Saturday, March 16, 2024

Recognizing Sweeping Generalizations

person holding microphone person making speech


Adjectives have three degrees of comparison: 
Positive Degree - When describing one thing. (big tree)
Comparative Degree – When comparing two things.  (bigger tree)
Superlative Degree – When comparing more than two things. (biggest tree)
The superlative degree is created by adding est to some words or adding the word most. * 
For example: healthiest or most healthy
The brown one is the healthiest of the puppies.
The brown one is the most healthy of the puppies.
*Avoid double comparisons by using both est and most at the same time.
Wrong: The brown one is the most healthiest of the puppies.



When using the superlative degree, it is important to avoid creating sweeping generalizations. When you add est or use the word most, it is easy to create a sweeping statement that goes too far in its description.


A sweeping generalization creates a statement that is too broad. 


Here are examples of sweeping generalizations:


Sweeping Generalization: Benjamin Franklin was the most brilliant of all inventors.

Better: Benjamin Franklin was one of the most brilliant of all inventors.


Sweeping Generalization: Joe Montana is the greatest of all quarterbacks in football history.

Better: Joe Montana is one of the greatest quarterbacks in football history.


It's important not to get carried away with the superlative degree and say way more than you intended to say. Use qualifying words such as frequently, most, some, a few, many, sometimes, often, or occasionally to make the superlative degree more acceptable.


Include the word “other” when comparing one thing with a group of which it is a part.


Statement: After WWII, the United States was stronger than any country in the world.

Better: After WWII, the United States was stronger than any other country in the world.


Politicians frequently use sweeping generalizations to appeal to emotions rather than facts. Be sure to examine all political statements for accuracy. 


Here are some examples from various media sources:

·      “All politicians are corrupt.”

·      “Immigrants are taking all our jobs.”

·      “Government is always inefficient.”

·      “All rich people are greedy.”

·      “All members of a certain political party are extremists.”

·      “All millennials are lazy and entitled.”

·      “Conservatives hate progress.”

·      “Liberals are all entitled and can't handle opposing views.”

·      “All corporations are evil.”


Be aware of using sweeping generalizations in your own writing and speech. Also, be an informed reader and listener and take note when a sweeping generalization is used in print or in speeches.


Adjectives and Adverbs can be powerful words. If you want to learn more about them and practice their use, I have several resources in my TPT store. You will find them here.


You will find a free worksheet here that helps students recognize and correct sweeping generalizations. As we enter the volatile climate of this political year, your students will benefit from being able to spot overgeneralizations that can lead to faulty conclusions.  


Thanks for reading. You may enjoy reading the interesting blog posts below from my friends in The Best of Teacher Entrepreneurs Marketing Cooperative. 

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