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How to Rebut Better Reader


Three Parts: Developing a Strong Rebuttal Delivering a Solid Rebuttal Scoring Off Your Opponent's Points

Rebuttals are the most exciting part of the debate because they are the least predictable. In your rebuttal, you will respond to
the arguments your opponent has made in the debate. You'll need to refute all of their arguments thoroughly. While you’ll be
developing your rebuttal during the actual debate, you can prepare yourself to write a better rebuttal by knowing your
argument, anticipating possible counter-arguments, and familiarizing yourself with strategies that will allow you to break down
your opponent's points.

Developing a Strong Rebuttal

1 Know your argument. You need to have a solid grasp of the topic, your stance on the topic, the reasons
that support that stance, and the evidence that you will use to support those reasons. It’s easiest to know
your argument if you have a written case, but in an impromptu setting, you can keep up with the argument you
or your team is presenting by taking good notes.[1]
If you have a written case, study both the case and outline before the debate. Underline important
points, and know where your evidence is sourced.
If you are going to be developing your arguments during the debate, review the evidence that you could
offer, as well as possible arguments that can be made under the established topic for the debate. This
way you will be able to quickly choose an argument or piece of support when you are in the middle of
the debate.

2 Write out your 3 or 4 main arguments. Since your opponent will be attacking your arguments, you can
anticipate what they will say if you take a long, hard look at your main arguments.[2]
If you have a written case, this will be easy. Simply highlight and outline your main points.
If you don’t have a written case, choose the arguments that are the most likely to be brought up under
the established topic.
For example, you could write the following: "My main argument is that peanut products should not be
allowed in schools because they pose a danger to those who are allergic. I will argue that the harm to
people who are allergic is massive, making it a significant issue. Finally, I will argue that banning the
products is the simplest, least expensive way to address the issue compared to other solutions, such as
building a new cafeteria or transferring students with allergies."

3 Identify the possible arguments against your argument. This activity should be done before the actual
debate. Knowing what your opponent may present against you can allow you to develop your rebuttals
faster during the actual debate. Look at the 3 or 4 main arguments that you plan to present, and think about how
you would attack them. Develop a plan to counter these attacks.[3]
For added insight, ask another debater how they would counter your arguments.
Write out possible defenses to these potential arguments. This exercise will give you ideas to come back
to later while you’re in the debate.
For example, you could anticipate that your opponent may argue that only a small percentage of
students are allergic to peanuts, so the problem is not significant.
In response, you could plan to offer evidence showing that allergy attacks are so harmful that the issue
is significant, as well as evidence that the number of people with food allergies is on the rise.

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4 Keep track of the arguments made by both you and your opponent. Take good notes during the
debate so that you remember to address new arguments that are brought up and don’t accidentally forget
about arguments that you’ve already made. You will also be able to see when your opponent fails to address
one of your arguments so that you can point out to the judge that you have won that point.
Say, "In her last rebuttal, my opponent had no response to my attack on her plan's relevancy. Clearly,
she cedes that point, which means that I've won that argument."

5 Make an outline of your arguments to refer to as you rebut. Don’t write out a whole speech because
this will waste your preparation time and will likely cause you to read from the paper instead of making eye
contact with the judge. Instead, put your arguments into an outline that you can refer to in order to make sure all
of your points are addressed in your rebuttal. Your outline might look like this:
A. Refute counterargument - issue is significant because harms are great, more kids are affected every
B. Relevancy - her evidence wasn't about my position
C. Harms - evidence shows her plan would increase harms, mine decreases them
D. Examples - her examples are straw men - read evidence
E. Restate position

Delivering a Solid Rebuttal

1 Attack new arguments first. Most debates have more than one rebuttal, and you should always start with
new arguments. They will be fresh on the judge’s mind, so you need to address them as soon as possible.

Make sure to save room in your time allowance to briefly review your other arguments.
If you believe you have already won an argument or that the other team dropped one, you can briefly
summarize those points at the end of the speech, reminding the judge that they go to you.

2 Remind the judge of your opponent’s argument. Provide a one-sentence summary of what your
opponent has said. Take it one argument at a time, starting with the one that is either easiest to defeat or
the most crucial to your case.[5]
Say, “My opponent wants to allow one of the most common allergens into our nation’s schools,
regardless of how many students are at risk.”

3 Restate your position. Remind the judge what your argument is, positioning it as the clear better choice
over your opponent. Choose your words carefully so that your argument appears to be the most
reasonable choice.[6]
Say, “A safe educational environment is necessary for all students. We stopped sending students to
schools that have asbestos; now we need to stop sending them to schools that have peanuts.”

