The following guide will help you with writing a persuasive essay.
A persuasive essay is such a kind of writing which demonstrates one’s skills to formulate a thesis concerning an actual issue, and to defend it in a convincing way. Basically, it is similar to the argumentative essay, but with one serious difference: whereas an argumentative essay deals with facts, statistics, and other pieces of information, a persuasive essay should put more stress on the conviction of the reader as its main goal. In the first case there is a process of argumentation; in the second case there is conviction as a final effect.
If you wonder what the difference between both procedures is, here it is: an argumentative essay should present true facts and relate them to the given thesis. If the facts are not true, or the information is distorted in some way, the thesis will not be defended successfully. In the case with the persuasive essay it is not important whether the facts are true, but whether they seem true to the reader, and whether they provoke definite feelings in him/her.
If you still do not like to write lies, or to distort the facts, then you can simply put emphasis on your personal opinion, instead of presenting facts. In this manner you will keep the balance between facts and persuasion.
The topics of a persuasive essay can vary according to the particular field. Persuasive essays can cover political, social (including religious), economic, psychological issues, as well as historical events and personalities, international affairs, and so forth. Although natural sciences are usually not related to this kind of essay (because they deal with precise statistics and objective facts), still some scientific theories have social or psychological impact, such as evolutionism, the Big Bang theory, etc.
The best way to find an appropriate topic for you is to observe your own thoughts: what has worried you recently? Have you been involved in a discussion on a given issue, and how has this discussion affected you? Or may be there has been something interesting on the media which you would like to discuss in more detail? Think about it, write down five topics, and choose one of them.
Now, you have chosen a topic appropriate for you. You have to formulate it in such a way that you will be able to defend a thesis related to it more easily
Examples of wrongly formulated topics:
-Usage of Facebook
All these topics are too abstract and lead to many possible interpretations, unlike the following topics which are more detailed:
Correctly formulated topics:
-The excessive use of Facebook as addiction
-Overcoming alcohol addiction by belonging to a religious community
-Civilization is based upon human feelings, not on the intellect
The structure of a persuasive essay is very flexible, but it should include at least: an introduction, a thesis, two arguments, and conclusion. Keep in mind the fact that such essays usually are of small length, because thus it would be easier to have strong effect upon the reader’s mind.
4. Gathering information
Since your persuasive essay does not need to contain too much information, you can read only some available resources, without going into detail. Let’s say you have chosen the second topic (see section 2). Here you will need some statistics about people addicted to alcohol and how belonging to a religious community has changed their lives. Another option is to search for personal stories of such people. You can use one or two stories as proofs in favor of your thesis.
You know from your first classes in essay writing that the thesis is the central point of every essay, and not only essays. In your case the thesis does not need to sound academically, i.e. to employ specific scientific terms. All you need is to manifest your thoughts, or our opinion, in the shortest possible way, but in very precise and accurate terms. Remember: your thesis is not a recapitulation or a summarization, but it is rather the point of view, which you have to defend throughout the writing.
A good thesis will consist of two or three long sentences. You need to avoid using too short sentences (less than ten words).
Here is an example of a well-elaborated thesis:
“Belonging to religious community has plenty positive effects on alcohol addicted people. It gives them spiritual strength and makes them feel their life as meaningful. Many such people should be taken care of by religious communities.”
Explanation of the thesis: The first sentence is the core of your thesis. The second one gives an important argument, to be defended later; and the last one expresses a recommendation (or advice) related to the issue.
And this is a thesis which is wrongly formulated:
“I think that alcohol addicted people should belong to a religious community. There are many examples of such people who attend a particular church.”
Explanation of the thesis: The flaws of the latter thesis are the following:
- it does not tell why these people should belong to a religious community;
- the second sentence only describes a fact, but it does not explain what are the effects on the people attending church.
- it uses personal references such as “I think”, which is not recommended while formulating a thesis. Your language needs to be objectivistic, to say what the things are in reality, and not to say how you perceive them.
An outline is a must even when you are completely certain in your writing skills. You should start writing your outline immediately after having formulated your topic and gathered enough information. It is not necessary to write the perfect outline: you need it only to get yourself oriented into the process of writing. The outline will help you to clarify your view, and to calculate the time needed for writing the essay.
