Persuasive / Argumentative Essay Writing

Writing a Persuasive Essay

A persuasive essay (also known as the argument essay) has one of two objectives:

  1. To convince your reader to adopt your point of view
  2. To convince your reader to take a specific course of action

A good persuasive essay argues one side of a very narrow topic. Although the persuasive essay only addresses one side of the issue, the topic must be debatable. Simply put, the persuasive essay recognizes that there are two sides to every question, but only presents one side to the reader. Still, it’s important for you to understand both sides of the debate in order to promote your viewpoint effectively.Choosing the Topic for a Persuasive Essay
The persuasive essay is an objective composition. In choosing your topic for a persuasive essay, although you should select one about which you feel strongly, be sure that you can find solid evidence that supports your position.
Refrain from choosing a topic where arguments are based on opinion or belief. Don’t confuse facts with truths. A “truth” is a majority-held belief or opinion that is unproven and unsubstantiated by fact. Develop your argument using facts, logical reasoning, relevant examples, quotations from recognized experts, and/or statistics.
Avoid arguing indisputable facts. Start your essay draft by proving your thesis. Write the question, your position, and then write a thesis statement that directly opposes your viewpoint. This ensures that you have chosen a debatable question. Examine the other side of the argument and determine whether your evidence is strong enough to disprove the opposing viewpoint. Look for contrasting evidence, mistakes, and inconsistencies in logic.
Define Your Topic
In addition to a statement of the question, your persuasive essay title is also a statement of your position on the question. However, since your essay is objective, your title should be, too. For instance:

  • Cable Internet vs. Fios Internet – This is unacceptable since it doesn’t state your position.
  • Why I Chose Cable Internet Over Fios Internet – This is also unacceptable since use of first person makes it subjective rather than objective and suggests personal choice rather than factual evidence.
  • Reasons Why Cable Internet Rules Over Fios Internet – This is acceptable. It defines the topic, objectively states your position, and relates that your argument is based on evidence (reasons).

Introducing the Persuasive Essay
Use your thesis in your persuasive essay introduction. In addition to putting your topic and position into a sentence, the introduction to your persuasive essay should be a clear definition of the points that support your thesis. Present them in the same order that you’ll use in the body of your essay to help the reader see that your position is supported in a way that comes to a logical conclusion.Organizing the Persuasive Essay Body
The easiest way to organize the body of a persuasive essay is to think of your points as pointing towards your conclusion. Each sentence in the body should be closely related to your topic and to the sentence that precedes it.

  • Begin each paragraph with a point from your introduction, following the same sequence you presented in the introduction. Support it with your evidence. As you finish each paragraph, examine it as you did the opposing point of view. Look for mistakes, inconsistencies in logic, and truths masquerading as facts.
  • Be sure your evidence is specific. Stay away from using broad generalizations and personal opinions. Especially refrain from using words like all (as in all people), always, every, and never.
  • Check to see that you have accurately cited any sources you used in examples and quotations.
  • Help your reader see the logical progression of your argument by concluding each paragraph with a transitional sentence that leads to your next point.

Before you begin writing your conclusion, check all paragraphs of your essay body to ensure that

  1. Your evidence is strong and relevant to the point you addressed in the paragraph
  2. The essay progresses logically to your conclusion
  3. Both your points and supporting evidence are on topic and foused towards the conclusion

In Conclusion
Redefine your topic and summarize your essay by restating your most powerful evidence, again preserving the sequence of your presentation. The conclusion of your persuasive essay is your last chance to remind your readers of your position and persuade them to accept your point of view.


Persuasive or argumentative essays

In persuasive or argumentative writing, we try to convince others
to agree with our facts, share our values,
accept our argument and conclusions,

and adopt our way of thinking.

Elements toward building a good persuasive essay include
  • establishing facts
    to support an argument
  • clarifying relevant values
    for your audience (perspective)
  • prioritizing, editing, and/or sequencing
    the facts and values in importance to build the argument
  • forming and stating conclusions
  • “persuading” your audience that your conclusions
    are based upon the agreed-upon facts and shared values
  • having the confidence
    to communicate your “persuasion” in writing
Here are some strategies to complete a persuasive writing assignment:
Write out the questions in your own words.
Think of the questions posed in the assignment
while you are reading and researching. Determine
  • facts
  • any sources that will help you determine their reliability
    (as well as for further reference)
  • what prejudices lie in the argument
    or values that color the facts or the issue
  • what you think of the author’s argument
List out facts; consider their importance:
prioritize, edit, sequence, discard, etc.
Ask yourself “What’s missing?”
What are the “hot buttons” of the issue?
List possible emotions/emotional reactions and recognize them for later use
Start writing a draft! (refer to: Writing essays, the basics)
Start as close as possible to your reading/research
Do not concern yourself with grammar or spelling
  • Write your first paragraph
    • Introduce the topic
    • Inform the reader of your point of view!
    • Entice the reader to continue with the rest of the paper!
    • Focus on three main points to develop
  • Establish flow from paragraph to paragraph
    • Keep your voice active
    • Quote sourcesto establish authority
    • Stay focusedon your point of view throughout the essay
    • Focus on logical arguments
    • Don’t lapse into summary
      in the development–wait for the conclusion
  • Conclusion
    Summarize, then conclude, your argument
    Refer to the first paragraph/opening statement as well as the main points
    • does the conclusion restate the main ideas?
    • reflect the succession and importance of the arguments
    • logically conclude their development?
  • Edit/rewrite the first paragraph
    to better telegraph your development and conclusion.
  • Take a day or two off!
  • Re-read your paper
    with a fresh mind and a sharp pencil
    • Ask yourself:
      Does this make sense? Am I convinced?
      Will this convince a reader?
      Will they understand my values, and agree with my facts?
    • Edit, correct, and re-write as necessary
    • Check spelling and grammar!
    • Have a friend read it and respond to your argument.
      Were they convinced?
    • Revise if necessary
    • Turn in the paper
    • Celebrate a job well done,
      with the confidence that you have done your best.
How to respond to criticism:
Consider criticism as a test of developing your powers of persuasion.
Try not to take it personally.
If your facts are criticized,
double check them, and then cite your sources.
If your values are criticized,
sometimes we need agree “to disagree”. Remember: your success in persuading others assumes that the other person is open to being persuaded!
Fear: If you are not used to communicating,
especially in writing, you may need to overcome fear on several levels. Writing, unlike unrecorded speech, is a permanent record for all to see, and the “context” is not as important as in speech where context “colors” the words. For example: your readers do not see you, only your words. They do not know what you look like, where you live, who you are.
Hopefully in school, and class, we have a safe place
to practice both the art of writing and of persuasion. Then later, when we are in our communities, whether work, church, neighborhoods, and even families, we can benefit from this practice.
Persuasion also has another dimension:
it is built with facts, which illustrate conclusions. Of course, this means you need to know what you are talking about, and cannot be lazy with your facts, or you will not succeed in convincing anyone. This shows another level of fear: Fear of making a mistake that will make your argument or persuasion meaningless. Since you are writing, and the words are on paper for all to see (or on a web site!), you need to work to make sure your facts are in order.