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YYW's Brief Guide to Debate Writing

YYW
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5/17/2015 7:51:46 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
This will consist of a brief discussion of what a debate is, and what that means for how you should structure your rounds. I will then, in general, explain how to write debates and arguments.

Part 1: Debate is an exercise in persuasion.

Debate is an exercise in persuasion. As a debater, your central task is to persuade the judge to your way of thinking with facts and logic, or whatever other method you deem appropriate. Some methods are more appropriate than others. For example, appeals to emotion may persuade some judges but not others. Appeals to authority are not likely to persuade many. Appeals to emotion are permissible if they supplement your primary analysis, although your primary analysis should be firmly and precisely grounded in reasons that are objectively persuasive.

Objective persuasion seems like a misnomer; an oxymoron, or at least something something that doesn't comport with a basic understanding of what debate is. Indeed, there are some who would generally regard persuasion as a necessarily subjective undertaking. This is false, for a number of reasons. Objective reasoning is nothing more than the offering of premises to support your conclusions. While individual judges may be subjectively more persuaded by certain kinds of arguments (like, ones which appeal to the values held by those judges), syllogistic reasoning is not a per se subjective undertaking.

For example, if I tell you that a diet of fruity and sweet pies alone is unlikely to be consistent with a healthy lifestyle, and support that conclusion with premises which explain the extent to which fruity and sweet pies lack even minimally adequate nutritional value, then our feelings about how delicious pie might be have no bearing on whether fruity and sweet pies are excellent desserts. Fruity and sweet pies may be excellent desserts when consumed in moderation, in addition to -rather than in place of- other forms of sustenance, but by themselves they are not enough to live on. Regardless of our individual affinity for pies of a fruity and sweet variety, it is necessarily the case that pies of that general sort are not enough to nutritionally sustain a human being. This is how objective persuasion works.

(Subjective persuasion isn't really something I'm interested in expounding upon.)

Part 2: How You Should Structure Your Arguments

In that debate is an exercise in persuasion -especially objective persuasion, although subjective persuasion may periodically find its way into debates- your arguments should be structured to facilitate that variety of persuasion. Said another way, don't tell me how you like or dislike something. If I am a judge, tell me why something "is" or "is not" consistent with whatever criterion you're offering me to evaluate the debate.

When you are writing your rounds, you must begin from the premise that your judge is a reasonably (but not exceptionally) intelligent person who is evenhanded and equally likely to give each side the win. This is not always the case. In fact, with some judges, it is never the case (consider every judge that Bluesteel has banned from judging), or, even if it is the case, whatever arguments you make may have no bearing on the outcome of the debate (consider dumb judges who judge only based on how nice the debaters were to one another).

Now, I mentioned earlier "reasonably (but not exceptionally) intelligent" people. In general, most judges are not imbeciles. Some are, but most are not. Nevertheless, even though a impact may be so plainly obvious that almost all people will see it, it is nevertheless necessary to take the time to write it out no matter how plainly clear it is. It is additionally necessary to structure your cases such that you "hold the judge's hand" through your logic.

Part III: How to Hold the Judge's Hand (a.k.a. how to write arguments)

To "hold the judges hand" you must (1) use plain language (read: do not use jargon), (2) write with short sentences, (3) paraphrase clearly and simply, (4) structure your debate logically, (5) use good transition words, (6) exclude irrelevant nonsense (read: do not include arguments that do not impact the resolution), (7) clearly connect every premise you have to the resolution to show impact. Do not assume that judges will understand what you mean; sometimes they may, other times they will be lost. Do these things and your "reasonably intelligent judge" will be able to follow what you're saying. Fail to do these things, and risk a loss. These rules apply to every part of the debate.

Especially with regard to rebuttals, it is indispensable to clearly and plainly indicate what part of your opponent's case you are rebutting. This is because while some judges (those who are more than reasonably intelligent) may be able to conceptually 'follow along' with you, the 'reasonably intelligent' judge (or his inferiors) may not. You must assume that people who read your debates will not necessarily be able to 'figure stuff out for themselves', because to the extent that you do you expose yourself to risk.

Therefore, let it be known here throughout the land:

Debate is an exercise in objective persuasion, and you should write and structure your arguments accordingly. This requires "holding the judges hand" through your case.
Tsar of DDO
whiteflame
Posts: 1,378
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5/17/2015 10:07:32 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 5/17/2015 7:51:46 PM, YYW wrote:
This will consist of a brief discussion of what a debate is, and what that means for how you should structure your rounds. I will then, in general, explain how to write debates and arguments.

