I. What is a persuasive essay?
A persuasive essay takes a point of view on an issue and tries to convince the audience to agree with the stated point of view. The contents of the essay include evidence and arguments; it also may try to reach the audience’s emotions in order to make them think with their heart as well as their mind.
II. Examples of persuasive essays
- Dogs are better pets than cats
- Why the school day should start later
- Why you should support a political candidate
- People should not eat meat
- Soccer is better than basketball
- Don’t eat junk food
III. Types of persuasive essays with topics
No matter what type of persuasive essay you choose to write, the goal is always to convince your audience to agree with your opinion. Opinions come in one of three types:
a. One side is better than another
In this type of essay, there are several points of view about a topic. The writer’s goal is to persuade the audience to choose one side over the other(s).
Example: “Basketball is better than baseball.”
In this essay, the writer is choosing the side of ‘basketball’ over ‘baseball’. The essay would persuade the audience to agree by introducing evidence to support their side. For instance, the writer could talk about the higher scoring and faster pace of basketball, and the fact that baseball is affected by the weather while basketball is not.
b. People should support, believe, or do something
In this type of persuasive essay, the writer wants the audience to say ‘yes’ or agree to something – an idea, opinion, or action.
Example: “The school day should start later.”
The author of this essay wants the audience to support the idea of a later start to the school day. The essay would include evidence like a study that shows that teenagers need to sleep longer than adults to persuade people to agree. It may also bring up the emotions of the students (who would be glad to be allowed to sleep later) in order to convince the audience to support a later start to the school day.
c. People should oppose, reject, or avoid something
This type of persuasive essay is used when the writer wants the audience to say ‘no’ or disagree with something – and idea, opinion, or action.
Example: “Vote ‘no’ on the proposal for a new highway”
The author of this essay opposes the town’s plans to allow a new highway to be built nearby. In order to get the audience to also oppose the plan, the author would present evidence about why the highway is a bad idea. For instance, a highway would increase noise and pollution, as well as damage to the local wildlife. This essay might also bring up fears of increased taxes to pay for the highway in order to emotionally persuade people to oppose the highway proposal.
IV. Parts of a persuasive essay
a. Topic: A persuasive essay must state the topic clearly so that the audience knows what the focus is. The author should also express the importance of the topic to show why the audience should care.
- Which animal makes the best pet
- Whether or not to support plans for the new highway
- Should people ride bicycles without a helmet
- How should we raise money for our project
b. Stance: The stance of a persuasive essay is the side of the issue that the author supports. The stance should be stated strongly and clearly so that there is no doubt what the author’s stance is.
- Dogs make the best pets
- The new highway is a terrible idea
- Helmet laws are unnecessary
- A bake sale is our best way to raise money
c. Claim: A claim is a statement that the author believes. Most persuasive essays include between two and four claims.
- Dogs are easier to train than a cat or bird
- Highway construction will damage our wetlands
- It is hard to enforce a helmet law
- Everyone loves homemade brownies
d. Support: Support is the evidence used to prove the author’s claim. The support should be based on solid facts, but may also include emotional factors to convince the readers to accept the claim. Each claim made in the essay must be accompanied by its own support.
- The average dog knows between six and ten commands. The average cat knows only one.
- How sad it would be if our ducks and herons have nowhere to build their nests
- The cost of making five dozen baked goods is around $12. If we sell them for 50₵ each, we can make $18 profit.
e. Conclusion: Persuasive essays should end with a powerful conclusion. The conclusion should summarize the author’s claims, and also encourage the audience to agree with the opinions that the essay presents.
- It is clear that dogs are cleaner, friendlier, and easier to train than any other pet. By now you must agree with me that dogs make the best pets.
- The proposal for a new highway must be opposed. Otherwise we will face higher taxes, too much noise, and the loss of our beautiful wildlife. Join me in voting ‘no’ on the proposal.
V. How to write a persuasive essay
1. Choose a topic you care about
If you are not passionate about the topic, you will have a very difficult time getting your audience to care about it.
2. Take a clear stance
A persuasive essay is not about being ‘fair’ or giving every point of view equal time.
If you want to argue that dogs are the best pets, you do not have to give any reasons why cats can also be good pets.
3. Do your research
Every claim you make must be supported. Read about your chosen topic so that you can find the most useful facts.
A persuasive essay wants to convince the audience that dogs are better pets than cats. The essay makes the claim that “dogs are more friendly and sociable than cats.” This claim needs to be backed up with factual evidence.
4. Know your audience
Different people will be persuaded by different claims. Focus on claims and supports that your audience care about the most.
In the case of opposing the new highway proposal, a persuasive essay delivered to the local business owners would focus on different claims than an essay delivered to the local hikers or fishing club. Business owners would be persuaded by a claim that construction would shut down the roads and hurt local businesses. A claim that the highway would damage natural habitats would be successful with the hikers or fishing club.
5. Understand the power of emotion
Every persuasive essay must use facts to support its claims – if you have no facts to support your point of view, you won’t persuade anyone to agree with you. However, people also listen to their emotions, so use that fact to help persuade your audience. If you have an opportunity to show your audience how happy they will be if they agree with you – do it! If you can show them how disappointed they will be if they don’t side with you – then do it! A combination of facts and emotions makes for the strongest persuasive essay.
An essay against the new highway proposal may use emotional arguments such as:
- Imagine how sad local business owners will be when they have so few customers.
- Local birds will be terrified when machines come and destroy the trees holding their nests.
- People who come to town to fish or hike will be very disappointed to see a bunch of asphalt instead of our beautiful natural environment.