What Is a Persuasive Essay?

Renee Booker

There are a number of different ways in which an essay may be structured or formatted. Which essay should be used will depend largely on the purpose of the essay. A creative essay, for example, is a way for the writer to express himself or herself or to tell a story. A persuasive essay, on the other hand, is used to convince the reader of the essay to agree with, or adopt, a particular point of view about the subject of the essay. When writing a persuasive essay, logic and reason are used along with facts, statistics, and studies.

A persuasive essay begins by stating what position the writer will take on a given issue.
A persuasive essay begins by stating what position the writer will take on a given issue.

A persuasive essay begins by stating what position the writer will take on a given issue. For example, on the issue of capital punishment, the writer could write a persuasive essay in support of, or in opposition to, the use of capital punishment. As a rule, the introduction in a persuasive essay will explain the issue and inform the reader which position the writer intends to take on the issue.

The writer should brainstorm for topics she feels strongly about before beginning the essay.
The writer should brainstorm for topics she feels strongly about before beginning the essay.

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During the body of the essay, the writer needs to both provide the reader with evidence to support his or her position and provide evidence that disproves the opposing point of view. Evidence used to support the writer's point of view should be logical, empirical evidence. Examples of evidence that may be used in a persuasive essay include results of scientific studies or research, established facts, or quotes by well-known and respected experts in the field. A good writer is able to use the logical evidence available to him or her in a way that leaves the reader with no other choice than to confer with the writer.

While providing evidence in support of his or her point of view is important in a persuasive essay, addressing the opposition is advisable as well. When a writer ignores the opposing point of view, it makes it easier to fault the writer's argument. By addressing, and dismissing, the opposing view point, the writer's argument is only stronger. A simple explanation of the prevailing opposing viewpoint with a well thought-out argument against it will increase the force of the writer's argument.

A short conclusion should be included in the essay. The conclusion generally briefly restates the writer's point of view and then summarizes the points he or she has made in favor of that point of view. No new evidence or argument should be introduced in the conclusion.

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Discussion Comments

MissDaphne

@jennythelib - I've taught that essay! It has made the persuasive essay format the highlight of our year. Parents love it.

I teach the kids that there are basically three ways to deal with a counterargument. First, you can show that it is incorrect. If your parent states that having a cat would be too expensive, you can work out what you think it will really cost. Or you can show that it is poorly reasoned. If a parent thinks that you won't take care of the cat, give examples of how responsible you've been to argue that you'll do what is required. Finally, you can admit that a counterargument is correct, but argue that some other consideration is more important. You could admit that having a cat would be an expense, but argue that the joy it will bring the family will be well worth it.

jennythelib

I heard the most interesting persuasive essay topic from a homeschooling parent I met at the library where I work. I think she had gotten it from a website.

It's called the parent persuasion essay and it's great for middle school in particular. Basically, the audience is the parent and the child is trying to convince the parent of something they should be allowed to do, have, etc. - like a later bedtime or unlimited texting on their cell phone.

It has a couple of advantages. Because the parent is right there, they can provide the counterarguments! And no research is required, which can be nice if research just isn't on your agenda - it allows practicing with arguments and counterarguments without having to cover databases and citations and whatnot.

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