English teachers around the world have been dangling persuasive writing assignments over students’ heads for years. In fact, it is possible that they enjoy watching students suffer. These assignments can be daunting to say the least, and students are often overwhelmed by terms like persuasion and rhetoric. How exactly do you write persuasively, and what exactly should be included in a persuasive text? Here are some tips that will get your arguments flowing and will keep your stress level down.
Take a stance
The first step in writing a well-balanced persuasive essay is to figure out exactly where you stand on the issue. This is often easier said than done. Developing a viewpoint requires research if you are writing about issues which require facts. If you are writing a literary analysis which requires you to take a persuasive stance on, say, the moral code of a particular character, you will need to study that character and the literature thoroughly in order to full understand what you are going to write about. Taking a stance may seem like a no-brainer, but it is imperative that you know where you’re trying to go with your persuasive writing. In formal essays, this stance will be your thesis statement, which outlines what you are going to cover throughout the text. Without a stance, you have no road map and no endpoint to look toward.
Find details/facts that support your stance
Once you have a good stance, you need to find research and/or details that support this stance. You might have already come across some of these details while developing your thesis. It is important that you choose the most relevant details. Don’t waste time choosing and explaining ideas that don’t directly relate to your topic or that don’t support your argument . Choose 3-5 details and make an outline of how these points relate directly to your thesis.
That’s right – you don’t even start writing until step three. At this point, you know what your purpose is (your stance), and you have some details and research to support this stance. Start off your writing by getting the audience’s attention. Use a shocking statistic, an anecdote, a question, or even humor to draw the audience in and make them interested in what you have to say. For example, if you are writing a persuasive essay in which you are arguing that the death penalty should be abolished, you could start off with a story about an innocent person who was sentenced to death row. An emotional story like that would capture the readers’ attention and would make them want to continue reading your essay. After your “attention getter,” give some background information about your topic and give your stance (or thesis).
Explain your points
Once you’ve set up your argument, begin using the research and details you chose to support your stance. Once again, be careful to stay close to the thesis statement and avoid repetitiveness. In a persuasive essay, put each point in a paragraph by itself. There are many ways to structure these details. If you are writing about a piece of literature, you might start with the detail from the earliest point in the story and end with the detail from the end of the story. You could also structure your arguments from least-important to most-important. While all arguments should be important, some of them will naturally have more of an impact than others. Often, writers will leave the points with the most impact until the end. You’ve heard “save the best for last” right? Explain each point thoroughly and always relate the point back to your thesis statement.
A good persuasive writer or speaker always addresses counterclaims. Counterclaims are basically claims that the opposing side of the argument might make. If you are arguing that the death penalty should be abolished, the counterargument would be that the death penalty should not be abolished. If you are arguing that a certain character in a text is morally sound and good, the counterargument would be that the character is evil. You could address counterclaims for these arguments by saying something like “While those in favor of the death penalty believe in the old saying ‘an eye for an eye,’ I believe that….” Address between 1 and 3 counterclaims in your own persuasive writing. All counterclaims can be combined into one paragraph.
Conclude with finesse
The last and final paragraph of your persuasive text should summarize your stance and your points. It should not give new information but should also highlight the most important points that you already covered. Relating the topic back to the reader or the world in general is an excellent way to leave the readers thinking about the topic. For example, if you are writing about a character’s positive qualities and their goodness, you might leave readers with the idea that they might all possess some of the same qualities as that character.
Writing persuasively might seem frightening, but it is, after a small amount of practice, an easily manageable style of writing. Remember these important elements: pick a strong stance and strong points to support that stance, structure your writing in a way that draw readers in and packs the most punch, and leave the audience with a conclusion that keeps them thinking. Follow those steps and there is no doubt that your persuasive writing will be stress-free.