Tag Archives: Debate

Rant vs well constructed argument

It’s day three of cleaning out my classroom (I’m starting a new job as an English Advisor with the Junior Cycle for Teachers service in 10 days time!) and I’m really really tempted to stop sorting the good from the bad and the ugly because it’s taking so bloody long!!! 87% of me wants to just fling the lot into boxes and be done with it.

But because we’re also moving into a new house – which we’ve been painstakingly renovating all summer – I don’t want loads of boxes of unnecessary crap cramping our new living quarters.

Anyway, as the clear out progresses, what’s surprised me is how often I’m stumbling upon half crumpled scraps of paper with hastily scribbed scrawls on them that I don’t want to keep necessarily, but which I don’t want to dump either…

Here’s one such example from a public speaking class. I’m pretty sure we just brainstormed this together (co-creation of knowledge how are ya!) rather than it being something I prepared in advance.


Rant =

  1. Collection of random thoughts with little order or structure
  2. Overwhelmingly negative
  3. Anger = dominant tone
  4. No balance
  5. No facts / statistics
  6. Examples given are all personal
  7. Flawed logic – one or two examples are used to draw big (erroneous) conclusions
  8. Ad hominem attacks – any attempts to refute other viewpoints consist of attacks on the people who hold these beliefs rather than on the beliefs themselves.

Argument =

  1. Structured
  2. Balanced
  3. Supported by facts / statistics
  4. Reasonable anger (if any) or disappointment rather than rage
  5. Personal examples situated in wider context
  6. Sound logic – inductive & deductive reasoning in evidence
  7. Refutation & rebuttal focused on the issues NOT personalities

Anyway, I figure such scraps of wisdom are better stored here rather than buried in the bottom of a box of other such random bits of paper. And it’s better than throwing them out too…

Speech/Debate/Radio talk

[youtube_sc url=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZsDliXzyAY]

You have been asked to deliver a speech/talk because you are well-spoken and intelligent.

How formal your language is depends on your audience – if you are delivering a speech to the UN or world leaders your tone will be very formal. If you are addressing your classmates you can be more informal – but if the Principal and parents are there don’t overdo the informality. Never curse.

Techniques =

  • Address the audience – welcome them, address them directly frequently during your speech and again at the end.
  • Present your topic and opinion immediately.
  • Use the pronounswe’ ‘us’ ‘our’ to make the listener feel that you’re all in this together.
  • Rhetorical Q ‘s keep the listener’s attention.
  • Repetition of key persuasive phrases hammer the idea home

e.g. “We must never accept….we must never allow” e.g.“It is foolish to think…it is foolish to presume”

  • Connecting phrases create a flow & help build a series of related ideas for the reader

e.g. ‘however’ ‘therefore’ ‘thus’ ‘nonetheless’ ‘of course’ ‘furthermore’ ‘similarly’ ‘indeed’ ‘if’ ‘on the one hand’ ‘on the other hand’ ‘besides’ ‘by contrast’ ‘this reminds me of…’

  • Concrete examples/evidence are absolutely essential – they prove you know your topic.
  • Facts/Statistics make your opinions seem watertight & beyond discussion. Name the source report, the researcher, their qualifications and the institution they are affiliated to.
  • Refute counter arguments – point out why those who disagree with you are wrong. Prove that their arguments are weak, flawed and incorrect.
  • Clear, logical structure is vital – one main idea per paragraph, develop each idea fully.
  • Contrast is an excellent technique because it allows the audience to see things more clearly. You could contrast past and present; males and females; powerful and powerless individuals; rich and poor; knowledgable and ignorant etc…
  • Identify problems but also offer solutions – nobody likes a whinger, we much prefer visionaries who can offer us a better way forward.
  • End with a call to action – what is it that you want your audience to do? Don’t give out to them, inspire them. Suggest practical steps towards change that they can take.

Some techniques work well in a persuasive speech but less suitable in an argumentative debate. Use the following in moderation in a debate, but extensively in a persuasive speech:

  • Vivid imagery will arouse an emotional response in the reader (the real aim of persuasion)
  • Hyperbole makes the speech more dramatic for the reader (your passion will inspire them).
  • Evoke God, the bible, Einstein or Shakespeare so you come across as morally powerful and intellectual. Evoke big ideas like justice, truth, right, wrong.

Speeches v’s Debates: What’s the difference?

A speech can look at an issue from all sides (balanced view) or can take a one-sided viewpoint (revealing a bias)– it’s up to the writer. Appeal to the audience’s emotions.

A debate differs from a speech in that you are specifically asked to speak for or against the motion/topic. You MUST pick a side. Appeal to the audience’s reason & intelligence

Here the purpose is not to discuss an issue in a balanced way, but to convince the audience through LOGICAL arguments that your point of view is the correct one.

Speeches v’s Radio Talks: What’s the difference?

