At college, you have to master many new types of academic writing and it becomes somewhat confusing. Take a persuasive essay, for example. This is a piece of writing aiming to convince the reader of something. Sounds clear enough, but what makes a persuasive essay different from, say, an argumentative one? In both cases, you have to state your position on some issue in an introductory paragraph and then do your best to explain and defend it.
However, the difference exists. While all essays are written from your perspective, a persuasive essay allows you to add opinions and emotions to factual evidence. An effective persuasive essay appeals to the feelings of your readers as much as it appeals to their reason.
Why is persuasive writing important? You must not underestimate the power of emotions in decision-making. From school debate to presidential campaigns, the winner is always the one who succeeds in winning the hearts of the audience. Politicians, activists, leaders of opinion – all have one thing in common. They are very persuasive. If you want to change the world for the better one day, you should start by learning how to write a persuasive paper.
Here is where we can help you! Read this guide for actionable persuasive writing tips.
What Is Persuasive Writing For?
Every day you come across at least one text that is persuasive, meaning it intends to convince you of something, make you believe in an idea, or call you to action. Book and movie reviews, commercial and social ads, editorials, reaction papers, and probably a good half of the text messages you receive are examples of persuasive writing. Even a product description in an online store is nothing more than a carefully crafted persuasive paragraph, created with the sole purpose: to convince you that you need that item.
What is the purpose of a persuasive essay, then? As with any essay, you should present your thoughts on the subject, however, the focus is on advocating for your point of view. When it comes to a persuasive essay, definition is clear: it is about your opinion. It is something you believe, feel, or think is right. That doesn’t mean you don’t have to provide any verifiable evidence! If you present facts, numbers, expert takes, or research findings, it will only make you more credible. However, don’t be afraid to sound partial. Be passionate and ignite the feelings of your audience!
To sum up, the characteristics of persuasive essay are the following:
- You aim to convince your readers rather than present a full and objective picture
- Concrete evidence is welcome, but you are also allowed to use relevant anecdotes and references to your personal experiences
- You can use emotionally expressive words and evaluative language
- “Show, don’t tell” principle works fine
Types Of Persuasive Writing
Three main types of persuasive writing were initially defined by Aristotle:
- Logos, or the appeal to reason – writing based on convincing the reader with facts and logic. For example, to convince someone that soda is unhealthy you can provide a fact: a 300 ml serving of coke contains 8 teaspoons of sugar. That is illustrative, impressive, convincing, and, above all else, factual.
- Pathos, or appeal to emotions – writing based on influencing the feelings of your audience. For example, if you need to convince people to ban animal fur, you can tell how cute animals are and how they suffer on the fur farms. You can say that it’s wrong to kill a creature that has feelings: anyone, who buys a fur coat, is an accomplice to murder. You try to induce compassion, pity, and guilt in your audience.
- Ethos, or appeal to moral authority – writing based on using ethics and virtues to convince your audience. You try to establish your character as an authority and convince your audience that this makes your opinions valid.
- For example, as a volunteer, you have worked with children who were physically abused by their families and you have witnessed the grave emotional effects that corporal punishment has on children. That gives you the moral authority to say that corporal punishment is cruel and always wrong.
These types of writing rarely occur in their pure form. More often different types of persuasive essays combine them in various proportions. Read a sample essay and try to identify elements of each persuasive writing type in it.
Persuasive Essay Structure
How to structure a persuasive essay depends on the chosen type of writing you are going to use, the length of your essay, and the effect you want to exert on your reader. However, certain persuasive essay elements are always present, no matter how you organize them:
- Narration of facts
- Forecast of topics
- Confirmation of the piece
- Discussion of alternatives
- Rhetorical questions
Structural parts of a persuasive essay are the same as for any essay:
- Introduction – an opening statement that clearly defines your position.
- Body of paragraphs (usually 3 to 5) – the volume of persuasion that includes the evidence and arguments to support your pleas and appeals.
- Conclusion – a cohesive summary of all arguments.
The elements (narration, rhetorical questions, confirmation, etc.) can be placed within the components (introduction, body, conclusion) at your discretion, but not arbitrarily. The entire composition must work towards the goal of effectively persuading your audience. Do you feel that rhetorical question is a good way to start your essay as the attention grabber? On the other hand, is it better to end your essay with a question to give the reader something to think about? Decide which option it more appropriate for your essay.
