Pro and Con Practice

Using pro and con lists is a helpful prewriting technique, since any topic worth arguing has many sides.  Writers need to capitalize on their side’s strengths, proving that they are valid.  Conversely, writers need to turn the other side’s arguments against it.  This is called refuting the opposition.  In an even tone, the writer shows how the other side’s arguments are invalid to some extent.  Still, don’t go too far. . . none of us likes being told that our ideas are useless.  Listing the points of argument can help (it’s sort of like picking teams in phys ed class).  Through listing, careful writers find that each side is more complicated than they had thought.

Directions: Follow the alphabetized directions.  Do all parts of the assignment.  Imagine that you have been asked to write an objective essay for a prominent journal.    

  1. Pick one of the statements in the topic bank, and decide which side you take on the statement.
  2. Then, create a list of 8-10 strong points for your side. Label it according to the issue. For example: “My side: against separate male/female military units”
  3. Label the opposition’s side, too. For example: “The opposition’s side: for separate male/female military units.”
  4. After you have set up your side, create a list of 8-10 arguments made by the opposition. This means you’ll think of the best points for each side. You may find that many of the points directly oppose arguments made by the other side.

Remember to narrow and focus the topic as necessary

Topic Bank (stick to these topics, and “make a withdrawal”):

1) Students should/should not work throughout the school year.

2) Televised instant replays should/should not be used to call plays in football and other sports.

3)  Off-road recreational vehicles should/should not be banned from our national parks.

4) Persons over 14 charged with crimes should/should not be tried as adults.

5) Controversial names or symbols of athletic teams (“Redskins” the Confederate flag, the tomahawk chop) should/should not be changed or displayed.

6) During peacetime, students should/should not serve in a youth corps for two years following high school.

7) The math requirement at JCC should/should not be changed.

Here’s an example: “Homeschooled athletes should be allowed to play on the public school teams of the district in which they live.”

My side: Against including homeschooled students on public school teams Opposition’s side: In favor of including these homeschooled athletes on public school teams.

Could you brainstorm 8-10 reasons for and against the claim?  How do those pros tend to line up with their respective cons?

  • What ideas might you delete?
  • Are there a couple of ideas that might work better if they were merged into one?
  • If you had to write about the topic, how would you order or emphasize these points?
  • What sort of thesis could you “spin out” of your points? (Remember the summarizing function of the thesis statement.)