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Persuasive writing, also known as an argument, is used to convince the reader of a writer’s argument(s) relating to a debatable issue. Persuasive writing involves convincing the reader to perform an action, or it may simply consist of an argument(s) convincing the reader of the writer’s point of view. Persuasive writing is one of the most used writing types in the world. Persuasive writers employ many techniques to improve their argument and show support for their claim. Another definition is "an essay that offers and supports an opinion".

Contents

Early rhetoric and persuasive writing

Early rhetoricians dealt with persuasive writing and oration. Cicero most notably defined persuasive writing as the grand style in his work Orator.

Cicero stated, “This eloquence has power sway man’s mind and move them in every possible way”.

He also stated, however, that the most effective orator, or in this case, writer, uses a combination of the plain, middle, and this grand style to suit the context.

Ethos, logos, and pathos in persuasive writing

By appealing to credibility, writers can make their claims more believable. This is called an appeal to ethos, as defined by Aristotle. The writer builds on his or her ethos by writing with clarity (an important element of style) and eliminating contradictions within the text itself. The writer will be more credible to the target audience if there are no internal errors in syntax and mechanics as well as no factual errors in the subject matter.

Writers can appeal to logic when writing to persuade using the appeal known as logos. This appeal is manifested in the supporting statements for the writer’s claim. In most cases, a successful appeal to logos requires tangible evidence, e.g., a quote from acknowledged written material. The writer will appeal to the rationality of the audience.

Possibly the most important appeal for persuasive writers is the appeal to emotions or pathos. “A successful pathetic appeal will put the audience in a suitable mood by addressing their knowledge of or feelings about the subject” (Mendelson). This can be a very effective way to win over an audience.

Most persuasive writing techniques use an effective combination of all three appeals.

Traditional structure

Here are the traditional parts of persuasive writing that can be used to strengthen an argument. While these do not have to be followed exactly or in this order, they are helpful in forming the structure in persuasive writing.

  • Exordium, or introduction
  • Narration, or background statement of the facts
  • Partition, or forecast of the topics to be presented
  • Conformation, or the confirmation of the piece. In contemporary English classes, this would be called the body of the text.
  • Refutation, or discussion of alternatives
  • Peroration, or a conclusion. It’s often helpful to tie the conclusion back to the introduction in order to strengthen your claim.

Common techniques[1]

  • Personal appeal: Human beings are emotional; establish common ground that your audience can relate to. Also known as empathy.
  • Tone: The tone of the piece can alienate a reader if too harsh or sarcastic. The writer wants the reader to like them and to approve of their idea.
  • Precision: Avoid lazy language, cliches, trends and jargon.
  • Concession: Acknowledge opposing points of view and offer your rebuttal.
  • Logic: If A equals B, and B equals C, then A must equal C. If the statements in your equation are true, then your conclusion must be true as well.
  • Authority: Speak from personal experience, or if you have none, then provide facts, figures, and quotes from authorities to support your opinion
  • Rhetorical questioning: A rhetorical question can be phrased so that the only answer is in favor of your opinion. Ex: Dog is man's best friend. Who doesn't want a loyal best friend?

Tips for effective persuasive writing[2]

  • Develop stance: Clearly explain the argument; include viewpoint(s) you personally advocate.
  • Establish credentials: Inform audience of any previous experience(s)/research that pertains to the argued point.
  • Anticipate opposing arguments: Be aware of opposing viewpoint(s)
  • Counter opposing arguments: Address/answer these as introduction to personal viewpoint(s)
  • Use reason: Base persuasive argument on evidence

Organizational patterns[3]

  • Pro and con organization: present the reasons against your opinion, then give reasons in favor of your opinion. Explain why your reasoning is superior.
  • Cause and effect organization: connect ideas logically by showing their cause and effect relationship. For example, if you wanted to persuade people to get a dental checkup every six months, present effects of frequent dental checkups.
  • Comparison and contrast organization: show similarities and differences between your opinion and others. Present factual evidence that shows why your opinion is best.
  • Main idea and detail organization: provide key point or main ideas and factual details to support it.
  • Order of importance organization: present your argument so you progress from the least important detail to the most important or vice versa.

References

  1. ^ Baird, Rod. A Bare-Bones Guide to Persuasive Writing. Writing 29:3 (2006):16-17.
  2. ^ Murray, Donald M. Write to Learn. 8th ed. Boston: Thomson Wadsworth, 2005.
  3. ^ "Patterns of Organization." Kim's Korner for Teacher Talk. 13 Oct 2008 <http://www.kimskorner4teachertalk.com/writing/sixtrait/organization/patterns.html>
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