Course Content
Chapter 3: Writing Mechanics Help
Chapter 12: Teaching Writing
Chapter 23: Teaching Reading
College English Composition: Help and Review
About Lesson

What Is Persuasive Writing?

We all have opinions, and throughout a day, we all probably have at least one disagreement because of our opinions. These can be something as simple as the best place to eat, the best route to take home, or even what celebrity wore it best. There are also those opinions we have that are more complex: our political, values, and beliefs. These ideas become a part of who we are, and those that are much more difficult to change. As we learn in our everyday life, most topics have at last two sides. No matter what you believe in terms of politics, there is someone out there who thinks quite the opposite is true. Have an opinion on health care? Someone else thinks differently. The same idea is true in writing.

Persuasive writing, or argumentative writing, is an essay centered on an opinion. In this type of essay, the author is trying to convince the audience that his/her viewpoint is correct. The hope is for the audience to agree with the author’s opinion.

The Goals of Persuasive Writing

There are several different goals of persuasive writing.

Change an Opinion or Belief

This is probably the most common type of persuasive essay. In this essay, the author creates an argument centered on his/her opinion and finds facts to support that point of view.

Change a Habit

The author chooses a topic and encourages the audience to change behavior. For example, wear a seatbelt, wash your hands more often, or exercise more.

Take Action

In this essay, the author is encouraging the audience to do something. For example, take the action to vote or to recycle more.

Write a Proposal

This is more common in workplace or technical writing. In this essay, an author would present an idea and persuade the audience to allow something to take place or do further research.

How to Write a Persuasive Essay

The first step to writing a persuasive essay is to choose your topic. The topic must be debatable, which means there must be more than one viewpoint. While most people automatically think of the controversial or political topics, you do not always need to be shocking. Try to think of things you experience every day or something that you feel strongly about. The best arguments come from experience. It is also a good idea to avoid the tired or exhausted topics. These are topics that have been argued for quite some time, making it difficult to develop a unique, original point of view.

Next, develop your thesis. The thesis should be your central argument, what you hope to convince your audience to believe, change, or do. Avoid ‘I believe’ statements. Rather, state your topic and point of view. For example, if you are writing an essay to say that news coverage should not be on a 24-hour cycle, then this would be the start of your thesis.

Third, think of your main reasons. Why should your audience change their opinion? Why should they agree with your position? Look at your thesis and then answer these questions. Try to develop at least three or four good reasons to support your point of view. These will become the body of your essay, your topic sentences, and the focus of your research. A topic sentence is the first sentence of a new paragraph, and it introduces what the paragraph will be about. It is a good idea to create a working outline at this point. List your thesis and the main points you have to begin brainstorming the supporting ideas.

After you have a working outline, start your research. When writing a persuasive essay, it is important to argue with facts. Find facts to support your point of view. Look for experts in the field and current statistics.

The Components of a Persuasive Essay

When you draft a persuasive essay, it is important to create a strong argument based in facts. To do this well, start immediately in the introduction. Your introduction should grab the reader’s attention, introduce the topic, and focus on your point of view. Be sure that your thesis is clearly stated in the introduction.

The body of your paper will develop your argument. When writing a persuasive argument, it is important to avoid generalizations, name calling, and stereotypes. You want to show your point of view without offending your audience. To do this, be sure that you are considering the opposition. Be respectful of other beliefs, use good examples and evidence, and keep a professional tone. Above all else, be sure that you are well-researched and organized.

The conclusion of your essay should review the thesis and key points, and call your audience to action. This is the final appeal to your audience, so be direct in your point of view.

Applying the Steps: An Example

Jacob is assigned an argumentative essay and decides to write on education. From there, he narrows down the idea to the topic of year-round schools. His opinion is that schools should be open year round, especially because he lives in a year-round school district and has seen the benefits.

Jacob develops the working thesis for his paper: Schools in America should operate year round. This is just a working thesis, so it may change or be added to as he works.

Now Jacob will begin brainstorming his reasons for thinking that schools should operate all year round. He might predict that year-round schools make it easier to retain information, offer a better variety of vacation time, are a safe place for students, and have less down time in the summer, which could lead to trouble. A little suggestion: When brainstorming, write down all reasons that come to mind and then group similar ideas together and choose the strongest ones.

Now that he has a working thesis and has chosen three main points, Jacob starts his research by finding facts, experts, statistics, and examples. In the drafting stage, he organizes his body by these main points, presents the research to support his topic sentences, and avoids any fallacies.

Lesson Summary

In persuasive writing, the goal is to change the position and viewpoint of the audience. To do this, you should choose a debatable topic, focus on a specific point of view, develop reasons, and organize with research. In the research stage, it is important to find current facts and statistics. Finally, as you work, be sure to avoid any name calling and stereotypes by answering the opposition.

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