Non Sequitur: Definition, Examples, Misconceptions
Written by  Daisie Team
Published on 6 min read


  1. What is Non Sequitur?
  2. How to Identify Non Sequitur
  3. Examples of Non Sequitur
  4. Common Misconceptions about Non Sequitur
  5. How to Avoid Non Sequitur in Communication

When you're in a conversation, and suddenly someone drops a statement that seems to have fallen out of nowhere, you've likely encountered a non sequitur. This Latin phrase literally means "it does not follow," and it's a term that's pretty important when it comes to understanding effective communication. So, let's get into the nitty-gritty of what a non sequitur is, shall we?

What is Non Sequitur?

A non sequitur, in its most basic form, is a statement or conclusion that doesn't logically follow the preceding argument or statement. This term is often used in discussions about logical fallacies, where an argument's conclusion doesn't quite add up based on the information presented. Let's break it down a bit more.

Etymology of Non Sequitur

The term non sequitur comes from Latin, where "non" means "not" and "sequitur" translates to "it follows." So, when you put it together, you get "it does not follow"—a pretty accurate definition of non sequitur if you ask me!

Non Sequitur in Logic

In the field of logic, a non sequitur refers to an argument where the conclusion does not follow logically from the premises. In other words, the final point doesn't align with the initial statements. It's like saying, "It's raining outside, so I'll take an umbrella. Therefore, cats must dislike water." The conclusion about cats has no logical connection to the original discussion about rain and umbrellas.

Non Sequitur in Conversation

Non sequiturs also pop up in everyday conversation. For instance, you're talking to your friend about your favorite pizza toppings, and they suddenly say, "I think elephants are the largest land animals." While that statement might be true, it has nothing to do with the pizza topic at hand—making it a prime example of a non sequitur.

Now that we have a solid grasp on the definition of non sequitur, it's time to develop an eye for spotting them in the wild. Stay tuned!

How to Identify Non Sequitur

Identifying a non sequitur can be a bit like playing detective. You're looking for clues that the conversation has taken an unexpected turn, and the pieces of the puzzle just aren't fitting together. So, how can you train your brain to spot a non sequitur when it pops up? Let's find out.

Look for a Logical Disconnect

The first sign of a non sequitur is a logical disconnect between statements. If the conclusion or a statement doesn't logically follow what was previously said, you've got yourself a non sequitur. It's like trying to connect dots that are not even on the same page—no matter how hard you try, they just don't line up.

Pay Attention to Topic Jumps

Another tell-tale sign of a non sequitur is a sudden jump in topic. In the middle of a conversation about the weather, if someone starts talking about the stock market, you've likely encountered a non sequitur. Remember, the key is in the transition—or, more precisely, the lack thereof.

Watch Out for False Conclusions

Non sequiturs often involve conclusions that don't match the information given. For instance, if someone says, "I got a flat tire, so I must be bad at math," that's a non sequitur. The conclusion about math skills has no logical basis in the fact of a flat tire.

Identifying non sequiturs can be a fun mental exercise, and being aware of them can help you keep your conversations on track and your arguments sound. Next up, let's look at some classic examples of non sequiturs to further cement our understanding. Ready to dive in?

Examples of Non Sequitur

Now that we've got the definition of non sequitur down and know how to identify them, let's look at some real-life examples. These will help you understand non sequiturs even better, and you might even get a chuckle out of some of them!

Non Sequitur in Everyday Conversations

Imagine you're talking to a friend about your favorite TV show. You say, "I love that new detective series on Netflix." Your friend replies, "Oh, I prefer oranges to apples." It's clear that your friend's response doesn't follow the topic you introduced. That's a classic example of a non sequitur in casual conversation.

Non Sequitur in Politics

Politicians are often guilty of using non sequiturs, especially when they want to avoid answering a question. Let's say a politician is asked about their stance on climate change and they respond with, "I believe in strong family values." This response has no logical connection to the question asked, making it a non sequitur.

Non Sequitur in Advertising

Advertisers sometimes use non sequiturs to grab attention. Take, for example, an ad that shows a penguin wearing sunglasses, with the caption, "Our ice cream is the best." The image of a penguin doesn't logically connect to the quality of ice cream being advertised. It's a non sequitur, but it's also pretty memorable, right?

So there you have it—non sequiturs are everywhere once you start looking! But they're not always as harmless as they seem. In our next section, we'll debunk some common misconceptions about non sequiturs.

Common Misconceptions about Non Sequitur

Now we're going to tackle some of the common misconceptions about non sequiturs. These often lead to confusion when trying to understand the concept, so let's set the record straight.

Non Sequitur is Always Absurd

While many examples of non sequiturs seem absurd or comical, it's not always the case. Sometimes, non sequiturs can seem perfectly sensible on the surface. For instance, "It's raining, so I'll take an umbrella" seems like a logical statement, but it's a non sequitur if it's used in a conversation about the best pizza toppings. Remember, context is key in identifying non sequiturs.

All Unexpected Responses are Non Sequiturs

Just because a response is surprising or unexpected, it doesn't mean it's a non sequitur. The defining factor of a non sequitur is that it lacks a logical connection to the previous statement or topic of conversation. If a surprising response still has a logical connection to the conversation, it's not a non sequitur.

Non Sequiturs are Always Unintentional

Non sequiturs can be both intentional and unintentional. Sometimes people use non sequiturs deliberately, like in comedy or to avoid answering a question. In other cases, non sequiturs can come about accidentally as a result of misunderstanding the topic or not paying full attention to the conversation.

Remember, understanding the true definition of non sequitur will help you spot them, even when they're cleverly hidden or unintentionally used. In the next section, we'll share some tips on how to avoid falling into the non sequitur trap in your own conversations.

How to Avoid Non Sequitur in Communication

Now that we've cleared up some misconceptions, let's dive into some tips to avoid non sequitur in your communication. It's your turn to become a pro at this!

Stay Focused on the Topic

One of the best ways to avoid non sequiturs is to stay focused on the topic at hand. If you're discussing the new Star Wars movie, bringing up your favorite ice cream flavor out of nowhere can be a non sequitur. It's okay to change topics, but make sure there's a clear and logical transition so your conversation partner can follow along.

Listen Carefully

Another key to avoiding non sequiturs is active listening. If you're fully engaged and understand what the other person is saying, you're less likely to respond with non sequiturs. So, the next time you're having a conversation, pay attention and make sure your responses are relevant to the topic.

Practice Makes Perfect

Like any other skill, avoiding non sequiturs takes practice. Take note of instances where you might have made a non sequitur and think about how you could have responded differently. Over time, you'll get better at avoiding these conversational slip-ups.

With these tips in mind, you're well on your way to mastering the art of conversation without falling into the non sequitur pitfall. Remember, practice makes perfect and soon enough, you'll be able to spot a non sequitur from a mile away!

If you enjoyed learning about non sequiturs and are interested in incorporating unique storytelling techniques into your creative work, check out the workshop 'Narrative Storytelling For Photographers' by Laurence Philomene. This workshop will help you develop your skills in visual storytelling and teach you how to create captivating narratives through photography.