Style Guide

A community guide written by: Barney

Note: Gitbook does not support underlining. To view this guide with full formatting, go to:

Write your arguments in Google Docs, or . Whatever style you use, aim for personal consistency within any single debate.


The most important part of text debating is the ability for readers to easily follow your arguments. If you adhere to these suggestions, you’ll be well on your way to victory.

  • Titles:

    • Numbering them can also help, particularly if each is an independent line of reasoning. These numbers can be continuous on both sides.

    • To help delineate, use two blank spaces before starting another one.

  • Subtitles:

    • These will often include quotes from your opponent, when addressing various parts of their case under any main topic heading.

    • Use only one blank space between these.

  • Normal: Nothing fancy, but give a full empty space after each paragraph.

  • Quotes: “Always use double quotation marks!”

    • Opponent quotes as headings, should be handled as or

    • In line quotes must be credited to their author, and should be bold or italic.

    • If changing any words, put brackets [around] whatever’s altered.

    • Normal punctuation can be added and capitalization corrected without notation, but question and exclamation marks must be outside the quotation.

  • Block Text: | Indented

    • This is handled with a quotation symbol on the toolbar, or ctrl+bracket[].

    • Quotes which go for more than two or three lines should utilize these, with an introduction in normal text immediately above it.

    • These are a poor choice for short opponent quotes lines to be responded to, because they obfuscate the intentional reply with too much space between.

  • Sources: According to, the earth indeed orbits the sun.

    • Either create links where relevant, or do numbered callouts to a source list posted at the end of each round (such as the footnote list in this document).

    • MLA and other academic citation standards are neither required nor encouraged.

    • Do not source spam! Think quality over quantity. If you have three sources saying the same thing, just repeat the most credible.

First Round

Ensure your definitions are outlined. If disagreeing with any established one(s), make a brief case for the superior authority of your alternative(s).

A quality opening round will look something like this:

I shall prove my case on two fronts, which shall be given their own sections below

  1. Blah

  2. Blarg

The resolution means X, so I should win if I prove Y. Conversely, my opponent should win .

The description lacked certain , so to avoid semantic issues…

Merriam-Webster defines the following:

  • X is “...the first in an order or class that includes x, y, and sometimes z.”

  • Y is “...the second in order or class when x is made the first.”

  • Etcetera is “a number of unspecified additional persons or things.”

Various lines to support blah, spread across multiple paragraphs with their own subheadings.

There should be at least a couple of these. Various lines to support blarg...

Middle Rounds

Maintain the consistent main titles so that voters can easily follow argument lines.

Extend any important dropped arguments, particularly any sub-points which may have lacked their own headings but you feel should receive extra consideration from judges.

A syllogism or two is ideal, such as:

I offer this simple Modus Ponens (“mode of affirming”) refutation of pro’s case:

  • P1: If she weighs the same as a duck, then she’s a witch.

  • P2: She weighs the same as a duck.

  • C1: Therefore, she’s a witch!

OR I offer this simple Modus Tollens (“mode of taking”) refutation of pro’s case:

  • P1: If she’s human, then she must weigh more than a duck.

  • P2: She does not weigh more than a duck.

  • C1: Therefore, she’s not human!

She Weighs The Same As A Duck (P2) This video proves she weighs as much as a duck, thus affirming P2. Since the logical syllogism is valid, .

NOT I offer this simple Affirming The Consequent refutation of pro’s case:

  • P1: If she’s a witch, then we burn her!

  • P2: We burnt her!

  • C1: Therefore, she must have been a witch!

Often you’ll see whole paragraphs of opponent text which boil down to affirming the consequent.

You can restructure the core of their case into logical forms, but just be ready for them to cry strawperson (they’ll probably do that regardless).

Final Round

Don’t make new argument lines (Final Round Blitzkriegs are frowned upon by voters). Summarize your key points, and why a voter should favor your arguments.

A quality closing round will look something like this:

My opponent dropped this point, so extend. My opponent dropped this point, so extend. I have proven Y, which affirms X. My opponent could not prove Z with any consistency.

My key points were A, B, and C. To which my opponent dropped all but C, leaving A and B uncontested.

My opponent’s key points were J and K. To which I solidly refuted the truth of J, and showed that K was off topic.

My sources were more reputable being from .gov and .edu sites, whereas my opponent used video blogs from the ancient aliens guy. It’s true they used many more sources, but the Voting Policy spells out why such fluffery is meaningless: “appeals to quantity are not sufficient to justify awarding sources points.”

A particularly strong source of mine was… (if voters give source points, they must specify at least one and its impact on the debate, so help them out by reminding them of your favorite).