4 Break down your rebuttal into two choices for the judge. Present the breakdown with your argument
framed as the best choice. Make the case seem simple to the judge, but say it in a way that makes it seem
like picking the other side is preposterous.[7]
For example, “The choice is simple: We can protect students from life-threatening allergy attacks, or we
can allow a few students to eat peanut butter for lunch.”
This argument makes it seem like critical health emergencies are being pitted against something as
trivial as a sandwich.

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5 Explain the reasons why your argument is best. Link your argument back to the topic, and provide
evidence to back it up. Tell the judge why this evidence proves that your argument is superior to your
opponent’s argument. This should take several sentences and possibly several minutes, depending on how
many arguments you plan to address in your rebuttal.[8]
Never list off your reasons without offering an explanation. Your rebuttal depends on your explanation of
the argument.
Say, "My plan to remove peanut products from schools fulfills the resolution to provide a safe learning
environment for kids by removing a known, common hazard. The evidence shows that the threat to
allergic individuals is great and that every day the number of allergic students walking the hallways
increases. The easiest, least expensive way to protect students is to ban peanut products. Please vote
for safe schools by voting for me."

6 Show the judge why this argument is a voting issue, which you won. You and your opponent may
both win arguments within the debate, but the judge still has to pick a winner. Voting issues are the
arguments that could make or break a case, so showing that your argument is a voting issue could make the
judge choose your side.[9]
For example, relevancy is often a good voting issue because if an argument is not relevant, then it is
ineffective. If you show the judge that your opponent has no relevancy on the topic, then that could be a
voting issue that goes your way.
Say, "My opponent argued that we should ban sugary foods instead of peanut butter, but that is not
relevant to my case. None of the evidence she provided about the dangers of sugary food should be

7 Give a concluding statement urging the judge to choose your argument. Briefly summarize your
arguments and the voting issues, then urge the judge to vote for you.[10]
Say, “The evidence I’ve provided proves that my opponent’s argument lacks relevancy and fails to
address the topic. Additionally, my opponent has falsely assumed that peanuts must be ingested to be
harmful, which is factually untrue. For these reasons, you should vote for my case.”

8 Avoid dropping an argument. If you don’t address an argument, it could go to the other team. Even if you
are losing an argument, it’s best to offer a short concession in your rebuttal before moving on to your
stronger arguments. If your opponent points out that you dropped an argument, it will look worse than if you
concede it yourself.
You should also watch for arguments that your opponent has dropped. Make sure to point this out to the
judge and tell them that you have clearly won that point.[11]

Scoring Off Your Opponent's Points

1 Show that your opponent’s arguments or evidence are not relevant. Sometimes your opponent will
offer a related argument or piece of evidence that doesn’t quite match up with what their stance should be.
This can be tricky to catch since their argument may seem on topic; however, they have to prove their stance on
the issue at hand, not a related point.[12]
For example, let’s say your argument is that peanuts should not be allowed in schools to protect
students who are allergic. If your opponent argues that peanuts are a healthy snack and a source of
protein, their argument would not be relevant because they had to show that peanuts could be allowed
on campus without endangering those who are allergic.

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Break the logical links in your opponent’s argument. Look for a weak link in your opponent’s logical jumps
between their stance, their points, or their evidence. Point out the reasons why this logical leap does not make
For example, if your opponent argues that 50% of students requested that peanuts be allowed in
schools so banning it infringes on their rights, you could argue that there is no logic there because
access to peanuts is not a right.

3 Argue that your opponent has made a false assumption. With this strategy, you can acknowledge that
your opponent’s argument sounds good but that it’s flawed because they are assuming the wrong
conclusion about their points.[14]
For example, if your opponent argued that people who are allergic to peanuts would be safe as long as
peanuts were always labeled, you could point out that your opponent was assuming that people only
experience a peanut allergy if they eat them. You could then point out that some people are triggered by
peanut protein on other people or surfaces.
Similarly, you could concede part of the argument but then counter that something else is more
important. For example, peanut butter is an inexpensive protein option that is easy for students to eat on
the go, but the lives of students who are allergic are more important than convenience.

4 Undermine the impact of the opponent’s argument. With this strategy, you can acknowledge that their
argument addresses the issue but doesn’t fix anything. Because their argument fails to make a difference
on the topic, your argument should prevail.[15]
For example, your opponent could offer a counter-plan that students be able to eat peanuts at an
outdoor table. However, you could then point out that the peanut residue could still harm students who
are allergic, leaving the problem unsolved.

5 Attack the base argument if more than one is offered. Sometimes your opponent will offer two
arguments that work together to make a stronger argument. If one or more of their arguments depend on
one base argument being true, then you can address all of them at once.[16]
For example, if your opponent argues that banning peanuts infringes on students' rights thereby causing
them to fear authority, you could defeat the whole argument by showing that students' rights are not
being violated by the peanut policy.

