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What are Pros and Cons?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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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.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Language & Humanities researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon331864 — On Apr 25, 2013

@feasting: It's usually all very subjective. In addition to the given advice, when you still can't choose, remember you can make two comparison lists (i.e. a list just about your current place vs. a list just about the new place.)

When you compare the two negative lists, you may better be able to discover your deal breakers.

By feasting — On Oct 22, 2012

What do you do when the cons and pros are even? Do you just flip a coin?

I am trying to decide whether to move into a new rental house or stay where I am. Every time I come up with a new reason to add to the pros about moving, I come up with an equally powerful con. What do I do?

By JackWhack — On Oct 22, 2012
@cloudel – I've made lists like that regarding some of my friends, and I have had a few lists made about me, as well. The fact that I know this just goes to show how important it is to destroy your list of pros and cons after using it.

I found a list of my own pros and cons in my boyfriend's room in high school. Some of the cons were so unflattering that I couldn't bring myself to be with him anymore.

In fact, when you make a list like this about someone else, maybe you should even consider writing in code. You don't realize how hurtful it could be if they found it.

By StarJo — On Oct 21, 2012
My parents had to weigh the homeschooling pros and cons before deciding to let me do it. I was in tenth grade, and I really hated school so much that I thought I could learn better by teaching myself at home.

One of their big pros was that I had always been motivated and a straight-A student. They didn't doubt that I would do the work and learn on my own.

One of the cons was that I would miss out on working with other people, giving speeches, and doing debates. However, the pros won out in the end.

I didn't let them down, either. I got such a high score on my college entrance exam that I got a full scholarship.

By cloudel — On Oct 20, 2012
I used to debate the pros and cons of my relationships before deciding to end them. Looking back, if there was ever a need to make a list of pros and cons, then the relationship was doomed.

I did have some boyfriends that I adored throughout the whole relationship. I never even thought of making a list about them. They were always the ones who broke my heart.

I did have to break up with a few other ones, though. The cons always outweighed the pros, because by the time I decided to make a list, several things were really bothering me.

By anon269598 — On May 18, 2012

I love this website. I come here to look out meanings of various things and I usually don't find at other websites. Excellent work!

By anon212442 — On Sep 07, 2011

Poster dr3wisback: These are not abbreviations. Please see paragraph one of the post:

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.”

Fabulous explanation; clearly organized and relevant examples. I would definitely use this site again!

By anon145414 — On Jan 23, 2011

My 10 year old son just asked me what pros and cons were. When I told him he then asked, 'What do the words pro and con stand for?' I realized I didn't know and found this in two seconds online. Great, clear explanation and I would definitely use this site again.

By anon129057 — On Nov 22, 2010

Pro/cons are indeed very effective for analyzing and resolving proposals, projects and ideas. --Deepak

By dr3wisback — On Nov 15, 2010

I had an understanding of pro and cons but this clearly explains it in more depth. Nice choice of using the idea of buying a car vs a home. P.S. you should have included what the abbreviations stand for.

By anon93631 — On Jul 04, 2010

easy to understand explanation. thank you.

By anon92331 — On Jun 27, 2010

I found this very useful and clear and to the point. wish more articles were written this way. Good job.

By anon68731 — On Mar 04, 2010

The Latin phrase "pro et contra" which means "for and against" is the source of the words "pro" and "con." So "pros and cons" are just commonly used abbreviations of Latin words.

By anon56247 — On Dec 13, 2009

ForceField analysis or Six Hat theory are superior decision making frameworks to "Pros and Cons."

By anon43665 — On Aug 31, 2009

What are the Pros and Cons of an S Corporation vs. an LLC (Limited Liability Company)

By JerseyJoe — On Aug 13, 2008

Word for word. If one is for something, they are said to be "pro." While if one is opposed, they are said to be "con". Logically then, what is the opposite of progress – congress?

By anon13132 — On May 20, 2008

This is a really good bit of info. I really suggest people actually use this site! This has gotten me an A grade for English in a debate.

By anon12427 — On May 06, 2008

Pros and cons are useful...but only so long as the person making the decision knows what they are.

By olittlewood — On Jan 25, 2008

I think if more people utilized the pro/con system of making decisions, we'd be a lot better off. most people just make decisions without weighing the positives and negatives, resulting in a lot of mistakes!

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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