According to the authors of the book,
Teaching ESL Composition, "Writing is a lifetime skill (that) serves four
crucial, enduring purposes for the learner: communication, critical thinking and
problem solving, self actualization, and control of personal environment"
In writing to persuade, you are writing to control personal environment.
What does personal environment mean? For a student,
personal environment may mean conditions in the family or school or neighborhood
or city. Personal environment may even extend beyond these areas to include
conditions in the state, country, or world community. The point is that by
writing to persuade, writers have the opportunity to extend their ideas to
influence others and thereby affect change.
A key point to remember is that when writing to
persuade, your audience may not agree with you. Writing to persuade is,
therefore, more demanding and more ambitious than many other types of writing.
Your goal may be to change your readers' minds or move them to action. Your goal
may be to sell a program, defend an idea, or refute an opponent. In all these
instances, you should consider writing to persuade as an important method for
shaping your environment toward your vision of a better world,
whatever it is.
Organization of Essays to Persuade
One type of essay to persuade refers to questions
of fact. If you believe, for example, that drivers who
consistently drive faster than the speed limit are harming Mexico, it would be a
good idea to get evidence to support how they are harming Mexico. Suppose
you could show that speeding causes increased mortality rates on Mexico's
highways, increased gasoline consumption and, therefore, increased pollution.
Suppose you believe that speeding also contributes to more speed bumps, thereby
augmenting problems two and three above. These are questions of fact which you
could arrange topically with each idea presented and supported
independently. As you present your ideas, each main point should be
followed by a reason why someone should agree with you. More, each reason
should be a reason for action--you are writing an essay to persuade
drivers to respect speed limit laws. Such an essay could be organized as
Organization - Each Idea Presented and Supported Independently
A. Speeding causes
higher mortality rates.
B. Speeding causes increased gasoline consumption.
C. Speeding causes increased pollution.
D. Speeding causes a higher number of speed bumps aggravating B and C.
Other questions of fact can be
arranged spatially. Suppose, for example, that you believe that world
citizens should do more to help preserve endangered species. By organizing your
essay spatially, it might be possible to discuss leopards, cheetahs, and
elephants in Africa, Bengal tigers and snow leopards in Asia, jaguars and swamp
deer in South America, and bald eagles and timber wolves in North America. The
organization of your essay might look as follows:
Organization - Each Idea Presented and Supported Independently
1. Bengal tigers
2. Snow leopards
C. South America
2. Swamp deer
D. North America
1. Bald eagles
2. Timber wolves
Another type of essay to persuade refers to
questions of questions of policy. Personal questions of policy arise in
nearly everything we do. We choose what to do for our summer vacation, whether
to buy a new VCR, or which telephone service we should use.
When you write about a question of policy, it
usually requires the use of the word "should." How should I make the most
effective use of my education? What should be done about the inept postal
service in Mexico? Why should health care service providers provide free birth
control to those who want it?
Of the essays to persuade that have to do with
questions of policy, some are (1) to gain acceptance or passive agreement;
others are (2) to move the reader to immediate action. There is a big
difference between the two, and as a writer, you should know specifically what
you are trying to persuade your reader to do. Are you writing to get the reader
to accept your point of view, or are you trying to move the reader to action.
Types of Arguments in Essays to Persuade
The two main types of arguments in essays to
persuade are rational and emotional. If you are writing an essay
against hunting, for example, an emotional appeal might begin as follows:
"Every year hundreds of bloodthirsty killers go out and ruthlessly slaughter
thousands of innocent, helpless animals...." Obviously, many words in
the previous sentence are emotionally charged. A rational appeal against hunting, on
the other hand, might begin as follows: "Every year sportsmen buy their hunting
licenses and legally kill the state allotted limit of animals; however, evidence
shows that this practice must be stopped because the annual "harvest" always
exceeds the ability of nature to replenish the dwindling animal supply...."
Rational arguments are better when writing to
persuade, especially when writing for an English academic audience. In the
rational example above, for example, it would be possible to support your
position with the number of licenses issued, the numbers of animals killed every
year for the last five years, the estimated decline in animal populations, etc.
Emotional arguments work best when writing for an audience that already agrees
with your position; however, emotional arguments are rarely successful in persuading someone
who does not already agree. It is best to use emotional arguments for an
academic audience very sparingly.
Finally, remember these points when writing an essay to persuade:
1. State your organization. If you have
been reading these web pages, you have seen it repeatedly. "Tell your audience
what you are going to tell them; then tell them; then tell them what you told
them." Err on the side of clarity. If your audience cannot understand what you
write, or if your readers cannot follow your ideas, you will, obviously, not
2. Use a straight line of development.
State your points clearly and support them. If you have any doubt about
how to apply a straight line of development to an essay to persuade,
refer again to the
organizational chart referred to previously. A straight line of development
is what the U.S. academic audience understands and expects.
3. Anticipate possible objections. Remember
that you may not be able to persuade everyone to accept your ideas. There may be
individuals or groups opposed to what you have to say. Thus, you should
anticipate their objections and deal directly with the reasons for their
END of PART ONE
|Writing Essays to Persuade -
Attention, Benefit, Grabber methodology from the world of sales to
add depth to your essays to persuade!