Starting Out A Persuasive Essay

OMG! I have to write a persuasive essay! HELP!!!!!

First of all, don’t panic. You may think you don’t know how to write a persuasive essay, but you really do.

You’ve been persuading people all your life—with varying degrees of success, of course. From when you pleaded to stay up an extra fifteen minutes before going to bed, to when you begged for an Xbox, to when you tried to talk your girlfriend into, uh, well…you’ve been perfecting and honing this skill all your life.

All you have to do now is transfer this skill onto the written page. This blog post will teach you all about how to write a persuasive essay.

Two Reasons to Write a Persuasive Essay

Your teacher told you to.

You want to persuade someone or some group of people to take action or adopt a point of view.

Okay, maybe it only seems that way. But your teacher has a goal: to teach you what might be the single most useful skill in writing—to persuade effectively.

I’ve already mentioned how you have been practicing the art of verbal persuasion since you learned to talk. Written persuasion uses the same strategies and follows the same general rules:

  • You have a target audience. This is the person or persons who will be reading your essay.
  • That audience should be essentially neutral to your idea or concept (it’s too much uphill sledding to convince someone who you know is already opposed to you to change his/her mind, and if someone agrees with you already, well, your job is done).
  • You will set out a logical argument: what your audience should do, why they should do it, and what they stand to gain from it.

I can’t emphasize this last point enough. You are not using a stick; you are dangling a big juicy carrot. You won’t be the one eating the carrot, so ignore any considerations of how much this action might benefit you.

How much you might benefit from the outcome, should you be successful, doesn’t matter at all in terms of how to write a persuasive essay. And yes, the potential benefit to you might be the whole reason you’re writing it—but your audience won’t care, so put that aside. (You can rub your hands together and cackle if you want.)

So you’re probably thinking, yeah, but it’s my teacher. She’s going to be reading a whole bunch of essays and isn’t going to spend a lot of time on mine—I don’t think I’ll really change her mind about anything.

The goal of an academic persuasive essay is to construct a persuasive argument. You must pretend that your reader (your teacher) cares about the topic but has no strong opinions one way or the other.

In fact, when evaluating your essay, your teacher will only consider one question: Would this essay persuade a neutral reader? Would it at least elicit the reaction, “Hmm, interesting…he could be right”?

In a nutshell, your teacher wants to see that you know how to write a persuasive essay.

Persuasion Outside the Classroom

Of course, you might also find yourself needing to know how to write a persuasive essay outside the classroom in any one of a number of contexts. You might be calling fellow students to action on a political or humanitarian cause—vote for Fred Flintstone, save the whales, that sort of thing.

You’ll need to give people a reason to listen to you and to “get off the fence” and join your cause. That flyer posted on the bulletin board should contain your best persuasive language.

Advertising is Persuasion—Persuasion is Advertising

All successful advertisements contain the three elements of persuasion. Let’s go back to that campus bulletin board and see if we can spot them. Aha! Here’s a poster for the concert next Friday night given by The Red Hot Screaming Acid Bath Tadpoles.

Let’s see how it uses the three elements of persuasion:

  1. Target audience. The poster accomplishes this by being placed on the bulletin board. This isn’t as simplistic as it sounds. The idea is to find a neutral audience and appeal to them. Hundreds of students don’t know what they want to do next Friday night.
  2. What the audience should do. Come to our mega-fun concert, dance the night away! Doors open at 8 pm! Admission only $5!
  3. How the audience will benefit. A fantastic experience not stated but implied by the cool graphics and visuals in the poster. You’ll have a blast!

Persuasive Essays Out in the Real World

Being persuasive remains important beyond school. It will come in handy to know how to write a persuasive essay in the real world too.

“Well, when will I ever have to write a persuasive essay in real life?” you may be thinking. And the answer is “Never,” except for:

  1. Job application cover letters (why you should hire me)
  2. School admission essays (why you should let me enroll there)
  3. Letters to managers of companies (why you should give me a refund)
  4. Letters to city officials (why you should let me raise chickens in my back yard)
  5. Letters to banks (why you should loan me money)
  6. Letters to prospective customers (why you should choose me to paint your house)

…1000. Letters to the governor asking for a pardon (I’ll be good from now on)

Okay, Okay. So Exactly How Do I Go About Writing a Persuasive Essay?

