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T EN S TEPS TO A DVANCING C OLLEGE R EADING S KILLS. Fourth Edition John Langan. © 2008 Townsend Press. Chapter Seven: Fact and Opinion. Here is a personals ad that appeared in a retirement community newspaper in Florida: .

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t en s teps to a dvancing c ollege r eading s kills

TENSTEPSTO ADVANCINGCOLLEGE READING SKILLS

Fourth Edition

John Langan

© 2008 Townsend Press

chapter seven fact and opinion

Chapter Seven: Fact and Opinion

Here is a personals ad that appeared in a retirement community newspaper in Florida:

FOXY LADY. Blue-haired beauty, 80s, slim 5'4" (used to be 5'6"). Widow who has just buried fourth husband. Has original teeth and new parts including hip, knee, cornea, and valves. A groovy chick who is still the life of the party.

• Which of the statements in the ad are facts?

• Which of the statements in the ad are opinions?

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• Facts in the ad: the woman’s hair color, age, and height; her marital status; her physical condition

• Opinions in the ad:She is a “foxy lady,” a “beauty,”and “slim”; she is “a groovy chick who is still the life of the party.”

FOXY LADY.Blue-hairedbeauty,80s, slim5'4" (used to be 5'6"). Widow who has just buried fourth husband. Has original teeth and new parts including hip, knee, cornea, and valves.A groovy chick who is still the life of the party.

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FACT

A fact is information that can be proved through objective evidence.

This evidence may be physical proof or the spoken or written testimony of witnesses.

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FACT

Examples of Facts

Fact:My grandfather has eleven toes.

(Someone can count them.)

Fact:In 1841, William Henry Harrison served as president of the United States for only thirty-one days; he died of pneumonia.

(We can check history records to confirm that this is true.)

Fact:Tarantulas are hairy spiders capable of inflicting on humans a painful but not deadly bite.

(We can check biology reports to confirm that this statement

is true.)

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OPINION

An opinion is a belief, judgment, or conclusion that cannot be objectively proved true.

As a result, it is open to question.

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OPINION

Examples of Opinions

Opinion:My grandfather’s feet are ugly.

(Two people can look at the same thing and come to different conclusions about its beauty. For instance, the speaker’s grandmother may have found those feet attractive. Ugly is a value word, a word we use to express a value judgment. It signals an opinion.)

Opinion:Harrison should never have been elected president in the

first place.

(Those who voted for him would not have agreed.)

Opinion:Tarantulas are disgusting.

(Who says? Not the people who keep them as pets.)

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FACT AND OPINION

• Both facts and opinions can be valuable. However, it is important to recognize thedifference between the two.

• You should look at information with the questioning eye of a critical reader.

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FACT AND OPINION

Fact and Opinion in Reading

Which statement below is fact? Which is opinion?

A. No flower is more beautiful than a simple daisy.

B.In Egypt, 96 percent of the land is desert.

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FACT AND OPINION

Fact and Opinion in Reading

A.No flower is more beautiful than a simple daisy.

B.In Egypt, 96 percent of the land is desert.

Explanation

Item A is an opinion. Many people consider other flowers more beautiful than the daisy. The word beautiful is a value word.

Item B is afact, agreed upon and written down by experts who study geography.

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FACT AND OPINION

Fact and Opinion in Reading

Which statement below is fact? Which is opinion? Which is factandopinion?

A.It is riskier for a woman to have a first child after age 40 than before.

B.It is stupid for women over 40 to get pregnant.

C. It is sometimes risky and always foolish for a woman to have a first child after age 40.

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FACT AND OPINION

Fact and Opinion in Reading

A. It is riskier for a woman to have a first child after age 40 than before.

B. It is stupid for women over 40 to get pregnant.

C. It is sometimes risky and always foolish for a woman to have a first child after age 40.

Item A is a fact. It can be verified by checking medical statistics.

Item B is anopinion. Some people might admire the woman who has children in her 40s.

Item C isfactandopinion. Although it may be risky, not everyone would say it is foolish.

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FACT AND OPINION

Other Points about Fact and Opinion

• Statements of fact may be found to be untrue.

Example

It was once considered to be a fact that the world was round, but that “fact” turned out to be an error.

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FACT AND OPINION

Other Points about Fact and Opinion

•Opinions may be masked as facts.

Example

The truth of the matter is that olive oil tastes much better than butter.

This statement is an opinion, in spite of the words the truth of the matter.

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FACT AND OPINION

Other Points about Fact and Opinion

•Value (or judgment) words often represent opinions.

Examples of value words

best great beautiful

worst terrible bad

better lovely good

worse disgusting wonderful

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FACT AND OPINION

Other Points about Fact and Opinion

• The words should and ought to often signal opinions.

Example

Couples with young children should not be allowed to divorce.

This statement represents what the speaker thinks should not be allowed. Others might disagree.

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FACT AND OPINION

Other Points about Fact and Opinion

• Much of what we read and hear is amixtureof fact and opinion.

Example

Each year, over 1,600 American teenagers kill themselves, and many of these deaths could be easily prevented.

The first part of the sentence is a fact that can be confirmed by checking statistics on teen suicides.

The second part is an opinion. The word easily is a judgment word— people may differ on how easy or difficult they consider something to be.

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FACT AND OPINION

Fact and Opinion in Passages

(1)It was by accident that someone invented the air conditioner, one of the world’s most important machines. (2)In the summer of 1902, a Brooklyn, New York, printer was having trouble with color printing: the size of paper on the presses was changed enough by the hot, humid air to cause distortions in printing. (3)That problem must have been the printer’s worst nightmare. (4)A young engineer named Willis Haviland Carrier, trying to solve the problem, made the wonderful discovery that he could reduce the amount of humidity in the air with a machine that blew cool air.

In the passage above, one sentence is a fact, one is an opinion, and two are a combination of factandopinion.

Which sentences are which?

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FACT AND OPINION

Fact and Opinion in Passages

(1)It was by accident that someone invented the air conditioner,one of the world’s most important machines. (2)In the summer of 1902, a Brooklyn, New York, printer was having trouble with color printing: the size of paper on the presses was changed enough by the hot, humid air to cause distortions in printing. (3)That problem must have been the printer’s worst nightmare. (4)A young engineer named Willis Haviland Carrier, trying to solve the problem, made thewonderfuldiscovery that he could reduce the amount of humidity in the air with a machine that blew cool air.

Explanation

Sentence 1: The first part is afact that can be checked in historical records. The second part is an opinion not everyone would agree with.

Sentence 2: This sentence contains only facts about the historical event.

Sentence 3: The sentence expresses the author’s opinion about the problem.

Sentence 4: Most of the sentence is factual, but the word wonderful is the author’s opinion about the discovery.

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CHAPTER REVIEW

In this chapter, you learned the difference between fact and opinion:

• A fact is information that can be proved true through objective evidence. This evidence may be physical proof or the spoken or written testimony of witnesses.

• An opinion is a belief, judgment, or conclusion that cannot be objectively proved true. As a result, it is open to question.

Both facts and opinions can be valuable. However, it is important to distinguish between the two, and you should look at information with the questioning eye of a critical reader.

The next chapter—Chapter 8—will sharpen your ability to make inferences

in reading.