Source: Lecture 2-2 (transcription), ... How to Reason and Argue, by Prof W Sinnott-Armstrong.

[At the 0 min 11 secs juncture:] The actual word order doesn't always tell us the order of argument.

Later, the Prof discusses the Standard Form, in which the premises are written above the conclusion, each on a separate line. But the Prof doesn't explain the 2 different orders of the arguments. So in writing, why would a conclusion precede a premises? Does the Standard Form imply easier readability, whenever the premises precede the conclusion?

  • 1
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because the question asks about a style of writing.
    – prash
    Commented Apr 17, 2015 at 22:20
  • 1
    Hmmm......to me this question is very clear to me.........
    – user13955
    Commented Apr 18, 2015 at 11:45
  • @KentaroTomono +1. Thanks for your support.
    – user8572
    Commented Apr 18, 2015 at 16:20

2 Answers 2


It is difficult to establish strict rules in matters of style, but I think that in general it is more readable to state the conclusion of an argument before the premises. Because, from the point of view of the reader, it provides a context. Without knowing what is the goal, the desired conclusion, at least in part, the reader would be in the dark as to what the premises are for, as to what the author is getting at. The "standard form" is fit for a more formal and unequivocal, even if less readable, presentation of an argument.


Certain styles of philosophical, particularly in the analytic school appears to follow this rule; where the conclusion is stated first and then the argument is developed to support it; still Quine for example, in his essay on 'what there is' adopts a more narrative style; and actually quite slyly his opening sentence is adopted from Nabakovs Lolita, compare:

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin. My soul. The tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down to palate to tap, at three on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.


A curious thing about the ontological problem is that it can be put into three Anglo-Saxon syllables: 'What is there?'

This is also the standard style in mathematical writing of theorem-lemma-proof.