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13.7: Writing a Persuasive Essay

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  • Choose a topic that you feel passionate about. If your instructor requires you to write about a specific topic, approach the subject from an angle that interests you. Begin your essay with an engaging introduction. Your thesis should typically appear near the end of your introduction.

    Make your appeals in support of your thesis by using sound, credible evidence. Use a balance of facts and opinions from a wide range of sources, such as scientific studies, expert testimony, statistics, and personal anecdotes. Each piece of evidence should be fully explained and clearly stated.

    Acknowledge and explain points of view that may conflict with your own to build credibility and trust with your audience. Also state the limits of your argument. This, too, helps you sound more reasonable and honest to those who may naturally be inclined to disagree with your view. By respectfully acknowledging opposing arguments and conceding limitations to your own view, you set a measured and responsible tone for the essay.

    Make sure that your style and tone are appropriate for your subject and audience. Tailor your language and word choice to these two factors, while still being true to your own voice.

    Finally, write a conclusion that effectively summarizes the main argument and reinforces your thesis.

    key takeaways

    • The purpose of persuasion in writing is to convince or move readers toward a certain point of view, or opinion.
    • An argument is a reasoned opinion supported and explained by evidence. To argue, in writing, is to advance knowledge and ideas in a positive way.
    • A thesis that expresses the opinion of the writer in more specific terms is better than one that is vague.
    • It is essential that you not only address counterarguments but also do so respectfully.
    • It is also helpful to establish the limits of your argument and what you are trying to accomplish through a concession statement.
    • To persuade a skeptical audience, you will need to use a wide range of evidence from credible sources. Scientific studies, opinions from experts, historical precedent, statistics, personal anecdotes, and current events are all types of evidence that you might use in explaining your point.
    • Make sure that your word choice and writing style is appropriate for both your subject and your audience.
    • You should let your reader know your bias, but do not let that bias blind you to the primary components of good argumentation: sound, thoughtful evidence and respectfully and reasonably addressing opposing ideas.
    • You should be mindful of the use of I in your writing because it can make your argument sound more biased than it needs to.
    • Facts are statements that can be proven using objective data.
    • Opinions are personal views, or judgments, that cannot be proven.
    • In writing, you want to strike a balance between credible facts and authoritative opinions.
    • Quantitative visuals present data graphically. The purpose of using quantitative visuals is to make logical appeals to the audience.
    • Qualitative visuals present images that appeal to the audience’s emotions.

    Examples of Essays

    • “The Case Against Torture,” by Alisa Solomon
    • “The Case for Torture,” by Michael Levin
    • “Supporting Family Values,” by Linda Chavez
    • “Gay ‘Marriage’: Societal Suicide,” by Charles Colson
    • “Waste Not, Want Not,” by Bill McKibben
    • “Forget Shorter Showers” by Derrick Jensen
    • “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” by Ann-Marie Slaughter
    • “Having it All?’ How About; ‘Doing the Best I Can?’” by Andrew Cohen
    • “Against Headphones” by Virgina Heffernan
    • “I Have a Dream,” by Martin Luther King Jr.
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