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What is a non-sequitur?

A non-sequitur is when a statement is invalidated or does not make sense because it does not naturally follow on from the sentence preceding it. Or worse directly contradicts it.

How to spot a non-sequitur

Non-sequitur translates from Latin to mean “it does not follow.” So a non-sequitur is when a statement is invalidated or does not make sense because it does not naturally follow on from the sentence preceding it. Or worse directly contradicts it.

For example:

“Our team are available day and night to help you. Call between 9am and 5pm.

Or

“We are a start-up company. So we can use all our experience to get the best deal.”

In this context, we are talking about non-sequiturs that occur unintentionally.

But as an aside, note that a non-sequitur can also be a deliberate literary device. Non-sequiturs can be employed purposefully for comedic effect, or to make a misleading argument.

There is a Latin phrase for that too: “post hoc ergo propter hoc”. This translates as “after this therefore because of this”. It refers to a false premise or logical fallacy. That because one thing happens after another or correlates to another, it must be caused by it – to the exclusion of all other factors. For instance:

“Julia crossed her fingers as she bought a lottery ticket. Julia won £50 on the lottery. Therefore, Julia won £50 because she crossed her fingers.”

Or,

“Most students who pass their exams hand-write their answers.  Therefore, to have the best chance of passing, you should not use a key-board.”

Spotting an accidental non-sequitur

It is easy to include non-sequiturs in your writing accidentally. But it is best that you root them out. Why? Because if you publish work that inadvertently contains non-sequiturs, you will slowly erode your company’s credibility.

A professional proof-read or copy-edit acts as a good safety net against non-sequiturs (as well as other literary mishaps). After all, it’s preferable for such errors to be spotted whilst editing, rather than by a client noticing once printed!

On Point Copywriting can prevent these errors by proof-reading your documents. We help you communicate effectively with your target audience. And make sure that your message is as accurate as it is powerful.

To find out more, call 0117 244 0116 to speak to one of our team.

Let us help you achieve more with good copy.

Whether you need expert help with planning, writing, editing, proof-reading or training, get in touch today.