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AP Language & composition. Flashcards. Why reading a passage, ask yourself, “What is the author trying to accomplish with this piece?”

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Why reading a passage, ask yourself, “What is the author trying to accomplish with this piece?”

If you determine the author’s purpose is to persuade the reader, ask yourself, “What is the author’s viewpoint on this topic? What is he or she trying to convince me to believe or to accept?”

**Remember, it’s completely irrelevant whether you agree with the author. The important this is to understand the author’s purpose and rhetorical strategy.**


Hasty generalization
Hasty generalization

  • Called “jumping to conclusions”

  • Too few examples to prove a point

  • Example:

  • Two people I know personally have never been vaccinated and neither has ever had a serious illness or physical condition. Therefore, vaccinations are largely unnecessary.”


Faulty appeal to authority
Faulty appeal to authority

  • Attempts to justify a claim by misrepresenting the trustworthiness of a supposedly authoritative source

  • Fails to acknowledge that experts disagree on the point

  • Or appeals to a source who is not an expert

  • Example:

    Lebron James insists that children today spend too much time using social media on computers and cell phones.


Post hoc propter hoc
Post hoc, propter hoc

  • Lain for “after this, therefore because of this”

  • Suggest that because one event precedes another, it also causes it.

  • Example:

    Since digital books were introduced, no American writer has won the Nobel Prize for literature.


Ad hominem
Ad hominem

  • Latin for “against the man”

  • An attack on a person’s character instead of on the person’s ideas or opinions.

  • Example:

    Having met the author and experienced his insufferable arrogance, I can safely dismiss his ideas about love and friendship.


Common knowledge or ad populum
Common knowledge or ad populum

  • An appeal to the opinion of the masses, as if the agreement of large numbers of people makes it unnecessary to offer any more evidence for a contention.

  • Example:

    With the highest ratings in its slot, that detective show is obviously one of the best shows on television.


Bandwagon appeal
Bandwagon appeal

  • Taps into people’s desire to be like the group or to hold the trendy opinion

  • Argues that “everyone is doing it” or

  • Argues that “the hip people believe this”


Red herring
Red herring

  • Avoids the key issue by introducing a separate issue as a diversion

  • Example:

    Some baseball hitters probably gained an advantage by using performance-enhancing steroids. Yet the season is so long and taxing on the players’ bodies, it is no surprise that many would seek chemical assistance.


Straw man
Straw man

  • Creates a “straw man” by exaggerating, overstating, or over-simplifying an opposing point of view

  • Example:

    My opponent would eliminate all government aid programs until children were left to starve and parents forced to take the most menial jobs just to survive.


Slippery slope
Slippery slope

  • Based on the idea that if a first step is taken, then a second and third step will follow inevitably, until a disaster occurs like a person sliding on a slippery incline until he or she falls to the bottom.

  • Example:

    If our city council allows video cameras to be placed at intersections, soon they will install them in our neighborhoods. And next there will be a camera in front of each house and then inside each house. We can’t allow this intrusion into our privacy to stand.


Appeal to tradition
Appeal to tradition

  • Suggests that a course of action is proper or necessary simply because things have always been done that way.

  • Example:

    The school year should begin on the first Tuesday after Labor Day, for that is when it always began when I was a child.


Glittering generalities
Glittering generalities

  • Uses “happy words” that sound important but actually have little or no real meaning. The words, such as wonderful, fair, and decent, are employed in general statements that can’t be proved or disproved.


Begging the question or circular reasoning
Begging the question or circular reasoning

  • Assumes as evidence that very conclusion it is trying to prove…

  • Example:

    Useless courses like Home Economics should be dropped from the curriculum at our school. Think how much money is wasted on useless courses each year. Notice that the writer has not proved that the course is useless; it is just assumed to be so.


Either or
Either/or

  • Sometimes called “false dichotomy”

  • This deceptively reduces an argument to two oversimplified alternatives

  • Example:

    We must immediately adopt green energy technologies completely, or else poison our planet with carbon-producing fuels.


Guilt by association
Guilt by association

  • Relies on prejudice instead of careful thought

  • Seeks to impugn a person because of the actions or reputation of those with whom he or she associates.

  • Example:

    His scientific work is suspect. Recently a colleague with whom he has been friendly for years was fired for plagiarizing an article in an academic journal.


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