Part 1: Debate is an exercise in persuasion.

Debate is an exercise in persuasion. As a debater, your central task is to persuade the judge to your way of thinking with facts and logic, or whatever other method you deem appropriate. Some methods are more appropriate than others. For example, appeals to emotion may persuade some judges but not others. Appeals to authority are not likely to persuade many. Appeals to emotion are permissible if they supplement your primary analysis, although your primary analysis should be firmly and precisely grounded in reasons that are objectively persuasive.

Objective persuasion seems like a misnomer; an oxymoron, or at least something something that doesn't comport with a basic understanding of what debate is. Indeed, there are some who would generally regard persuasion as a necessarily subjective undertaking. This is false, for a number of reasons. Objective reasoning is nothing more than the offering of premises to support your conclusions. While individual judges may be subjectively more persuaded by certain kinds of arguments (like, ones which appeal to the values held by those judges), syllogistic reasoning is not a per se subjective undertaking.

For example, if I tell you that a diet of fruity and sweet pies alone is unlikely to be consistent with a healthy lifestyle, and support that conclusion with premises which explain the extent to which fruity and sweet pies lack even minimally adequate nutritional value, then our feelings about how delicious pie might be have no bearing on whether fruity and sweet pies are excellent desserts. Fruity and sweet pies may be excellent desserts when consumed in moderation, in addition to -rather than in place of- other forms of sustenance, but by themselves they are not enough to live on. Regardless of our individual affinity for pies of a fruity and sweet variety, it is necessarily the case that pies of that general sort are not enough to nutritionally sustain a human being. This is how objective persuasion works.

(Subjective persuasion isn't really something I'm interested in expounding upon.)

Part 2: How You Should Structure Your Arguments

In that debate is an exercise in persuasion -especially objective persuasion, although subjective persuasion may periodically find its way into debates- your arguments should be structured to facilitate that variety of persuasion. Said another way, don't tell me how you like or dislike something. If I am a judge, tell me why something "is" or "is not" consistent with whatever criterion you're offering me to evaluate the debate.

When you are writing your rounds, you must begin from the premise that your judge is a reasonably (but not exceptionally) intelligent person who is evenhanded and equally likely to give each side the win. This is not always the case. In fact, with some judges, it is never the case (consider every judge that Bluesteel has banned from judging), or, even if it is the case, whatever arguments you make may have no bearing on the outcome of the debate (consider dumb judges who judge only based on how nice the debaters were to one another).

Now, I mentioned earlier "reasonably (but not exceptionally) intelligent" people. In general, most judges are not imbeciles. Some are, but most are not. Nevertheless, even though a impact may be so plainly obvious that almost all people will see it, it is nevertheless necessary to take the time to write it out no matter how plainly clear it is. It is additionally necessary to structure your cases such that you "hold the judge's hand" through your logic.

Part III: How to Hold the Judge's Hand (a.k.a. how to write arguments)

To "hold the judges hand" you must (1) use plain language (read: do not use jargon), (2) write with short sentences, (3) paraphrase clearly and simply, (4) structure your debate logically, (5) use good transition words, (6) exclude irrelevant nonsense (read: do not include arguments that do not impact the resolution), (7) clearly connect every premise you have to the resolution to show impact. Do not assume that judges will understand what you mean; sometimes they may, other times they will be lost. Do these things and your "reasonably intelligent judge" will be able to follow what you're saying. Fail to do these things, and risk a loss. These rules apply to every part of the debate.

Especially with regard to rebuttals, it is indispensable to clearly and plainly indicate what part of your opponent's case you are rebutting. This is because while some judges (those who are more than reasonably intelligent) may be able to conceptually 'follow along' with you, the 'reasonably intelligent' judge (or his inferiors) may not. You must assume that people who read your debates will not necessarily be able to 'figure stuff out for themselves', because to the extent that you do you expose yourself to risk.

Therefore, let it be known here throughout the land:

Debate is an exercise in objective persuasion, and you should write and structure your arguments accordingly. This requires "holding the judges hand" through your case.

Good post, dude. Good post. I'd include one little thing:

What YYW said is absolutely important with regards to explaining arguments, as are efforts to weigh arguments such that a judge can more easily make a decision between opposing arguments that each side might be winning. For example, it's good to take the time to explain why equality or freedom are beneficial impacts and why they should matter to the judges. Oftentimes, we like to assume that these are beneficial things on the basis that society, in general, values them. But there are reasons for that value, and when you have to compare impacts, many of these points need more than just an assertion of value.

