How to Write and Organize Persuasive Essays
Wow! I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve posted. Things have been so busy here at Secondary Solutions, as we’ve just unveiled our sister site, Elementary Solutions! If you teach anywhere between grades 3 and 6, you’ll want to be sure to keep an eye on this site for some fabulous new products coming soon!
Since it’s been a while since I have written some quality items for this blog, I have decided to post some essay writing tips. This is a teaser for what’s to come in our newly revised Essay Architect Writing System, due out this fall! Be sure to become a FAN of our Facebook page to keep tabs on when we release this new guide.
Argumentative or Persuasive essays require you to win the reader over to your way of thinking. To write an argumentative/persuasive essay, you must not only know your audience and what they may or may not know about your topic, but you must also effectively anticipate and effectively refute any arguments the opposition may raise.
Key Prompt Words: argue, persuade, justify, prove, defend, rationalize, convince
Purpose: Win the reader over to your side or your way of thinking
- Who will be reading your essay?
- What do they generally think/feel about the topic?
- What is the best way to appeal to and convince this audience?
- What level of language is best for this audience?
Know Your Opposition
- How can you defend your arguments against anything the opposition presents?
- How well do you anticipate any questions or confusion about the topic?
There are several ways you can reach your audience effectively. These techniques, recognized by Aristotle more than two thousand years ago are called rhetoric, and include:
- Logical appeal: (logos): sensible arguments that are widely accepted by your audience
- facts, statistics, personal experience, expert opinion, etc.
- Ethical appeal (ethos):arguments based upon morals and values of a culture that ask the audience to do what is “right” according to what that culture deems correct; also called an “appeal to character”
- the writer strives to appear knowledgeable, educated, credible, trustworthy, and fair towards the subject
- the writer tries to make the audience do what is “right”
- Emotional appeals (pathos):arguments which appeal to the audience’s emotions
- the writer aims to connect with his audience in some way
- the argument strives to appeal to the audience’s sense of fear, pity, needs, desires, and sympathies
Organizing the Argumentative/Persuasive Essay
- Takes a strong, solid position
- Gives reasons to support position
- Considers opposing viewpoints
**Note: While you must acknowledge or consider opposing viewpoints, it is crucial that you pick one side and stick to it—you cannot be “wishy-washy” in persuasive writing!
Goal of Persuasive Writing:
To convince your reader to take your side of the argument by providing contrasting evidence and/or by pointing out mistakes and inconsistencies in the logic of the opposite view.
Most Important Aspects of Persuasive Writing:
- Decide your position (which side you are on)
- Must be arguable/debatable (every argument has two sides)
- Must provide specific logical—not emotional—evidence to support your position
While these look like opinions (and they may be) your argument must rely heavily on facts—facts that can be argued
- Decide your audience: Who will be reading your essay? How do they feel about the topic? What is the best way to convince your audience? What tone/diction is appropriate for this audience? Are they going to be difficult to convince, or are they “on the fence” and generally going to be easy to convince?
- Be VERY careful not to be sarcastic, insulting, or overly dramatic (emotional)
This can hurt your argument and make the reader want to take the other side just because they don’t like how you speak to them!
- You MUST know the argument of the opposite viewpoint
- You MUST acknowledge the views of the opposition
- You MUST provide contrasting evidence and/or inconsistencies and flaws in the opposition’s views
In sum, you must acknowledge, then dispute the argument. You must acknowledge that the argument has two sides, but crush the opposition by providing overwhelming evidence to prove that your side is RIGHT!
Example of Persuasive Prompt:
Many people feel that television and movie violence has a negative effect on society. Do you agree or disagree? Take a stance on the subject of violence in television and movies, supporting your argument with details and examples.
Remember that in an Argumentative/Persuasive paper, you are trying to win the reader over to your side. Your thesis statement must state which side you are on in the argument being presented.
Topic: Should smoking be made illegal?
Simple Argumentative/Persuasive Thesis: Smoking is a highly dangerous habit that should be made illegal.
To test whether this thesis actually qualifies as an Argumentative/Persuasive thesis, we need to check two things:
1. Does the thesis reflect an opinion or position?
YES, It is an opinion that smoking is a “highly dangerous habit that should be made illegal.” In other words, there would be people who totally disagree with this statement and believe that smoking should remain legal.Does the thesis mention the topic of the essay?
2. YES, the topic –the legal issue of smoking—has been mentioned.
Of course, you know that this thesis is just a simple thesis. If we want to write a “better” thesis statement, our thesis statement might look something like this:
Smoking is a highly dangerous habit that is addictive, deadly, and filthy, and therefore, should be made illegal.
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