will lead to a weak conclusion.
Weston then reminds us to be concrete and concise (Ibid., 4).
A fifth step in creating an argument is to use substance. Give reasons, not simply overtones or allusions. Always remember there are multiple sides to an argument. “Generally, people advocate a position for serious and sincere reasons. Try to figure out their view . . . In general, if you can’t imagine how anyone could hold the view you are attacking, you probably just don’t understand it yet” (Ibid., 5).
A sixth step in creating an argument is to watch for consistency in terms. Each argument is about one concept. Use consistent terms to emphasize that concept. The language may be repetitive, but it is clear. “The logic depends on clear connections between premises and between premises and conclusion. It remains essential to use a consistent term for each idea” (Ibid., 6).