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Chapter 3: Writing Mechanics Help
Chapter 12: Teaching Writing
Chapter 23: Teaching Reading
College English Composition: Help and Review
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What Is a Persuasive Essay?

Everyone knows that annoying commercial on the radio or TV show explaining why their product is the best and why the competitors’ product is inferior. But what purpose do those commercials serve besides being annoying? Their aim is quite simple. They are trying to persuade people to purchase their product. To persuade is to get someone to do something or think something using arguments and reasoning.

A persuasive essay is a written essay that attempts to get the reader to do or think something. The essay acts in the same way that the commercial does. It gives reasons and examples why someone should do something or think something.

Persuasive essays contain the same basic structure as informative and expository essays do. The following table shows the construction of a persuasive essay.

Essay Section Description Considerations
The Introduction The introduction of a persuasive essay contains a hook sentence, background information on the argument, and a thesis. It’s imperative to consider the audience when writing background information. Persuading someone to take action on something they know nothing about is difficult.
Body The body is where the main arguments are written and usually contain 3-5 paragraphs Each paragraph should describe a single argument with each sentence supporting the argument of the paragraph.
Conclusion The conclusion in persuasion reiterates the arguments and has a call to action. The call to action is crucial and should be the last thing the reader sees. The call to action essentially tells the reader what the writer wants them to do or think.

Persuasive Essay Examples

There are lots of persuasive paper examples and many persuasive arguments. It’s important to remember that there is a clear difference between expository writing and persuasive writing. Expository writing presents information using a thesis, but the author remains unbiased. In a persuasive essay, the author attempts to convince the reader to take a side or take action. The following are some examples of common persuasive essay topics.

  • Should schools allow girls to play on boys’ teams?
  • Should the government mandate that people get vaccines?
  • Is abortion murder?
  • Should the death penalty still be used?
  • Should a parent be charged with a crime if they fail to get medical help for their sick child?
  • Is health care a human right or a privilege?
  • Should politicians be allowed to make false statements without punishment?

The following is an example of a persuasive essay introduction about screen time and children’s learning.

So, your child has been in front of a screen for eight hours! (1) Is it time to panic? (2) Many people think it’s important to monitor and enforce children’s time in front of a screen. (3) While kids shouldn’t spend too much time consuming mindless media, there are times when screen time simply doesn’t matter. (4) First off, calculating screen time as a fixed number can cause kids to ditch good content for bad. (5) Secondly, there are several instances where being in front of a screen shouldn’t count as screen time. (6) Finally, if a child is learning valuable content, the easing of screen time restrictions is correct because it’s the world we live in currently. (7) Screen time is a very subjective topic, and I believe it shouldn’t be calculated for everything involving a screen. (8)

The Hook – Sentences (1) and (2)

Background – Sentence (3)

Thesis – Sentence (4)

Main Arguments 1, 2, and 3 – Sentences (5), (6), and (7)

The introduction of this persuasive essay contains the important pieces of the entire argument.

color coded persuasive introduction paragraph

How to Write a Persuasive Essay

Writing a persuasive essay can be done step by step methodically to get the best results. Persuasion is an art, but it also follows specific rules and structure. The following steps will help build the skeleton of a good persuasive essay.

  1. Choose the topic – Pick a topic that has good arguments.
  2. Research the topic – Find good sources and information so that the arguments are valid and strong.
  3. Write the title – A well-written title can begin to get the reader in the right frame of mind. It’s important not to reveal too much, or a reader may choose not to read at all.
  4. Hook – The hook is where you get the reader interested in the essay.
  5. Outline the points – This is arguably the most important step. Many persuasive topics have tons of points that could be argued, so it’s essential to pick the right arguments to use. It’s important to note that if the goal is to persuade the reader to do something that doesn’t benefit them directly, the writer should include one argument for why it could be suitable for the reader.
  6. Write the Body – It’s always easier to write a concise, persuasive essay by first writing the body and the arguments.
  7. Write the introduction and concluding paragraphs
  8. Devil’s advocate – When an essay is done, it’s still important to make sure the arguments hold up.
  9. Revise and edit the essay – Make sure punctuation, spelling, and grammar are all good to go.

How to Start a Persuasive Essay

You can’t persuade if you don’t have a good topic, so choosing a great topic is so important.

Depending on the audience and the writer, the more controversial and polarizing a topic, the better the persuasion can be. The following are some tips about picking good topics for a persuasive essay.

  • Don’t pick a topic that most people already agree on – For example, Dogfighting is a Bad Sport is something almost everyone agrees on, so most people don’t need to be convinced.
  • Sometimes, the best topics are the ones that have two opposing sides. A topic with two opposite sides is easier to tackle than one with multiple viewpoints.
  • Know the audience – Topic choices vary depending on the intended audience and the essay’s author. Topics like abortion and religion are volatile and should transpire when the audience is appropriate.
  • Be passionate – If the topic choice is the writer’s, then the writer should have a passion for the argument they are presenting. It also helps if the topic is familiar.