Steps To Writing A Persuasive Essay
If you never did write persuasive essays before, don’t worry. The writing process is very similar to any other type of essay, with just a few little differences. Here are the main stages of it:
Carefully read the essay prompt and look for a clue. Does it ask you to defend a point, argue, disprove something, voice your opinion, or estimate whether a given point has any merit (even if you don’t fully agree with it)? This is an important step that influences how do you write a persuasive essay and structure it.
Give yourself time to evaluate the rhetorical situation: the issue you are writing about, your audience, the purpose of your essay, etc. Your instructor is an obvious audience, but your prompt may suggest that you are trying to convince your fellow students or your parents – focus on that.
Brainstorm topics that appeal to you but, at the same time, have depth and complexity. If you are passionate about puppies, it doesn’t make them an interesting topic to write about. Everyone likes them, they are adorable – of what is there to convince? Therefore, always try to come up with at least one strong argument against your opinion – to test the topic. If you are stuck on this step, you may want to look at examples of persuasive essay topics.
Come up with a thesis statement
Present your opinion in a clear form. It should not be longer than 1-2 sentences. State exactly what you will argue. Make sure your focus is adequate for the word count. Some topics are just too big for a 5-paragraph essay.
Brainstorm and research the evidence
Use spider-chart to write down the evidence you plan to use in your essay. Generate ideas and jot them down as quickly as possible. You don’t have to flesh them out yet.
Remember, you still have to use some concrete evidence to convince your audience. The combination of facts with your passion makes for a perfect persuasive essay. Look for relevant statistics and research to back up your opinions.
Outline your essay
Follow the structure from the previous rubric to outline the main parts of your essay: introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion.
Don’t forget about the main elements of persuasion: narration, confirmation, alternatives, rhetorical questions, etc. Place them strategically to persuade your audience.
Flesh out your essay
Add more substance to each of the main parts of your outline:
- come up with a good attention grabber for the introduction
- structure your body paragraphs (topic sentence, evidence, examples)
- add a counterargument and refute it to make your case even stronger
- reinforce your point in the conclusion, explain why it’s important
Revise your essay
- Look at the flow of your essay. Does it read quickly, is it coherent? Make sure the last sentence of each paragraph makes a smooth transition to the next paragraph.
- What is the overall impression? Does the essay seem convincing? What are the weak points? How can you change it?
- Read your essay once again, this time focus on grammar and spelling.
Tips For Writing A Persuasive Essay
Structure, elements, paragraphs… These are all good, but so far, it sounds much like any other type of academic writing: all form and rules. Where is the passion we were promised? Don’t worry, here are some actionable tips on how to write a great persuasive essay.
Pick a topic you really care about.
You probably have heard this advice for every assignment since middle school. While it’s generally useful to be interested in your subject when you write, it’s crucial for persuasive essays. Defending something that does not appeal to you isn’t only challenging – it doesn’t make sense.
Know your audience.
Again, an excellent piece of advice for any writer, but a mandatory condition for a persuasive essay. In fact, this one it the most important of all persuasive essay tips. To convince anyone, you must first understand to whom you are talking. Is it parents, teachers, peers, lawmakers? Knowing this will allow you to adjust the style, select relevant arguments, and choose the most suitable type of persuasive writing (Logos, Ethos, or Pathos) to target their sensitivities.
One of the most important persuasive strategies in writing is understanding your audience’s beliefs and feelings. If you are going to sway the opinions of people who are hardened in their ways, you must first show that you respect their views and can relate to them. You don’t attack their beliefs – you gently advocate yours.
Emphasize your point.
You can be iterative, not every new paragraph has to make a new argument – reinforcing the old one with a new example is enough. Use repetition to reinforce your message, rephrase it if you must. Avoid sounding like a broken record, but hammer that point home. Ask rhetoric questions, use metaphors, hyperbolic statements, and other literary devices to make the same point.
Learn from examples.
One of the favorite methods that writers use to learn is imitation. You see something that you like and you want to copy it and analyze it in the process. Look up examples of persuasive essays in our essay database, find ones you find convincing. Try choosing those that argue a point you wouldn’t necessarily agree with, but show the validity of this point effectively and manage to shake your conviction.
Still Think that Persuasive Essay Format is Too Difficult?
The persuasive writing style is indeed difficult to master, despite all the freedom it allows. It requires one to use masterful rhetoric, know human psychology, be empathetic, diplomatic, passionate, but cunning. These aren’t necessarily the qualities of an average college student.
If you feel that you don’t have enough time or skill for this assignment, you don’t know how to format a persuasive essay, or you just need a piece of writing advice, contact us! Our team of experienced writers will take care of everything.