What is a persuasive essay?
One of the most common types of essay you’ll have to write in your academic career is the persuasive essay, also known as the argumentative essay or the opinion essay, where you have to take a controversial idea or a topic that many people have differing opinions on. You have to present your opinion and defend and support it. The purpose of the persuasive essay is to persuade the reader into agreeing with you or at least recognizing that your opinion in an argument is valid.
Persuasive essays can be written about any subject, for example you can write a persuasive essay about your viewpoint on using mobile phones in schools, wearing school uniforms or even wearing a seatbelt in your car. A persuasive essay is one of the best ways to get others to understand your point of view. When writing a persuasive essay, you are forming an argument: you must present a logical argument to your audience and convince them to agree with a specific stance.
A persuasive essay is different than an expository essay, where you’re just presenting information and trying to keep it balanced. In a persuasive essay you’re not trying to present both sides of the argument; you’re trying to present your side of the argument and say why you’re right.
Writing a persuasive argument is basically about making as solid an argument as possible on whatever issue, whether for or against. Your job is to convince your reader that the stance you’ve taken on the issue is the right one but is the one that they want to take. As a result, writing a persuasive essay involves in-depth and extensive research, a thorough understanding of both sides of the argument and an understanding of your audience’s bias.
Structure of a persuasive essay
A persuasive essay follows the basic essay structure. It has three parts: the introduction, the body, and the conclusion. Like with all essays, the introductory paragraph would start with a hook, meaning a sentence that’s engaging to get the reader’s attention and to introduce the topic in an interesting way. You have the background information, which would give a little bit of information about the topic in order that the reader can understand why it’s controversial or why it’s important. And then of course the most important sentence in your essay is the thesis statement, which is the last sentence of your introductory paragraph.
The thesis statement is the most important part of your paper; everything else in the paper is based upon it. You must include three main points in your thesis statement: what you are writing about (the subject), why you are writing about it (the conflict), and what your position on the issue is (the opinion).
Thesis statements need to be precise, focused, and clear-cut. In one sentence, the thesis statement should cover everything you need to persuade readers. From the thesis statement readers have a clear idea about what you are going to discuss.
Once you have crafted your thesis statement, you should follow up with at least three sentences in the introduction paragraph. These sentences should include the key talking points that you will discuss in the following body paragraphs.
In the introduction you need an attention-getting first sentence. State your thesis, which is the point, and then support your thesis with pieces of evidence. Those are your supporting detail paragraphs in the body.
Your introduction has to be tight and attention grabbing; if you lose your audience here, it might not really matter what you write in the body. To grab attention, consider starting with a quote, an unusual statistic or a thought-provoking question.
The introduction is also where you will provide background information on the topic and your thesis statement. In providing background information on your topic, you don’t want to assume that your audience is knowledgeable about the topic. Make sure to explain relevant terms.
2. Body Paragraphs
The body paragraphs need to reflect the research that you have done. Each point you have made will have its own paragraph of about five sentences. Content in a persuasive essay is important. When writing a persuasive essay, research is a key factor in creating an argument. Combine the research you have done on both sides of the argument to create your own argument.
Additionally, make sure that each paragraph explains a different idea and that the previous paragraph naturally flows into the succeeding one. Somewhere in the middle of the body, give one or two paragraphs to explain some strong points of the opposing stance; the idea is to anticipate objections that your audience might have and answer them.
In a persuasive essay, your thesis statement will be your opinion. The body paragraph should support your opinion with both reasons and details. To have a strong argument, you probably want at least three good reasons. If you can’t think of three reasons to support your opinion, you may have a weak argument. Once you’ve given a reason, you can add some detail to fully explain what you mean.
Once you have presented your argument with reasons and details, it’s time for you to introduce something called the counter argument. You want the reader to recognize that you have you have seen both sides of the argument and you’ve made a decision.
Once you’ve presented that, it’s time for you to answer it and explain why your opinion is stronger. There are two ways to respond to the counter-argument: you can refute or concede. Refute means that you are saying the counter-argument is wrong, that you disagree. To concede means you’re saying ‘yes, but…’. So, you’re recognizing that the counter-argument is a good point but that your opinion is stronger.
Lastly, we have our conclusion. This is the restatement of the thesis. Rephrasing it is the most efficient way to begin the process, so it’s always a good way to start your concluding paragraph, then summarize your key points. Briefly explain how you have your main arguments defended in your thesis statement, and so that these explanations are reasonable and logical. It’s very important to make an overall concluding statement to make sure that the reader understands the value and importance of your essay and the argument that you portrayed throughout the essay. If the reader has taken your persuasive argument into serious consideration, that’s when you know that you have written an awesome piece of work.
