It has happened to the best of us. You are in a round and have constructed a killer argument that bolsters your position tenfold. You deliver it beautifully in your first constructive, but low and behold looking back over your flow after the round you realize it never came up again. What happened? Your opponent dropped your argument. The term “dropped arguments” refers to when there is an argument presented in the round that goes unresponded to by your opponent. If this happens it is “dropped” from the flow because it does not appear again.
As a debater, it can be an invaluable tool to learn how to bring this to the judge’s attention. If an argument is unaddressed by your opponent, it automatically stands in the round and flows to your side. By pointing this out to your judge, you secure yourself an automatic point on the flow.
Determining how to address dropped arguments mid-round can be tricky. There are three relevant questions you should ask yourself:
- Is it worth mentioning?
The reality is you and your opponent are limited by strict time constraints. This makes absolute direct refutation nearly impossible. Your opponent does not have the ability to address everything you say individually. To expect otherwise is unreasonable. This means that pointing out to your judge that your opponent did not address the example that you brought up in the third sub point in your second contention is probably not worth your time. Furthermore, if you have a constructive point that merely establishes common ground or provides clarification and your opponent does not address it, that does not warrant you devoting your time to pointing it out because it is not a deciding factor in the debate. You should only mention a dropped argument if it was a crucial point of your case that will be a key factor for the judge when determining the outcome of the round.
- Did your opponent actually drop the argument?
Before you dare to mention a failure on the part of your opponent, make sure there was indeed a failure that needs to be addressed. There have been many times where someone will call out a fellow debater for a dropped argument that was not dropped. To avoid this mistake, make sure you have an impeccable flow. Draw connections (literally, draw lines on your paper) between your opponent’s points of refutation and what arguments they were refuting.
- Are you delivering the message with class?
If you decide that the point your opponent failed to address is crucial to the outcome of the round, and they did indeed drop it, bring it up gently. Do not step on a high horse and accuse your opponent of some egregious crime to try and sully their image in the eyes of the judge. Instead, calmly point out the relevance of the argument and that it went unaddressed in the round and thus still stands.
If you remember these criteria, you should be set to wield the tactic of dropped arguments well in your rounds.
Allie Satterfield competed in the NCFCA for four years, and she was the 2023 NCFCA Moot Court National Champion. She is currently attending Patrick Henry College, where she competes in collegiate forensics and is pursuing a major in Political Theory. If you would like to book coaching with Allie, Click Here.