Persuasive writing is an extremely important skill, whether you are selling something, writing for a cause or for your own satisfaction (or for your class!). Persuasive writing can be described as an argument or piece of writing that an author uses to convince his audience of a point or topic. This could potentially be to call the reader to action or it could simply be to convince the reader of an opinion or view.
Topic & Thesis
The first step in persuasive writing is choosing what you want to write about. Usually the easiest and most effective topics focus on something specific, rather than an extremely broad topic. More specific topics generally can be explained and supported more easily than extremely broad topics.
After you have determined your topic, you should then develop your thesis. A thesis is the primary argument that your essay will attempt to support. Thesis should be arguable points, not facts. If you are selling something, your thesis is “why you should buy this.”
Click here for a list of Persuasive Writing Topics
The next part of writing effective persuasive essays is choosing your supporting points. Supporting points are the reasons that you use to prove and support your thesis. Support is the largest part of your essay, and is used to show your reader why your thesis is true. Within these supporting points you should include facts, logic, expert opinions and statistics to further your point and thesis. Additionally, you can use emotion evoking stories to attempt to connect with your audience. Research should be done to support your points.
Your supporting points should be mapped out before you even begin writing your essay, developing an outline is a good way of doing this. The structure of your supporting points is very important; one supporting point should usually lead into another, although they don’t always have to.
After you have determined your topic and thesis, you should begin targeting and researching your audience. In order to convince somebody of something, you must first know who you are writing to. For example, one might take a different approach in writing to industrialists about climate change than when writing to college students about the same subject.
Choosing an audience is extremely important, and is a crucial step that many people forget to take into consideration when writing. Many people think that they are writing to everyone when they write persuasively, this may be true for some subjects, like why breathing oxygen is important, but for most there is usually a target that you may not even realize. The reason this step is so important is because different audiences will have different reactions to what you write, and you want to target the right reactions – you want to connect with people.
The next step in this process is to attempt to identify what the beliefs and characteristics of the audience you are writing to are. This includes the reasons why your audience might disagree with your views or what inhibitions they would have before doing what you are trying to persuade them. Also it is important to know why this cause is important to an audience.
Understanding your audience is also vital because it is very important not to offend your audience, as this will definitely turn them off to any persuasion.
Modes of Persuasion:
The next step in persuasive writing is knowing how to connect with your audience. There are three basic ways to do this, which are known as the modes of persuasion .
Persuasion through the authority of the author, known as Ethos,
Ethos can be developed by choosing language that is appropriate for the audience and topic (also means choosing proper level of vocabulary), making yourself sound fair or unbiased, introducing your expertise or pedigree, and by using correct grammar and syntax.
Persuasion through use of logic and facts, known as Logos,
Logos can be developed by citing facts and statistics (very important), using advanced and well developed language, using historical incidents, analogies, and by constructing logical arguments.
Persuasion through use of emotion and sympathy, known as Pathos
Pathos can be developed by using meaningful language, emotional tone, emotion evoking examples, stories of emotional events, and implied meanings.
Most of the work in persuasive writing is knowing how to use these methods effectively.
Anticipating and responding to arguments against your point are important parts of persuasive writing. A response to a counter arguments varies based on the validity of the counterargument.
In some cases, when a counterargument is completely frivolous, you can completely dismiss it using facts and logic. However sometimes you may have to concede parts – or even the entire argument to the opposing point. In these situations is important to show the audience why this argument is not important/less important to the big picture of
your argument.Acknowledging counterarguments contributes to Ethos, and makes the author seem more fair and balanced in the eyes of the reader.
More Tips and Techniques for Persuasive writing:
Drawing sympathy from your audience is one of the most effective forms of persuasion. This is especially true if your paper is focused around a certain problem or is a passionate topic. This technique is called using pathos. You can use this to draw both negative and positive emotions.
Emotions are a powerful tool. In order to use your audience’s emotion to your advantage, you must understand why something is important to your audience. Then you should focus on this importance, and make your audience feel the emotions associated with it. After you draw on their emotions, you should present your thesis as a solution to their pain or pleasure.