Once you’ve established the counter-argument and the response, you can move on to your concluding paragraph. In the conclusion, restate the thesis, paraphrase it, summarize your main points and then end your concluding paragraph with a strong statement. Just like the hook, you’re grabbing the reader’s attention in the conclusion. Leave the reader with a lasting impression.
Conclusions in essays show a carefully constructed argument and illustrate that your argument has been based on facts and evidence.
The conclusion is not to continue your argument but to wrap up the points that you put forth in the body of the essay. You could end your essay with a thought provoking question or a recommendation of how your audience can act on the information that you’ve provided. Whatever it is, make sure that it is memorable.
How to write a persuasive essay
When creating a persuasive essay, the first step is to select a subject. Then you must choose a side of the argument that you are going to defend, for example on the subject of seatbelts you would have to determine the points in question and the stance you would take on those points. What are the positive aspects of wearing a seat belt, what are the negative aspects of wearing a seat belt, why is your stance more correct than the opposing stance, etc.
You must understand an issue well enough to construct a persuasive essay. To do this, you must not only understand your point of view, but you must also understand the opposite points of view. This is where research comes into play.
When you are writing a persuasive essay, you are writing from the point of view of an expert, so you will have to gain knowledge about this subject. Look at the arguments that others have made about your side of the issue, then look at the arguments of your opponents. The key to a successful persuasive essay is to counter your opponents’ points inside your paper. To do this, you will need to know their arguments as well as you know your own. Once you fully understand the issue that you have chosen, you are ready to begin writing.
When you believe you’ve got as much information as you possibly can on the topic, then create an outline for your essay. Decide how your essay is going to flow and what points are going to go where. Make sure to arrange your essay in a logical sequence, such that moving from one idea to the other won’t take a leap, and this won’t only make your essay easier to read, it would also make it easier to write.
Have your strong points at the beginning, the middle and the end; this way, you start strong, you have something in the middle to pull your audience back in if you happen to lose them, and then you finish strong. What this means is that you need a lot of strong points. Something else that having an outline will do for you is that it will help you to decide what points you can do without. Decide what is important and what is not.
Once you are done with your essay, go over it and see how it reads to you. Is the introduction attention grabbing enough? Does your thesis statement properly convey the reasoning behind your choice of stance? You should also make sure that your opposing view is properly refuted because you do not want to accidentally make a case for the opposing side. You are not only looking for errors in structure and logical sequence, though, you are also looking for typos and grammatical errors.
- Word choice is really important in a persuasive essay. You can say the same exact thing with different words. Think about your audience and try to convince them of your point. Avoid overusing vocabulary. Try to provide some variety, but don’t go overboard.
- Proofread to make sure that you don’t have typos and mistakes and things that just are illogical. Think about the best way to sound professional and formal if necessary.
- References. If you’re doing research for a paper, make sure that you’ve got good sources. If you’re referencing your friends blog or Facebook page you’re probably not going to be as convincing as if you’re referencing a university website. If you do research, make sure to reference the list of resources that you used for your research.
- You need to do as thorough a research as possible to be sure that you cover all the bases in your essay. Your research should be on both sides of the argument and not just the side that you have chosen, and the reason is that you want to know what you are going up against. In trying to convince your audience that you have chosen the right stance, you also have to help them see why the other side is not, and you won’t be able to do that if you do not know what that other side is about.
- Some tools that will help make your argument more engaging and interesting include analogies and hypothetical situations; these will help make your argument considerably more relatable.
- Take a clear position. It’s important that the reader clearly understands your opinion. Pick one side or the other.
- You have to be clear, not just in your opinion but in your reasons and your details. Remember, it’s not the reader’s job to connect your ideas; that’s your job as the writer.
- Consider your audience. Think who is it that you are trying to persuade, who would disagree with you and why. If you consider the other side of the argument, your own defense will be much stronger.
- Write your body paragraphs first and then create your thesis after seeing what your content is truly about. It’s much easier to create a thesis at the end rather than align your statements towards your thesis, because most of the time this harms the quality of your analysis and the strength of your sentences.
- All these should be written in MLA and Chicago style formats. That’s usually used for persuasive writings, since they provide the physical alignment, margins, titles, etc.
- Double-check to make sure your essay has proved the thesis. If the essay has proved something slightly different, then you need to edit your thesis accordingly.
- Get a second pair of eyes read it from a fresh perspective to make sure it makes sense to others.