In a single-paragraph essay or similar short-answer format, you only have the space to make one claim. You back up this claim with an argument. When creating arguments for single-paragraph essays, you need to make your argument clear and concise. You do not have nearly the room you have in other types of essays. So, to make your short answers pop, you need to 1. understand the argument and 2. make that argument as short as possible! Keep on reading for the definition of argument, types, and more.

Argument Argument

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Table of contents

    Argument Definition

    An argument is not your claim. Rather, it supports your claim.

    An argument is a reason to believe a given claim.

    Say that the following is your claim.

    The United States should return to the gold standard.

    You would then support this claim with several arguments, such as these:

    The gold standard is superior to the current system in the United States.

    The gold standard is feasible.

    The gold standard would be strong into the future.

    Arguments, in turn, require evidence or other logical support. For instance, you might use studies and examples of history to support your arguments.

    The more factual an argument is, the stronger it is. The factual nature of an argument is predicated upon its evidence or other logical support.

    In a single-paragraph essay, you'll only have 1-2 arguments in support of your claim.

    Argument. Gold bars. StudySmarter.Fig. 1 - You'll be golden if your arguments are logical.

    Argument in a Sentence

    After reading the prior definition, you might be wondering, "Gosh, have I been using the term argument wrong my whole life?"

    No, you haven't been. "Argument" is one of those words that can mean different things depending on the level of formality. The above definition of "argument" is the most formal definition, which pertains to the study of logic. "Argument" has many definitions, though, and you can use it in many ways in sentences.

    I had an argument with my dad last night.

    This example uses "argument" to mean a "fight."

    My argument is that red is the best color, and I'm sticking to it.

    This example uses "argument" to mean "claim." This definition is confusing because the formal definition of "argument" makes it distinct from the claim.

    Use context clues to determine whether someone is using "argument" in a more or less formal manner.

    My claim is that red is the best color. My arguments are as follows: red catches the eye and is great for advertising, my favorite football team is primarily red, and fire trucks are red and awesome.

    In this final example, the sentence beginning with "my argument" uses argument in the formal sense of the word.

    On a side note, none of the above arguments are particularly good because the claim is an opinion, as are most of the arguments. Remember, the more factual an argument is, the better!

    Argument in Writing

    Now it is time to write arguments for the one-paragraph essay. To do this, choose a good argument and make that argument clear.

    Choosing Your Argument

    In a longer essay, you can afford to spend time and space on multiple arguments. If you only have space for one or two arguments in a single paragraph, you need to make sure you pick your absolute best arguments.

    But what makes a better argument?

    Choose an Emphatic Argument

    In basic terms, a strong argument shows that your claim must be true. This is superior to an argument that shows your claim might be true.

    For instance, let's say that your claim is, "The state needs to enact drought relief policies." To show this, it would be better to prove the negative impact of no policy than to prove the positive impact of a policy. Proving the negative impact shows that "change must be made," while proving a positive impact only shows that "change should be made."

    If we don't enact policy, 60% of the state's crops will become unsustainable.

    If we enact policy, we will make our crops more sustainable.

    The first example is far more emphatic.

    Given your limited time and space, you should always go for the most emphatic argument.

    Choose an Argument with Evidence

    Second, you want to choose an argument that has strong evidence to support it. For instance, in the above example, the emphatic argument, "If we don't enact policy, 60% of the state's crops will become unsustainable" requires evidence to support the statistic of 60%.

    An emphatic argument is worthless if its evidence is not true or not well-researched.

    If you connect your argument to solid evidence, you will have a good shot at creating a great short answer or single-paragraph essay.

    Argument. Sprout. StudySmarter.Fig. 2 - Good arguments sprout from strong evidence.

    Clarity of Your Argument

    So you've picked your best argument. Now you need to make that argument as clear as possible. This is important because you only have so much space. You need to pack that space with meaning!

    To create clarity in your response, work on your coherence and conciseness.

    Clarity in Coherence

    Coherence is key to your short answer.

    Something is coherent if it is easy and natural to follow.

    You simply don't have the space to use a whole paragraph to help someone understand half your point. Coherency means people will more easily follow your line of reasoning.

    One way to achieve coherence is by using transitions.

    A transition is any device that bridges two ideas.

    Here's an example.

    Without change, 60% of the state's crops will become unsustainable. For that reason, the state needs to step in and enact drought relief policies.

    In the above example, "for that reason" is a transition. It helps guide the reader along.

    There are many levels of coherence, including coherence between sentences and coherence within sentences.

    Clarity in Conciseness

    The shorter your sentences are, the more likely it is people will understand them. For that reason, especially in a short answer format, limit yourself to simpler sentences.

    Here are three other ways to create clarity in your argument.

