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Persuasive language techniques


What language techniques does Dawson use in her article? Are they persuasive? Is she demonstrating bias?

Article summary

In this article, the author Emma Dawson, has another look at the idea of a Universal Basic Income: a minimum, basic wage paid to all adults, regardless of their personal assets or income status. Dawson looks at the argument from different perspectives, including neo-liberalism and public reliance on the free market. Dawson considers the stigma associated with those who are on welfare payments, whether that is a good argument to support the UBI, and the true cost of implementing the UBI compared with our current welfare system.

Author (Emma Dawson) demonstrates her bias in the article through the language she used to present counter arguments. To do this, Dawson refers to another writer’s argument (or claim) and counters that with her own argument (claim) and evidence.

Author (Dawson) presents three clear counter arguments

  1. tax churn
  2. cash for welfare allows the government to take away basic welfare services to make people pay for them
  3. UBI robs people of agency: assumes that people do not want to work and ignores the value of work beyond earning an income.

Language used to make arguments

Colours highlight the language that can indicate a purpose, direction, personal bias, persuasive language, cautious language.

Let's look at how the language is used to persuade the reader. Persuasive language includes:

Ridicule, attacks
Good luck selling that to the Australian public, Senator Di Natale. Attack

Emotional language (key emotional words are emphasised)
A UBI robs people of agency. It completely ignores the value of work beyond earning an income.
The fact is, work is critical to people’s sense of identity. Emotion

First there is the issue of tax churn. Assumption

Anecdotal evidence
I’m yet to meet a proponent of the UBI from a working-class background. It’s the latest pet policy of the post material-ist middle class. Anecdote

The analysis of the arguments Sample from article

Dawson’s main argument

It is an unworkable system because there are too many problems with the proposed UBI. A better solution is to provide adequate welfare support where needed.

Claims from other sources that Dawson argues against

Dawson contextualises the popularity of the UBI with some politicians.


  1. is fashionable with progressive politicians,

  2. could deliver certainty and power to Australian workers and

  3. would not act as a disincentive for people working.

Counter claims put up by author

Dawson sets up arguments that she plans to shoot down. She sets them up with emotive language techniques which weaken their position to begin with.

It is equitable

It would destigmatise welfare

It would empower workers to demand reasonable wages.


Dawson argues against the UBI with three points of evidence. Note that the evidence is weak as there are no references attached to them.

Dawson provides evidence to support the original claim that the UBI system is unworkable. The evidence she gives is based on:

Cost: current welfare budget $160 billion, compared with modest Emotion UBI cost estimate Emotion of $300 billion.

Tax churn: It is a pointless process Attack in cases where high income earners would receive payment, then return it as tax Assumption.

Ulterior motive: She claims that the UBI is part of a plot to reduce the size of governmentAttack and increase people’s reliance Attack on the market. She does this by quoting names of conservative thinker Charles Murray & neo-liberalist Milton Friedman.

Dawson’s counterclaim

An introduction to the key points (the counter claims) that the author uses to argue against the claim made in favour of the UBI.

By replacing welfare programs with UBI, the government can stop delivering basic services and allow people to buy the services from private providers.
Better that government provides universal services, reversing privatisation and for-profit Assumption

UBI robs Emotion people of agency, ignoring the value of work Emotion beyond earning an income, work also gives people a sense of identity Emotion.

Claim from other sources that Dawson argues against (reported by Dawson)

An overall summation statement of the original text, by Dawson, to introduce what she is about to argue against.

There is evidence that providing an income for those who cannot work or are retired, contributes to their health and happiness because of ease of access Anecdote.

Dawson’s counterclaim (acknowledge and refute)

The author selects parts of the claims, isolates them from the complete texts and uses them as points to argue against.

This selection of claims, matched with the author’s counter claims, makes it the original claims look flawed.


The above is a compelling Emotion argument, but is not an argument for UBI, rather putting in a less punitive approach to welfare Emotion.

Claims from other sources, reported by author

“Problems” Emotion “unworkable systems” Attack – negative terms.

“Fashionable with progressive politicians”Attack – dismissive, temporary, without substance.

Could deliver certainty and power...” Anecdote – uncertain, maybe (modal verbs).

Would not act as a disincentive..” Anecdote – uncertain, depending on unknowns.

“It’s the latest pet policy of the post-materialist middle class.”Attack – ridicule, dismissive.

“Modest” & “estimate” Emotion – underplaying the actual costs (a warning).

“Receive” then “return it as tax” Assumption – used to describe “tax churn” – not achieving anything, a waste of time and resources.

“support UBI as a way to reduce the size of government and increase people’s reliance Assumption on the market” – ulterior motive, unrealistic, or dishonest.

"Most people want to provide for themselves, rather than rely on support from the state" Assumption – an unverified assumption, no reference provided.

"I’m yet to meet a proponent of the UBI from a working class background" Anecdote – anecdotal evidence, very limited and without evidence.