As a business blogger, you’re not expected to have the persuasive skills of Socrates. Still, you need something of an ability to win people over with logically sound arguments. Below, find a few of the most common traps of weak logic that can destroy your credibility. Many of these business fallacies are the product of laziness, and others are intentional and just as destructive.
If Not This, Then Obviously That
The “either-or” fallacy. It’s listed high because it’s so common and just too easy to commit. Many arguments in business writing can be oversimplified to the point of perceived dishonesty. These questionable arguments can prop up examples, but they’re also easily busted.
Perhaps you’re writing to convince a homeowner to upgrade to your brand of basement water pumps. You point out that an entire street of homes recently suffered flood damage, and none of them had your pump in place, whereas the home on the hill had the pump and escaped unscathed. The situation obviously would have been different if the first group of homes had your pump, right? Forget that they were built on floodplain and no amount of pumping will keep up with a heavy rainfall. Your argument might work in some cases, but many homeowners will see through the fallacy and take a harder look at other, more credible options.
Remedy this by writing comprehensively. Be honest, and state upfront that your product or service should be taken into account with other factors. Charts and graphics can help you illustrate more variables, as well.
Cherry-picking Your Facts
Unless you’re in the business of objective fact-finding, you’re probably guilty of this in some form or another.
Say you write for a distributor of Apple products, and you want your review of the anticipated new iPhone to be as favorable as possible. Your readers will notice if you only make mention of its sleek design and faster speed with no mention of its flaws. They’ll see it as dishonest.
Avoid this by making a conscious effort to give due credit to an opposing point of view. The iPhone is user-friendly, but critics have complained about its more restrictive aspects. Even if you’re unable to get every fact out there, your attempt to be objective will go noticed, and you earn credibility. Your ultimate goal of promoting Apple is intact.
Blanket statements can be dangerous when placed in certain contexts.
For example, you write for a distributor of RF signal level meters. You probably shouldn’t claim that everyone prefers your equipment to that of the competition. Who knows; maybe a handful of customers across town disagree. As with most of the fallacies we’ve mentioned, this can be avoided by sticking with specifics.
This category can be lumped with the fallacy known as “bandwagoning,” meaning selling an idea on the premise that it’s what everyone believes, so how can it be wrong? Prove your point with specific examples. No need to say that your product or service is for everyone, just for the people with whom you can actually do business.
The Straw Man
This fallacy is more common in politics, but it exists in business, as well. This concept is based on crafting an ideology, assigning it to an individual (justly or not) and then attacking this straw man.
For instance, you might be in the business of selling dermatologist website designs. You describe your competitor as peddling cookie-cutter templates with little variety and poor customer service. That might not be true, but you’re attacking this contrived image instead of basing your argument on facts. The risk is that your competitor gets wind of this and calls you out, and you’re forced to correct your statement. This can decimate your credibility, so it’s best to stick with objective facts.
The fallacies of business writing are seemingly endless. If you know of others or have any suggestions for avoiding them, please feel free to comment below.