In writing, an argument isn't a quarrel, though it may set off sparks of debate. To formulate an effective argument, you must take a position, justify your position with facts and credible evidence as well as persuade through emotional appeals. If it’s true that clear writing is the result of clear thinking, you must be an especially sharp thinker to craft a successful argument. This type of writing is a skill, one that usually improves with practice by following some basic tenets.
Follow the classic structure of argumentative by mapping out the five components: the introduction; presentation of the argument, or position; summary of opposing views; response to opposing views; and the conclusion.
Formulate a statement that can be argued or is subject to debate. An argument doesn't advance a conventional wisdom or state an obvious truism, such as “Students who practice writing tend to get better grades.” People who practice anything in school tend to get better grades, so don't defeat your argument before you begin.
State an argument by expressing an original thought or idea. Back up your assertions with credible evidence.
Frame your argument with a “should” statement. This effective device would recast the argument to say, for example, “Students should practice writing in a journal for at least one hour per day to improve their writing ability and get better grades.” Now you've laid a foundation to provide evidence for how writing for one hour a day translates to better grades in the classroom.
Advance your position with an authoritative tone as you provide evidence – numbers, statistics, research, surveys and other facts -- to back up your “should” statement and thesis.
Create an effective “ethos,” or an appeal to credibility, by demonstrating your knowledge and expertise about the issue. Your credibility is your bridge to your audience.
Rally a reasonable degree of emotional appeals, or “pathos,” in your argument. These appeals are designed to stir a reaction in your readers, so decide which emotion (or response) you wish to elicit and then choose your words and phrases accordingly.
State your argument by using specific, concrete language, examples and illustrations and narratives, where appropriate. Don't talk over your readers’ heads, but don't talk down to them, either.
Aristotle said that credibility is a combination of intelligence, character and goodwill. All must be on full display in argumentative writing.
Familiarize yourself with the different types of arguments. They include categorical, definitional, causal, resemblance, evaluation, proposal and ethical arguments.
- “Everything’s an Argument”; Andrea Lunsford and John Ruszkiewicz;
- “Writing Arguments”; John Ramage et al
- “The Structure of Argument”; Annette Rottenberg
- “The New St. Martin’s Handbook”; Andrea Lunsford and Robert Connors
- “The Little, Brown Handbook”; H. Ramsey Fowler et al
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