Once the topic is chosen, it’s vital to lay out the argument points before diving into research. If the topic is significant, like climate change, the research will be easier once the main arguments are written. Once the main points are somewhat set, it gives an easier path to finding sources.

Researching and Finding Sources

If the writer is passionate about the topic, they should already know some basic information about the arguments they will present in the essay. Finding sources is critical to a valid argument. There are times that research may not be needed, such as when someone is arguing why they should have a sleepover. But most arguments need research to back them up.

Finding good sources during research is one of the hardest things to do. Sorting out the relevant sources from the irrelevant sources is challenging; this is especially true for politically charged topics like climate change. Here are some tips for finding appropriate sources and avoiding bad ones.

  • Websites that end in URLs of .gov and .edu are valid sources.
  • Stay far away from blogs because there is no way to check validity.
  • Businesses that sell products should be avoided because they might benefit one side or the other.
  • Trusted names like Britannica, National Geographic, and other established new magazines will provide accurate information.
  • When using news sources, make sure it’s not an opinion or an editorial.
  • Double-check facts against other sources.

Never trust information that comes from online sources like blogs because there is no way to verify the information.

Man on a laptop with an open blog post

Outline Your Points

Many pervasive topics have tons of points that could be argued, so it’s essential to pick the right arguments to use. It’s important to note that if the goal is to persuade the reader to do something that doesn’t benefit them directly, the writer should include one argument for why it could be suitable for the reader.

Outlining points and arguments will help to begin writing the body of the essay. If the writer uses the originally formulated points before their research, the outline of the main points should be a relatively straightforward process. Each paragraph will be a topic so that each topic sentence can be written during this phase in the process.

Think about the order of the arguments and which ones are more important. It’s often best to save the strongest argument as the last point in the essay.

Incorporating Sources

Unlike full-blown research papers that require a works-cited page or detailed footnotes, incorporating sources depends on their usage. If a direct quote from a source is used, they need citations like in a research paper. If the source is only a reference, it doesn’t require direct quotations.

Sometimes the writer will want to use the source because it adds validity. If the argument involves the importance of getting a vaccine, then a credible source can bolster the argument.

Writing the Introduction, Body, and Conclusion

The hook should pique interest without revealing the writer’s full intention and position. Pretend the reader is a squirrel that someone wants to hand feed – no big movements. Gently entice them to come closer.

Use the outline and the arguments to form the body. Include the argument points and their details. When arguments are written and organized, the writer can re-read and make sure it all fits.

Test the body – Once the arguments are written down, have someone read the arguments. Sometimes the writer gets blinded by their stance and fails to see a fatal counterargument that could ruin the essay.

The introduction paragraph should begin with the hook, followed by background information, the thesis, and then write a quick preview of the arguments found in the body. The concluding paragraph rehashes the arguments but doesn’t add any new point of view. The call to action is the final sentence and lays out precisely what the writer wants the reader to do or think.

Editing and Revising the Persuasive Essay

Before editing a single word, the author should have someone play devil’s advocate and act as the intended audience of the paper, or the opposite opinion of the writer. This concept is called devil’s advocate because it argues the opposite side. If the devil’s advocate can dismantle any arguments, they will need to be tweaked or re-written.

Once the writer determines that the essay’s arguments hold up, the piece is ready for editing grammar, punctuation, and spelling. While grammar and spelling are always essential, they are vital in a persuasive essay because any mistakes will take away from the validity of the author.

This point is also valid for sourcing. During the editing phase, double-check major facts and sticking points to make sure they are correct. If data is being used, make sure it’s accurate and represented correctly.

Lesson Summary

A persuasive essay is a written piece where the author attempts to get the reader to think a certain way or do something. Persuasion is used in many different fields like commercials and editorial pieces in newspapers. The persuasive essay comprises three parts: the introduction, the body, and the conclusion. The structure of the essay is very similar to expository and informative essays. The first step to writing an excellent persuasive essay is to pick a topic that can be well-argued. A fantastic persuasive essay includes solid research from good sources that help to bolster the writer’s argument.

Writing an excellent persuasive essay begins with picking a good topic, doing strong research, and writing down the main arguments. Then a thesis statement is developed along with a general outline of the essay. The writer then focuses on writing the body of the essay, which contains the main arguments that back up the thesis statement. After the writing of the essay’s body, the introduction and conclusions are easy to compose. The essay should be scrutinized by someone posing as the opposition to see flaws in the arguments. Finally, the essay should be proofed and edited for grammar, spelling, and content. If the writer can set up the essay using the previous steps and methodically follow them, writing a good persuasive can be a smooth process.

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