Writing to Persuade
Writing to persuade is the one of the easiest forms of writing to do well in because there are a variety of simple techniques you can use to make your answer stand out. Make sure you learn these techniques so that you can take full advantage if you happen to get a persuasive question in the exam. Be sure to distinguish between writing to persuade and writing to discuss because, although similar, writing to discuss is a balanced account of the strengths and weaknesses of both sides of a debate ending in a final personal opinion, whereas writing to persuade more strongly argues for your personal opinion throughout the essay.
Note! It is important that you read the question carefully and make sure you use the correct GAP:
Genre: make sure that your answer looks like the right kind of writing: if you’re meant to be writing a letter then make sure that it starts with ‘Dear …’ and ends correctly, if you’re meant to be writing an article for a school newspaper then make sure that it reads like a teen news article, which will be different to the essay you would write if you were asked to write a news report for the Bangkok Post;
Audience: this will influence two things: firstly, the level of formality that you use, a letter written to your friends will be very different to a letter written to your headmaster; more importantly the audience will also determine the kinds of shared information you can include, a letter written to your cousins might refer back to an amazing family holiday you went on or the embarrassing habits of your uncles whereas a letter written to your Head of Year might refer to things from your Residential, references to the school uniform, the size of the queue at the noodle bar, etc – things that your Head of Year will be expected to know about;
Purpose: make sure that your answer does the right kind of thing: if you are asked to explain to me how a mobile phone works then make sure that you explain how to use it rather than persuade me that using it is good. Be careful also of the difference between persuasive writing, which argues strongly for one side, and discursive writing, which is more balance, examines both sides of the argument and only offers a personal opinion in the final paragraph.
What's the point of writing to Persuade?
· To make the readers believe what you want them to believe / to make them agree with you
· To attack the arguments against your position and show that they are weak / unconvincing
What conventions should I use?
· Rhetorical questions, alliteration, triads, repetition, emotive words and imagery, hyperbole
· References to ‘you’ or ‘we’, ‘us’ and ‘our’ to draw the reader in and make them feel you are on their side
· References to ‘they’ or ‘them’ to make it seem like the opposition are a faceless enemy
· Use of facts and figures / real life anecdotes as evidence to support your position and make it convincing
· Use of expert opinions / quotations from well known sources to reinforce the reliability of your position
· Real names, real places and real examples (even if made up) to make your point seem real
· Depending on the audience, informal / easily accessible language might be appropriate
· Appeals to the audience's sense of logic and 'common sense'
· Emotional appeals / blackmail and the use of emotive words / imagery
· Simple comparisons that make your point clear / ridicule your opponent
· Confident tone of voice
· Flattery to make the reader / audience feel good about themselves and thus more likely to agree
· Gentle emotional blackmail to make it difficult to refuse to do what you are suggesting
· Make it seem that the changes you are suggesting would be easy to achieve
How should I structure my answer?
Introduction: you need a clear opening that grabs the readers attention and makes it clear what this essay is going to be about. However, avoid using "this essay is going to be about..." and get straight to the point possibly with a rhetorical question or by painting a horrific image of what the world would be life if things don't go the way you want them to - e.g. if you are writing to argue against the banning of mobile ipods in school you might start in the following way:
'Can you imagine a world where creativity is viewed as a shameful activity only to be indulged in behind closed doors? Can you imagine a world where self expression is not as important as copying down notes from a board? Can you image a world accompanied only by the monotonous sounds of everyday life instead of one energized by the latest beats and lyrics. This is the world that the school wants to create by banning iPods and this is the world that we must fight against with all our might.’
This opening incorporates many persuasive features: rhetorical questions, references to you to involve the reader, repetition, a confident tone of voice and most importantly the painting of an image of the awful world that would exist if the school had their way.
Main body: The main body should be structured in a 'tennis match' style where you start with a point against you and then go on to attack it in the next paragraph. Before you start you need to have planned out a clear series of different arguments for and against your position: these form the basis of your paragraphs and each point is dealt with in a separate paragraph. Save your two strongest points or the beginning and end of the main body.
Each paragraph (or pair of paragraphs) should concentrate on just one main argument for / against your position. It is best to start a paragraph with a point against you introduced with a phrase like 'Some people may believe that ... because ...' However, after briefly considering the evidence against you, you should argue back and defeat that point with a point of your own, often introduce with a phrase like 'However'. In cases where you are using a pair or paragraphs, paragraph one should be against you and paragraph two for you, so that you always end on a point in your favour.
It is important that you always support each point for or against you with at least some evidence / reasoning - even if it is a made up anecdote - so that there is some validity to your argument and it is not just assertion.
Use connectives at the beginning of each paragraph to show how one idea follows from, develops or contradicts the previous one.
Conclusion: you can summarize your overall points but it is often far more powerful if you end with a triad, catchphrase, short sentence, powerful image or rhetorical question to really drive your point home.
When introducing a point you do not agree with:
· “Some people believe/ think/ feel that…”
· “Some people may argue”
· "Others are of the opinion that...".
· “While some people may claim”
· “Furthermore some people may insist”
· “Although some people would have us believe”
When counter arguing and introducing the point that you really do agree with:
· “However,” “In contrast,” “On the other hand,” “Nevertheless,”
· “While in the case that…”
· “Further consideration, however, suggests…”
· “Despite the fact that there is some truth in this position, …”
· “Although there is some evidence to support this view, it is more likely that…”
· "It can also be argued that...”
· "However there are also strong arguments against this point of view..."
Hints & Tips:
· plan by making a table of ideas both for/against that you will use in your essay
· include points that both agree and disagree with your position
· start with a point against you and then go on to attack it to create the impression that there are no strong arguments against you
· end with the most effective point that agrees with you.
· include evidence to support your point, in order to make it realistic and convince your audience.
· remember to write in paragraphs
· remember to distinguish persuasive writing from discursive writing – many of the techniques overlap but discursive writing is more balanced and considers both sides of the argument while persuasive writing argues strongly for just your opinion, often dismissing the opposition as wrong
· there are other, perhaps more interesting ways to write persuasively, but this is at least one structure that will work