You’ve probably been exposed to the standard five-paragraph essay format beloved of English teachers everywhere:

  1. Introductory paragraph
  2. Three (or two, or four, or eighty-seven) body paragraphs
  3. Conclusion

Nothing wrong with that. You can adapt this into a persuasive essay format very easily, simply by using the three body paragraphs as your 1-2-3:

  1. Identify the audience
  2. State the action
  3. State the benefit to the audience

Obviously, this can be tweaked; for instance, you may wish to spend less time on addressing/identifying the audience and more time telling them how awesome things will be if they just listen to you.

How to Write a Persuasive Essay: The Framework

First, let’s state the action. What do we want our audience to think or do?

Stop the illegal immigration of caribou from Canada into the U.S.

Next, let’s identify the target audience.

All Americans who care about border security/national forests, or should care.

Finally, let’s determine the potential benefit (to the audience of course)

Save our national forests from being nibbled to death by illegal immigrant caribou. Also, show Canadians that we’re serious about Homeland Security.

The next step is to construct a persuasive essay outline. This is a good method no matter what type of essay you’re writing. A good outline will contain the topic sentence of each paragraph:

  1. (Intro.) Massive herds of Canadian caribou are invading the forests of Washington, Idaho, and other border states. These hoofed locusts must be stopped from nibbling our precious trees before it’s too late.
  2. (Whom we’re addressing.) All good Americans should act to combat this menace before it’s too late—everyone should care about preserving our precious national forests.
  3. (What readers should do.) Concerned citizens should write their representatives immediately to urge them to pass anti-foreign-caribou legislation. Visit the website of Stop the Invasion! at www.nocaribou.com.
  4. (How it would benefit readers.) Driving the invading caribou back across the border would save our forests for American moose, deer, and elk, and would send a message to Canada and the world that the United States will not tolerate the nibbling of its forests by immigrant caribou.
  5. (Conclusion.) This menace will only be stopped by your concern and prompt action. Help save America before it’s too late!

The outline completed, you now need to fill in the paragraphs. This method is much easier in the long run than just trying to write on the fly. Writing an essay without doing an outline is like building a house without first laying a foundation and putting up a frame.

Resources

This is the sort of endeavor where you can best learn by example. As I’ve mentioned, persuasion is all around you, every day. Want to know how to write a persuasive essay? Check the editorial page of your local newspaper. There will always be several opinion columns. Some of these guys could talk an Eskimo into buying a surfboard. How persuasive are the authors? What works and what doesn’t? What is their goal? Who are they trying to persuade?

You can also benefit by reading some of the best persuasive essays in history. For example, Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense,” the Declaration of Independence, and the Preamble to the Constitution are all powerful pieces of persuasion.

Or, you could read Benjamin Franklin’s “Advice on the Choice of a Mistress”—a very persuasive essay in letter form on how a young man should prefer older women (from a true expert on the subject).

I would be remiss, of course, if I didn’t point out that we have a very useful library of persuasive essays examples for you to look over. Have a look at our resources and start writing!

While you’re at it check out this Persuasive Essay Infographic. Pretty soon, you’ll be able to talk a dog out of his bone.

Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.

The main purpose of writing a persuasive essay is, like the name suggests it, to convince the audience of a certain point. This type of academic writing task is also known as argumentative essay — it is expected that you use sufficient arguments to defend your position.

But what is persuasive essay writing exactly? How to nail it by making your reader take your side of the argument? How to write a persuasive essay and how to end it? What are the secrets of making your opponent believe you and winning the argument? Read on to discover some useful tips, hints, and tactics.

Let us start with some steps you should follow when writing an argumentative essay.

