There are plenty of conspiracy theories circling around the net – aliens in Area 51, or that the Queen is a lizard. Now that’s all wacky and fun, but let’s be honest – the videos can be pretty convincing. This is because the people making these videos use special techniques to mess with evidence and convince you that their ridiculous ideas are valid. In a nutshell this is the goal of persuasive writing.
This article will be your guide on how to write a persuasive essay. We will discuss topics and create an outline and arguments for persuading readers. Be sure to stick around for persuasive essay examples near the end, which you can download and use for your reference.
What Is a Persuasive Writing
Persuasive writing is a common writing technique taught to students early on in schools. This is an interesting and fun type of writing that strives to create a debate on a given topic. This writing technique challenges students to take a clear stance on a specific topic or cause and use convincing arguments to persuade readers that the author’s position is correct.
Now, what is a persuasive essay itself? According to the persuasive essay definition, it is a form of academic writing task, often assigned to students at schools, colleges, and universities; the main purpose of which being to persuade readers that a specific point of view is correct.
When forming a persuasive essay, students are required to conduct thorough research on the given topic, analyze it, and take a solid argumentative position. Then, with the help of logical arguments and convincing words, a student is expected to dispel biases and assure readers that there are no other correct points of view other than the author’s.
Why Is Persuasive Writing Important?
The main reason persuasive papers are a common assignment in schools and colleges is that they help keep students engaged and more involved in their class work. Additionally, writing this type of assignment helps develop a variety of essential skills, including: research, critical thinking, the ability to form evidence-based conclusions, etc.
Argumentative vs Persuasive Essay
A persuasive essay is often referred to as an argumentative essay. This can create an illusion that these types of works are the same and can cause confusion. However, there is a difference between argumentative and persuasive writing approaches.
Although both writing techniques have the same goal – both papers are based on logic and reasoning to persuade readers of something; however, a persuasive paper also relies on emotions apart from straight facts. When writing a persuasive essay, you operate with convincing arguments, yet, at the same time, you deal with emotions to make the reader feel your well-defined point of view.
You might also be interested in discovering what is an argumentative essay and how to write one
Persuasive Essay Format
The basic requirements for a persuasive paper are as follows:
- Fonts: Times New Roman or another easy-to-read fonts like Georgia or Arial
- Font Size: 16pt for the headline(s) and 12pt for the rest of the text
- Alignment: justified
- Spacing: double, or in some cases 1.5
- Word count: as a rule, from 500 to 2000 words—check your teacher’s guidelines to learn what word count applies to you
The List of Topics and How to Pick One
When thinking of persuasive essay ideas, it is best to choose a topic with many contrasting opinions. Broad issues such as gun control and abortion rights can spawn novel length essays. These best be avoided unless you’re writing a dissertation.
Say you want to argue in favor of space exploration. It perfectly fits the description of a widely explored contemporary subject. Creating a structure where every body paragraph explores a different planet might be a bit too much. Why not narrow it down and argue in favor of building a base on the moon? This way, you can convince the audience of the benefits of creating a moon base, and giving them a small idea of what can be achieved from space exploration on a larger scale.
Hence, you have persuaded your reader on a small topic connected to a much broader one. This will leave them inspired with plenty of thoughts to feast on, allowing them to dive further into the world of space.
Remember This When Picking a Topic
Persuasive essays are all about the point of view. It is essential to find good topics which you know something about, or topics which you can argue in favor of, or against. The greatest persuasive essays ever written deal with real-life experiences and point the reader towards important social problems most people have ignored. Take Martin Luther King Jr.’s A Letter from Birmingham Jail or Hillary Clinton’s Women’s Rights are Human Rights for example.
Topics for High School
Perhaps the concept of space exploration is long and tedious and makes your stomach turn. Don’t worry — you can come up with plenty of simple persuasive essay topics for high school. Perhaps you have already debated on some of these with your friends:
- Schools should restrict the use of tablets in the classroom, as it distracts students and causes difficulty in learning.
- The Velvet Underground is the most important and influential American rock band of all time.
- Explain why advertisements should be banned from social media.
- Eating meat should be banned within the next five years due to growing concern over the environment.
- Historically, businessmen in positions of power is a bad idea.
Topics for College
Persuasive essay topics for college get a bit more complicated. The best essay topics are ones that take into account the events of contemporary life, discussing moral, ethical, technological, and environmental issues. Students have the opportunity to make a serious impact with their writing, fearlessly breathing new life into the old world. For college, it is best to choose controversial persuasive essay topics. They challenge the writer to engage in relevant intellectual issues. Here are some examples:
- Media marketed for teenagers advertise morally and ethically wrong messages.
- Federal courtrooms must have live cameras that televise all trials.
- Beauty contests should not be encouraged.
- With the amounts of information available online, college education should be made significantly cheaper.
- Create a prisoner rehabilitation system using music and art.
- Arguing in favor of Net Neutrality.
Persuasive Essay Outline
Writing an outline is a big step for writing persuasive essays. An outline helps to get your thoughts well-organized and makes the writing process simpler.
