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Persuasive writing, known as creative writing or an argument, is a piece of writing in which the writer uses words to convince the reader that the writer's opinion is correct with regard to an issue. Persuasive writing sometimes involves convincing the reader to perform an action, or it may simply consist of an argument or several arguments to align the reader with the writer’s point of view. Persuasive writing is one of the most commonly used writing types in the world. Persuasive writers employ many techniques to improve their argument and show support for their claim. Simply put, persuasive writing is "an essay that offers and supports an opinion".
This type of writing is often used for advertising copy, which is written in an attempt to get consumers to purchase specific products. It is also a form of writing in which someone tries to get readers to agree with a position. A well-written persuasive piece is supported with a series of facts which help the author argue his or her point. Many authors also include counterpoint arguments in their pieces which they can debunk, showing readers that they have considered both sides of the argument at hand, and that any arguments which could be raised against the side of the written piece could be dismissed. In addition to facts, authors may include anecdotes and hypothetical situations to build a stronger case.
Ethos, logos, and pathos in persuasive writing
By appealing to credibility, writers can make their claims more believable. This is called an appeal to ethos, as defined by Aristotle. The writer builds on his or her ethos by writing with clarity (an important element of style) and eliminating contradictions within the text itself. The writer will be more credible to the target audience if there are no internal errors in syntax and mechanics as well as no factual errors in the subject matter.
Writers can appeal to logic when writing to persuade using the appeal known as logos. This appeal is manifested in the supporting statements for the writer’s claim. In most cases, a successful appeal to logos requires tangible evidence, e.g., a quote from acknowledged written material. The writer will appeal to the rationality of the audience.
Possibly the most important appeal for persuasive writers is the appeal to emotions or pathos. “A successful pathetic appeal will put the audience in a suitable mood by addressing their knowledge of or feelings about the subject” (Mendelson). This can be a very effective way to win over an audience!
Most persuasive writing techniques use an effective combination of all three appeals. It is the best way to convince people.
A normal persuasive essay (argument essay) has one of two objectives:
To convince your reader to adopt your point of view 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
Your evidence is strong and relevant to the point you addressed in the paragraph The essay progresses logically to your conclusion 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.
Here are the traditional parts of persuasive writing that can be used to strengthen an argument. While these do not have to be followed exactly or in this order, they are helpful in forming the structure in persuasive writing.
- Exordium, or introduction
- Narration, or background statement of the facts
- Partition, or forecast of the topics to be presented
- Conformation, or the confirmation of the piece. In contemporary English classes, this would be called the body of the text.
- Refutation, or discussion of alternatives
- Rhetorical questions, to get the reader thinking.
- Peroration, or a conclusion. It’s often helpful to tie the conclusion back to the introduction in order to strengthen your claim.
There are many strategies for writing a persuasive essay. These include:
- An anecdote (personal experience)
- Rhetorical questions (a question which is not meant to be answered)
- Facts and statistics
- Rebuttal/Counter attack (This takes an argument from the opposing side and explains why it is not a problem)
- Challenges, for example: Imagine being locked in a cage for your whole life.
- An introduction will usually consist of four main segments: a topic sentence or lead in, an answer to the lead in, a "menu" (list of points to be argued), and a "tie back", which restates the introduction.
- Usually, a body paragraph will consist of a topic sentence, an explanation of the topic sentence, an example of this, and a tie back.
- Conclusions consist of an answer to the essay (restating your opinion), a summary of the essay, and a lead out.
- Ten Important Triggers for Persuasive Writing, by Jennifer Frost
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