The goal in all of this is to make sure your judges have to think as little as possible. As a judge, even one who's considered to be quite good, we would rather that you made things as simple and straightforward as possible. The more times you force us to assess vague impacts or weigh out your points, the less you're going to like the outcomes of those decisions. Don't leave it up to your judge.
16kadams
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5/17/2015 11:10:30 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
(1) use plain language (read: do not use jargon),

Hard when I am writing about an endogenity problem, but I usually try to do my best

(2) write with short sentences

So unlike my last paper when I wrote a 71 word long sentence (and it wasn't a run on). You guys aren't English teachers and won't like that ;D
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The-Voice-of-Truth
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5/18/2015 9:02:36 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 5/17/2015 11:10:30 PM, 16kadams wrote:
(1) use plain language (read: do not use jargon),

Hard when I am writing about an endogenity problem, but I usually try to do my best

(2) write with short sentences

So unlike my last paper when I wrote a 71 word long sentence (and it wasn't a run on). You guys aren't English teachers and won't like that ;D

LOL. Same.
Suh dude

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bladerunner060
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5/18/2015 3:44:58 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 5/18/2015 10:37:01 AM, Zaradi wrote:
At 5/17/2015 7:51:46 PM, YYW wrote:
(1) use plain language (read: do not use jargon),

http://www.freeallimages.com...

As long as you use Grumpy Cat pictures before all jargon-heavy sections, I think you're good.
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bsh1
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5/18/2015 3:47:16 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 5/18/2015 3:44:58 PM, bladerunner060 wrote:
At 5/18/2015 10:37:01 AM, Zaradi wrote:
At 5/17/2015 7:51:46 PM, YYW wrote:
(1) use plain language (read: do not use jargon),

http://www.freeallimages.com...

As long as you use Grumpy Cat pictures before all jargon-heavy sections, I think you're good.

+1
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16kadams
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6/24/2015 7:21:33 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/24/2015 7:20:11 PM, FourTrouble wrote:
Great guide. I agree with all of it. I'm gonna use it as a checklist for reviewing rounds before submitting them.

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https://www.youtube.com...
https://rekonomics.wordpress.com...
"A trend is a trend, but the question is, will it bend? Will it alter its course through some unforeseen force and come to a premature end?" -- Alec Cairncross
YYW
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6/24/2015 8:24:53 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 6/24/2015 7:20:11 PM, FourTrouble wrote:
Great guide. I agree with all of it. I'm gonna use it as a checklist for reviewing rounds before submitting them.

cheers
Tsar of DDO
YYW
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6/25/2015 8:16:09 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
I'm bumping this too, for similar reasons to the other thread. My noobs would be well advised to read it.
Tsar of DDO
tejretics
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5/14/2016 9:19:23 AM
Posted: 7 months ago
Bumping this for the benefit of people who want to improve; I've been getting a lot of questions lately -- both in my AMAA and directly to me -- on how to strengthen argumentation or write a debate, and this guide is basically the one I use to edit my arguments before submission.
"Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe." - Frederick Douglass
YYW
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5/14/2016 2:40:58 PM
Posted: 6 months ago
At 5/14/2016 9:19:23 AM, tejretics wrote:
Bumping this for the benefit of people who want to improve; I've been getting a lot of questions lately -- both in my AMAA and directly to me -- on how to strengthen argumentation or write a debate, and this guide is basically the one I use to edit my arguments before submission.

I'd forgotten I wrote this... though I recall linking it on my profile... if only that were clickable.
Tsar of DDO
tejretics
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5/14/2016 3:26:56 PM
Posted: 6 months ago
At 5/14/2016 2:40:58 PM, YYW wrote:
At 5/14/2016 9:19:23 AM, tejretics wrote:
Bumping this for the benefit of people who want to improve; I've been getting a lot of questions lately -- both in my AMAA and directly to me -- on how to strengthen argumentation or write a debate, and this guide is basically the one I use to edit my arguments before submission.

I'd forgotten I wrote this... though I recall linking it on my profile... if only that were clickable.

Go to "edit my profile," and under "basics," there is a list of websites you can keep. Link your guide to debating and your guide to judging there -- so it's clickable.
"Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe." - Frederick Douglass
tejretics
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5/14/2016 3:31:06 PM
Posted: 6 months ago
At 5/14/2016 2:40:58 PM, YYW wrote:
I'd forgotten I wrote this... though I recall linking it on my profile... if only that were clickable.

Oh, never mind, your profile itself isn't accessible.
"Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe." - Frederick Douglass