“Overcoming alcohol addiction by belonging to a religious community.”
Alcohol addiction is one of the most serious social issues today. Several ways for overcoming this addiction have been suggested; one of them being religious confession and belonging to a religious community.
Thesis: Belonging to a religious community has plenty positive effects on alcohol addicted people. Many such people should be taken care of by the religious communities.
Argument 1: Belonging to a community is the best method for personal development, self-realization, and maintaining one’s values.
Argument 2: Religious belief gives spiritual strength, and it can help one to overcome their addiction.
Proof: The personal story of Mr. X tells us about the way he escaped alcoholism, and how his life has changed after he started attending the church Y.
I personally strongly recommend belonging to a religious community to all alcohol addicted people.
Here you include a short list of the titles used, 3-4 titles should be enough.
Appendix (not mandatory)
Here you can attach interviews, photos, statistics, etc.
You can later add new things to the outline, but it should be finished by the time you start writing your essay.
Your argumentation is the most important part of the essay. Even when your thesis is perfectly formulated, it will need to be supported by convincing arguments. Remember: on the one hand, you have to refer to true facts; but on the other, you have to convince your reader (and you should ignore some facts which contradict the thesis). Thus, there are some tips that can be employed when you want to keep the balance between these both.
7.1 Style of argumentation
The style you use will reveal your skills and competences, but it is also a mark of your personality. Every good author has his own style of writing. However, there are two main approaches to a persuasive essay upon which you can build your own style of writing.
While trying to convince your readers in the particular thesis, you maintain your respect for the facts and for objective reality, or at least it seems so. You employ a lot of data- statistics, quotations, interviews, etc. In short, you try to give a lot of information to the reader. Of course, some facts are simply ignored by you because they do not fit in your strategy of argumentation (but the reader does not need to know it).
A good piece of text in “objectivistic” style will consist of a strong thesis formulated with academic terms; presentation of data related to the issue and supporting the thesis; and clarification of the practical possibilities to overcome the given problem with the help of the decision you suggest.
You refer to the feelings and emotions of the reader instead of the “reality” and the “facts.” Journalists oftentimes employ this strategy when they lack enough knowledge on a subject, or when they merely want to deeply affect the minds of the readers. Hence, you need to provoke compassion, anger, and other emotions in the reader, in order to convince him/her in your standpoint.
If you employ this style, you have to make a contrast between the decision you suggest, and the reality. Let’s say, if one does not belong to any community, he/she will remain alcohol addicted, without any other chance to be saved. This “language of salvation” will make the reader feel compassion, and probably he/she will agree with you in all points you offer.
7.2 Rhetorical devices
Rhetorical devices are such forms of expression which help an author create a vivid image of a particular thing, process, or person. They are called rhetorical because they persuade the reader, and also help him/her to get to know the described thing. They should not be taken as realistic, and it is quite important for you to use them only in the appropriate moments. Here are some of these devices:
-antithesis– you can present two different groups of people: alcohol addicted who refused any treatment; and alcohol addicted persons who joined a given religious community. This device will help you to convince the reader that the second option is the best for overcoming this serious social issue.
–hyperbole– this is the method of exaggeration. You can hyperbolize either the negative, or the positive. In the first sense, you will put more emphasis on the problems which an alcohol addicted person experiences. In the second, you should put emphasis on the positive effects of belonging to a religious community, dismissing any other negative effects (if there are such).
–allegory– to make the personal story you are narrating more vivid, you need to create an allegory. For example, the alcohol addicted person walks in a dark forest and searches for a way out. He sees a light somewhere, and is attracted by the sweet melody of a charming female voice. There he meets a group of smiling people who help him to find his way out of the dark forest.
These are only a few rhetorical devices. There are actually dozens of them which you can employ.
Because a persuasive essay does not require using plenty of quotations, you can use only one or two, especially when you present a personal story. Citations are more needed when writing argumentative essays. In all cases, you should cite only what is directly related to the topic; do not replace your own thoughts and deliberations with citations! You are writing an essay, which is meant to be an independent work.
The revision part is also important, so you have to plan some time for doing it (3-4 days). You must pay attention to your grammar, style, and both the integrity and coherence of your text. Give the essay to someone else to see if your thesis works well and if the arguments are presented precisely.