Vagueness and Persuasion

Here again is our sample sentence:

Invaders from Planet Rugby is a great movie.

As it stands, this is merely a statement of opinion. If the goal is to persuade the reader to share the opinion, then the writer will have to be more specific. For example:

Invaders from Planet Rugby is a great movie, because its portrayals of its characters subvert stereotypical science-fiction gender roles, while the vandalism of Venus powerfully allegorizes problems occurring on our own planet.

This sentence provides some rationale for the claim that IFPR is a great movie. Still, it leaves us wondering which gender roles the movie subverts and which problems it allegorizes. By addressing these questions, the writer can make the sentence even less vague:

Invaders from Planet Rugby subverts the stereotypically passive role of women in science fiction, while offering a powerful allegory of environmental problems on Earth.

This version is much more clear and concrete, and thus more persuasive, than the previous ones.

As you may have noticed, though, this version no longer gives an opinion about the movie's greatness. Instead, the argument focuses entirely on themes. You may ask: In order to make the sentence more specific, was it necessary to cast aside the opinion it originally expressed?

Yes, I think it was. After all, "It's a great movie!" will always be a matter of taste, and no amount of evidence of gender role subversion or environmental allegory will convince a naysayer of the film's brilliance. However, one can use said evidence to prove that subversion and allegory occur in the film, and even the naysayer must then acknowledge the validity of the argument. Focusing on specific and supportable points always works better than defending an abstract evaluation.


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