“Raise your words, not your voice. It is rain that grows flowers, not thunder.” —Rumi
What is Counterargument?
Oftentimes, and especially in persuasive responses, the essayist will need to take on an opponent with a different point of view. There are two parts to this exchange. The part where an opponent attacks your argument is known as the counter-argument, and the part where you answer back is called the rebuttal.
One might reasonably ask, “Why in the world would I provide any space in my essay for someone who wants to weaken my argument. It is actually very important that you do provide your reader with the counterargument to your own argument. According the Purdue Online Writing Workshop, “In order to present a fair and convincing message, you may need to anticipate, research, and outline some of the common positions (arguments) that dispute your thesis.”
Presenting the opposing viewpoint actually strengthens your own argument because it shows you to be credible, fair-minded and unafraid. It also gives you the opportunity to fight back smartly. Moreover, adding these elements adds length to your paper.
What is Rebuttal?
The rebuttal is you opportunity to turn the tables on your opponent. In court, you might hear the judge say, “Now that you’ve heard the accusations, have you a rebuttal?” As an essayist, of course you have a rebuttal. Since you’ve fairly presented the other side’s opinion in the counter-argument, you may now present your own reasoned rebuttal arguments to undo or deflect any damage that may have been done.
These arguments are usually delivered using a polite and formal tone, which shows you are in control of the situation and unintimidated. The calm warrior is often the most effective adversary. Some writers even compliment their opponent for holding the views that they do, before introducing their own rebuttal. If time allows we recommend that you try to deliver two rebuttals for each of your opponent’s counterarguments. This will clearly give you the advantage in the argument.
For your convenience the counterarguments are highlighted in salmon and the rebuttals are highlighted in gray.
Type of essay: persuasive/ argument
The prompt: In a concise, multiple-paragraph-essay, take a stand on whether or not you believe public schools should be allowed to require students to wear school uniforms.
The Pop: Mandatory dress codes in public violate students’ civil rights. [350-450 words]
Template Formula: [H + TS + RD + INT + CA + REB1 + REB2 + C]
Word Count: 382
Recently, principal McGuire announced her intention to institute a school wide uniform policy at our school. Needless to say, the news has created quite a stir; much of it quite negative. I am with those who oppose this policy. A mandatory dress code at school is quite simply a flagrant violation of young people’s’ civil rights. Afterall, The First Amendment of our United States Constitution states that “Congress cannot pass laws abridging the freedom of speech.” Our forefathers did not intend to have any American citizen’s right to reasonably express him or herself taken away by anybody at any time, no matter their age. This constitutional protection allows us to speak out against politicians who we disagree with. It allows us to write articles that might be controversial or even offensive to some. And it certainly extends to students who might want to wear some loose-fitting jeans or a punk-rock tee shirt. Expressing one’s style, politics or ideas with one’s choice of clothing is no different than doing so with words spoken aloud or written down on paper. Of course, there are those such as more conservative parents and school administrators who think that a school dress code is the key to maintaining law and order and a sense of discipline on campus. These critics of free dress may even cite studies demonstrating that schools that instill dress codes have fewer incidents of crime and graffiti. However, these small improvements do not make up for the great damaged caused by violating students’ basic civil rights. Hey, young man, give up a few of your rights and we’ll promise you a peaceful environment. It’s the wrong message to send young people. Besides, it isn’t the students’ responsibility to create law and order on campus. This is the responsibility of the teachers, administrators and, to some degree, parents. If a school can’t keep the peace when students are wearing their own choice of fashion, then perhaps the school itself should look more closely at its own policies and practices, and not at some kid’s sagging blue jeans or Yeezy tee shirt with holes in it. Undoubtedly, despite the opinions of some misguided critics, forcing students to wear school uniforms if they do not wish to is a crass violation of their basic constitutional rights.
- Counter-argument: Having already made a pretty good case that school dress codes violate students’ civil rights, the essayist now calmly and fairly acknowledges the opposing side. Beginning with the phrase, “of course”, this two sentence concession to an alternative view is respectful and unsurprised. It even concedes that there may be some evidence to support the opponent’s position.
- Rebuttal 1: The first part of the rebuttal strikes back by first mentioning that any gains caused by a dress code would be very modest, and even insignificant when compared to the damage done. In even suggests that such tactics might be a way of tricking kids.
- Rebuttal 2: Part two deflects the responsibility away from kids and back towards adults and schools themselves. Together these two rebuttals effectively take the argument back from the opposition and give the advantage to the essayist. It is done with respect and confidence.