6 Point out contradictions. Sometimes there are two good arguments against you that contradict
themselves or the point of the topic. If your opponent makes the mistake of using these contradictory
arguments, use that against them in your rebuttal.[17]
For example, your opponent may argue that the number of students who bring peanuts to school is low,
so there is little risk in allowing them. If they also argue that peanuts should be allowed because a
majority of students want them, then this could be pointed out as a contradiction.

7 Show why their argument isn’t practical. Your opponent may have an argument that could solve the
issue but isn’t really feasible because of money, time, lack or resources, public opinion, or any other logical
reason you can think of. If this is the case, you can use this lack of practicality in your rebuttal to undermine their
For example, your opponent could suggest that schools designate a peanut containment area where
people could store and eat peanuts, with a handwashing station at the exit. While this would allow
peanuts while protecting those who are allergic, it would also be costly and impractical to implement.

8 Address their examples last. If you have time at the end of your rebuttal, you can address the examples
they gave to back up their argument, such as anecdotes, analogies, or historical facts. Pick out their

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poorest examples and explain to the judge why they are weak or why they don’t support the opponent’s
For example, you could point out that anecdotes can be made up, or why an analogy doesn’t work.
Start with the weakest example and continue until you have just enough time to sum up your rebuttal
and offer your concluding statement.

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Community Q&A New! Make a stranger's day. Answer a question.

I struggle to remember facts. However, I can think well and create logical rebuttals and can speak decently.
How do I make an instant rebuttal with evidence in a short term debate format?

Take paper or notecards with you. Take notes on the opposing team's contentions and jot down a few direct
wikiHow Contributor quotes. By the time it is your turn, have an idea of the order you want to present your points.
Not Helpful 2 Helpful 21

How do I act normally during a rebuttal?

Act like you are having a mature normal conversation. Even though this type of speech is like you are having
wikiHow Contributor an argument, you do not want to actually fight with your teachers. Be confident and relax.
Not Helpful 8 Helpful 41

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How long should an ideal conclusion be?

An ideal conclusion would be a few minutes that it would take to do the following: rephrase the question,
wikiHow Contributor summarize the main ideas and look into the future.
Not Helpful 3 Helpful 10

What style of greeting should I use?

It really depends what type of speech you're doing. If it's a party speech, make it funny and funky. Or if it's a
wikiHow Contributor meeting speech, try to be quite formal and sensible but add a little bit of humor.
Not Helpful 0 Helpful 3

This is the first time doing a rebuttal. How do I make the speech like I am talking to a friend when you are in a
large crowd?

Just relax and imagine that you are explaining everything to a person you know and like. Remember that the
Penguinpencil audience thinks very highly of you and nobody wants to see you fail.
Not Helpful 2 Helpful 6

How long should a rebuttal go on for?

It really depends on where in the debate you speak. If you're up first, you don't need any. As a general rule,
Penguinpencil the more speakers that are ahead of you, the more rebuttal you should have. In BP style, in a 7 minute
speech, you might have up to three minutes depending on the position of the speaker. Rebuttal should always
be attempted even if you feel it is not very strong.
Not Helpful 2 Helpful 3

As a leader, how do I help my members prepare for the debate?

Go through each speech with your team members and absolutely tear it apart with the arguments you think
Penguinpencil that your opponent is most likely to use. Then, construct rebuttals that relate directly to those arguments. Do
this with each team member and your case will be ten times stronger. (Your members might also feel more
confident about their upcoming debate.)
Not Helpful 2 Helpful 2

What should I consider when rebutting a point?

Your argument was irrelevant, incorrect, illogical or insignificant and follow that up with a number of reasons
wikiHow Contributor why.
Not Helpful 0 Helpful 0

Can a first preposition speaker oppose a second opposition speaker?

Since the first proposition speaker gives a speech before the second opposition speaker, it is not possible for
wikiHow Contributor him to refute/oppose his points.
Not Helpful 0 Helpful 0

Make a stranger's day. Answer a question. Learn more


Focus on the most important arguments.

Talk to your teammates. Together, you can come up with a far stronger rebuttal than you could working alone. Pass
notes during the opponent's speech.
Practice using analogies or hypothetical situations.
Know not only useful facts, but also their origin so that you can cite a credible source when you deliver your


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Attack the opposing team's arguments, not the opposing team themselves.
Don't spend too long on any one rebuttal.

Sources and Citations

1. http://www.wcdebate.com/1parli/29rebuttals.htm
2. http://www.wcdebate.com/1parli/29rebuttals.htm
3. http://www.wcdebate.com/1parli/29rebuttals.htm

Show more... (16)

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