Ambiguity in Writing
• Ambiguity occurs when the meaning of a word,
a phrase, or a sentence can have two possible
interpretations, and the reader cannot
determine from the sentence which is the
intended meaning. Sometimes, writers are
intentionally ambiguous because they want to
suggest multiple meanings; generally, though,
ambiguity just leads to confusion.
Words with Multiple
• Ambiguity occurs because words have multiple meanings. For
example, sharp may describe a knife-edge, or it may refer to a
musical note. Other words have multiple meanings.
• Consider the sentence sentence, "he picked a date. Date here
may refer to a fruit, a day of the year, an appointment, a
romantic encounter, or the person with whom one goes to
• Does this sentence mean he chose a day of the year, he made an
appointment, or he took a piece of fruit from the tree or from a
plate of food offerings?
• To resolve this kind of ambiguity, make sure the meaning of the
term is clear from the sentence: "He picked a date to hold the
• This type of ambiguity occurs when the reader can't determine the intended
meaning because the sentence contains two competing grammatical structures.
• For example: The sentence, "Talented women and men should apply for this
job," has two possible readings. First, the sentence can mean "[Talented
women] and men should apply for this job." In this case, the men need not be
talented to apply, but the women must be talented. Second, the sentence can
mean "[Talented women] and [talented men] should apply for this job. Both the
women and the men should be talented.
• Likewise the statement, "They can fish," has two possible meanings. First, "they
are able to fish," which can mean that they have the ability or the opportunity to
do so. Second, the statement can mean that they put fish into cans, a
manufacturing or storing process.
• To resolve structural/grammatical ambiguities, rephrase the sentence.
• Discussion: Machiavelli "The Qualities of the
• Rhetorical Strategies
• Questions for Critical Reading
• QHQ Discussion Vocabulary (Time Permitting)
• Essay #2: Choose your prompt (Time
Niccolo Machiavelli was born in Florence, Italy on May 3, 1469.
He is notable for his essays on politics, particularly his infamous treatise on
power entitled The Prince.
He came form a political family.
He held a privileged position
He had a wife and sixteen children.
In 1494 Machiavelli became a clerk at the chancery at Adrian.
Later, he became a secretary to the Council of Ten, which was the
governing body in charge of diplomacy and military organization for the
new Florentine republican government.
He observed the workings of foreign affairs firsthand.
He met with other political leaders to see how their countries were ruled.
He carried out several diplomatic missions to Germany, Spain, and other
In 1512 the Medici family regained power in Florence,
putting an end to republican rule. As a result, Machiavelli
was forced out of his job and temporarily imprisoned. He
returned to his country estate near San Casciano after his
release and wrote several books on politics, including, On
the Art of War, History of Florence, Discourses on Livy, and
The Prince, which was dedicated to Lorenzo de Medici in an
attempt to gain favor with the ruling family.
Machiavelli wrote a first version of
The Prince in 1513, but it was not
published until 1532—
five years after his death.
In your groups
• Discuss the rhetorical strategies of
• Discuss the “Questions for Critical
Thinking” on page 50. Find textual
support for your answers!
Which are the Rhetorical
Strategies of Machiavelli?
Pragmatic (concerned with practical results).
Gives directions; How-to Book
Brief and to the point
Uses historical precedents to support his points
Appeals to common sense
Suggests alternate arguments and then shows
why they are wrong.
Gives the appearance of fairness and
Discusses opposite pairings, including both sides
of an issue
Compare and contrast
Machiavelli “The Qualities of the Prince”
Q: Why does Machiavelli say that it is “much safer to be
feared than to be loved” (para. 14).
Q: Have Machiavelli’s conjectures in “On
Generosity and Miserliness” been inverted in
[. . .]
Machiavelli and Military Might
Why must a good leader think of nothing else except for war?
Wouldn’t that lead to losing his followers because they are all
dead or injured?
Why does Machiavelli encourage the prince to act as a
military commander with full control of the army?
Why does Machiavelli put so much emphasis on the nation’s
Do nation’s today get their idea of power from Machiavelli?
Machiavelli and His
If we take Machiavelli’s opinion about men as fact, that
men are “ungrateful, fickle, simulators and deceivers,
avoiders of danger, greedy for gain” (46,para 14,
Machiavelli), can we presume that modern democracy is
a flawed concept?