Unless clearly indicated otherwise, you are taking credit for writing anything you post.

There are only three strict rules on avoiding accidental plagiarism:

  1. If you copy/paste anything, put “quotation marks” around it, and provide a link.

  2. If paraphrasing (putting what they said into your own words), still provide a link.

  3. If no link is available, still give credit. Example:

Author consent does not dismiss plagiarism. Accidentally plagiarizing does not dismiss plagiarism. Not having many words copied does not dismiss plagiarism. Even common knowledge does not dismiss plagiarism. Just follow the above rules.

As a debater, if you spot it, give the audience proof of the crime; then continue your case.

As a voter, automatically give conduct to the side which did not commit plagiarism (and state “plagiarism” in your RFD), then assign a penalty to arguments based on the degree of cheating. A minor slip up (like borrowing a line of rhetoric to emphasize a point) is wholly forgivable, building a case reliant upon plagiarized material (such as instead of making your own argument, merely copy/pasting one from Stephen Hawking) is not.

Burden of Proof

In each debate there are three sides, each with their own Burden of Proof (BoP).

  • Pro has a duty to provide adequate evidence to prove (or strongly imply) the resolution.

  • Con has a duty to attempt to disprove (or cast strong doubt upon) the resolution, be that by providing direct evidence against it, or refuting all the evidence provided by pro.

  • Voters have duties both to show they read the debate, and they are

Additionally, the instigator has the pre-BoP duty to craft a coherent resolution.

Writing A Strong Resolution

The topic is usually synonymous with resolution (if not, clarify in the detailed description).

Be precise to the debate you wish to have, and ideally make it a single clause statement. If a resolution contains multiple clauses, pro has not met BoP until each is supported.

If the clauses would support each other, pick one for the resolution, and use the other(s) as supporting contentions.

The difficulty in proving the resolution ties both to the topic, and any qualifier statements included within the resolution. Absolutes (words like "always" and "never") are most hard to prove, complete uncertainties (words like "maybe" and "possible") are least hard to prove.

Proposal Debates

Something ought to change…

A quality opening round must address the Why and How.

  • If the Why is missing, they are easily countered by the lack of benefit.

  • If the How is missing, they are easily countered with impracticality and limited resources.

Sample: Preamble: A quick warrant free introduction (if not already handled in the description).

1. Justification (AKA Value Proposition): Why a change should occur. Sub-points may or may not be necessary, but if using them...

Blah First justification subpoint.

Blarg Second justification subpoint.

II. Practicality: How the desired change can occur.

Blah First practicality subpoint.

Blarg Second practicality subpoint.

Speculation Debates

Something is true…

A quality opening should address Qualitative standards and Falsifiability.

  • If it cannot be described, it cannot be proven.

  • If non-falsifiable, it is meaningless.

Contest Debates

Pro can do something better than Con… Examples: Rap battles, better memes, cooler movie clips, etc.

A quality opening should address expected judgment standards (or the lack thereof). These are one category of non-moderated debates, and as such, Winner Selection is suggested as the scoring system.

Comedy Debates

Non-traditional debates designed to amuse and delight more than convince… Examples: Australia does not exist, Trayvon Martin would have still died if white, etc.

Again, Winner Selection is suggested as the scoring system, as these are not eligible for moderation.


As a reminder, the one time chief moderator bsh1 wrote an In Depth Voting Guide.

Rich text formatting is not allowed in votes, but please do the moderators a favor by labeling separate parts of your vote, and putting space between paragraphs.

One layout a vote might use…

Gist: [A one sentence description of what happened in the debate, such as “pro was in over his head, whereas con knew the topic so well he ended up teaching it to pro.”]

1. [First key point… usually it will be a bolded title within the debate] [Commentary on point]

2. [Second key point] [commentary on point]

3. [Third key point] [commentary on point] --- Arguments: [pro or con] See above review of key points. [Quick commentary on the weighting and result (always required)]

Sources: [leave tied unless substantial lead] [How sources affected each side of the debate, name at least one specific source and why you liked it (required if awarded).]

Legibility (AKA, Spelling and Grammar): [leave tied unless someone was illegible] [Specify some errors which were bad enough to distract you from the debate (copy/paste is your friend), say why they were excessive (little typos are not excessive), and finally how the other person did (this is all required if awarding the point, the idea is to make sure you’re being fair).]

Conduct: [penalize forfeitures, cheating, massive rudeness] [Specify some horrible things which stood out as you read the debate (if you really need to dig, it probably wasn’t quite that bad), say why they were excessive, and finally mention how the other person did (again, required if awarded).]

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