Some Common Fallacies
- Among the common fallacies is that of generalization. This
occurs when a writer makes a statement like, "all fish are
bass". Obviously that is not true, although many fish definitely
are bass. In a more historical writing context, such a statement
could be easily proven incorrect. Writers need to carefully review
their texts and get rid of such unsubstantiated generalizations.
- Another trap to beware of is reductive fallacy. That occurs
when a writer uses a phrase which effectively limits diversity
to one thing, through phrases like "nothing but". History
teaches that all events are complex, and stating that the Civil
War was caused by slavery reduces a complex event to a much undeserved
- Tautology is a common fallacy in student writing. This occurs
when the writer has different wordings of the same thing acting
on each other as though they were separate. An example would
be, "English aggressiveness spurred the nation to stimulate
commerce on the seas and win the supremacy of trade routes."
So, English aggressiveness works on England, and England works
on English commerce. Obviously, the three are the same, but the
writer treats them as being different.
- Another fallacy is that of misplaced literalism. That occurs
when a writer takes someone's words out of context. If you merely
quote a short passage from a book, you may not get an accurate
idea of what the author's opinion is. Quotes are all right, but
the sentences around them must be perused to determine if there
are contradictions to the quoted passage.
The preceding work incorporated material from
The Modern Researcher (Barzun & Graff, 146-48).
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