Concession in Writing


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A concession is a literary device that occurs in argumentative writing in which one acknowledges another’s point. Learn how to write concessions in essays.

Concession in Writing

Concessions



Just as many people claim that the best way to win a fight is not to have one, sometimes the most effective means of making an argument is by limiting its scope. A concession gives ground to those who disagree with the writer in some fashion, thereby reducing the ability of readers to disagree with the writer.

Overview:

Concessions serve both ‘logical’ and ‘rhetorical’ functions. On one hand, conceding ground limits what the writer has to prove. For example, the claim “Americans are healthier than ever before” might be tough to prove. However, the claim “Many Americans are healthier than they were 10 years ago” is a little easier. The writer only needs to research a decade instead of a couple of centuries, and the word ‘many’ keeps the writer from having to prove that all Americans are healthier.

Additionally, agreeing with a reader is a way to help establish a bond or common ground. For example, in an argument about obesity, the writer might concede “recently, many people have begun to make an effort to cut back on junk food.” This allows the reader to nod and agree before the next sentence “However, not enough people are making this change” advances the actual argument. The writer concedes that some people are doing better, just not everybody.

Application:

College-level arguments require concessions. Students must constantly limit the scope of their arguments, for a number of reasons. Sometimes, the student just doesn’t have the ability to argue some facts (e.g. a student might concede that fatty acids can counteract some of the harms of obesity, simply because the student does not understand how this might or might not work). At other times, the student might make a concession to avoid a headache (e.g. that same obesity paper might concede that low-fat foods are getting more popular, just because it’s not worth the time it would take to find out actual growth rates in low-fat-food sales). Yet another form of concession comes for the sake of narrowing an argument down to a manageable size (e.g. the paper concedes that exercise is just as important as diet, but then focuses on diet as ‘an important half of the equation’).

Students have to be willing to make concessions in order to present more balanced, more persuasive, and more contained arguments

What to Avoid:

Avoid making unqualified statements and imbalanced arguments. Words like all, every, never, and best are typically out of place in academic writing. Words like most, seldom, and superior will often work better. Additionally, students should avoid making arguments that give readers no choice but to agree with a radical position or to reject it—frequently, the readers will reject it. As an aside, students should probably avoid sources that make unqualified arguments, themselves.

Concession in Writing

Concession in Writing

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Concessions in Writing



Concessions allow for different points of view and various approaches to an issue. They often lead to a more nuanced discussion of an idea or problem. When one is willing to make a concession to their opponent, or the person on the other side of the argument, they are generally better off for it. It shows an ability to think about issues on a higher, more complex level. Plus, it means that one has truly considered all sides of an argument and should then be able to argue their own perspective more effectively.

Definition of Concession
The word “concession” comes from the Latin word “concessionem,” meaning “allowing” or “conceding.” A concession occurs in written or verbal arguments when one person agrees with what another is saying or when they allow the other to share their ideas freely.

When someone uses concessions in their writing, the end result is far more nuanced and interesting than if they’d stuck to one side of the argument. Concessions also occur in formal arguments and debates when one person agrees with the aspects of the other’s point of view. It does not mean that one person loses the argument or that the other has been swayed. Making a concession can, in some circumstances, shows that some parts of another argument have merit and therefore reinforce one’s own point of view.

Examples of Concessions
You’re right, I did go to the store today, but I didn’t spend your money.
I still don’t think it’s going to rain today, but the clouds are certainly dark.
I understand how you feel, but that doesn’t excuse your actions.
You might be right about the price, but I still don’t think you should buy it.
I hear what you’re saying but are you always going to feel like that?


Examples of Concessions in Literature
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
In one of the courtroom scenes in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, the following lines are spoken by Atticus Finch:

She has committed no crime, she has merely broken a rigid and time-honored code of our society, a code so severe that whoever breaks it is hounded from our midst as unfit to live with. She is the victim of cruel poverty and ignorance, but I cannot pity her: she is white.

He’s arguing for Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman. He tries to turn the accusation back around on Mayella. She’s not committed a crime, he concedes and is a victim. But, he says, not a victim of the crime she’s accusing. She’s a victim of “cruel poverty and ignorance.” This concession isn’t enough to excuse what she’s done, though. She’s white, and that gives her undeniable privilege in the world. She should know the power her words have to ruin Tom Robinson’s life, but she ignored that fact.

The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare
In Shakespeare’s well-loved play, The Merchant of Venice, there is a famous monologue that contains a concession. In the courtroom scene, with Portia dressed up as a lawyer, she speaks about mercy. Here are a few lines:

The quality of mercy is not strain’d,

It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven

Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;

It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:

‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes

The throned monarch better than his crown;

His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,

The attribute to awe and majesty,

Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;

She makes a concession in the last lines of this excerpt, saying that a king’s power “shows the force of temporal power.” Portia understands how kings yield their power, and that dread and fear are often a part of it. But, she goes on to say:

But mercy is above this sceptred sway;

It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,

It is an attribute to God himself;

And earthly power doth then show likest God’s

When mercy seasons justice.

Mercy is an even more impressive force to wield. It shows that a king has the ability to think about complex topics and come to a peaceful resolution. It shows the power of one’s character and one’s fairness when faced with a difficult situation.

Why Do Writers Use Concessions?
Writers use concessions in order to show the common ground between two opposing sides or ideas. That common ground might be used to unite the two sides or to prove that both sides have valid points. In a debate over an important or contentious topic, making a concession allows readers (or characters depending on the context) to see that the writer has considered all sides of the argument. This makes the overall content far more complex and encourages healthy arguments and debates.

Concession or Rebuttal
Concessions are often related to another literary term, rebuttal. At the same time, they are both concerned with arguments. They aren’t the same thing. A rebuttal is made to directly challenge another’s argument or beliefs. It can be far more divisive than a concession is meant to be. For example, two people might be arguing about the health risks involved with smoking, and the anti-smoking side could come back with a rebuttal that includes research studies on the subject and personal testimony.

Concession in Writing

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