How to Write a Persuasive Essay
When writing a persuasive essay, the writer will try to convince the reader to adopt the opinion of the writer on a particular issue. They do this in many different ways, but they should demonstrate a keen understanding of their audience. You need to know who you’re writing to, who you’re trying to convince of this opinion. Consider the interests, prior knowledge, and learning styles of the audience.
Think about who you’re writing to. Are they going to be interested in this topic to start with, or are you going to have to get them interested? Are they going to have any prior knowledge about this, or is this the first time they’re going to be reading about it? How do they learn? What’s the best way that you could support your thesis so that they would eventually adopt your opinion? These are all things to think about when you’re writing.
At the beginning of every essay, you’re going to want to develop your thesis. The thesis is going to be the introduction of your persuasive essay, but it’s going to be at the end, not at the beginning. In most papers, your thesis will be at the beginning of that introductory paragraph, but not in a persuasive essay, because in a persuasive essay you want to establish credibility first. You want to win the trust of the audience, or at least their interest, before you tell them what you’re trying to convince them of.
One way to do this is to use an anecdote, or story. If you start off your paper with a short anecdote, or story, it kind of warms the audience to you. You may give them a little bit more information that lets them know you are a credible source to be talking about this topic, and then introduce your thesis. Then introduce what it is you’re going to be trying to convince them of in this persuasive essay.
Once you’ve established your thesis, there are several ways that you can develop it. We’re going to discuss three different persuasive essay techniques today. One is making claims. You’re going to give lots of supporting ideas to your main argument, so you should have small claims along the way that support the central argument. You make one big claim at the beginning when you tell people what it is you’re writing about, what it is you’re trying to convince them of.
You’re going to make several small claims along the way that support that central argument. Claims should be rooted in fact and observation. These claims cannot be something that is just your opinion. It can’t be something you made up. You can’t say, “I think chocolate ice cream is the best ice cream.” You could say, “I think an ice cream parlor should serve more varieties of chocolate ice cream,” and you could back that up by going and doing some research, looking to see what kind of money the store might make if they had different ice cream flavors.
You could back it up. There are facts. There are observations. There are statistics you could look at. If you just say, “Chocolate is the best. There should be more chocolate,” that’s just your opinion. It’s not a small claim that would be confirmable. That leads us to this part: Must be confirmed. Any facts that you include, any observations, must be confirmable. You must be able to go back and show where you found them.
Show that it’s a true statement. Within a persuasive essay, include references when possible show where you got this information. Don’t make the reader go find it. Present it to them to show that you are being upfront about this. What you’re saying is true. What you’re saying is the right thing and they should believe you. It further establishes trust with them. Another way that you can develop your thesis is with examples and expert opinions.
Examples are most effective when they complement facts. You’ve laid out some facts and observations, now give some examples that support those. Examples are a good way to make dry facts more interesting or understandable. Sometimes, a writer will present a fact, and you’ll say, “Mmm, I don’t really know what they mean by that.” If they give you an example to back it up, then you say, “Oh, that’s what they meant.”
Using an example can make your audience understand what you are trying to tell them better and make it more interesting. Sometimes facts are dry, and hearing a lot of facts in a row may just be boring and may not actually pull your reader’s interest toward that opinion you’re trying to convince them of. If you use an expert opinion, your expert should have a title, or credentials of some sort that clearly indicates the expert’s knowledge and experience of the topic.
If you’re saying someone is an expert on, say, a certain drug, then you may want the doctor to be there to say, “Oh, well, amoxicillin really does have all these health benefits. Here are all the things that I can tell you about that.” You want a doctor. You want him to be able to show he’s got a degree in medicine. You don’t want it to be just someone that comes on and says, “Oh, yeah. I’ve given my kid amoxil several times and my kid always gets better after a cold.” That’s not what you want.
You want someone who’s got verifiable credentials, to be an expert. We’ve looked at making claims using facts to support your thesis and using examples and expert opinions to back those up. You can also look at emotional appeals. Opinions are formed by emotion, as well as reason. These are going to play more on reason, more on logic, where emotional appeals are going to pull on a reader’s emotions. These should be used in a proper and ethical manner. That’s important to remember.
If you’re going to appeal to a reader’s emotions, you need to be responsible about it and make sure you’re doing it the right way. Let me show you some examples to expand on that. Think about drunk-driving ads. Sometimes, you may see some really sad and graphic things in those ads. What’s being shown is shown to you to let you know that this is a serious issue, that people should not drive after drinking, because there can be terrible consequences.
Anyone using that information should be using it to support not drinking and driving. Even though it’s pulling on your emotions, it’s doing it for a good reason. Let’s look at politics. A lot of times, one candidate will put out an ad saying how patriotic they are, showing how they’ve served their country and all the ways they’re patriotic. That’s really nice, but, often, it’s going to also imply that the other candidate competing against the first one is not very patriotic.
That’s usually far from the truth. Meanwhile, that first candidate’s patriotism is going to link them to voters. Voters are going to say, “Oh, I really care about the country, too, so I need to go with this guy because he’s patriotic and the other one isn’t,” even though that’s not true. You don’t want to mislead your audience with emotional appeals. One other way that that could be done is with loaded language.
If someone is extremely religious and they are called a fanatic, the word “fanatic” has a certain connotation to it that is negative, the same way as if someone was environmentally conscious and someone called him a tree-hugger. That has a negative connotation.
Whenever you’re writing a persuasive essay, make sure you’re keeping in mind who your audience is, what their interests are, how much they may already know about the topic, and what’s going to help them the most. Then, you can decide if you want to use small claims along the way, expert opinions and examples, or emotional appeals to back up your thesis. The most important thing you’re going to need to do is to win your audience’s trust. You want to establish that you’re credible, so you can convince them that your opinion is the correct one.