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Persuasive Writing

Sometimes when we write, our purpose is to convince our readers to agree with us. We see persuasive writing all the time. Think about the many ads and commercials you see each day. They want you to buy their cereal, their toy, or their service and they give you all the reasons why you should. It’s not always about selling a product; sometimes it’s about "selling" an idea or a belief.

One of the most important things to decide is who your audience is. If you’re trying to convince your readers that your school should build a new playground, you’ll need to know who you’re trying to convince. The reasons you include may be very different, depending on whether your intended audience is children, parents, or school administrators. Students might not care that the cost is low, while administrators probably won’t be swayed by the fact that it has a twisty blue slide.

You also need to get together your facts before you begin. Why should they agree with your position on the issue? How does it help them? What will happen if they decide to agree with you? Be careful not to stray too far from the facts. It might sound great to say, "A new playground would be really cool and the kids would have a lot of fun," but all you are offering is an opinion. Something like this might have more impact, "The new playground has been certified as one of the safest available. Replacing the old wood with newer, stronger, plastic equipment has been shown to significantly decrease the number of playground injuries at other schools."

Time4Writing provides practice in this area. View our coursework available in High School Essay Writing or browse other related courses.

What is a Persuasive essay?

  • A convincing case in favor of, or in opposition to, an argument
  • Difference from an expository essay
    • Bias
    • Taking a side
    • Carefully argued perspective

Persuasive Essay

  • Requires the student to…
    • Appeal to the reader’s sense of logic
      • Present specific and relevant evidence
      • Well-organized structure
    • Use evidence to support your viewpoint
      • Statistics
      • Facts
      • Quotations from experts
      • Examples
  • Consider opposing views
    • Anticipate concerns and questions
    • Respond to these points
    • Explain why your viewpoint is best
  • Present a strong conclusion
    • Evidence and explanations should build to a strong ending
    • Summarize your view in a clear and memorable way
    • May include a call to action
  • Do use a pleasant and reasonable tone
    • Logic and fairness will keep it strong
  • Don’t use sarcasm or name-calling
    • Weakens an argument

Choose a topic

  • The first step is choosing a topic
    • Brainstorm ideas
      • Needs to have depth and support
    • Pick a topic in which you strongly believe
      • Easier to defend your ideas
      • Makes your paper more convincing
  • Consider the opposing viewpoints

More about the topic

  • You must take a stand
    • No room for wishy-washy declarations
  • Write about something with which you are familiar
    • You will know something about it and be willing to research to learn more
  • The topic should be something upon which there is a reasonable difference of opinion
  • The topic must be very specific


  • Do your research
    • Use at least three sources
      • Never use just one source
    • Will strengthen your argument
    • Will help you understand the counter-arguments
    • Will help persuade reader by showing verifiable facts


  • Use an active voice
    • Avoid passive language
  • Use third person point of view
    • You need lots of research to back up your position
    • First person weakens your research
      • Sounds like just an opinion
  • Be clear
    • Use concise, clear language
    • Unnecessary wordiness will detract from the clarity


  • Arrange the essay
    • Introduction with strong thesis statement
    • Body paragraphs
      • Each one will take one reason from the thesis statement and offer proof that the reason is valid
      • Each one will include three smaller points defending the reason from the thesis statement
        • Add citations to help drive home the message that these are facts rather than just opinions
      • Each one will end with a transitional sentence to the next paragraph
        • Keeps the reading smooth
  • Dissect the counter-arguments
  • Can be separate paragraph
    • Mention the counter argument to each reason
    • Should be shot down with persuasive, rational arguments
      • Emotions have no place in this type of essay
      • Spell out why the counter-argument is wrong
      • Use facts to dissuade the readers from the counter-argument
  • Build a solid conclusion
    • Tie together the entire essay
    • Drive home the main argument once more
    • Remind the reader of your strongest sources
    • Reader should be convinced that your position is valid and supported by facts


  • Introduction
    • Hook (attention-grabbing opening sentence)
    • Background information
      • Three sentences leading up to your main idea or perspective on the topic
    • Thesis statement
      • Subject + argument about the subject + three reasons for your argument or viewpoint
  • Body paragraphs
    • Each paragraph should focus on one reason listed in the thesis statement (topic sentence)
    • Each paragraph should include three details, in the way of evidence or examples (support/detail sentences)
    • Each paragraph should end with a transition to the next reason or paragraph (closing sentence)
    • One paragraph can be included to accurately explain and then refute the most significant opposing view
  • Conclusion
    • Creatively rephrase your thesis statement
    • Summarize the main supporting points
    • Leave the reader with a sense of closure
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