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A fallacy is "an argument, or apparent argument, which professes to be decisive of the matter at issue, while in reality it is not" (Source: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913), http://dict.die.net/fallacy/). Fallacies weaken arguments and in doing so, weaken the overall strength of your paragraph or assignment.

There are five common categories of fallacies:

1. Using feelings

Avoid manipulating the emotions of your reader in order to win your argument. Consider the following statements: "I cannot get a job because the public education system failed me; I have to steal to survive. It is society's fault, not mine." (Source: LEO: Logical Fallacies: Feelings) This argument is not logical because the author attempts to engage the audience's emotions and have people feel sorry for his/her situation. A logical argument never employs emotion.

For more examples of fallacies that fall within this category, please refer to LEO: Logical Fallacies: Feelings.

2. Distracting from the argument

These types of fallacies generally happen "when writers do not have strong support for their claims. Distraction is also used if the opposition's view is strong and logical; then, writers have a tendency to attack the context instead of the argument." (Source: LEO: Logical Fallacies: Distraction From The Argument). Knowing that he/she doesn't have enough information to logically prove a strong argument, the author instead chooses to distract from the argument with other information.

For more information and examples of the fallacies within this category, please refer to LEO: Logical Fallacies: Distraction From The Argument.

3. Misinformation

Authors sometimes "present questionable or ambiguous reasons to sustain their arguments. A logical demonstration of a belief, however, must be conclusive and convincing to be effective; any doubtful premises leads the audience to believe that the conclusion is weak." (Source: LEO: Logical Fallacies: Misinformation)

For more information and examples of the fallacies within this category, please refer to LEO: Logical Fallacies: Misinformation.

4. Generalisations

Writers may be tempted to "generalize their ideas to make a powerful statement. To construct effective logical arguments, writers must avoid generalizations; once an exception to a generalization is found, the argument that the generalization supports is discredited." (Source: LEO: Logical Fallacies: Generalization) For example, the statement, "everyone I know likes green apples; green apples are tastier than red apples" employs a generalisation in an attempt to prove the argument that green apples taste better than red apples.

For more information and examples of the fallacies within this category, please refer to LEO: Logical Fallacies: Generalization.

5. Irrelevant connections

An author's argument might be factually correct; however, the argument can still fail "because of the type of connections established between the parts of the argument. If the logical structures are not valid, the argument will fail, even if all of the premises are true and correct." (Source: LEO: Logical Fallacies: Irrelevant Connections) For example, "I always feel happy when I eat a green apple but I don't feel that way when I eat a red apple. Therefore, green apples are better for me than red apples".

For more information and examples of the fallacies within this category, please refer to LEO: Logical Fallacies: Irrelevant Connections.

(Adapted from Literacy Education Online: Logical Fallacies)

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