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Persuasive Essay Introduction A Writer’s Checklist Choosing an issue Writing an opinion statement Considering your purpose and audience Supporting your opinion Understanding logical appeals Understanding emotional appeals Calling an audience to action A Writer’s Model Your Turn: Write a persuasive essay
Introduction In a republican nation, whose citizens are to be led by reason and persuasion and not by force, the art of reasoning becomes of first importance. —Thomas Jefferson The founders of the United States used reasoning and persuasion to help build a nation.
Introduction Persuasion is the act of convincing others to believe a certain way or to take a course of action. You see persuasion at work every day in advertisements created to convince you to buy products. At election time, politicians use persuasion to try to influence people to vote for them.
Introduction When you write a persuasive essay, you try to convince people to agree with your viewpoint on an issue that is important to you. For example: You want to convince people that your school district should keep its art and music programs. You persuade those who read your letter in the newspaper and convince them to contact the school board. You write a letter to the editor of your local paper giving solid reasons in support of the music and art programs.
A Writer’s Checklist When you write a persuasive essay, speech, letter, or editorial, it is important to remember to Choose an issue about which you feel strongly. Write an opinion statement for the issue. Consider your purpose and audience. Support your opinion statement with reasons and evidence. Use logical and emotional appeals effectively. Include a call to action to move your audience to get involved.
Choosing an issue Your persuasive essay will be more powerful if you choose an issue that means something to you. An issue is a topic that people disagree about—and one about which you have a strong opinion. If you don’t feel strongly about an issue, you probably won’t have the power to convince others to agree with you.
To find a suitable issue for your persuasive paper, consider the following suggestions. Choosing an issue Browse newspapers or Web pages for news items or editorials. Think about a time when you saw a problem or situation that you wanted to change. Brainstorm with classmates about issues that affect your school, community, or town.
Writing an opinion statement After you have chosen an issue for your persuasive essay, identify your point of view on the issue. What’s your opinion? How do you feel about it? Write an opinion statement— one or two sentences that sum up the issue and your point of view on it. This statement will be the thesis, or main idea, of your paper.
Writing an opinion statement Here are the issue, point of view, and opinion statement for Hannah’s persuasive essay: Issue: littering on school property My point of view: Littering is out of hand at our high school and we need to do something about it. My opinion statement: The problem of excessive littering at our school has many negative effects that students may not realize.
Considering your purpose and audience Your purpose for writing a persuasive essay is to convince others to share your opinion on the issue you’ve chosen. You probably also have another purpose—to prompt your reader to take action in order to change or correct the issue.
In order to convince your audience, you must first identify who they are. Ask yourself: Who does this issue affect? Who do I need to convince? Considering your purpose and audience Issue: the need for laws to address global warming Who does this affect? everyone Who do I need to convince? policy makers and citizens—especially those who are politically active
Considering your purpose and audience Next, analyze your audience. Understanding your audience is necessary for developing arguments effective for this specific group. Ask yourself: What does my audience already know about this issue? What will make them care about this issue? What will they want to know more about in order to be convinced?
Considering your purpose and audience AudienceResponse to Questions Hannah created this chart to analyze her audience. Students at James Madison High School who litter What they know: They probably already know that littering is wrong. What will make them care: Help them recognize just how bad littering is and how their cooperation would help fix the problem. What they will want to know more about: They will probably want facts and statistics about the negative effects of litter.
Considering your purpose and audience When analyzing your audience, you also need to think about why they might disagree with you. What counterarguments might they have? Addressing the counterargument: You are one of 1200 students at James Madison High School. Multiply your litter by that number and you have a staggering amount of litter that can truly have an impact on the environment. Counterargument: I’m just one person who litters occasionally. How can the occasional wrapper or bottle that I drop be a big problem?
Supporting your opinion Support for an opinion statement consists of reasons and evidence. Opinion Statement Reasons support your opinion, and evidence supports your reasons. Reason Evidence
Supporting your opinion You can use several types of evidence for supporting your reasons: facts, statistics, expert opinions, anecdotes, and examples. Facts are statements that can be checked by testing, observation, or research. Fact: There is much more litter at our school now than when I first started here in ninth grade.
Writing Tip: Back up your opinions A fact is a statement that can be proved true; an opinion is a belief or feeling about something that cannot be proved. Fact: Litter is bad for the environment and sometimes results in the death of wildlife. Opinion: People who litter are slobs who don’t care about animals. To write a good persuasive essay, you must back up your opinion statement with facts that give your argument credibility.
