Chances are, by the time you complete your formal schooling, you’ll be required to complete a persuasive essay assignment. Learning to write persuasively is an essential skill, as generating an effective argument typically requires research, identifying a solid position through a strong thesis, and presenting a combination of logical and emotional evidence in an organized, thorough fashion.
The foundation of an effective persuasive essay is a solid thesis statement. In a persuasive essay, your thesis does more than just address the topic; it also clearly establishes your position (typically, for or against an issue) and specifically answers the question or questions set forth in your assignment. Without a strong thesis, your argument may fall flat and lack direction.
According to the great philosopher Aristotle, a strong persuasive argument consists of three components: Logos, or logical appeal; pathos, or emotional appeal; and ethos, which relates to the credibility of the source. For an argument to be valid, Aristotle argued, it must include a combination of all three appeals. It must address the reader’s sense of reasoning, which is the most important component of an argument, and also must appeal to a reader’s sympathies and sense of compassion. Ethical appeal is achieved by incorporating evidence from credible experts who have authority in their given fields, or by demonstrating how you yourself are an authority on the essay topic.
A strong persuasive essay is an organized essay. To be effective, the essay must have an obvious progression of thought. It should move from one idea to the next with smooth, logical transitions and with each body paragraph examining one general idea or argument that connects to your original thesis. For instance, if you’re writing about why capital punishment should be banned and use wrongful convictions as one reason for your position, you could spend one paragraph discussing specific cases where new evidence overturned death row inmates’ convictions.
An effective persuasive essay also recognizes -- but dismantles-- the counterargument. In other words, you’ll want to acknowledge the other side’s argument and then point out why its reasoning is faulty. You don’t want to attack by saying that the opposing viewpoint is simply “wrong.” Rather, you want to explain why the opposition's facts are out of date or how it ignores key evidence. Since it can pre-empt a potential reader’s skepticism about your claims, a counterargument is an essential component of a persuasive essay.
Conclusion and Call to Action
Like any conclusion, you want your persuasive essay’s conclusion to restate your thesis and summarize your main points. Here, however, you also want to end with a statement or challenge question that leaves no doubt in the reader’s mind that your argument is a valid, logical and well-reasoned one. Typically, persuasive arguments end with a “call to action,” which is a response you want your reader to enact. Tell your readers exactly what you expect them to do. Just like in a persuasive speech, your last statement should be your most memorable.
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