There are at least two sides to every argument. In a pros and cons essay, you can demonstrate that you understand both sides of an issue, and also prove that you’re not afraid to pick a side. It’s a highly effective way to make an argument—as long as you do it properly.

Choose a Highly Debatable Topic

To a certain extent, most things are debatable. Some things are less debatable than others, however: for instance, almost everyone would agree that it’s better for a country to have a high standard of living than for it to have a low one. On the other hand, it is hotly contested whether a country should have a low rate of personal income tax. When you’re looking for a good pros and cons essay topic, choose an issue that a rational person could reasonably see both sides of.

Organize Your Essay by Alternating Pro and Con Paragraphs

After you introduce the debatable issue in an introductory paragraph, dedicate each body paragraph to a single point in favor of or against a position, and alternate paragraphs for each side. Alternating points in favor of a position with points against it gives you a chance to subtly persuade the reader of your own position; for instance, if you think that the cons outweigh the pros, you can demonstrate the inadequacy of the pros by introducing a pro first, and tempering it with a con immediately after.

Take Both Pros and Cons Seriously

The biggest strength of a pros and cons essay is that it gives a reader the chance to explore both sides of an issue before coming to a conclusion. To establish your credibility as a writer, you need to take both sides seriously. This doesn’t mean that you won’t pick a side, but it does mean that it’s important to present all relevant information fairly and evenly, rather than cherry-picking only information that backs up one side.

Conclude With Your Position

Now that you’ve explored both sides of an issue, you can weigh them. Your concluding paragraph is your chance to evaluate whether the pros beat out the cons and to persuade the reader of your position. By demonstrating to your reader that you are so well educated about a debatable topic that you can take both sides seriously, you will be far more persuasive when you finally present your conclusions about it.