Sadly, straw man arguments do not involve literal scarecrows. Rather, they are a type of fallacy: i.e., an argument that sounds convincing but contains hidden mistakes. But what exactly does a straw man argument involve? And how can you avoid them in your written work?\nWhat Is a Straw Man Argument?\n[caption id="attachment_12492" align="alignright" width="272"] Could you beat this guy in an argument?[\/caption]\n\nBuilding a \u201cstraw man\u201d implies constructing an idea that is easy to argue against rather than engaging with the real issue. This typically involves distorting your opponent\u2019s ideas or beliefs to make it easier to refute them (even if you\u2019re not \u201crefuting\u201d their actual arguments).\n\nFor example, imagine an argument between Cheryl and Bob:\nCheryl: Parents have a responsibility to expose their kids to learning at home as well as at school.\nBob: Pedagogical theories that claim children don\u2019t benefit from school are no use to anyone.\nBob\u2019s argument here is a \u201cstraw man\u201d because he has misinterpreted what Cheryl was saying. And instead of responding to her suggestion that education can occur outside the classroom, he is arguing against something she never said: that children don\u2019t benefit from school.\n\nMost straw man arguments are subtler than this. But they all involve misrepresenting someone to make it easier to win an argument.\nHow to Avoid Straw Man Arguments\nIt is possible to make a straw man argument without realizing it. This can happen, for example, if we don\u2019t fully understand something that we are arguing about in a college paper.\n\nAs such, to avoid this fallacy in your work, you should always:\n\n \tRead your source closely. And when you\u2019ve read it once, re-read it so you have a full understanding of what the author is saying.\n \tKeep close track of your sources and cite them clearly. This will ensure you\u2019re always engaging closely with the person you\u2019re arguing against.\n \tBe charitable when interpreting your opponent\u2019s arguments. Are you sure they mean what you think they mean? What else could they be saying?\n \tLook for sources that defend the position you\u2019re arguing against. If they make good points, acknowledge and engage with these ideas in your work.\n \tRemember you\u2019re trying to find the truth. If you need to distort someone\u2019s ideas to beat them in an argument, you\u2019re missing the point!\n\nWith the above in mind, you should be able to avoid making straw man arguments. And if you\u2019d like help expressing yourself clearly, don\u2019t forget to get your work proofread.