In persuasive or argumentative writing, we try to convince others to agree with our facts, accept our argument and conclusions, and adopt our way of thinking. Take the time to know your subject well enough to form an argument you can support. This is a tough medium to bluff in. Aim for a confident tone which asserts ideas and beliefs in an intelligent and informed way, but without ever being strident or badgering.
A persuasive essay uses reason to demonstrate that certain ideas are more valid than others. The purpose of such an essay is to encourage readers to accept a particular viewpoint or act in a particular way. A persuasive essay must be based on sound logic and must contain factual evidence to support the argument.
Guiding Principles for the Persuasive Essay or Position Paper
Thoroughly research your topic.
Hard, compelling facts are the name of the game here, so gather as many as you can find. They may come from your personal experiences, the experiences of others you know (or interview), or from research.
Make sure to collect your research in a methodical, organized, and carefully documented manner.
Depending on the assignment, you may need to be prepared to cite your sources. Statistics can be particularly useful in this kind of essay, as can direct quotes from experts, and specific examples which support your argument. While doing any reading or research to prepare your argument, make sure to keep the questions posed in the assignment at the top of your mind. You may need to collect more research than you end up using in the your essay, but you don’t want to waste time collecting information which is only tangentially related to your topic.
With your research collected, the next step is to decide which information best supports the case you are making. Resist the urge to throw in everything. Just because you collected some research does not mean that it deserves to be included. Look for a logical sequence in which to present your information. You are constructing an argument, not recounting the research process. The chronological sequence of the information you have collected (or of the order in which you collected it) is not important. All that matters is the point you are trying to make.
“Vague is forgettable. Detail makes the sale.”
Organize your essay.
Most expository essays are comprised of five paragraphs. See our guide on How To Write the Five Paragraph Essay for insight into how best use that format to construct your essay.
Provide Solid Evidence.
Your essay will be making a case for something, which is similar to selling something. And just about every town has experts at selling. Just find the local car dealership. How do they do it? A good Honda salesperson can rattle off dozens of reasons why you should buy a Civic, but can also provide just as many reasons why you shouldn’t buy from a competitor. And all of those reasons, positive and negative, will be specific. You won’t hear “Hondas are safe.” You’ll hear “Side-impact air bags are standard in all Honda models.” See the difference? Vague is forgettable. Detail makes the sale.
Don’t second guess the case you are making or hedge your bets by using weak or apologetic language. Avoid phrases like “I think that …” or “I feel that …” or “I believe that …” or “In my opinion…” or the like. It is understood that your are making an argument with your essay, and weak language only serves to undercut your authority.
Example Persuasive Essays
Now that you’ve learned how to write an effective essay, check out our Sample Essays so you can see how they are done in practice.