How to Write Persuasive and Argumentative Essays

When writing an argumentative or persuasive essay, the writer tries to share their values, convince readers to accept or agree with the facts they have presented, agree with the arguments and conclusions they have reached, and get readers to adopt their thought process.  

The elements involved in writing an effective persuasive or argumentative essay are:

  • The establishment and presentation of facts in support of the writer’s argument
  • The clarification of relevant and appropriate values for readers i.e. to provide a particular perspective
  • The prioritization, sequencing, and/or editing of facts, views, and values to build the essay’s argument
  • The formulating and stating of conclusions
  • An attempt by the writer to persuade readers that certain conclusions are correct based on agreed facts and through the sharing of values
  • The demonstration of sufficient confidence on the writer’s part to present and communicate ideas through a sufficiently persuasive piece of writing. 

The following are a few strategies to help you produce a persuasive piece of writing:

Rewrite the assignment’s question(s) in words of your own choosing.

Consider the question(s) the assignment is asking.
While reading and undertaking any necessary research, consider and determine the following: 

  • The evidence and facts are available to you.
  • Any source materials that are likely to help you establish the reliability of information (and also to use for future reference).
  • Any biases or prejudices that the argument may hold or any values that may be clouding the issue or facts.
  • Your opinion of the argument put forward by the author. 

Set out the facts and consider how relevant or important these are: 

  • Examine the facts to prioritize, sequencing, editing, or discard them.
  • The question whether any facts or information are “missing.”

Is there anything “hot” about the issue?

Recognize and make a list of any possible emotional responses the topic may generate and put these aside in case you need to use them later.

Begin writing your first draft! (You can refer to our other article “The Basics of Essay Writing” for more help with this element). 
Begin as closely as you possibly can with the materials you have read and/or researched.
There is no need to be concerned about spelling and grammar at this stage. 

  • Draft the first or opening paragraph of your essay.
  • Introduce your topic.
  • Share your viewpoint on the topic.
  • Encourage readers to keep reading your paper.
  • Identify three key points to focus on and keep developing these as you write.
  • Establish a smooth flow as you move from one paragraph to the next.
  • Use active voice.
  • Quote any sources you use to give authority to your essay.
  • As you progress through your essay, remain focused on your viewpoint.
  • Concentrate on building arguments that are clear and logical.
  • Avoid the temptation to summarize while you are writing – leave this for the concluding section.
  • Write your concluding section. Here, you should sum up your argument and bring it to a logical conclusion. You should also refer back to your introductory paragraph, opening comments, and all the key points from the body of your essay. 

Revision Questions to Ask Yourself

  • Have you restated all key points/ideas in your conclusion?
  • Have you reflected on the importance and considered the progress of your argument(s)?
  • Have you developed your argument(s) to a logical conclusion? 

Edit your first or opening paragraph and rewrite (all or part) if necessary to better develop your essay and arrive at a conclusion.  

Now take a break for one or two days!

Then, when your mind is fresh, go back and reread what you have written. Ask these questions of yourself:

  • Does what I have written make perfect sense? Do I feel convinced by what I have written?
  • Will my readers be convinced?
  • Are they likely to agree with the facts I have presented and will they understand my ideas and values? 

Edit Your Work, Correct It, and Rewrite It where Appropriate

  • Check all grammar and spelling
  • Ask someone else to read your work and comment on your argument(s). Did they feel convinced?
  • Undertake any necessary revisions.
  • Hand in your paper.
  • Congratulate yourself on having done a good job knowing you have done the best you could. 

Tips for Responding to Possible Criticism

  • First, do your best not to take criticism personally.
  • Think of it as a way of developing or testing your persuasive powers.
  • If anyone criticizes your facts, check them again and cite the sources you took them from.
  • If anyone criticizes your particular values, it may be that you need to agree “not to agree” with your criticizer. Do not forget that to successfully persuade others is to assume another person’s mind is open to persuasion! 

Addressing Fear 

If it is the case you are not accustomed to communicating your thoughts, particularly on paper, you may experience fear on several levels. You will need to find ways to overcome these fears. Writing differs from an informal or undocumented speech in that it is a long-lasting record of what you say for everyone to see. Therefore, context is less important than it is in a speech where words can be colored by “context.” Here is an example: Readers cannot see you, they just see the words you have written. They know nothing of your appearance, who you really are, or where you come from.

It is to be hoped that school, college, and the classroom provide a haven in which students can practice the arts of both writing and persuading. Then in later life, when that student is in their community -whether this is in their family, neighborhood, church, or workplace - this early practice should bear fruit. 

There is another dimension to persuasion

Persuasion is built on facts, which leads to conclusions. This, of course, means a writer needs to know what they are writing about and should not be sloppy with their facts or they will not successfully persuade anyone. This can create another type of fear, which is the worry of making mistakes that will render your attempt at persuasion or argument meaningless. Because you are using the written word, and your words are visible to all on paper (or on the web!) it is necessary to make a real effort to ensure your facts are correct and in good order.