your enthymeme do all the following? Your thesis
is not really an enthymeme if you cannot answer
"yes" to all of these questions.
(1) Can you state
it in a single sentence?
(2) Does that single
- A. a clause
that presents your argument (a thesis) and
- B. a clause
that presents a reason to support your argument,
- C. connected
together by a word like because, since,
so, or some other subordinate conjunction?
(3) Does the clause
that presents a reason use a shared assumption--a
statement with which even a hostile audience might
agree and one which overlaps logically with the first
(4) Is the clause
that presents your argument one that answers a question
at issue? In other words, is there anyone in the class
who disagrees and takes the opposite stance?
(5) Is it precise?
Does it avoid vague terms that sound good and mean
For instance, consider
this enthymeme: "The EPA should limit the use of irrigation
because the water levels are diminishing in American
aquifers." It meets an enthymeme's requirements. If
you divide it into parts, it looks like the following:
- The EPA should
limit the use of irrigation
- the excessive
use of irrigation diminishes drinking water in
Translated into the
formula, you can see the pattern:
- (Clause providing
- (Subordinate Conjunction)
- (clause presenting
first clause presents an argument, the focus of the
paper. The subordinating conjunction connects the
argument to the second clause, which presents a supporting
reason. Of course, in the student's paper, the student
will have to deal with concerns such as the effect
limited irrigation will have on agricultural industries,
food supplies, and the rights of the farmers who own
the land, but her primary argument will deal with
the depletion of aquifers.
The following are NOT good enthymemes:
is a valuable asset because it is useful for people
to be able to read.
argue that reading is not valuable? This statement
probably is not a question at issue, so it doesn't
meet the fourth requirement. Additionally, the writer
is also using "circular reasoning," in that the author
is trying to prove her thesis by restating it in different
This paper will
be about aircraft in World War II.
disagree with this statement? Of course the paper
is about that topic! The author is not presenting
an argument, so the thesis fails the second and fourth
believes he is right to raise taxes so he can fund
that's what the President believes. What do you believe?
You are only "explaining" somebody else's position,
but you are not making your own argument. This does
not satisfy part A of the second requirement.
Studies show 23%
of college students catch a venereal disease before
a statistic, not an argument. What course of action
do you advocate? What is the shared assumption? Where
is the second clause?
In the area of
familial processes, I think women are more intelligent
"familial processes" mean? The phrase may sound neat,
but does it mean anything? The enthymeme doesn't meet
the fifth requirement.
All mothers have
a maternal instinct to protect their children.
should favor women in child custody cases? So adoption
is not as desirable as leaving children with their
natural parents? The reader isn't sure where the author
is headed because there isn't a second clause.
Since I hated
Harry Potter as a book, I will probably hate
Harry Potter when I watch it as a movie.
the shared assumption? Does this answer a question
at issue for the class?