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We have often written about tags on this blog. I have a new example for you.

First, recall the TWO meanings of the word “tag”. One is the bold line in a brief that helps you know exactly what the card says, the other is your point that the judge is to write down (probably on the flow, definitely spoken in the round). The first is for finding the right card, the second is tailored to the specific debate round.

Mistake 1: Using type 2 (in round tag) for the brief. Then all your tags look like “Renewable Portfolio Standards are Good”. How do you tell one of them from the other? You have to spend the time in prep READING the cards to find the best one, or pick one and be surprised at what actually comes out of your mouth.

Mistake 2: Using type 1 (brief tag) in your round. You’ve found the right piece of evidence, but the audience/judge can’t track with or write down “Russia is dangerous because of the dirty bomb component pieces that they send to Iran, such as …. “. You want the IN ROUND tag here to be: “Iran dirty bombs from Russia” or “Iran dirty bombs” or “Russia proliferates” or something else (all depending on the specifics of the round!).

I’ve selected an example that is tricky — it’s not super obvious that a mistake has been committed.

[I’m about to seem mean to a competitor. Please let me make a point about other sourcebooks: competition is great and it makes us work to continuously improve and makes other sourcebooks work to continuously improve. The more the merrier, therefore, since it heightens the quality of service and therefore the quality of debate. Additionally, there are plenty of things to pick on about Ethos and even in tagging we don’t get it right 100% of the time.]

Here’s a card from the Thesis sample brief posted online:

Despite start up cost RPS will bring in money

Joshua P. Fershee, Energy Bar Association, Energy Law Journal, “Changing Resources, Changing Market: The Impact of a National Renewable Portfolio Standard On The U.S. Energy Industry,” 2008

[Assistant Professor of Law, University of North Dakota School of Law; J.D., Tulane Law School]

[Accessed Via LexisNexis, 29 Energy L. J. 49]

It is not clear how quickly, if at all, major transmission infrastructure can be made available. Some western states have worked to develop a renewable-only transmission, the Frontier Line. The proposed Frontier Line is a transmission line that would run as long as 1300 miles, from Wyoming to California (through Nevada and Utah). It would “leverage up to 6,000 megawatts of wind power and 6,000 megawatts of clean coal power,” at an estimated cost of $ 3.3 billion, with estimated annual benefits of between $ 926 million and $ 1.7 billion annually for the area.


1. The source is fantastic.

2. My CX could look like “please read the part where it said RPS will bring in money”. “Did the author conclude that the benefits outweigh the cost?” “Those benefits were to the AREA, right?” “Did the card say those financial benefits were PROFIT generated by the Frontier Line?” “So by adding a train line to a town, which allows them to trade stuff better, that town will financially benefit, right?” “Where does the card indicate that RPS are the unique factor in bringing in said train line?” “So this card doesn’t bar the idea that a train line benefits the area it serves no matter what?” “Did the card say this train would bring in MORE money than a normal train?”

Or, stated in argument form in a speech: My opponent’s card didn’t say RPS generates money, it said that a TRAIN LINE generates economic benefit. It didn’t say the costs were even outweighed by profits to the train line, either.  It’s like this: If I gave you $3,000,000, after taxes you might get $1,700,000 — but I still lost the full $3,000,000.

The tagline commits the mistake of telling us an argument we want to make, rather than what the card actually says. A correct tag is taken from what the card says and would read: A feasible Renewable-only train line proposed out west is supposed to use only 12,000 megawatts of clean coal power and still bring $1B to $1.7B to the areas served

YOU will then have to make the argument in round that the startup cost ($3.3 billion) is worth it. The card proves feasibility. But to pretend the card proves much more is a stretch.

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