A free, comprehensive, peer-reviewed, award-winning Open Text for students and faculty in college-level courses that require writing and research.

Joe Moxley, Founder, WritingCommons.org

Joe Moxley


Dear Colleagues and Students,

At Writing Commons, we are happy with the overall success of our project. Since 2011, when we launched at WritingCommons.org, we have hosted 6,315,882 users who have reviewed over 11 million pages. We are thrilled that students and faculty find our site to be helpful. Our ongoing mission is to be the best writing textbook possible. We also happen to be free. While we cannot perhaps claim yet that we are the best possible textbook for technical writing or creative writing courses, we are working on that.

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  • Ad Hominem (Argument to the Person): Attacking the person instead of the argument. For example, "You say I shouldn't drink so much, but you drink every day." The validity of the argument (drink less) can't be based on the behavior of the person making the argument. Instead, the validity of the argument should be evaluated on its own terms—separate from the person making the claim.


  • Argument from Authority: Claiming to be an expert and, on that basis, to be deserving of trust. It's important to remember that there are different kinds and levels of expertise: My weekend cooking class doesn't make me an authority on recipes, though I can honestly say I've studied cooking. So, I might be an authority on some elements of cooking, but not all of cooking. When faced with an argument from authority, it is important to investigate the credentials of the speaker or writer.

  • Appeal to Authority: Using a statement taken out of context as authoritative support. For instance, it would be fallacious to use Malcolm X's declaration "by any means necessary" to justify an oppressed group's violence against police officers. Such an assertion ignores the context, and therefore the complexity, of Malcolm X's statement.

  • Argument from False Authority: Using an expert in a specific field as an expert in all related fields. For instance, if I am writing a paper about heart disease and I quote my chiropractor, Dr. Wallace, then I would be making an appeal to fallacious ethos; despite being a doctor, she is not an authority on heart disease.

  • Appeal to Anonymous Authority: Using appeals to nonspecific groups (e.g., doctors, scientists, researchers, and so on). For example, "Research shows that all women are inferior to men." Or, "Studies indicate that all college students binge drink." Neither of these statements offers a specific credible source, so both claims lack authority.

  • Inflation of Conflict: Using a conflict between two authorities as a reason to dismiss their arguments and knowledge. For instance, it would be fallacious to assert that global climate change does not exist because two scientists disagree about its effects.
Cassandra Branham, Editor-in-Chief WritingCommons.org

Cassandra Branham


Dear Colleagues and Students,

Welcome to Writing Commons, an open-education resource for instructors and students of writing across the disciplines. Our mission is to provide a high-quality, cost free resource to support students in the development of writing, research, and critical thinking practices.

This summer, we have been working on a site redesign in an effort to increase the usability of our site for both instructors and students. Our most significant change has been the inclusion of additional categories and subcategories to create a more intuitive hierarchy within the site.

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