Does Machiavelli’s advice apply to rulers who are
concerned about their subjects’ well being?
How does condoning cruelty advocate a merciful ruler?
The Virtue of a Prince
How does a prince maintain honesty, when Machiavelli
states that he has to learn how to deceive?
Machiavelli talks about having to appear all that is good
and to be loved, while not being the same as his
reputation, as it is impossible to govern well if one is
generous and kind. Is having two faces the best way to
If a prince is only worried about appearance, how does
he maintain balance with his true qualities or does he
depart from them and becomes a creation of his
Lao Tzu and Machiavelli
When comparing Lao Tzu and Machiavelli, they are
pretty different in the way they see human nature is;
which one seems to be more accurate in this day and
Where does Machiavelli’s active view on war stand
against Lao-Tzu’s passive view in terms of success and
prosperity for both the people and the ruler?
Exam 4: Class 12
At our next meeting!
• Ad hominem: "against the man"; attacking the arguer rather
than the argument or issue.
• Appeal to tradition: a proposal that something should continue
because it has traditionally existed or been done that way.
• Argument: a process of reasoning and advancing proof about
issues on which conflicting views may be held; also, a statement
or statements providing support for a claim.
• Authority: a respectable, reliable source of evidence.
Begging the question: the arguer proves his conclusion while
assuming it to already be true. The premise for his argument is
based on the truth of his conclusion. In other words, the
argument assumes to be true what it is supposed to be proving.
Claim: the conclusion of an argument; what the arguer is trying
Credibility: the audience's belief in the arguer's trustworthiness
Deduction: reasoning by which we establish that a conclusion
must be true because the statements on which it is based are
Ethos: the qualities of character, intelligence, and goodwill in an
argument that contribute to an audience's acceptance of the claim.
Euphemism: a pleasant or flattering expression used in place of one that
is less agreeable but possibly more accurate.
Evidence: facts or opinions that support an issue or claim; may consist of
statistics, reports of personal experience, or views of experts.
Fallacy: an error of reasoning based on faulty use of evidence or incorrect
False analogy: assuming without sufficient proof that if objects or
processes are similar in some ways, then they are similar in other ways as
• Faulty use of authority: failing to acknowledge
disagreement among experts or otherwise
misrepresenting the trustworthiness of sources.
• Generalization: a statement of general principle
derived inferentially from a series of examples.
• Hasty generalization: drawing conclusions from
• Inference: an interpretation of the facts.
• Motivational appeal: an attempt to reach an audience by
recognizing their needs and values and how these
contribute to their decision making.
• Non sequitur: "it does not follow"; using irrelevant proof
to buttress a claim.
• Post hoc: mistakenly inferring that because one event
follows another they have a causal relation; from post hoc
ergo propter hoc ("after this, therefore because of this");
also called "doubtful cause."
• Qualifier: a restriction placed on the claim to state that it
may not always be true as stated.
• Refutation: an attack on an opposing view in order to
weaken it, invalidate it, or make it less credible.
• Slanting: selecting facts or words with connotations
that favor the arguer's bias and discredit alternatives.
• Slippery slope: predicting without justification that one
step in a process will lead unavoidably to a second,
generally undesirable step.
• Values: conceptions or ideas that act as standards for
judging what is right or wrong, worthwhile or
worthless, beautiful or ugly, good or bad.
Thinking about Essay #2
• Write an essay of at least 2 pages but not more than 3
pages in response to our readings.
• Lao Tzu: Suggestions for Writing: Pages 32-33
• Machiavelli: Suggestions for Writing: Pages 50-51
• Your essay should be formatted in MLA style.
• Pay attention to the details of the formatting.
• Post #21: Before 6pm if you can! How can we apply the
philosophy of Machiavelli and/or Lao-Tzu to A Game of
Thrones? Post textual evidence (excerpts of text) from both
sources to prove your points. Make sure to include page numbers
so we can follow along in class. (Print and bring your post to
• Post #22 Essay #2 (2-3 pages: Due Friday before noon)
• Choose your topic from "Suggestions for Writing" pages 32-33,
prompts 1-6 or pages 50-51 prompts 1-5. Electronic copy due this
Friday before noon.
• Study Vocabulary for exam #4: Next Class
• Bring A World of Ideas, printed versions of the text, or be able
to access them on your device—not your phone!