Therefore is an easy word to say, but just saying it doesn’t make one thing cause another thing. For instance, what do you think of the following statements?

Photo of three Corvettes in a parking lot, two black and one silver. Can only see the one in the foreground completely. Backdrop is a brick wall with three Christmas-shaped fir trees

Source: “1600 HP Anyone?,” Grant MacDonald, Flickr

Does a lack of clouds in the sky at 7 a.m. mean that there won’t be any rain for the rest of the day? Does getting an A on a test mean you are smart? Does the fact that a friend told you something about Jackson mean it is true?

Leaping from factual information or the opinions of other people to general statements is called making inferences. Often inferences are valid and helpful. We couldn’t think or read well without making inferences. Sometimes, though, they are wrong. Three Corvettes are parked in six parking places in front of a store doesn’t necessarily mean that half the people who go to that store drive Corvettes.

See if you can correctly identify each “therefore” statement as valid or invalid.

Chicago is in Illinois. THEREFORE, ducks lay eggs.

Valid
Try again.
Invalid
Correct!


Dinosaurs are extinct. THEREFORE, there are no dinosaurs in zoos.

Valid
Correct!

Invalid
Try again.

Mother’s Day is in May. THEREFORE, it is in the spring.

Valid
Correct!

Invalid
Try again.

Friends are important. THEREFORE, my friends will always be there for me.

Valid
Try again.
Invalid
Correct!


Speeding is against the law. THEREFORE, if you speed, you might get arrested.

Valid
Correct!

Invalid
Try again.

I believe in the importance of being honest. THEREFORE, my parents never lie to me.

Valid
Try again.
Invalid
Correct!


All the people I like also like gymnastics. THEREFORE, I will like anyone who likes gymnastics.

Valid
Try again.
Invalid
Correct!


My turtle looks up when I say her name. THEREFORE, my turtle understands English.

Valid
Try again.
Invalid
Correct!


My aunt always gets angry when someone uses bad language. THEREFORE, my aunt doesn’t like bad language.

Valid
Correct!

Invalid
Try again.

My mother always fixes me breakfast in the morning. THEREFORE, I know that she likes to fix breakfast.

Valid
Try again.
Invalid
Correct!


When you are writing, you often make inferences and sometimes you don’t check the validity of those inferences. Read the paragraph below about thinking before you take action. See if you can identify four invalid inferences in the paragraph. One of the three invalid inferences is included in such a way that it can be kept in the paragraph. Nevertheless, you should realize that it is invalid. Move your cursor over each inference to see to a pop-up that explains whether the inference is valid or invalid.

Note: Most of the time, we don’t write “therefore” into our inference sentences. For the activity below, the word is included just to alert you to the fact that the sentence contains an inference.

My mother always told me to think before I act. When I was a little kid, I didn’t really understand what she was talking about. Therefore, what she said made no impression on me. But lately I’ve discovered that what she said is really very important. Yesterday, for example, I got angry at my best friend for telling another one of our friends some secret information that she had promised not to tell anyone. It seemed to me that since she was saying things about me behind my back, she therefore didn’t want to be my friend anymore. I sat down in front of my computer and wrote her a nasty e-mail. When you are extremely angry, your strongest feelings come out. Therefore, what you write is always accurate and honest. I remembered what my mother told me, though, and I saved the e-mail as a draft without sending it. I just needed to relax and think for a while. Eating always relaxes me. Therefore, when I want to relax it is the best thing for me to do. I ate four pieces of pecan pie and reread what I had written. I realized that my friend had been my friend for several years, and therefore couldn’t have said what I thought she did. I didn’t send the e-mail.

Well, what do you do when you have invalid inferences in your writing? One solution is to just take them out. Sometimes, though, what you have written is basically good, so you want to revise it rather than deleting the whole thing. Let’s look at the invalid inferences in the paragraph above. How could we rewrite them so they are no longer invalid?

It seemed to me that since she was saying things about me behind my back, she therefore didn’t want to be my friend anymore.

This one is invalid, but it is about what the author supposed and is therefore completely OK to include. The author is wrong to suppose this, but that is the point.

When you are extremely angry, your strongest feelings come out. Therefore, what you write is always accurate and honest.

This is invalid, but we can easily change it so that it works the same way as the one above. It can show us what the author is thinking. We could revise it to read this way:

When you are extremely angry, your strongest feelings come out. Therefore, it seems that what you write is accurate and honest.


take notes icon In your notes, fix the last two invalid references. When you are finished, check your understanding to see a possible response.

Eating always relaxes me. Therefore, when I want to relax it is the best thing for me to do.



Check Your Understanding
Sample Response: Eating always relaxes me, so it seemed like the best thing to do and gave me a chance to think about the e-mail before I sent it.

I realized that my friend had been my friend for several years, and therefore couldn’t have said what I thought she did.



Check Your Understanding
Sample Response: I realized that my friend had been my friend for several years, and it seemed to me that she couldn’t have really said what I thought she said.
A young woman texting a friend at night.

Source: “One and Other — Just texting,” Feggy Art, Flickr

The way we think is not always logical. We often base our thinking on invalid inferences. It is fine to record this invalid thinking in your writing if you use it to show that your thinking is not always logical. As long as you say something like “It seemed to me that . . .,” you can include the invalid inference in your writing, and then, of course, go on to point out your faulty thinking.