Type of essay: narrative procedure (how-to)
The prompt: What is the most important ingredient in a well-made peanut butter and jelly sandwich, the peanut butter, the jelly or the bread? [350-400 words]
Template Formula: H + TS + B + RD + INT + CA + REB + C]
Word Count: 355
Many a volatile argument has erupted over which ingredient in a PB and J is the most critical. You have the peanut butter crowd who argue that P and B are the first two letters in the name, and, well, enough said. There are the sweet-toothed jelly fans who contend that it is the sweet ingredient that provides all the flavor. In fact, both of these groups are dead wrong. As a peanut butter and jelly expert, I can assure you that it is the type of bread you choose that determines whether the sandwich will be acceptable or not. If you mess this part up, you will have a disaster on your hands. So, what kind of bread should be used? According to the experts, a crusty loaf is too thick and will overwhelm the flavors of the peanut butter and jelly. Pumpernickel and rye are also unsuitable for this type of sandwich due to their strong flavors. Most PB and J aficionados prefer a simple, thin and soft white or wheat bread. Pepperidge farm plain white bread is considered by some to be the best choice. (Bon Appetit) It may seem odd put so much thought into choosing bread, but, as you can see, the experts are quite clear. Too much bread, and you mask the flavor of the really important flavors (the PB & the J). Too many strong flavors and you camouflage these ingredients as well. So it seems that for this particular sandwich, the quaint simplicity of good ol’ plain white is what the doctor ordered. Naturally, there will be those who insist that a wheat bread with fiber and grains is required because it is healthier or because it has more complex textures and flavors. But we’re not talking about gourmet cuisine here; we’re making a good, ol’ fashion PB & J. We can save the fancy ingredients for a special occasion. Plus, as mentioned above, you want to keep the strong flavors and textures to a minimum. Undeniably, the type of bread one chooses is the most important consideration when designing and creating the perfect peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
- Counter-argument: Typically, an expository or how-to piece doesn’t always include a counter-argument, but in this case it does add an element of interest to the paragraph. Plus, since we’re talking about something subjective like food preference, it is not out of bounds to talk about alternative tastes.
- Rebuttal: Here we have two simple sentences that suggest that those promoting wheat bread are being overly pretentious and needlessly fancy. It also reminds the reader of an important point made earlier in the response.
Type of essay: persuasive/ argument
The prompt: In a concise, multiple-paragraph-essay, take a stand on whether or not you believe the author’s contention that pitbull terriers should be banned from public spaces.
Template Formula: H + TS + CA + REB1 + REB2 + C]
Word Count: 343
Many people have been reeled in and hoodwinked by misleading media accounts of pitbulls attacking people in public. They contend that any attempt to defend these dogs is irresponsible and an invitation to disaster. The author of the article we read contends that these dogs should be banned from public spaces. I could not disagree more, but let’s take a closer look at some of the concerns about these animals. One common argument that pitbull detractors use is that pitbulls are demonstrably vicious creatures that have been proven to attack people at a much higher rate than any other breed. These critics, like the author of the article, contend that “pitbulls are involved in more than 60 % of canine attacks on humans” and are therefore untrustworthy. Based on these facts, one might conclude that pitbulls are indeed vicious creatures that need to be carefully monitored and controlled. At least that is what the author concludes. But what the information doesn’t reflect is that most of these attacks occur during scheduled dog fights or during fight training. It’s not the breed, it’s the context in which they are forced to live, train and perform. If one were to train french poodles to attack other dogs for sport from the time they were puppies, then we would likely hear frequent media reports about the scourge of french poodle attacks in our cities and public spaces. Sure pitbulls bite more people than other breeds, but the information that pitbull detractors like this author fail to divulge when they present their “damning evidence” against pitbulls is where and how the attacks are occurring. The attacks are mostly not happening in the place where normal people frequent. Their statistics are not coming from parks or schools or normal neighborhoods. They are mostly taking place in areas where the dogs fight or are training to fight. Omitting this important fact is tantamount to lying It would seem that those who wish to malign the pitbull breed, including this author, are not above skewing the data to fit their needs.
You’ll notice that this response doesn’t feature a research detail or an interpretation. Instead it goes directly into counterargument and rebuttal.
- Counter-argument: This counter-argument works much in the same way as a research detail does. It provides
- Rebuttal 1: The first rebuttal uses the essay writer’s own common sense. It argues that any dog trained to attack, even a poodle would be aggressive as a result.
- Rebuttal 2: The second part of the rebuttal concedes that pitbulls do statistically bite humans more often than other breeds, but then accuses the opponent of misrepresenting the information.