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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Tips for writing a winning debate

Why to write: To persuade people. In a situation where you have to raise certain points to convince the audience that your point of view is correct, you write a debate. The success of your endeavour depends on the quality of the points raised by you.

What are the parts of a debate (paragraph wise):

Paragraph 1 - Opening statement: Introduce yourself, define the motion and summarize why you are   
                          speaking for or against the motion.
Paragraph 2 - Main argument: proposition- present the main argument
                        Cross examination: raise some of the opposite arguments and refute them.
                         Suggesting alternatives: give some guidelines about the future  
                       (you can divide more than one paragraphs in this section if the topic is vast)

Paragraph 3 - Closing statement: summing up the arguments and telling why people should accept their               
Don’t go beyond four paragraphs in all.

How to make it a strong debate:

1. Pick a side: when some people are writing debate articles, their common error is that they do not stand for their own sides firmly. For example, their statements may include "However, I think the opinions of pro/con are undoubtedly true" or "I have nothing to say against your comments."
2. Use a calm but forceful tone:  you should firmly believe in what you are writing. The statements should not show an indecisive thought process. 
3. Right on topic through the whole debate: make sure not to lose focus.
4. Show your position as quickly as possible: when some people write debate articles, they put down a lengthy introduction, and still do not state which side they support. Try to make a clear position within the few first sentences.
5. Using examples: your expression should not lack vitality. Write down a story, important event or your personal experience! The debate comes alive when it deals with people's daily life.
6. Write it logically as well as emotionally: logic makes the debate seem more accurate and firm, and emotion can touch the hearts of the readers. But be aware the correct mix is needed to make it effective. 
7. Make few positive comments about the other side: although supporting your side strongly is important, making a few positive comments about the other side can make your opponent feel that you are a reasonable debater. But remember two things: one, put it down towards the beginning of your debate; two, later you have to prove that your aspect for your own side is more important than the one you previously stated for the other side. For instance; a debate on "Who would win the fight: Superman or Spiderman?" If you supported Superman, you could first analyze Spiderman's special abilities, and later you could show the readers that Superman has all the advantages Spiderman has and even beyond.
8. List: the article would be more convincing if you list all the points you want to raise in the debate before starting to write. This makes the article more organized. (This is not necessary all the time but you can do it initially to get a practice.)

How to turn your side into a winning argument:
1. Present yourself as a well mannered debater through expressions like: my worthy friend is right when he says that… but I would like to add…
2. Introduction: write a first sentence that draws in readers. Some great ideas include asking a question, using a quote or stating an amazing fact.
3. Pay attention to the word limit- 150 – 200 for a debate
4. How is a debate different from a speech: you don’t need to speak against an opponent in a speech. It is not as aggressive as a debate but you still need to be clear about the side you are supporting. Generally, the speech is written on such topics that are not very controversial.

There is a sample debate written below. Read it and see if you can spot the same ideas as written in the pointers given above.
Maharashtra Government to shut down on polling day to boost voter turnout

Respected judges, teachers and my dear friends, today I, xyz,  stand in front of you to speak against the motion that work should be shut down to facilitate voter turnout. This idea is an absurd brainwave to aid voter turnout on Election Day. On October 13, the day Maharashtra goes to the polls, all commercial and industrial establishments, malls, and restaurants will have to shut because this would presumably drive people straight to the polling booth. This is against the very basis of a democracy.
In a democracy, citizens have the right not to vote as much as they have the choice of casting their ballot. Coercing them to vote either by making it compulsory as in Australia, or by issuing such diktats goes against the grain of free will. If citizens feel like opting out of the electoral process, so be it.

Forced shutdown will also lead to economic losses. I accept the fact that people will be free in such a scenario but there is no way of ensuring that just because people do not have to show up at work, and have no entertainment hub to go to on voting day, they will automatically land up at the polling stations. If someone has decided to not vote, s/he will not, no matter what the incentive. So people should be left free to take their decisions.


Respected judges, teachers and my dear friends, today I, xyz,  stand in front of you to speak for the motion that the work should be shut down to facilitate voter turnout. When the country’s financial capital has an abysmal voting record, it is time to take remedial steps. In that context, this decision is sensible.

Those criticizing the move for being too harsh or somehow violating democratic norms are making baseless arguments. The state authorities have stated that they hope to boost voter turnout, but they are in no way compelling citizens to turn up at the voting booths. And as for the closures, they are both ethically and legally justified.

All government sector employees and most private sector ones either have the day off or the option to take time off from the working day in order to vote. Why should restaurants and shops be exempt? The constitutional rights are being safeguarded, otherwise employees may have been forced to work on Election Day.

In Australia, voting is legally mandatory, yet no one questions the credentials of the country’s democratic structure. Why then, should aspersions be cast on Indian authorities when they are merely taking the far less radical step of enabling all citizens to vote?

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