The UVic Writer's Guide

Black or White

A black or white, or either/or argument assumes that only two alternatives exist:

"Was Shakespeare sexist, or was he an early feminist?"

There are many other possibilities.

A more expansive example would be a paper that claimed that the First World War was caused either by the Alliance System or by German aggression. Given the extraordinary and wonderful complexity of the world we live in, the answer is bound to be more complex than these simple alternatives.

The black and white argument is also used to hold up a shaky thesis. The writer presents the argument as if it is the only solution to a grave problem: "If teleregistration is abandoned, chaos will result." The writer is asking the reader to choose between teleregistration and chaos, rather than to examine the entire situation.

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Copyright, The Department of English, University of Victoria, 1995
This page updated September 24, 1995