Guest Author - Elizabeth Stuttard
This is a book review of A Rulebook for Arguments by Anthony Weston, published by Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. (2000), Indianapolis, IN; 87 pages; ISBN 978-0-87220-552-9
When students are expected to write essays for college courses, they are often expected to give arguments to support the conclusion that they are claiming in that essay. An argument in an essay is not just stating your opinion which happens to dispute what other people say. This is the way the word argument is used when you do not agree with your roommate that the room should be painted black. In a paper you are writing, your instructor will be looking for statements that show your conclusion to be true or at least plausible and will sometimes expect you to know and argue two or more opinions which are usually opposing opinions. To write these papers you will need to know the rules for arguments so that you can use arguments to support your opinions in your essays and assess other people’s arguments.
A Rulebook for Arguments is a book that has been written to help college students when they need to use arguments in their essays. Having read this book, I would recommend it to every student as a necessary resource, just as a dictionary, a thesaurus, a book on style, and a book on the correct way to cite sources are essentials for college students. For distance learning students, it is possible to find this information online, but if so, you should have it bookmarked so that it is handy. I prefer to use all of those resources in book form since I find them handier to use that way even while I am working online. There are other good books on argumentative writing, but this book is short (only 87 pages) and states the rules simply with concise examples. Thus it is easy to understand and can be read completely in a short period of time, which college students always appreciate.
The book is divided into ten chapters. Chapters I to VI are about writing and assessing short arguments. Chapters VII to IX are about composing an argumentative essay, and Chapter X is about fallacies and misleading arguments. The book is meant to be read in order from the beginning since each chapter builds upon the information in the previous ones. For example in Chapter II, Arguments by Example, Anthony Weston mentions that the examples in an argument must be accurate because Rule 3, which is in Chapter I, is to “start from reliable premises”. Even if you are writing an argumentative essay therefore, it is necessary to read the first six chapters rather than jumping directly to the chapters on argumentative essays. Throughout the book, Weston relates back to previous rules that were discussed. This is by rule number so it is quite easy to go back and reread that rule to refresh your memory.
I found this book easy to follow, easy to understand and quick to read. Most students studying at college and university will probably need to write an essay that requires supporting an argument being made or assessing an argument made by someone else. I would recommend this book to all students – both distance learners and those at bricks and mortar institutions. It will be one you are sure to refer to again and again to ensure you are following the rules of argument.
I received this book free of charge from the BellaOnline management to read and review. The review is my honest opinion about the book.
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A Rulebook for Arguments