Jewish scholar and radio talk show host Dennis Prager often says, “Clarity is more important than agreement.” And when it comes to reasoning, clarity carries its own persuasive power. Clutter and excessive complexity in an argument frequently stand in the way of the argument’s understandability and credibility.
Since being clear in one’s reasoning is advantageous, keep clarity in mind as you initially construct your argument. A logical argument is really a simple thing; you first make a claim and then seek to support that claim. The claim, or central point, is also called the conclusion of the argument. It is what you are trying to prove and encourage others to accept. The premises, on the other hand, provide the support in the form of facts, evidence, and reasons for accepting the conclusion.
Because you want people to accept your conclusion based upon the premises, the statement that constitutes the conclusion should be very obvious in the overall argument. This can often be achieved by making the specific conclusion the first or last statement in the argument. Another way of clearly identifying one’s conclusion is by using conclusion indicator words, such as “thus,” “therefore,” and “accordingly.” For added clarity, consider beginning your conclusion statement with the words, “In conclusion.”
You can also clarify which sentences in the argument serve as supporting premises. If you have multiple premises you might want to enumerate them so people can distinguish and more easily remember them. There are also premise indicator words, such as “so,” “because,” and “since,” that let listeners know you’re giving support. You never want the conclusion or premises of your argument to be unclear.
People greatly appreciate clarity, especially when it is contrasted by its opposite in a debate. Listeners are usually open to, and even inclined toward accepting, the clearest position. So give them what they want and enjoy the benefits of logical persuasion. However, bear in mind that clear does not mean simplistic or unsophisticated. When presenting your strongest evidence in support of your conclusion, deliver the ideas in the clearest terms possible without compromising the integrity of your argument.Remember that whenever clarity meets with ambiguity, clarity wins—especially when the clear arguments are also substantive. And stay tuned for more articles on logic as we attempt to think again!
See other installments in this series here: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3
- My former podcast, Straight Thinking, contains a number of episodes given to the topic of logical clarity. It is archived at reasons.org. I recommend in particular that you listen to “Five Point Logic Checklist.”
- Two chapters in my book A World of Difference are devoted to the subject of logic. Most formal logic texts (even used ones) are very expensive, but RTB sells my book at a very reasonable price. Moreover, the logic chapters are conjoined with a detailed discussion of worldview thinking from the perspective of historic Christianity.