For example: If you are writing about wind as a source of renewable energy, to an audience of predominately older people, you could describe to them the consequences their children will face if this level of harm towards the environment persists. In this case, the fate of your audience’s children is important to your audiences. After you have drawn upon their sympathy, you should present to your audience why wind power will offer a solution to this.
If you are writing about equal rights to a predominately white audience, you could and try to place your audience in the shoes of someone who is being discriminated against. In this case human rights are important to your audience. After you have drawn upon your audience’s sympathy, you could show them why laws pertaining to equal rights are important.
Make Your Reader a Part of Something:
Feeling like a part of a group or club makes everyone feel good. Make your reader feel like they are a part of a group of people by agreeing with your thesis, while seemingly excluding those who don’t.
If your topic is convincing readers of climate change, you could make your readers feel like a part of a group of progressive enlightened people by agreeing with you.
Look into the Future:
Making assumptions about the future gives your audience a clear choice in deciding what to think after reading your writing. This technique can be especially useful if you are attempting to call your audience to action. Painting a grim future for the inaction of your thesis can be a powerful tool for persuading your audience; likewise you should describe a brighter future where your thesis is enacted. IE, this is what will happen if you listen to me, this is what will happen if you don’t.
However, this technique should only be used if you can adequately convince your readers that what you are saying will happen or is likely to happen. Using this technique improperly can actually discredit your entire essay and make you seem like a fool.
- Describe and then refute the key points of the opposing view.
- Restate and reinforce the thesis and supporting evidence.
2. Drafting the Persuasive Essay
When writing the initial draft of a persuasive essay, consider the following suggestions:
- The introductory paragraph should have a strong “hook” that grabs the reader’s attention. Open with an unusual fact or statistic, a question or quotation, or an emphatic statement. For example: “Driving while talking on a cell phone, even hands-free, is the equivalent of driving drunk.”
- The thesis statement should leave no doubts about the writer’s position.
- Each body paragraph should cover a separate point, and the sentences of each paragraph should offer strong evidence in the form of facts, statistics, quotes from experts, and real-life examples.
The Secret to Good Paragraph Writing
- Consider various ways to make the argument, including using an analogy, drawing comparisons, or illustrating with hypothetical situation (e.g., what if, suppose that…).
- Don’t assume the audience has in-depth knowledge of the issue. Define terms and give background information.
- The concluding paragraph should summarize the most important evidence and encourage the reader to adopt the position or take action. The closing sentence can be a dramatic plea, a prediction that implies urgent action is needed, a question that provokes readers to think seriously about the issue, or a recommendation that gives readers specific ideas on what they can do.
3. Revising the Persuasive Essay
In the revision phase, students review, modify, and reorganize their work with the goal of making it the best it can be. Keep these considerations in mind:
- Does the essay present a firm position on the issue, supported by relevant facts, statistics, quotes, and examples?
- Does the essay open with an effective “hook” that intrigues readers and keeps them reading?
- Does each paragraph offer compelling evidence focused on a single supporting point?
- Is the opposing point of view presented and convincingly refuted?
- Is the sentence structure varied? Is the word choice precise? Do the transitions between sentences and paragraphs help the reader’s understanding?
- Does the concluding paragraph convey the value of the writer’s position and urge the reader to think and act?
If the essay is still missing the mark, take another look the thesis. Does it present the strongest argument? Test it by writing a thesis statement for the opposing viewpoint. In comparison, does the original thesis need strengthening? Once the thesis presents a well-built argument with a clear adversarial viewpoint, the rest of the essay should fall into place more easily.
4. Editing the Persuasive Essay
Next, proofread and correct errors in grammar and mechanics, and edit to improve style and clarity. Having a friend read the essay helps writers edit with a fresh perspective.
5. Publishing the Persuasive Essay
Sharing a persuasive essay with the rest of the class or with family and friends can be both exciting and intimidating. Learn from the experience and use the feedback to make the next essay even better.
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