Sunday, September 15, 2013

Logic fallicies to avoid in email - part I

Good Netiquette is most often characterized with less verbose and more effective word usage. Nevertheless, even the simplest statements, paragraphs, or sentences can and should have not only good basics but also good logic, reasoning, and arguments. Even with perfect grammar, tone, content, and structure, poor logic or fallacies can significantly undermine the intent and content of even the simplest of emails.

        The study of logic dates back to ancient Greece and has always been an integral part of reasoning and providing arguments or theories. There are some basic rules of logic that should always be applied to communication. The following identify some of these and provide some brief examples of how each can be misused:

1.   False dilemma—This argument states that a solution must be one of two choices: Either we support the war, or we are unpatriotic.

2.   Ad hominem—Using a personal part or belief of a person to prove an argument: Because English is not his first language, he cannot write good emails.

3.   Straw man (argumentum ad logicum)—This statement generalizes a viewpoint and then belittles it by extending it beyond its original premise: The president vetoed the oil companies’ exemptions; therefore, he is against large corporations.

4.   Red herring (ad misericordiam)—This attempts to evoke pity to aid in a request: This job should be given to me because I have not worked in two years.

5.   Slippery slope (non sequitur)—This fallacy assumes one action or condition will lead to a different condition: If I am not hired for this position, your customers will buy from someone else.

6.   Repetitive argument (argumentum ad nauseam)—This is an assertion made over and over to try to prove a point: As I have told you in my last three emails, you should give my staff a raise to increase productivity.

7.   Argumentum ad antiquitatum—A statement that asserts something must be right because it has traditionally been done the same way: We have never had email complaints, so there’s no need to add disclaimers.
Watch for the forthcoming book by Paul Babicki "NetiquetteIQ, A Comprehensive Guide to Improve, Enhance and Add Power to Your Email". There will also be a product to test one's Netiquette "IQ". The website is at Register for coupons of the IQ test and the book.