Sensing your argument's overall scope and direction, you can consider stating your main point. As you do, however, remember that your writing process has barely begun. You don't yet need a final proposition statement for your finished paper, but one to point you forward and help focus your efforts.

In this way an argumentative proposition is like a thesis statement. Besides stating your main point, both help you direct, develop, and monitor your thinking while writing. Like a thesis statement, an argumentative proposition should be scrutinized and, when necessary, modified throughout your writing process. At first, both a thesis and a proposition are often hunches or good guesses about what you will finally claim.

At first, both a thesis statement and a proposition are often hunches or good guesses about what you will finally claim.

As your paper develops, you may find your first hunch was off-target. If so, revise your proposition to show your new understanding. Make a trial statement early and watch for possible improvements to assure a strong proposition in your final paper.

Even at this point, however, your proposition should define your argument's scope and make a debatable assertion. A statement like "Some people ruin things for everyone," is weak because it doesn't make clear what the writer has in mind. It's a vague generalization that provides no direction for writer or reader. If pressed to be precise, the writer might say, "A small group of thoughtless fans is jeopardizing the school's whole soccer program." Now we know what we're talking about.

Besides defining the argument's scope, your proposition should make a claim that is open to debate.

Like a thesis, your proposition shouldn't be self-evidently true (asparagus is a vegetable) or claim something that's purely a matter of opinion (asparagus tastes great). It should have some uncertainty, yet make a claim that your readers will assent to in the end: "Our county agricultural agent should encourage valley farmers to plant more asparagus."


8.3 Rate the following sentences as proposition statements on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 5 (highest). Be prepared to explain why you gave your rating..

a. Money is the root of all evil.

b. The grading system in Biology 101 doesn't accurately reflect the students' intellectual achievements.

c. In these modern times in which we live, corruption in its various forms has a broad impact of major concern.

d. William McKinley was president of the United States from 1897-1901.

e. There's too much government interference and red tape for the average citizen to feel free.

f. Unless the Zoning Appeals Board shows greater flexibility in granting variances, we can expect businesses to locate elsewhere.

g. Nothing beats the fresh taste of milk.

h. With all the litter and debris that people leave there, the alley behind my house is a mess.

i. Someone needs to do something about the situation with regard to housing on this campus.

j. All tips should be placed in a large bowl and divided equally among the waiters who work each shift.

8.4 Write a trial proposition statement to go with each of the three argumentative situations you've been working on. Exchange them with a partner, and discuss their strengths and weaknesses.