Select your language

Suggested languages for you:
Log In Start studying!
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free

All-in-one learning app

  • Flashcards
  • NotesNotes
  • ExplanationsExplanations
  • Study Planner
  • Textbook solutions
Start studying

Missing the Point

Save Save
Print Print
Edit Edit
Sign up to use all features for free. Sign up now
X
Illustration You have already viewed an explanation Register now and access this and thousands of further explanations for free
English

In an argument you will often hear someone say, "But you're missing the point." What does this really mean, though, to "miss the point"? There are so many good points to be made, and they all are relevant in some way, right? Well not exactly. Arguments that miss the point are not relevant to the argument at hand, which is a big deal. There are many examples of how one can miss the point, and many ways that such flaws can be avoided and also fixed.

Definition and meaning of missing the point

Missing the point is a logical fallacy. A fallacy is an error of some kind.

A logical fallacy is employed like a logical reason, but it is actually flawed and illogical.

Missing the point is specifically an informal logical fallacy, which means that its fallacy lies not in the structure of the logic (which would be a formal logical fallacy), but rather in something else.

When someone misses the point, they attempt to counter a point that they do not actually address.

Missing the point can occur in a single claim or in an argument involving multiple people.

In the following example, pay attention to what is highlighted, which is the argument that misses the point.

Missing the point example 1

Person A: This man on trial stands accused of murder, and the penalty is death! Murder is the most heinous of crimes, which deserves to be met with an eye for an eye!


In this example, Person A misses the point. In a trial situation like this one, the point is not to determine whether or not the death penalty is justified under criminal law. Rather, the point is, did this man do it?

By not addressing whether the man on trial actually committed the crime, Person A is missing the point.

Why is it a big deal if an argument misses the point, though? After all, an argument that misses the point can still be a good point unto itself.

Why missing the point is a fallacy

This is why missing the point is a fallacy:

If someone misses the point, then they do not address the point. If someone does not address the point, then they cannot counter the point. If someone cannot counter the point, then they cannot argue the point. In other words, an argument that misses the point attempts to counter a point that does not exist, which is inherently faulty.

In an ironic twist, to argue that “an argument that misses the point can still be a good point unto itself” is itself an argument that misses the point. A missed point is not fallacious because the missed point lacks its own logic. A missed point is fallacious because it attempts to refute an argument based on its own logic instead of the opposing argument's logic.

A missed point does not counter an argument. It reshapes the argument into a different argument, and sends the original argument off-track.

Missing the point example 2

Person A: They should keep teaching kids that Pluto is a planet, because that’s what I was taught when I was their age!

Person B: They teach kids that Pluto is not a planet because the scientific definition of a planet changed.


It should be obvious that Person B makes a good point. Person B’s counter is a great example of how a good point can still be fallacious, though, because Person B also technically misses the point of Person A’s argument. Person A is not arguing that the change to Pluto’s designation isn’t scientific. Person A is arguing that the change to Pluto’s designation runs contrary to what they were personally taught.

Now, it might seem silly for Person B to address such a flimsy argument from Person A. However, if the argument is indeed flimsy, Person B should simply explain why it is to Person A, in order to educate them.

Here’s what Person B could say instead, in order to counter Person A logically:

Person B: By that logic, we would still be learning that the Sun orbits the Earth, because hundreds of years ago that was taught as well. What we teach our kids should not be based on whether or not something was “taught that way before.” Because what humans learn is constantly evolving, what we teach our kids should be based on our best and most recent scientific understanding. Otherwise there could be no progress.

This argument directly addresses the logic of Person A.

Missing the Point Pluto StudySmarterIt's okay. Pluto understands... don't you? flaticon.

Example of missing the point (essay quote)

Out in the wild, it is unlikely you will find a perfect back-and-forth example of missing the point. Here is a more quiet example that you might find in an essay or a passage. Try to identify how this writer misses the point.

Partially hydrogenated oils are bad for you, period. A study conducted by BlueFly in 2015 found that trans fats, which are the fats present in partially hydrogenated oils, contribute directly to heart disease. Heart disease is the leading killer of adults in the US (Spectrumhealth, 2017). Dr. Martin of the Institute For Better Betterment agrees with the consensus of many other doctors and nurses that trans fats should not be used in food products sold in the US. There are alternatives in sight. Fortunately, in that regard, trans fats can be reduced in snack and other food products sold in the US by mixing them proportionally with healthier fats. This change would be for the better. The Research Lab of Layborne, Colorado indicates that unsaturated fats, such as vegetable oils, are significantly better for you than their partially hydrogenated counterparts."

Can you find where this writer misses the point?

The writer misses the point in their solution, which doesn't address the very problem they raised. The writer presents, "Fortunately, in that regard, trans fats can be reduced in snack and other food products sold in the US by mixing them proportionally with healthier fats" as a solution. However, this solution misses the point because all their sources indicate that trans fats should not be used at all.

In other words, because the research indicates that trans fats should not be used at all, to present a solution that retains the use of trans fats misses the point of the research.

To fix this error, the writer either needs to either 1. change their solution to eliminate trans fats entirely or 2., find sufficient and accurate evidence to prove that a reduction in trans fats is an acceptable solution.