    1. Try to combine sentences and ideas! Look for similar ideas and sentences and see what you can blend together or get rid of entirely.
    2. Don't repeat yourself. Repetition isn't needed in a short answer or single-paragraph essay.
    3. Avoid the semi-colon and dashes. You want to create sentences that no one can confuse.

    Before you get writing a single-paragraph essay, try to diagram using these tips! This way, you won't have to erase anything as you go along.

    Argument Example

    The following is an example of a long-winded argument. Using what you've learned about picking a strong argument and making it clear, try to turn this into a strong argument!

    It's unacceptable that people's jobs are at stake. Jobs are important, even critical to our continued success as a country and supplier to the world. If job growth doesn't turn around, dozens of business could go under; this is a massive problem. If too many businesses go under, the market will sink to a new low and we'll lose our spot at the top—and losing our spot at the top means a weaker economy into the future. It could even result in rampant inflation.

    Here is one way you might have fixed this argument.

    If job growth doesn't turn around, the country will lose its stake in the global market, resulting in rampant inflation.

    This version focuses on the strong argument that without job growth, rampant inflation will hit the economy. It also cuts out the semi-colon, the dash, the repetition, and it combines many ideas. Most importantly, it leaves plenty of room to cite evidence.

    Types of Argument

    There are many arguments, but the two main types are deductive and inductive. Whether an argument is deductive or inductive depends on the kind of evidence it uses. Here is information about each and how to tailor the arguments to the one-paragraph essay.

    Deductive Argument

    The deductive argument is the strongest form of argument. It uses deduction, also called deductive reasoning.

    Deduction narrows general facts into specific conclusions.

    Here is a deductive argument.

    In the first paragraph, Mana says she thinks of friendship as barter.

    In the second paragraph, the narrator says that Mana means what she says.

    Therefore, Mana truly thinks of friendship as barter.

    This argument uses two general pieces of evidence to draw a tight conclusion about the way Mana truly thinks.

    Argument, An example of barter, StudySmarter.Fig. 3 - Use deduction to explain what characters do and say.

    How to Write Brief Deductive Arguments

    When looking to make short deductive arguments, focus on the line of reasoning. Try to turn your argument into three steps like the example above.

    Your goal is to understand your own logic. If you can say one thing (in step one), add another thing (in step two), and draw a conclusion (in step three), then you can explain that line of reasoning clearly to your audience.

    Knowing your deductive argument front to back is the key to making it strong and concise.

    Inductive Argument

    Inductive arguments are not as strong as deductive arguments because they rely on sample size.

    Induction uses specific examples to draw a more general conclusion.

    Here is an inductive argument.

    Mana discusses friendship 3 times in the short story.

    In 2 of those cases, she describes it as a barter relationship.

    Therefore, there's a strong chance she thinks of friendship as barter.

    Induction tries to use the power of instances to prove a point. The more something occurs, the more it indicates that result.

    Think of the randomness of a coin flip. The more times you flip a coin, the better you can prove that a coin flip is random (50-50). If you flip a coin too few times, your results might be inaccurate. For instance, say you flip a coin 3 times, and it lands on tails 3 times. This result wouldn't help indicate a coin's randomness. 10,000 trials would be much better! So, beware weak inductive arguments. Don't cite a few examples of something; instead, cite large studies and many examples. But do so succinctly!

    How to Write Brief Inductive Arguments

    To make your inductive argument brief for a single-paragraph essay, analyze how strong it is.

    If your inductive argument is strong, it shouldn't take you long to explain it. If your inductive argument is weak, you will need more time to explain your reasoning.

    If your inductive argument requires more than three sentences to explain, it is probably too weak to be included in your single-paragraph essay. Try to come up with a deductive line of reasoning that is stronger and shorter!

    Argument - Key Takeaways

    • An argument is a reason to believe a given claim. It requires evidence or logical support.
    • When choosing an argument for a single-paragraph essay, choose one that shows your claim must be true, not might be true.
    • Choose an argument that has strong evidence.
    • To make your argument coherent, use transitions to bridge your ideas. Follow a line of reasoning.
    • To make your argument concise, combine sentences, don't repeat yourself, and avoid complex punctuation.
    Frequently Asked Questions about Argument

    What is an argument?

    An argument is a reason to believe a given claim.

    What is an example of an argument?

    The United States should return to the gold standard.

    How do you structure an argument in a single-paragraph essay?

    Make sure it is emphatic and contains strong evidence. Additionally, make your argument clear and concise.

    What are the different types of arguments?

    Deductive arguments and inductive arguments. Deduction narrows general facts into specific conclusions. Induction uses specific examples to draw a more general conclusion.

    What is a bad argument?

    Beware weak inductive arguments. Don't cite a few examples of something; instead cite large studies and many examples.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    A(n) _____ is a reason to believe a given _____.

    The _____ an argument is, the stronger it is. 

    In a single-paragraph essay, you won't have but _____ argument(s) in support of your claim.

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