Best Practices: Emphasizing good facts and arguments

Working on legal writing, I’ve run into some great and applicable advice for Public Forum debate. In a legal brief, it matters how you present the facts of the case – always truthful, but using persuasive tools to emphasize your arguments and shape the story of the arguments. The same goes for debate – you want to tell the truth, but emphasize the facts and arguments that help you most.

Techniques to Emphasize Good Facts and Arguments:

Use short & clear sentences.

  • Easy to process, easy to remember.

Put good facts/arguments in 1st or last paragraphs.

  • these are the most memorable for your judge.

Group facts and arguments together to make obvious inferences.

  • bring your arguments together to build their strength.

Repeat Good Facts.

  • always and throughout the round

Use lots of vivid detail.

  • this helps the judge remember and relate to your case.

Be specific.

  • giving specific examples, images, numbers, etc helps the judge ground a larger argument in a more tangible fact.

Use Emotional Words.

  • for example, “police brutality” rather than “legal enforcement.”

State Good Facts Alone.

  • Make your good facts/arguments stand out.

Generally the opposite logic applies to what to do with bad facts or arguments that will hurt your case in the round. You don’t ignore them, but you deal with them in a persuasive manner.

Techniques to De-Emphasize Bad Facts and Arguments:

Use longer & complex sentences.

Bury their facts by no repeating or emphasizing what your opponents drop throughout the round (but do refute everything – this applies more to later round speeches).

Don’t pile up your opponents arguments – separate them so the judge sees the individual flaws rather than the overall, cumulative strength.

Only state a bad fact once.

Use as little detail as possible.

Stay General and don’t give your opponent more evidence, logical reasoning, etc than they have provided you.

Use Clinical, dispassionate language.

Juxtapose a bad fact in same sentence with good fact. Pair your weaker arguments with your stronger to remind the judge of the big picture (good impact calculus).

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