How To Write an Effective Persuasive Essay in 6 Steps
Updated June 24, 2022
Writing persuasively is a marketable skill that you can use in almost any profession. When you become familiar with persuasive arguments or essays, you can use them to improve your daily business communications whether they be internal or with customers. Expressing your opinion persuasively can help with sales, customer service or office communications. In this article, we discuss what a persuasive essay is, why it’s important, six steps to write one and offer tips to help you get started writing.
Related: Types of Essays and When To Use Them
What is a persuasive essay?
A persuasive essay uses rhetorical techniques to convince the reader to accept a particular viewpoint or take a specific action. It is a popular type of creative writing. Many types of articles use persuasive techniques because they are effective in short forms like an advertisement or long forms like an essay.
The writer takes a stand—”for” or “against”—on a specific issue and then elaborates on why they have that opinion. Data, research and anecdotal experience are used to back up the statement. A successful persuasive essay avoids logical fallacies, like false equivalencies or unverifiable facts, and addresses alternative viewpoints to refute them.
Here are some techniques that are common in persuasive essays:
Repetition: Repeating the same message several times makes the reader more likely to pay attention and remember the message later.
Storytelling: Readers are more likely to understand messages conveyed through a story that contextualizes the message through an analogy or an anecdote.
Rebuttals: You can address the opposing viewpoints by pointing out flaws in their logic, so the only valid position left is the one you are defending.
Call to action: You can give the reader a purpose by compelling them to take an action. This technique is very popular in advertising.
What you should include in a persuasive essay
An effective persuasive essay includes components known as modes of persuasion. These three elements work together to make a compelling argument.
Ethos, also known as “ethical reasoning,” is an argument element that allows you to establish your credibility and knowledge. Readers are more likely to trust someone with credible knowledge, personal experience or standing within a community. Including ethos in your persuasive writing can help sell your point of view.
Pathos, also called “passionate reasoning,” is an element that appeals to your reader’s emotions to evoke feelings. Triggering particular emotions can help them connect with you. It also provides a layer of interest to your readers, making your writing more compelling.
Logos, also known as “logical reasoning,” is a rhetorical appeal to your reader’s logic and rationality. Good persuasive writing outlines a series of logical reasons why the reader should believe your claim.
How to write a persuasive essay
Here’s how to write an effective persuasive essay:
1. Pick your position
Be specific about the position that you are taking and consider whether it is one you believe in. If so, it will be easier to find arguments to support it. The more specific your position is, the easier it will be to tailor your persuasive techniques to support it.
Once you have a position, you can construct your thesis statement, which is the sentence that states your full argument and sets up the organizational structure of your essay.
Here is an example of a thesis statement: This product is the best on the market because of its superior materials, innovative construction and value for the price.
2. Study your audience
Know your audience before you start to write. Who you are trying to influence will shape what arguments you use for persuasion. For example, if a marketing firm reaches out to a potential client that promotes meat consumption, it would use different arguments than it would with a business promoting veganism.
Your audience may have preconceived biases about your stand. The more you know about the audience, the better you can construct your arguments. You can determine how best to approach the topic and what opposition you may have to counter. Being familiar with all opposing views can help you strengthen your argument and perhaps look at your own argument in a new way.
3. Research both sides
To help pick the best evidence to support your argument, research your topic. This includes its history, previous arguments made for or against your stance, reactions your audience had to similar arguments and any opposing viewpoints. Look for reasons—and factual support—that would convince someone to believe your statement.
The more information you have on a topic, the better supported your argument will be. You can find an answer for any rebuttal that someone may have for your position or find a viewpoint that no one else has presented. If your argument is well prepared and based in fact, it will be harder to refute and therefore be more persuasive.
4. Structure your text
Once you have researched all sides of your topic, you can structure your essay. Determine what evidence you will use and what order you will present your arguments so they carry the most weight. Here is a template for a basic persuasive essay:
[Evidence that supports the first argument]
[Evidence that supports the second argument]
[Evidence that supports the second argument]
[Rebuttal to conflicting viewpoint]
[Call to action]
You can vary the template based on how many arguments you have and how many conflicting viewpoints you want to address.
5. Support your argument
When writing your persuasive essay, use your topic research to select the most persuasive evidence to support each claim. The strength of your evidence can determine how persuasive your text is. The most convincing evidence is quantifiable because people trust statistics. However, you can also use personal anecdotes to create a connection with your reader.
Choose evidence based on what will be most effective with your reader and what is most appropriate for your tone and topic. For example, in a cover letter, quantifiable facts about your sales numbers may be more convincing than a personal anecdote from a family member.
6. Add a conclusion
Your conclusion is a closing argument where you reinforce your thesis statement. Including a call for action lets your reader know what to do with the information you've given them. Be sure to address questions you think the reader may have in your conclusion.
Tips for writing a persuasive essay
Here are some tips to help you write a successful persuasive essay:
Write with purpose
As you begin to write your essay, approach the task with the reader in mind. Persuasive texts are always written in the present tense to let the audience know that you’re writing about something happening now, not in the past. Using separate paragraphs for each element of your argument helps ensure the reader doesn’t miss your point. You can also draw on your audience’s feelings by using strong and emotive language.
Sometimes, you may come upon information that makes you rethink your topic while you're writing. It doesn’t change your opinion but may change how you present it. You might reword paragraphs or add other evidence. Revising or reworking your essay will likely strengthen your argument. Once you’re satisfied that you’re presenting a well-built argument, the essay will fall into place more easily.
Create an outline
You can create an outline during your research stage to help you identify any weaknesses in your argument before you write. An outline can also give you an idea of what your finished essay might look like. This can help you determine if you need more evidence to support an argument or if you need to find a different angle. It can also help guide you during your writing process.
Integrate persuasive techniques
When you use persuasive techniques correctly, they are subtle and integrated into the text. Your readers are more likely to respond positively if they feel you are presenting them with facts and letting them decide their opinion for themselves.
Audiences tend to respond to writing that feels personable, authentic and factually accurate. Consider what makes you passionate about your topic and how you can inspire that same sense of urgency in your reader. The same arguments that convinced you may work on your audience as well.
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