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Treat your opponent with respect. Aside from that, what basic rules (do’s and don’ts) apply?  This post applies to TP and LD specific rounds – but also to any debate style or format. Here is a simple starter list of things to be aware of. It is not a comprehensive guide, but rather a conversation starter. 

Before the debate:

Do be well prepped on your subject. Do as much prep and research as time allows.

Do dress better than your opponent.

Do greet your opponent and wish them good luck. Smile and shake hands.

Do acknowledge and address your judge (or moderator), introduce yourself, and maybe shake hands.

Do look around the room and smile before you start your speech (briefly).

Do not feel bad to make small talk with your judge(moderator) or opponent if things are running behind schedule.

Do have all your materials and notes easily accessible in case you need to search through them.


During the Debate:

Do refer to your opponent respectfully. EX. “My opponent” “My honorable interlocutor.” In certain cases, using their name is ok, as it shows you are familiar with them.

Do look at the person currently speaking, and look engaged, or pretend to be engaged.

Do not attack your opponents or make comments about their appearance, personality, or style.

Do not converse with your opponent during the debate round, unless it is during cross-examination, an announcement of prep time, or exchange of evidence. This is not a hard rule, but rather a suggestion.

Do not use your phone.

Do not fall asleep (I have seen this happen before).

Do not commit ad hominem, by attacking your opponent’s character or name calling.

Do not misquote evidence (by using words your sources didn’t). Summarizing, explanation or paraphrasing is ok.


After the Debate

Do shake your opponent’s hands, and tell them “good job” or “great debate”

Do shake your judges(moderator’s) hand, and tell them thank you.

Do look engaged and make eye contact if your judge gives you feedback.

Do hide your emotion after the debate, until you are sufficiently distanced from your opponent.

Do not blame the judge or the audience if you lose a hard round.

Do not verbalize or threaten adjudication if rules have been violated, simply walk over and present your issue to the adjudication authority or tournament director after the round has concluded.

Do not take your opponent to adjudication based on perceived slights or regional standards. Only bring an issue to adjudication when it has violated the rules as laid out by the league.

This list is by no means comprehensive, and when debating competitively, make sure to adhere to that league’s guidelines and standards. Otherwise, have fun, and make sure to treat your opponent as respectfully as you can.

Have any you’d like to add or take issue with? Comment down below, or email us if you have questions regarding specific leagues or debate styles. 


  • Ethos Team
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