How to Write Argumentative Essay: Steps

Step 1: Preparation

  • Choose a topic. It should be contradictory enough, with more than one point of view possible. Moreover, the author is supposed to select the topic that is dear to their heart to enjoy the process of writing later. Ensure that your topic is something specific. For example, the topics “Does Facebook Cause Isolation and How?” or “Are Security Cameras Invading Our Privacy?” are a great choice for those who are searching for something that’s not super broad. Remember, in case your stance on the issue can be easily boiled down to a simple “no/yes”, then, you won’t have too much talk on the topic. So, it’s better to choose a specific statement to disclose.
  • Choose the side you are on.  Now, your task is to choose your perspective and convince the reader of its legitimacy and logical supremacy as compared to other points of view. For instance, if your topic sounds like “Should Citizens Be Provided with the Right to Keep Exotic Pets?” you have to decide whether it’s their right to keep such animals at home or such pets create a serious danger to other individuals (let alone, keeping such pets is harmful to the animals!). Make certain that you can defend your position. In case you find it hard to consider any solid defenses against the opponent’s counter arguments, maybe it’s the right moment to re-think the topic you’ve picked.
  • Pick an argument to appeal to human emotions. Thus, you will give your audience a chance to connect with what you’re saying. The reality is that people argue rationally quite rarely, which means that making them dive emotionally into your viewpoint is the amazing way to change their mind. Without a doubt, you’ll have to provide rational arguments in your argumentative essay, but things will be tough in case you introduce the topic that never arouses any feelings.
  • Picture your audience. Which side of the argument are they on? What do you presume, will they agree or disagree with your perspective, or will they be indifferent or indecisive? You will need this information to understand how strong your evidence should be.
  • Do a thorough research. Find robust evidence that supports your position. It might be facts, logical arguments, or statements from experts. Sometimes, inserting fragments of your personal experience can be helpful.
  • Think about the objections your reader might raise. When elaborating a persuasive essay, you should try to overrule them with stronger evidence. Anticipate their counter-arguments and rebut them in advance.
  • Organize your evidence. You should order it in the most persuasive way, usually by presenting the strongest arguments in the end, in order to rid your reader of any doubts.

These are some general steps; without them, you simply won’t write a persuasive essay. Still, if you want your paper to hit the bulls-eye and change the way your reader thinks, you need a few tactics. Below, we’ll share with you some tips on how to make argumentative essay most convincing.

Step 2: Structure Your Essay

Before you start working on your essay, you should consider drafting its structure first. If you are wondering how to write an argumentative essay outline, then it’s no different from any other essay outline. Just remember that the body paragraphs should correspond with your key arguments. For example, when you have a classic 5-paragraph essay, make sure that paragraphs 2, 3, and 4 dwell on an argument each. What’s more, consider tackling a possible counterargument in the third paragraph, in order to make your rationale more convincing.

You must be aware of not just your side of the argument, but also the one of your opponent. Acknowledgment of the opposing views is called concession. It allows you to win your argument more gracefully by first discovering the common ground with the opponent. Find out what kind of evidence they might use, what data they might operate, or what information they might appeal to. Then refute those with even stronger arguments. You might even mention the actual counter-arguments before confusing them.

Step 3: Write the Introduction

Importantly, you should think about how to write argumentative essay introduction and make it effective. We advise you to start your opening paragraph with a hook, an attention-grabber for your reader. You can insert a quote here, introduce a curious fact or draw some stats, or construct a vivid situation. Your hook is the very first sentence that can help you convince your audience. As long as it draws your reader in, you’ve done your job! For instance, feel free to start your persuasive essay on the necessity of entering college like this: “There are individuals, who have never been to college and are doing better than those with a degree.” This simple statement tells nothing special at all. However, it encourages your readers to keep on reading in order to find out why things are like that.

Do you feel like you can’t come up with a hook at the moment? Proceed to the next writing steps! You can always come back to this part later even after you’ve accomplished your project.

Then, it’s time for a thesis statement. In this sentence—the most important part of your essay — you should:

  • introduce the topic;
  • present your point of view;
  • tell your readers how you are going to do that (e.g., by providing some factual evidence).
  • Don’t forget about a transition to the body part of the essay.

Use the last sentence of every ‘body’ paragraph as a smooth transition to the next paragraph. Make sure to provide a natural transition from the last sentence of one paragraph to the first one of the next. For instance, the end of the paragraph: “Wearing a school uniform would blend all pupils together avoiding any class inequality” and the beginning of the following paragraph: “School uniforms provide students with the environment that is free from bullying.”

Ensure to construct a thesis statement that is both specific and focused. Your audience should know exactly what the author is going to debate and why. “Fracking Should Be Banned” is a pretty weak thesis since it’s not focused enough. A solid thesis statement would be, “While some people say that fracking is a very effective method to extract natural gas, the others insist that it’s quite dangerous and hazardous to the environment.”

