Pros and cons are arguments for or against a particular issue. Pros are arguments that aim to promote the issue, while cons suggest points against it. The term has been in use since the 16th century and is a shortening of a Latin phrase, pro et contra, which means “for and against.” Considering the advantages and disadvantages of an issue is a very useful way to weigh it thoughtfully and reach an informed decision.
Many people find themselves considering pros and cons in daily life, although they may not be aware of it. For example, someone shopping at a supermarket might weigh the cost of an item and the quality to decide whether or not to purchase it. People making larger decisions, like purchasing a new car or home, often spend a great deal of time thinking about the effects of the purchase so that they can be sure that the right choice will be made.
In addition to being useful in daily life, pros and cons can also strengthen academic papers and debates. By weighing the advantages and disadvantages beforehand, someone can consider potential objections to a point, as well as ways to dismiss a counter-argument. Skilled authors will often include such arguments in a paper to indicate that they have considered all sides of an issue and are confident that their feelings are correct. They can also be used to identify weaknesses in an argument: if someone notices a lack of discussion of the cons of an issue, for example, it is probably too good to be true.
Many politicians have highly refined the art of examining both sides of a topic, especially when it comes to major issues. Campaign and staff advisers are employed to thoroughly and carefully research issues and ultimately provide a list of advantages and disadvantages. This list can be used to build solid, well thought out persuasive arguments that can be used on the campaign trail, in political debates, on the floor of a legislative body, or to counter statements made by opponents.
When using pros and cons to reach a difficult decision, many people find it helpful to divide a piece of paper into two columns, writing the pros in one column and the cons in another. Sometimes, providing a clear visual guide allows the decision to become obvious, as one side may overwhelmingly outweigh the other. If nothing else, weighing both sides of an issue will allow someone to consider every aspect of a situation.