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6: Writing to Convince Others

  • Page ID
    21991
    • Contributed by Bradley H. Dowden
    • Professor (Philosophy) at California State University Sacramento

    Writing clearly in a straightforward style is the usual goal when composing a written product, but not always. Sometimes you may want to stand your language on its head to shock or amuse your readers. Or you may want to tell an interesting story; and then you’ll need effective narrative devices such as plot, character development, and setting. However, you will have a different focus when you write a business report, a newspaper editorial, or a position paper. Let's focus upon that kind of writing.

    It is especially important that your writing be clear and well-structured. It doesn’t mean that it should be boring. Writing logically does require paying attention to the style as well as to the structure of the written piece. This chapter offers suggestions about how to improve this kind of writing, but these suggestions are rules of thumb, not rules to be obeyed to the letter.

    OK, first things first, but not necessarily in that order. Here is the list of rules that all good writers invariably follow:

    1. Be more or less specific.
    2. Use not bad grammars.
    3. Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.
    4. Don't use no double negatives.
    5. Avoid tumbling off the cliff of triteness into the dark abyss of overused metaphors.
    6. Take care that your verb and your subject is in agreement.
    7. No sentence fragments.
    8. Placing a comma between subject and predicate, is not correct.
    9. Who needs rhetorical questions?
    10. Use the apostrophe in it's proper place.
    11. Avoid colloquial stuff, like totally.
    12. Avoid those run-on sentences you know the ones they stop and then start again they should be separated with semicolons.
    13. The passive voice should be used infrequently.
    14. And don't start sentences with a conjunction.
    15. Excessive use of exclamation points can be disastrous!!!!
    16. Exaggeration is a million times worse than understatement.
    17. Stamp out and eliminate redundancy because, if you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing, so reread your work and improve it by editing out the repetition you noticed during the rereading.
    18. Tis incumbent upon one to employ the vernacular and eschew archaisms.
    19. It's not O.K. to use ampersands & abbreviations.
    20. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are usually (but not always) an obstacle for readers (and make it harder on readers even if you're being careful) who have the task of understanding your work (article, passage, document, and so forth).

    This chapter emphasizes how to create a successful argumentative essay. An argumentative essay is a work of nonfiction prose stating and defending a position on some issue. It is a certain kind of persuasive writing. But persuasive writing is, well, not always persuasive to a critical thinker. As writers and as critical readers, we need to remind ourselves that it is unnatural for people to reach the truth by finding good reasons. What is natural is making up our mind using our gut instincts, then going out to find reasons with which we can bombard our opponents while covering up any reasons that appear to threaten our own beliefs.

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