Step 4: Write the Body

Every ‘body’ paragraph should be solidly focused on a single evidence. Make sure to include references and facts to support each of your claims. Use the so-called rule of thumb: every time you make a claim that isn’t a typical one for the subject, support it. One of the best ways to cope with it lies in reverse. Make sure your evidence leads you and your readers to your arguments.

Here is a good example of the case:

  • “Liberty and equal opportunities aren’t just essential for people, they are good for the whole global community in general. What’s more, the lack of those is considered “demoralization and perversion” and prevents “any social improvement.” (Mill, 98)

Also, have a look at the poor one:

  • “The prison helps to keep dangerous criminals and drug dealers off the cities, and people are safer because of that.”

However, if you support it with solid evidence, it won’t be pointless.

Just like in your research paper, dissertation or speech writing, challenging your audience is always a good idea! According to the basics of the persuasive essay writing, the author of the paper shouldn’t be confrontational. However, you need to force your audience to re-evaluate their points of view.

A good way to do so:

  • “Every person wants lower crime rates, stronger families, and safer streets. However, we should ask ourselves if we’re ready to leave the comfort zone to get the desired results”

But, try to avoid those may sound poor:

  • “This policy is a total failure and every individual that believes it is delusional and completely stupid.”

At a minimum, generate 3 ‘body’ paragraphs to justify your points and provide your evidence. Check how all the paragraphs flow together. It is important to ensure the persuasive essay points are naturally presented one after another, rather than scattered all over the text.

Step 5: Craft the Conclusion

So, we’ve given you a few tips on how to write persuasive essay introduction and what to remember about in your body paragraphs. Now, let’s get to the final point — how to end the persuasive essay. The main tips for closing your argumentative essay are to rephrase your thesis statement or summarize your main points (in this case, your key arguments). Then, to spice it all up, put your central statement in the broader context. Let your final sentence make the reader wonder, “what’s next?” They will surely want to know where they can go from here or how they can make use of their new point of view. A call for action, a recommendation, or just an open question might provide them with a hint.

Take a day or two off. Let your essay sit and your mind rest. Then, read your persuasive essay with fresh eyes. Ask yourself if your essay is logical and convincing.

Step 6: Polish Up Your Essay

OK, you've completed your persuasive essay, and the time for an effective revision has come. When you revise your essay, you have to ensure its organization is absolutely appropriate to your target audience, the paper context, and the purpose. Remember, the message of your essay will be both more controversial and effective if your project connects with the target audience, serves the specified purpose as well as explains the intended context to your readers. To make sure your writing is of the good quality, overlook this our step by step guide on how to perform a thorough revision of your assignment.

Start by reading your project to yourself paragraph after paragraph. Do that out loud to make certain your persuasive essay says what you have planned to say. Pay due attention to the way you use various types of sentences, how you choose the right words for the text as well as how you tend to express what’s on your mind. Do not hesitate to change what you feel should be changed. Feel free to switch the sentences location or order, add or erase words and ideas, or fix anything else in a paper structure or its context to make it better and more concise. Use the word counter to ensure your essay meets all the college requirements.

Then, approach your college mates and ask them to check your work to give you a fresh viewpoint about your writing. Listen to what they say and consider their tips to write a good persuasive paper.

Consider the following questions as a part of the revision process:

  • Do the introduction, the body, and the concluding part of the essay include a clearly presented main idea with strong facts, explanations or/and details?
  • Do you, as the writer, provide a consistent viewpoint, focus, and organizational outline, including the proper paragraphing?
  • Have you successfully proved a clear understanding of the core purpose?
  • Did you use various types of sentences?
  • Does your content include any language errors – spelling, punctuation or grammar ones?
  • Have you removed every error that wouldn’t let your audience understand the text?

Summing it up, the “how to write argumentative essay effectively” formula is simple: present your point of view on a controversial topic, support your arguments with strong evidence, and always keep your opponents in mind. In this article, we have walked you through the essential steps in writing an argumentative essay and prepared some tips for each part of your piece. Now it’s your turn to use all of these in practice and craft a powerful persuasive text.

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