A standard persuasive essay structure is quite similar to other types of essays and consists of three main elements: an introduction, body, and conclusion. Each element plays its own role in the paper. You will be required to follow the persuasive essay format and cite it according to one of the common citation styles, such as APA or MLA.
Here is a brief note on what each part of this paper consists of and what purpose each part has:
- Intro: Consists of a hook, background info, and a thesis statement. It should be straight to the point, engaging, and concise. The main purpose of the introductory paragraph is to define your topic and position, grab the reader’s attention, and give a sneak-peek into the topic’s background.
- Main Body: Consists of several paragraphs, each focusing on a separate idea with supporting evidence. It should be logical, contain valid arguments, and be interesting. As a general rule, such an essay has from 3 to 5 body paragraphs. In the final body paragraph of your paper, you can also state the opposing opinion and provide counterarguments—this will strengthen the persuasive effect of the text.
- Conclusion: Consists of a short summary of key points, a restated thesis, and additional information to leave readers some food for thought. To consolidate the convincing effect of your paper, it should be clear, logical, and powerful.
To give you a better idea of how a persuasive essay outline should be formed, here is a sample on the topic “Are Women Weaker Than Men Today”:
- Hook: “In the 21st century, women are more than housewives.”
- Background Info: “For ages, the debate on whether women are weaker or stronger than men have not faded.”
- Thesis: “The era of male dominance has come to an end. Today women can do and be pretty much everything men can.”
2. Main Body
- Argument #1: The strength of a woman from a family perspective + supporting facts, stats, and evidence
- Argument #2: The strength from a work perspective + supporting facts, stats, and evidence
- Argument #3: The strength from a society perspective + supporting facts, stats, and evidence
- Summary of all arguments
- Thesis restatement: “Women were perceived as a weaker sex for centuries. However today, looking at modern women examples, we can mark this statement as false.”
- Food for thought: “Over the past decades, women from all over the world have proven that they can do anything a man can do and succeed. Their success is the best indicator of their strength. And, even though there is nothing else to prove, women are still seeking to take a more active role in modern society.”
How to Use Arguments in Persuasive Essays
How to start a persuasive essay: first and foremost, to write an effective paper, you have to understand the basic principles of persuasive writing. Your main goal is to make readers accept your opinion and agree with it. The only way to do it is by supporting your ideas with credible, reasonable, and verifiable arguments. Apart from that, you will have to appeal to human emotions and logic. The right blend of rational and emotional elements in your text is what makes it persuasive.
Now, let’s get back to the basic elements of persuasive writing. There are three elements of rhetoric described by Aristotle that you should keep at the core of your writing:
- Ethos: an element that appeals to an author’s credibility. It implies that readers will trust your opinion because they find you a credible author. If you don’t have your own ethos yet (meaning you are not a proven expert in a specific field), you can refer to opinions stated by credible organizations and personas. In this case, their ethos will help your arguments sound more solid.
Example: The National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America has conducted a study which has shown that women are able to survive for longer than men under extreme conditions such as epidemics, famines, enslavement, etc.
- Pathos: an element that appeals to emotions. The trick is to focus on the audience’s values, morals, and beliefs, and use them to: provoke the needed emotions and promote an agreement with the idea you have stated.
Example: This is a man’s world, but where would we all be without a woman? A woman is a person that gives birth to us, a person who guides each of us through this world, and a person who inspires and motivates us. How can such a person be called weak?
- Logos: an element that appeals to reasoning. The last basic principle of persuasive writing, Logos implies using evidence and logic to assure readers to agree with your opinion.
Example: Numerous studies have confirmed that women are mentally stronger than men in numerous domains of cognition.
How to Shape a Powerful Persuasive Argument
Here are a few basic tips to help you generate convincing arguments for your paper:
- Research. To be able to form solid and convincing points, you have to be very well informed about the chosen topic. Research it thoroughly using trusted sources, collect expert opinions, and find facts.
- Make sure there are two sides to your topic. Your thesis must have two sides – the one with which you agree, and the one you are going to be opposing. You will not be able to create a good persuasive argument if the chosen topic is not debatable.
- Understand the contrasting opinion. Another vital factor in shaping powerful arguments is being able to understand the opposite position and being able to find solid counterarguments to disprove it.
- Use evidence. Finally, keep in mind that a persuasive argument will look incomplete and invalid if you don’t have sufficient and convincing evidence to support it.
How to Support Your Argument
As you now already know how to shape a good argument, let’s look at the different ways to support it:
1. Statistics – an excellent way to support your ideas is to use all sorts of statistics. As a rule, stats look very convincing in the general context. However, be sure to only provide valid statistics from credible sources.
Example: Today women represent 18% of the officer corps and about 16% of the enlisted military forces in the US, which once more reinforces that women have the ability to do anything men can.
2. Facts – proven facts are powerful means of persuasion for which you can rely on in your paper.
Example: According to studies, when it comes to longevity, women are more likely to survive illness and cope with trauma.
3. Examples – providing examples from real life (including your own experiences), literature, or history can help enhance the effect of your persuasive paper and provide good support for your arguments.
