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Style Over Substance

(also known as: argument by slogan [form of], cliché thinking - or thought-terminating cliché, argument by rhyme [form of], argument by poetic language [form of])

Description: When the arguer embellishes the argument with compelling language or rhetoric, and/or visual aesthetics. This comes in many forms as described below. “If it sounds good or looks good, it must be right!”

Logical Form:

Person 1 makes claim Y.

Claim Y sounds catchy.

Therefore, claim Y is true.

Example #1:

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

Explanation: Most applications of language, like the example above, are not taken literally, but figuratively.  However, even figurative language is a way to make an argument.  In this case, it might be used to imply that a team is no better than the least productive member of that team which is just not true.  Very often the “weakest links” fade away into the background and the strong players lead the team.

Example #2:

It’s not a religion; it is a relationship.

Explanation: “Yeah... wow, I can see that!” is the common response to a cliché that diverts critical thought by substitution of poetry, rhyme, or other rhetoric.  In fact, these are not arguments, but assertions absent of any evidence or reasons that rely on one's confusion of their emotional connection to language with the truth of the assertion.  Tell me why it’s not a religion.  Tell me what a relationship is exactly. 

Do not accept information as truth because it sounds nice.

Exception: Compelling language or rhetoric can be useful when used, in addition to evidence or strong claims.

Tip: Keep in mind that for every poetic saying there is another one with an opposite meaning.  They rarely ever make good arguments.

Variations: The argument by slogan fallacy is when a slogan (catchy phrase) is taken as truth because it sounds good and we might be used to hearing it, e.g. “Coke is the real thing!”  Bumper stickers are great examples of argument by slogan: “Born Again? Excuse me for getting it right the first time.”

Cliché thinking is the fallacy when sayings like, “leave no stone unturned”, are accepted as truth, regardless of the situation -- especially if taken literally.

When poetic language is used in an argument as reason or evidence for the truth of the conclusion, the argument by poetic language fallacy is committed.

The argument by rhyme uses words that rhyme to make the proposition more attractive.  It works... don’t ask me how, but it does (“if it doesn’t fit, you must acquit”).  Rhymes tend to have quite a bit of persuasive power, no matter how false they might be.  The best defense against this kind of fallacious rhetoric is a good counter attack using the same fallacy.

Whoever smelled it, dealt it!

Whoever denied it, supplied it!


This a logical fallacy frequently used on the Internet. No academic sources could be found.

Registered User Comments

Ingeborg S. Nordén
Saturday, November 02, 2019 - 01:57:45 PM
I've occasionally referred to this one as argumentum ad ludum, appeal to [word]play: I've seen rhymes, puns, acrostics, letter-counts, and anagrams used in style-over-substance arguments online. Not all SOS fallacies use that particulsr style, but when it does..."appeal to wordplay" explains the mistake clearly enough to be its own subtype.

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your full name, first, last, and any titles
Friday, May 03, 2019 - 07:21:24 PM
I feel like this could be called the
appeal to wording

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