Arguing to Persuade
Draw upon the theories, writing styles, and methods of reasoning discussed in class to
write a persuasive essay. You need to cite two outside sources in your argument. The minimum
length of your text is three full typed, double-spaced pages, with an upper maximum of five
pages (not counting the mandatory Work Cited page). Format your paper using the MLA
guidelines in the handbook and syllabus.
To argue is to make a case for judgement or opinion, while to persuade is to bring about
a desired response in a reader or listener. The difference is that argument is logical; persuasion,
psychological. For this assignment, you will write an argument which relies on facts but
capitalizes on your ability to be sensitive to your audience. You may attempt to appeal to your
reader’s values and emotions. You must convince them to act. When you do this, you are
arguing to persuade.
A good persuasive essay argues one side of a very narrow (but debatable) topic. Your
assignment is to make a case (that is, appeal to logos), but this time, infuse it with appeals to
ethos and pathos. Persuade your readers that your position is not only correct, but the only
morally and emotionally defensible position. You will need to choose your topic carefully. And
naturally, you will spend a good deal of effort defining and analyzing your target audience. Your
work begins with research. Convince your readers using facts and other strong evidence. Your
evidence should come from exactly two different sources. No more and no fewer. Again, it is
important to learn how to cite a variety of sources, so internet sources are specifically prohibited
for this assignment. You will be allowed to use internet sources later in the course.
The organization of the essay can follow the sequence we’ve used before: introduction,
thesis statement, and reasons in some logical arrangement supported by clear evidence. The
body of your paper contains the actual development of your persuasive argument. Each body
paragraph presents a single idea (or set of related ideas) that addresses a key aspect of your
paper’s thesis, and brings the reader closer to accepting the validity of your argument. Because
each body paragraph should be a step in the argument, you should be mindful of the overall
organization of your body paragraphs. Persuasive essays use an effective combination of
appeals to logos, pathos, and ethos. The argument may be strengthened by acknowledging
conflict viewpoints and repudiating them. End with a powerful conclusion which should issue a
call to action.
Pay careful attention to word choice in this essay. Sometimes, one word alone can
alienate a whole group of readers – or can win them over. Especially when appealing to
emotion, try to steer away from cheap sentiment. No critical reader wants to be manipulated.
An effective persuasive essay will include a clear claim (a thesis statement), a stated
target audience, support for the claim (reasons and evidence), counter-arguments (anticipated
opposition that is refuted), logical and effective language (informal vs. formal language), and a
summative conclusion that calls the reader to act (a call to action).
▪ Direct quotations should be few and significant. The paper is to be your essay and your
argument, after all. Too many voices overpower your own.
▪ Research should be accurate and preceded or followed by comment or analysis.
▪ All sources, whether quoted, paraphrased, or summarized must be properly cited.
▪ First person voice is acceptable for this assignment. Readers want to know where you stand,
and it is sometimes helpful to assert yourself by putting your own opinions into the essay.
▪ Make sure you know your audience. Stick to a certain tone, whether it is formal, informal,
funny, pleading, etc.
▪ Presentation is important. Follow the guidelines in your handbook and syllabus for typing this
essay. Check spelling and grammar. Rewrite as necessary.
▪ Re-read your paper with a fresh mind. Ask yourself: Does this make sense? Will this convince
a reader? Will they understand my values, and agree with my facts? Revise if necessary.