What is it called when person A makes an argument, then person B picks on a minor error in A's argument (such as a typo or misattribution of a quote) and uses this small error to argue that everything A says cannot be trusted and (by implication) must be false?

The closest I've got is "straw man", but that isn't quite right, since in this case the error is genuine.

I feel this technique must have a name, since it seems to be incredibly common in real-world debate!

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    Generally just nitpicking, missing the forest for the trees.
    – Dan Bron
    Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 22:54
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    This is a key legal technique; if a witness has tripped up in one place, the rest of their testimony can be put into doubt. Perhaps there is a legal term for it? Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 22:57
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    I'm almost certain that this exact question has been asked here before. Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 23:22

1 Answer 1


From Wikipedia:

"Argument from fallacy is the formal fallacy of analyzing an argument and inferring that, since it contains a fallacy, its conclusion must be false. It is also called argument to logic (argumentum ad logicam), fallacy fallacy, fallacist's fallacy, and bad reasons fallacy."

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    +1. Depending on what is picked on, it might also be cherry picking or possibly witness impeachment . Presumably, whether you think it's a logical fallacy or a legitimate impeachment will depend on the probative value of the error (e.g. a singular error introduced by a third party vs. a symptom of a wider pattern of sloppiness in record keeping) and which side of the case you're on.
    – 1006a
    Commented Dec 8, 2016 at 23:18
  • That's the one, thank you! And thank you for the comment @1006a.
    – Richard
    Commented Dec 9, 2016 at 17:09

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