Persuasive essays are short (ca. 500~2000 words) pieces of writing that make a positive argument for something. Persuasive essays appear in advertising, academia, criticism, and print media to argue specific points.
Instead of deconstructing, attacking, or refuting another argument, persuasive essays passionately argue to inform and convince readers their expressed opinion is best. Here’s how persuasive essays work.1 2 3
Definition: Persuasive essays
- Persuasive essays always cover subjective themes. With any topic under intense debate, an effective persuasive essay can succinctly argue a particular viewpoint by presenting the facts (as the author sees them).
- Decent persuasive essays are more than just a bland ledger of factual statements. A great persuasive essay relies on three core rhetorical tools – Ethos (authoritarian appeal), pathos (emotional appeal), and logos (logical appeal). These themed elements flow together in prose to appeal to all biases.
- The open-ended applications of persuasive essays are immense. A quality persuasive essay can argue the merits of brand-new, fresh perspectives just as easily as defending a centuries-old status quo. It’s your choice.
- Nevertheless, persuasive essays aren’t always the best way to frame written debates. More in-depth topical explorations and scientific (objective) studies might benefit more from segmented projects or long-form articles.1 2 3
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Persuasive essays: The introduction
A good introduction establishes your controversy, the broad limits of said debate, and which side of the divide you (personally) fall on. It should also briefly explain why your chosen material is relevant (today) and use “hooks” to convince your reader to care.
You can structure your introduction with these rhetorical questions:
|Rhetorical Question||Answer Structure|
|What does this article cover?||Briefly explain your chosen topic.|
|How is this topic important?||Link to current context (e.g. The news).|
|Alternatively - When was this important?||Good for historical context.|
|Why should I care?||Link your topic to events, ideals, or principles.|
|Where does the author stand?||Summarize your opinions and theories.|
Here’s a short (fictional) example for reference.
Persuasive Essays: The body
The body of your persuasive essay is where you make your main argument in themed paragraphs. It’s the core of your persuasive essay.
The body consists of a series of points that provide evidence for your central assertion (e.g. heroic actors make excellent politicians). When used skillfully, the body can also house themed threads and subtle appeals to positive emotions (e.g. nostalgia, enthusiasm, happiness). 1 2 3
You can use the simple TEEL method to structure each paragraph in your persuasive essays:
- Topic – A single sentence summarizing a good supporting point.
- Explanation – Elaborate on why it’s a good point.
- Evidence – Provide solid proof as to why the point’s true.
- Link – Reference your core argument or the next paragraph (or both).
If we applied TEEL to the argument above, parts of a paragraph might look like this:
The body can also refute counterarguments. However, try to keep your defensive writing brief. Solid persuasive essays avoid spending too much time anticipating criticism or better ideas – you’re making a positive, firm statement about your opinion.
Don’t deviate much, either. You don’t need to state the context of every point you mention. Stick to the present tense wherever you can.1 2 3
Persuasive essays: The conclusion
Your conclusion briefly restates your core themes, context, and the most relevant points before summarizing why the argument you’ve just made is correct.
It should contain a recap threading all your evidence together and a final statement as to why the reader should adopt your opinion. It’s also an excellent place to make your “golden” point. Finish on a positive note by promoting the very best piece of evidence for your views.1 2 3
Your final lines should be climatic, strong, simple, clear, and decisive. No one enjoys reading a passionate argument that finishes by hedging or “fence-sitting”.
Here’s another (fictional) example:
The three elements of persuasive essays
The Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle identified three rhetorical elements at the heart of every great persuasive argument. The ability to appeal well to people’s sense of authority (ethos), emotions (pathos), and reality (logos) can make or break a persuasive essay.1 2 3
Ethos is general proof that you know your topic. Your life experience, reading, qualifications, sheer interest, essays, work, and reputation count – when cited appropriately and effectively.
Beware! An authoritative ethos alone isn’t enough to fully justify your opinion. Excellent credentials count for nothing if your fundamental topical understanding is poor or based on fiction.3
Pathos is an appeal to the readers’ sense of empathy and emotion. It’s central to making an ethical case as to why it’s good that readers should do, say, or believe in something.
Pathos can also invoke positive connections as a form of persuasion. Readers value evidence that what you’re advocating is linked to emotional memories they like and value.3
Logos covers the practical, logical, and objective evidence that backs up your argument. Reasoned theories, factual proof, measured data, and anecdotal evidence fall into this category.
Without provable, coherent logos? Your persuasive essays will collapse under close academic scrutiny. Facts put validity and strength behind your words.3
Writing persuasive essays: Step-by-step guide
- Identify your audience – Who is your work to convince?
- Research your subject – Examine arguments and pick a side.
- Draft your points – Select the best available evidence.
- Build your case – Link useful facts, data, and anecdotes.
- Anticipate counterarguments – Are there any objections?
- Write and refine – Fine-tune your finished argument.
- Call to action – Tell your reader what they should do.
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Persuasive Essays are short-form written pieces that make a positive, evidenced case for one side of a particular argument. A persuasive essay can also introduce brand-new perspectives.
Convincing others to think like you is the foundation of all power. Well-written persuasive essays can sell controversial products, public figures, policies, and projects.
No – watch out! A talented author can fake logos by using circular reasoning, “common sense”, emotional blackmail, and repeating the opinions of others.
1 Literacy Ideas. “How to Write Perfect Persuasive Essays in 5 Simple Steps.” July 23, 2021. https://literacyideas.com/how-to-teach-opinion-writing/persuasive-essays/.
2 Konya, Kelly. “How to Write a Persuasive Essay.” Grammarly blog. September 11, 2020. https://www.grammarly.com/blog/how-to-write-a-persuasive-essay/.
3 Embry, Meg. “Tips for Writing a Persuasive Essay.” TheBestSchools.org. August 25, 2021. https://thebestschools.org/magazine/tips-for-writing-persuasive-essay/.