Reading for Thinking - Online Practice:
Analyzing Arguments: Discovering the Point

Copyright © 2005 Laraine Flemming.
General distribution outside the classroom and redistribution are strictly prohibited.

Directions: Read each passage and click on the appropriate button to identify the point of the argument.


Thirty-one states in the U.S. permit voters to submit absentee ballots up to 40 days before elections actually take place, and those who request an absentee ballot do not even have to give a reason for their early vote. Despite the ease and frequency of this practice, voters should not cast early ballots unless they have a truly legitimate reason, such as being physically unable to get to a polling place. Casting early ballots is bad practice because it makes fraud more possible. Millions of ballots floating around America for over a month create the potential for a serious security breach. For example, an unscrupulous elections employee could make ballots disappear or fill out signed but unmarked ballots. Early voting also prevents citizens from taking into account any late developments in a campaign. Something could happen shortly before Election Day and change a voter's opinion about the right candidate to elect, but the absentee ballot has already locked in his or her vote. Then, too, Election Day is one of our country's last remaining ways of displaying communal patriotism. No-excuse absentee balloting prevents citizens from celebrating and showing pride in our democracy by being at the polls with our fellow Americans.

To be sure, advocates of early voting say it increases voter participation; however, no evidence supports that claim. On the contrary, since 1992, every state with liberal rules for absentee ballots has actually experienced worse voter turnout than states without such rules. (Source of information: Don Campbell, "Don't Cast That Ballot—Until Election Day, That Is," USA Today, September 30, 2004, p. 21A.)

Which of the following statements best expresses the opinion argued in this passage?

a. Absentee voting diminishes communal patriotism.

b. Current absentee voting rules have resulted in fraud.

c. Absentee voting should be abolished.

d. Americans without a legitimate excuse should wait until Election Day to vote.


Americans rarely just sit and eat. In a national poll, 62 percent of people surveyed admitted to being too busy to sit down for a meal. Many reported eating lunch while working at their desks or eating while driving. According to nutritionists, though, this practice is unhealthy.For one thing, it tends to make us fat. Not focusing on the food we are eating while we consume it prevents us from feeling completely satisfied when we finish. As a result, we eat more. In addition, eating quickly while performing other tasks prevents us from realizing how much we are eating. Thus, we often consume more calories than we need or even want, and the pounds add up. Robbing ourselves of time to eat a meal without doing anything else squanders opportunities to rest and enjoy life. We also miss chances to connect with our friends and family members over shared meals. For all of these reasons, say nutritionists, we should view meals as a chance to turn everything off, sit at the table, and concentrate on enjoying the food and the company. (Source of information: Nanci Hellmich, "Most People Multitask, So Most People Don't Sit Down to Eat," USA Today, September 30, 2004, p. 8D.)

Which of the following statements best expresses the opinion argued in this passage?

a. Eating while reading is the main cause of obesity in America.

b. Eating while driving only encourages us to eat more than we should.

c. Eating while working is physically harmful.

d. Americans need to relearn the ability to enjoy a meal.


The Miss America pageant organizers and the ABC broadcast network should stop minimizing the talent portion of the competition. Over the years, the scoring weight for talent has dropped from 40 percent to 30 percent and now to just 20 percent. At the same time, the ABC network has reduced the number of talent performances included in its broadcast. It now shows just two, as opposed to the ten featured in the 1998 broadcast. According to its critics, the Miss America competition is a trivial beauty contest with no redeeming value. Unfortunately, this point of view gains additional support when the talent portion gets minimized. Continuing to underplay the talent portion of the contest will also prevent the pageant from attracting our country's most accomplished candidates in the future. Miss America contestants are definitely much more than beautiful faces. They are strong, intelligent, talented women. They deserve to be rated as highly for these qualities as they are for physical beauty and grace, and the top ten finalists should all perform during the broadcast. A display of talent will prove that there is substance behind the pretty faces as well as entertain America with some exciting live performances. A broadcast consisting of pretty but largely mute women parading down a runway is an insult to viewers' intelligence.(Source of information: Nicole Johnson Baker, "Sadly, Miss America Pulls Plug on Talent Contest," USA Today, September 15, 2004, p. 21A.)

Which of the following statements best expresses the opinion argued in this passage?

a. The people responsible for scoring and broadcasting the Miss America pageant should put more emphasis on talent.

b. The Miss America pageant is an outdated beauty contest that lacks substance.

c. No matter what critics say, people still enjoy the Miss America pageant.

d. The talent competition used to be the reason why people watched the Miss America pageant.


Over the last decade, many companies have relaxed their dress codes and allowed their employees to come to work in "business casual" attire rather than suits and ties. Permitting workers to dress more casually was supposed to make them more comfortable and provide them with opportunities for self-expression. However, this trend has proven counterproductive. So much so that stricter dress codes need to be reintroduced to the workplace. One reason for this is that many workers have never figured out what "business casual" means. Their employers have provided detailed descriptions of appropriate types of clothing and even posted "what to wear" photographs as illustrations. Yet, far too many employees continue to show up wearing halter tops, flip-flops, midriff-baring blouses, ragged jeans, sweat suits, and T-shirts with slogans on them. This type of casual, i.e. sloppy, style of dress produces a chain reaction of negative effects. Employees wearing casual clothing encourage the kind of relaxed behavior that can negatively affect the production of goods and services. Customers, in turn, express their dissatisfaction and a company's image suffers. (Source of information: Diane Stafford, "Mom, Firms Agree: Put a Jacket On," Kansas City Star, August 26, 2004,

Which of the following statements best expresses the opinion argued in this passage?

a. Companies should relax their dress codes and allow employees to wear "business casual" clothing.

b. In the workplace, stricter dress codes are better than those that allow "business casual" attire.

c. Many Americans do not care about their personal appearance when they are on the job.

d. Many workplace trends of the past ten years have turned out to be counterproductive.


Not so long ago, America's schoolchildren were required to memorize and recite passages from great poems, plays, documents and speeches. Thus a fifth grader might be able to declaim at will the entire Gettysburg Address, portions of the Declaration of Independence, or passages from Shakespeare's plays. After 1940, though, that tradition began to decline. It disappeared almost completely by the 1970s. Today, even highly-educated people often can't recite a few lines of classic poetry or prose. This inability to recite from memory is unfortunate, for exercises in memorization have value.The ancient Greeks believed that memorizing and reciting the words of great poets, playwrights, and statesmen sharpened the mind and shaped character. Long after the demise of ancient Greece, memorization exercises gave kids as young seven or eight a taste of classic literature. Memorizing sections of literary works also taught children to reproduce the rhythms of language and exposed them to syntax, or word order, more complicated than they otherwise might have encountered. Reciting from memory also enlarged their vocabulary and improved their diction. (Source of information: Michael Knox Beran, "In Defense of Memorization," City Journal, Summer 2004,

Which of the following statements best expresses the opinion argued in this passage?

a. America's schools are worse now than they were prior to 1970.

b. Memorizing and reciting poetry are more difficult than most people realize.

c. Memorizing poetry and prose is good for children, and we should bring back the practice.

d. America's schoolchildren should study great literature.

Last change made to this page: 2/14/08

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