Supporting your opinion Statistics are facts that are numerical and are tabulated to present information about a subject. Example: After establishing a mandatory after-school detention, a neighboring town conducted a study that showed that the amount of litter in their schools decreased by 75%.
Supporting your opinion Expert opinions are statements made by people who are considered authorities on a subject. Example: According to our town’s leading psychologist, Julius Stack, “Students will not be as motivated to learn if they are in an unattractive setting.” Backing up your opinion with one from an expert gives your stand on an issue more credibility.
Supporting your opinion An anecdote is a story used to support a main idea. Example: A classmate told me that he was embarrassed when his parents visited our school and had to walk around smelly trash on the sidewalks.
Supporting your opinion An example is a specific instance, or illustration, of a general idea. General statement: Litter is harmful to wildlife. Specific example: Small animals, such as mice, can get trapped inside bottles and other trash.
Supporting your opinion Make sure that you back up your opinion on an issue with at least three solid reasons. When you write your essay, start with your second strongest reason and save your best reason for last to cinch your argument. Each reason should be supported by at least two pieces of evidence, and preferably by three or more.
Test Tip: Supporting your opinion When taking a test, you will not be able to look up statistics and expert opinions. Instead, you will need to rely on examples and anecdotes to create a logical appeal. Make sure that you explain your examples and anecdotes well and show how they connect to your opinion statement.
Understanding logical appeals A solid logical reason combined with good evidence makes up a logical appeal. Logical appeals are the building blocks of your persuasive essay. Opinion statement: Year-round schools are not in the best interest of high school students. Reason: Many high school students need to work over the summer. Evidence: Sixty-five percent of students in high school work over the summer and save money for college.
Understanding emotional appeals Emotional appeals stir up feelings such as happiness, sadness, or anger in your readers. One technique writers use is to include words with strong connotations. This is known as using loaded language.
Understanding emotional appeals Let’s take a look at Hannah’s anecdote again. Hannah’s anecdote contains loaded language. Words such as embarrassed and smelly trash have strong emotional connotations. Anecdote: A classmate told me that he was embarrassed when his parents visited our school and had to walk around smelly trash on the sidewalks.
Calling an audience to action In the closing section of your essay, you should get your audience involved by including a call to action. Involve the audience by asking them to do something or by suggesting ways they can get involved.
Calling an audience to action Here is the call to action that Hannah used in her essay. The next time you find yourself about to litter, stop and use the nearest trash or recycling receptacle. Urge others to do the same.
A Writer’s Checklist Use the checklist below as you look at the following Writer’s Model and as you write your own persuasive essay. Choose an issue about which you feel strongly. Write an opinion statement for the issue. Consider your purpose and audience. Support your opinion statement with reasons and evidence. Use logical and emotional appeals effectively. Include a call to action to move your audience to get involved.
attention-grabbing opener opinion statement Let’s Clean Up Our School! by Hannah Grant What do soda cans, water bottles, and food wrappers have in common? Unfortunately, these and many other kinds of trash can be found littered on the campus of James Madison High School. The problem of excessive littering at our school has many negative effects that students may not realize.
reason #1 expert opinion First of all, litter detracts from the appearance of our school and consequently lowers student morale and motivation. According to our town’s leading psychologist, Julius Steck, “Students will not be as motivated to learn if they are in an unappealing setting.” Secondly, litter poses a health risk. Students are at risk of becoming injured by broken glass and other sharp objects. In the last school year ten students cut themselves on broken glass on the sports fields. reason #2 example
reason #3 counterargument Furthermore, litter is harmful to wildlife. Jill Lawson, manager of the Shelton Animal Shelter, says that many animals are injured each year by the careless disposal of trash. Small animals, such as mice, can get trapped inside bottles. You may think that the occasional wrapper or water bottle that you drop can’t really hurt. Consider that you are one of 1200 students at this high school. Now multiply your litter by that number and you have a staggering amount of litter that can truly have an impact on the environment. example addresses counterargument
restatement of opinion call to action Litter detracts from the appearance of our school, lowers student morale, and is harmful to people and wildlife. Let’s all clean up our act now. The next time you find yourself about to litter, stop and use the nearest trash or recycling receptacle. Urge others to do the same. Do it for yourself, your fellow students, and the environment.
Write a persuasive essay in response to one of the prompts below. You can take a stand for or against the issue you choose. Remember to use the Writer’s Checklist and Writer’s Model as guidelines when writing your essay. Issue 1: All K–12 classrooms should be equipped with a computer for each student. Issue 2: All students in our state should attend school year-round. Your Turn: Write a persuasive essay