"The Ways We Lie," by Stephanie Ericsson

1) What is your own definition of lying?

2) Ericsson admits that sometimes we lie for reasons that actually seem like a good thing! How justifiable are these types of lies? From what perspective are these inexcusable lies? Are these valid, necessary, or even reasonable manipulations of the truth?

Now look at her classifications (did you notice that she defines each of them first? Why did she?):

The White Lie-


what does the white lie assume? Is that good or bad?


Example: Defendants in nice suits; Celebrities who say they don't smoke who are caught smoking

When can they be good? Bad?

Why do we have façades?

(Other examples?)

Ignoring the Plain Facts

When is this not a lie?

(Other examples?)


Is this truly lying? Or what?

(Other examples?)


Is her support example a good one here? Can you think of better ones?

(Other examples?)

Stereotypes and Clichés

Defined as what? Why is this not just ignorance?

(Other examples?)


What groups of people do this? Do teenagers do this? How do we know?

Out-and-Out Lies

Why are these the easiest types to deal with?


Why is this damaging? Isn't this a result of stereotyping?


How does this work?

Here are some things that are considered famous lies--how would you classify each of them, and how are they lies or not lies?

1) Richard Nixon claimed he was not a crook.
2) Bill Clinton said he didn't inhale pot smoke (and that he had not had sex with Monica Lewinsky).
3) Dan Rather said that there was a document that showed G. W. Bush was not fit for command. He also made a documentary featuring American soldiers who admitted that they had committed atrocities in Vietnam.
4) John Kerry claimed that he had witnessed atrocities committed by American soldiers in Vietnam and gathered a group of soldiers together to collect stories that backed up the report that American atrocities were widespread.
5) Bush lied about WMDs in Iraq, and so people died.

1) What is Ericsson's thesis?

2) Does she think it's possible to eliminate lies? What evidence does she offer?

3) If it were possible to eliminate lies, why would that be desirable?

4) What is this essay's purpose?


Questions on Writing Strategy:

1) Ericsson starts out by telling about her own 4 day lie-why does she do this?

2) Why is there a little saying (an epigraph) at the beginning of each kind of lie? Do they work?

3) What is the message of her conclusion?

4) Look at how Ericsson uses Definition and Example to support her Classification. Which definitions are clearest? Which ones are not? Which examples are the most effective? Why?