Do not simply remove problematic evidence to make your argument seem stronger. Don't ignore the facts. If that means redrafting your thesis, do it.

Tips to avoid missing the point

When writing your own essay, here are some tips to keep you from missing the point.

Know your topic to avoid missing the point

Missing the point can happen when you don't understand the subject well enough. In order not to miss the point about your topic, research it! If you can't research it because you're taking a timed test, be sure to read the provided article or passage very carefully. If you fail to understand the point of a passage, article, or image, there is a strong chance that you will miss the point of it, which will nullify your entire essay. You must be sure to know every argument that you attempt to counter.

Address the arguments to avoid missing the point

If there are critics of your arguments, which there should be if you have a strong thesis, be sure to address their grievances in a logical manner. In your essay, you will have to present your opponents' arguments yourself (they can't do it for you); be sure that their arguments are accurate, or you risk missing the point. Do not weaken the arguments of your critics because you control the forum, either, which is another fallacy altogether.

Know your evidence to avoid missing the point

In our essay example, we found out what happens if you fail to understand your evidence. Whenever you cite something, know exactly what it says and what it means. If you don't know what your evidence is saying, you might miss the point of it. Be accurate and be careful. These are your two best ways to avoid missing the point.

Synonyms for missing the point

In Latin, missing the point is known as ignoratio elenchi. It is also called an “irrelevant conclusion.”

Missing the point is sometimes confused with the straw man argument, but these are separate fallacies. A straw man fallacy occurs when Person B exaggerates the point of Person A, and then addresses the exaggerated argument instead of Person A’s actual argument.

Missing the point Strawman example StudySmarterNot exactly missing the point, flaticon.

Straw man argument example

Person A: Building that fence isn’t going to keep the neighbor’s dog from getting in our yard.

Person B: Fences are a thing for a reason. They use them in jails, for crying out loud. To say fences don’t work is crazy!

This is a straw man argument because Person A did not claim that fences never work; they claimed that a fence would not work in one instance. A straw man fallacy twists the language of an argument, whereas missing the point evades an argument completely.

Missing the Point - Key takeaways

  • When someone misses the point, they attempt to counter a point that they do not actually address.
  • Missing the point fallaciously reshapes an argument into a new one, sending the original argument off-track.
  • To avoid missing the point, know your topic, know your evidence, and address your opponents directly.
  • The Latin term for missing the point is ignoratio elenchi. It is also called an “irrelevant conclusion.”
  • A straw man fallacy twists the language of an argument, whereas missing the point evades an argument completely.

Missing the Point

When someone misses the point, they attempt to counter a point that they do not actually address.

In this example, the underlined portion misses the point.


Person A: Partially hydrogenated oils are bad for you, and should thus not be used in snack products sold in the US.


Person B: A mixture of partially hydrogenated oils with other oils ought to do the trick.


Person A’s point is that partially hydrogenated oils are so bad that they should not be used at all. Thus, to argue that a quantity reduction is in order misses the point. 

It is an informal fallacy.

The cause is not addressing the logic of your opponent. To avoid missing the point, counter the logic of your opponent directly.

Missing the point can also be called an "irrelevant conclusion." In Latin, missing the point is known as ignoratio elenchi

Final Missing the Point Quiz

Question

What is a fallacy?

Show answer

Answer

An error of some kind.

Show question

Question

A logical fallacy is employed like _____.

Show answer

Answer

A logical reason

Show question

Question

What is missing the point?

Show answer

Answer

When someone misses the point, they attempt to counter a point that they do not actually address.

Show question

Question

Why is missing the point a fallacy?

Show answer

Answer

If someone misses the point, then they do not address the point. If someone does not address the point, then they cannot counter the point. If someone cannot counter the point, then it is fallacious to use that line of reasoning to try to counter the point.

Show question

Question

A missed point does not counter an argument. It _____ the argument _____ a different argument, and sends the original argument off-track.

Show answer

Answer

Reshapes, into

Show question

Question

When someone misses the point, and their argument is flimsy, should you bother refuting it?

Show answer

Answer

Yes, because it might teach that person something.

Show question

Question

"A good point never misses the point, in some regard at least." 

True or false?

Show answer

Answer

False. A good point misses the point of an argument it does not address.

Show question

Question

"To avoid missing the point, directly address the logic of the argument."

True or false?

Show answer

Answer

True.

Show question

Question

Missing the point is a(n) _____ fallacy.

Show answer

Answer

Informal

Show question

Question

Is a straw man argument a kind of "missing the point"?

Show answer

Answer

No. They are separate fallacies.

Show question

Question

Are opinions a good way to avoid missing the point?

Show answer

Answer

No. Opinions are often off-topic in an argumentative essay. Try to include objective, verifiable evidence in your essays.

Show question

Question

What is "missing the point" in latin?

Show answer

Answer

Inoratio elenchi

Show question

Question

What is another term for missing the point in English?

Show answer

Answer

Missing the point might be called an "irrelevant conclusion."

Show question

Question

A straw man argument _____, whereas missing the point _____.

Show answer

Answer

Twists the language of an argument, evades an argument completely

Show question

Question

A logical, scientific argument should be addressed in a _____ manner.

Show answer

Answer

Logical, scientific

Show question

60%

of the users don't pass the Missing the Point quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.