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What is a Persuasive Essay?

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What is a persuasive essay?

  • A persuasive composition is one that tries to sway (or persuade) the reader to think the same way about the topic as you do.
  • While the composition can be informative, persuasion is the primary goal!
  • Persuasive writing can range from serious, controversial topics (e.g. pro- or anti-abortion) to light, casual ones (e.g. potato chips are better than tortilla chips).

The pre-writing steps

  • Choose topic
  • Brainstorm arguments and place them in a graphic organizer.
  • Pick a side
  • Prioritize arguments

Choose a topic

  • Your topic may be assigned to you, or you may have been given a small set of topics to choose from.
  • If not, the possibilities for persuasive topic are endless. Choose one that you are genuinely interested in and enthused about.

Brainstorm

  • Do not “choose sides” on your topic until you have done a thorough job of brainstorming both sides of the argument!!
  • Create a graphic organizer to list your arguments.

Topic: Should people use bicycles to make short trips?

Positive (+)

  • Can decrease pollution
  • Can result in better health
  • Reduce gasoline consumption
  • Allows us to slow down our busy lives.
  • Less use of our cars means they will last longer.

Negative (-)

  • Riding in Phoenix traffic is dangerous.
  • It’s often too hot to rely on bicycles in Phoenix.
  • It’s too difficult to carry what you need (groceries, packages)

Pick a side

  • Review your arguments and choose your position on the issue.
  • You do not always have to pick the side you actually believe in. For classroom exercises, pick the side for which you can make the strongest arguments.
  • When you have picked your side, draw a circle around the “+” or “-”on your organizer to help you remember.

Prioritize your arguments

  • For the side you’ve picked, choose your 3 strongest arguments. Then prioritize them. Label your strongest argument “1”. Your second strongest argument should be “2,” and your weakest is “3.”
  • Look at the arguments you’ve come up with for the other side of the question and choose one that you will refute in your paper.

Topic: Should people use bicycles to make short trips?

Positive (+)

  • Can decrease pollution (#1)
  • Can result in better health(#3)
  • Less use of our cars means they will last longer.
  • Allows us to slow down our busy lives. (#2)

Negative (-)

  • It’s too difficult to carry what you need (groceries, packages)
  • It takes too long to travel from place to place.
  • Many people will be too tired when they arrive to do anything else.

The persuasive form

  • Topic sentence:
    • State your position on the topic.
  • Body (4 sentences)
    • Your 3 arguments for your position and supporting. (3 sentences)
    • Your refutation of opposition’s position (1 sentence)
  • Conclusion (1 sentence)
    • Reiterate your arguments
    • Tie the whole paragraph up with a closing thought.

The refutation

  • You state the opposition point of view (the item that you checkmarked in your pre-writing document)
    • By stating the opposition’s point of view, you acknowledge that there are opponents who don’t agree with you.
  • You then “refute” (reject) your opponents’ argument by showing its weakness.

Sample Persuasive Essay

Topic Sentence

I strongly believe that more people in Phoenix should use bicycles to get from place to place.

Body

First, bicycles are powered by the rider’s muscles so they do not create air pollution. Second, increased use of bicycles would reduce our reliance on gasoline, preserving it for other purposes and allowing people to save the money that they’d otherwise spend on fuel. Finally, bicycling is extremely good exercise and would improve most people’s strength and cardiovascular condition and help them lose weight as well.

Refutation

Some people might argue that bicycles are impractical for carrying packages and other loads, but by adding racks, baskets and panniers to bicycles people would be amazed how much they can carry on these wonderful two-wheeled vehicles.

Conclusion

As you can see, bicycling yields benefits to riders’ health and the environment, so greater dependence on them in Phoenix only makes sense.

Summary

  • The primary purpose of a persuasive composition is to convince – or persuade – your audience to agree with you about a subject.
  • Look at both sides of the issue before you pick one, and brainstorm as many arguments for each side as you can. Only then should you decide which position to take in your composition.
  • Prioritize your arguments. In your composition, you’ll go from weakest to strongest or strongest to weakest.
  • Pick out one argument to refute.
  • Close with a statement that restates your position.

WHAT WE KNOW…

  • Persuasive writing is intended to convince the reader of the writer’s point of view.
  • Like any composition, a piece of persuasive writing consists of:
    • Introduction – Where you state your position
    • Body – Where you make your arguments in support of your position, and where you refute 1 argument made by an opponent.
    • Conclusion – Where you restate your position and include any closing thoughts.