  • A radio talk tends to be more informal.
  • You address the listeners rather than the audience/fellow students/world leaders.
  • You may be interrupted by the DJ from time to time. You can write these ‘interruptions’ into your answer, but remember, this isn’t an interview so you’ll do almost all of the talking. It should not be written in Q and Ans. format – that’s what you do for an interview.
  • To make your answer more realistic you may wish to name a specific radio show/presenter e.g. “Well Ray” “Talk to Joe” “Hello Marian”.
  • If you imagine that a particular word or phrase should be said loudly or with strong emphasis, write it in block capitals OR underline it OR make a comment in brackets. e.g. Can they be serious? (in disbelief) e.g. I’ll never forget her face (shaking head sadly) e.g. We CANNOT allow this injustice to continue. e.g. This is the only way forward.

Only use 1 of these stylistic choices & don’t overdo it. Use occasionally not every sentence.

Language of Argument

The difference between argument and persuasion is that arguments appeal to your brain, your sense of reason and logic. Persuasion manipulates your emotions, appeals to your heart, changes how you feel.

Argument = Persuasion =


Examples: Speech, debate, opinion piece in newspaper/magazine.

You may need to understand the following words when discussing how a writer has constructed their argument.

Statement / Proposition /Assumption /Opinion /Anecdote /Evidence /Subjective /Objective /Logical /Convincing /Reinforce /Merit /Bias /Agenda /Deductive & Inductive reasoning

Comprehensions – sample question

In your opinion, has the writer created a strong argument in this passage?”


Look for the following features / techniques:


Supported by facts/statistics or specific examples

Evidence of research

Draws on personal experience (but doesn’t rely on it exclusively)

Refutes counter arguments

Linking phrases used to build up a series of ideas

Emphatic words

Repetition of key phrases

Question B – sample questions


Write an opinion piece, for inclusion in a series of newspaper articles entitled “Must-see Attractions for Tourists” in which you identify one place or public building in Ireland that, in your opinion, tourists should visit and explain your choice.


You have been asked to give a talk to your class entitled “Television and radio in the lives of young people today”. Write the text of the talk you would deliver in which you consider the role of television and radio in the lives of young people today.


Write a letter (dated June 2010), intended to be read by future generations, in which you express your hopes for planet Earth in the year 2050.


Write the text for a short radio talk where you explain the importance of books in your life and in today’s world.


Imagine your art teacher is compiling a photographic exhibition to reflect the lives of young people today. She has asked students to suggest images they would like included. Write a letter to your art teacher proposing five images that you believe should be included and give reasons for your decision in each case.


Write a letter to Jon Savage responding to this extract from his book and giving your own views on today’s teenage culture.


Students in your school have been invited to contribute articles to the school website on issues relevant to young people. This week’s issue is “We are what we wear”. Write an article for the website expressing your views on the topic.


Imagine your local radio station is producing a series of programmes entitled “Changing Times” in which teenagers are asked to give their views on the changes they welcome in the world around them. You have been invited to contribute. Write out the text of the presentation you would make.


Imagine you have a friend in another country which is considering the introduction of a ban on smoking in public places. Write a letter to your friend advising him/her either to support or not to support the proposed ban.

In giving your advice you may wish to draw on the recent experience of the smoking ban in Ireland.


Write a letter to a photographic magazine in which you propose one of the four images for the award “Best War Photograph of the Year.


Choose one of the visual images in this text and, in a letter to Carl Sandburg, write your response to its inclusion in the exhibition of photographs entitled The Family of Man.


You have been asked to give a short talk on radio or television about a fundamental human right that you would like to see supported more strongly. Write out the text of the talk you would give.


Write a short article about a project or activity in your local community which you admire or condemn.

Sample Essay Titles


Write a speech in which you argue for or against the motion “We live in an un-heroic age”.


Write a feature article for a popular magazine in which you discuss the competing attractions of both urban and rural lifestyles.


Write a feature article for a newspaper or magazine on the role played by memory and the past in our lives.


Write a lighthearted and entertaining article, intended for publication in a magazine aimed at young people, in response to the phrase “…all the time in the world”.


Write an article for a serious newspaper or magazine on the twin issues of discrimination and tolerance.


Write an article for a popular magazine in which you outline your views about the impact of technology on the lives of young people.


Write a personal essay about your understanding of freedom and why you think it is important.


You have been elected by your classmates to deliver a speech at your school’s graduation ceremony. Write the text of the speech you would give, encouraging your audience to be optimistic about the future.


Write a newspaper article on some of today’s respected public figures, exploring the qualities that make them worthy of respect.


Write an article (serious and/or light-hearted) for a school magazine about your experience of education over the last number of years.


Write a speech in which you argue for or against the necessity to protect national culture and identity.


Write the text of a talk, serious or humorous, to be given to your peers, entitled: “How I intend to change the world!”


Write a personal essay in which you discuss your views on a recent event or series of events in the world.


Write an article for a newspaper or magazine, outlining your vision of a better future.


Write an article for publication in a serious newspaper or journal in which you draw attention to the plight of a person or group of people whom society has rejected.


Write a speech (serious or light-hearted) in which you address your classmates or peer group on the importance of work in our lives.


Write a newspaper article in which you outline your views in a serious or light-hearted manner on the part played by story telling or gossip in everyday life.


Write a serious article for or against the importance of laws in our society.


Write a personal essay in which you explore your sense of what it means to be Irish.


Write a letter to Martin Mansergh in which you outline your response to his view of young Irish people.