Example: Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, is a true real-life example of a woman’s strength. Merkel had the strength to enter the world of politics and compete against men. She has proven to the entire world that a woman can be a good politician. It is not without reason that she has held the first spot in Forbes’ list of the most powerful women of the world for 9 years in a row.
4. Quotes – another excellent way to support your ideas is to provide direct quotes that reflect the opinions of trusted and credible personas.
Example: “To call woman the weaker sex is a libel; it is man's injustice to woman. If by strength, brute strength is meant, then indeed, a woman is less brute than man. If by strength, moral power is meant, then woman is immeasurably man's superior. Has she not greater intuition, is she not more self-sacrificing, has she not greater powers of endurance, has she not greater courage? Without her, man could not be. If nonviolence is the law of our being, the future is with woman. Who can make a more effective appeal to the heart than woman?" - Mahatma Gandhi
How to Write a Persuasive Essay: Step-by-Step
Once assigned to write a persuasive paper, many students make the mistake of heading straight to writing the essay, whereas there are some preparational steps that shouldn’t be skipped.
Here is a complete step-by-step guide that will help you navigate through the whole process:
To get started, you need to define a clear position. To decide which side you are going to support, look at both sides of the topic and determine which one is more appealing to you and your personal beliefs. Also, don’t forget to do some research to ensure you will have enough evidence to back your ideas.
Once you have defined your position, you can go on and dig deeper into your topic. You need to be well-informed on the matter in order to shape clear arguments.
When conducting your research, be careful with choosing your sources – they have to be valid and trustworthy. Also, don’t forget to take notes of the most interesting facts, stats, examples, and quotes. Later they will come in handy to back your arguments.
In the course of the research, you will probably come across a wide variety of proofs. Unfortunately, there is no way you can fit them all into a single paper. That’s why your next step is to assess the collected evidence and identify the strongest facts that will add the most value to your work.
Use the tips and examples mentioned earlier to form a detailed and clear outline for your paper. An outline will help you cover all of the important details and make sure that you won’t get lost in the process of writing.
As soon as you have an outline, you can move on to writing the essay itself. Before you rush into it, consider looking through a few good persuasive writing examples to get an idea of how it should look like. Then, start working on your own paper.
Be sure to follow the outline while writing. It will help you keep all of your points well organized and logical.
Finally, the last steps to success are proofreading and editing. We recommend giving yourself a few days off after writing to restore your energy and get back to proofreading with a rested and fresh mind.
Keep in mind that proofreading and editing are not just about detecting and fixing grammar mistakes. During this phase, you ought to find any and all areas for improvement in your paper and polish them.
Tips for Persuasive Writing
With all that being said, here are some final tips for writing a flawless persuasive essay:
- Avoid fancy vocabulary. Having some variety when it comes to vocabulary is fine, but don’t expect your grade to be better because of some fancy synonyms. Find your style and write in a way that makes sense.
- Make logical transitions between different parts of your paper. Be sure to make your paper smooth and easy-to-read.
- Experiment with different persuasion techniques. We listed some of the basic elements of persuasive writing in this article, but there are even more of them found in countless different mediums.
- Triple-check your work! Practice makes perfect and so does proofreading. Check the assignment for readability, logic, style, tone of voice, etc. Make sure that everything flows in harmony with the thesis. Get a second pair of eyes by giving your essay to a friend for reading!
- Ask the right questions. After you have written and proofread your paper, take some time to ask yourself the following questions:
- Did I follow the teacher’s guidelines?
- Did I answer the main question provided in the task (if any)?
- Is my essay structured well?
- Is the text clear and coherent?
- Is my choice of words throughout the paper good?
- Did I provide enough supporting evidence for my ideas?
- Is my paper free of errors?
- Can I further improve the quality of my paper?
- Does it look convincing?
This simple checklist will help you ensure that your persuasive essay is flawless.
Persuasive Essay Examples
Check out our persuasive essay examples below to get a better understanding with writing this type of paper.
This is an example of a well structured persuasive essay. The author challenges an assumption that women are weaker than men and provides evidence to support his claim.
The question of whether women are weaker than men has often elicited raging debates with conservationists arguing that women are certainly weaker than men. The converse is, however, true and if the 21st-century woman is to be taken as an example, women are certainly as strong as men if not stronger across all comparable platforms. The era of male dominance came to an end with the rise of the feminine power and gone are the days when men were the more dominant of the human species. As the saying goes, “what men can do, women can do better," the women of today can do almost everything men can do and as just as good.
This persuasive essay example makes good use of source material and addresses a contemporary issue. The writer challenges the idea of online piracy, and argues that sharing media has become a norm in society.
The United States’ government came up with the Copyright Act of 1976 to
protect the works of arts by different artists. The act outlines the punishable felonies concerning authenticity; for instance, it is a punishable offense to illegally download music from the internet. In addition, it sets the specific fines for the committing such crimes; for example, it says that one could pay a fine of up to $ 30,000, per piece of work (Burrell & Coleman, n.d.). Therefore, though downloading songs, freely, from the internet could sound normal, it is a felony. However, there exist some questions on, whether, or not this act is worth the penalties. For this reason, a critical analysis of the transgression will determine, whether, or not it merits for the charges.