EXPENDING YOUR COMPOSITION

  • Now, it’s time to expand your persuasive essay to a persuasive paragraph.
  • The structure is the same – introduction, body and conclusion – but…
  • Instead of putting all of the information in a single essay, you will write multiple essays containing more detailed information.
  • Your topic sentence will come at the end of the introduction, not the beginning.
  • Each of your arguments in the body will have its own essay.
  • Your conclusion may include a call to action.

INTRODUCTION

  • In your persuasive essay, your introduction was limited to one sentence – your topic sentence – in which you stated your position.
    • Examples:
      • I believe students in public schools should be required to wear uniforms.
      • I do not think that education officials should close public schools whose students perform badly on standardized tests.
      • I think dogs make better pets than cats.
    • In your persuasive paragraph, you’re going to expand the points you made in your persuasive essay.
      • Begin your introduction with background and/or a “hook” that will grab the audience’s attention.
      • As an example let’s take a look at the bicycling essay we used earlier. Here’s the introductory sentence:
        • I strongly believe that more people in Phoenix should use bicycles to get from place to place.
      • For a longer persuasive composition on the same subject, we’re going to expand that introduction into a full essay:

Bicycles have been with us since the late 19th Century, and they’re a popular made of transportation around the world. In the United States, there’s been a burst of interest in bicycles in recent years, and many cities around the country have become “bicycle friendly” by settings aside safe bicycle lanes on streets, increasing public awareness of cyclists and taking other steps. Our city should do the same. I strongly believe that more people in Phoenix should use bicycles to get from place to place.

Where’s the topic sentence?

At the end of the essay!

THE BODY

  • Here are the sentences from the body of our persuasive essay:

First, bicycles are powered by the rider’s muscles so they do not create air pollution. Second, increased use of bicycles would reduce our reliance on gasoline, preserving it for other purposes and allowing people to save the money that they’d otherwise spend on fuel. Finally, bicycling is extremely good exercise. Some people might argue that bicycles are impractical for carrying packages and other loads, but by adding racks, baskets and panniers to bicycles, people would be amazed how much they can carry on these wonderful two-wheeled vehicles.

The body consist of the 3 arguments supporting my position and the refutation. We’re going to expand each one of these points into separate essays.

Our original sentence: red

New Supporting Detail: green

Argument 1

First, bicycles are powered by the rider’s muscles so they do not create air pollution. Phoenix is covered by a brown cloud of pollution in the winter, which is unsightly and makes it difficult for some people to breathe. By relying on bicycles more and cars less, we may be able to get rid of some of this air pollution.

Argument 2

Second, increased use of bicycles would reduce our reliance on gasoline. We know that the world’s supply of petroleum is limited, so it makes sense to use it wisely. By riding bicycles instead of cars for some trips, we can preserve fuel for other purposes.

Argument 3

Finally, bicycling is extremely good exercise. Numerous studies have shown that it cycling improves the strength of riders’ legs and back muscles. In addition, bicycling improves cardio-vascular fitness. While it’s possible to get those benefits through running, bicycling is a gentler motion and is much less likely than running to cause joint damage.

Refutation

Some people might argue that bicycles are impractical for carrying packages and other loads, but by adding racks, baskets and panniers to bicycles people would be amazed how much they can carry on these wonderful two-wheeled vehicles. True, it might not be possible to use bicycles for all chores, but before climbing into their cars, people ought to consider whether they can accomplish the task using their bicycles. This is the way to establish bicycling as a habit.

THE CONCLUSION

  • Conclusions in persuasive paragraphs often include pleas for the reader to do
  • Known as the call to action.

As you can see, bicycling yields benefits to riders’ health and the environment, so greater dependence on them in Phoenix only makes sense. However Phoenix won’t become a more bicycle friendly city until the streets are filled with cyclists. I urge you to get on your bicycle today in order to be seen and to encourage others to do the same.

SUMMARY

  • To expand a persuasive essay to a persuasive paragraph, we expand each point in the introduction, body and conclusion into a separate essay.
  • The expansion consists of supporting detail for each point you make.
  • One way to expand the conclusion is by including a call to action, in which you encourage readers to do something in support of the position you are recommending.
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