Opinion Essay Or Persuasive Essay
A persuasive essay is an essay used to convince a reader about a particular idea or focus, usually one that you believe in. Your persuasive essay could be based on anything about which you have an opinion. Whether you're arguing against junk food at school or petitioning for a raise from your boss, the persuasive essay is a skill that everyone should know. Steps 1 Choose a strong, defendable stance for your thesis statement. The thesis statement is your argument boiled down to one sentence. For a persuasive essay, this statement needs to take a strong, active stance on the issue. Don't try and play both sides and be wishy-washy -- it won't persuade anyone. Good: "Affirmative action relegates minorities to "helpless" status, keeps the best minds from the best positions, and should be eliminated." Bad: "Affirmative action does help many minorities, but it hurts some other groups as well." Note that you can persuade people to be open-minded. Saying "affirmative action is a nuanced issue in need or serious overhaul, not to be destroyed or continued completely," still shows you taking a strong, defendable stance. 2 Use clear, directed topics sentences to begin each paragraph. Consider the beginning of each paragraph as a mini-thesis statement. This allows your argument to flow cohesively. You build the argument brick by brick for the reader so there is no confusion. Good: "The destruction of the world's rainforests also destroys the incredible potential to find medical and scientific breakthroughs in the diverse, mysterious ecosystem." Good: "The rainforest is home to a wide variety of plants and animals that may have medical and scientific benefits -- benefits we lose if we keep destroying it." Bad: "Destroying the rainforest is not a good thing." 3 Interweave facts and references to back up your claims. The best rule of thumb is, whenever you make a claim or point that isn't common sense, you need to back it up. One of the best ways to do this, however, is in reverse. Let the evidence lead to your arguments -- bringing the reader with you. Good: "A recent poll shows that 51% of young white millennials believe they suffer as much discrimination as minorities. Young white millennials may believe in having racial equality, but they also believe that they've already found it. Good: "Equality and liberty aren't just good for individuals, they're good for society. Furthermore, the lack of this liberty is said to be “a source of perversion and demoralization” to everyone involved, and prevents “any really vital improvement... in the social condition of the human race” (Mill, 98). Bad: "The prisons system has kept dangerous drugs and criminals off the streets, and Americans are definitely safer because of it." Unless you back it up, this claim is meaningless. 4 Keep your sentences short and to the point. Only make one point or argument in each sentence. You want the reader to be able to build the argument logically, but this is impossible if they get lost in the weeds. Good: While the United States’ founding fathers were intellectual, the same could not be said for the majority of the populace. Education was the right of the wealthy, and achieved through expensive private schools or tutors. In the early 1800’s, Horace Mann of Massachusetts devoted himself to rectifying that situation. Good: Public education is no longer a priority in this country. As it stands, only 2% of tax dollars go to schools.  Clearly, we need to find a way to increase this budget if we expect to see any real improvement in our education system. Bad: The United States was not an educated nation, since education was considered the right of the wealthy, and so in the early 1800's Horace Mann decided to try and rectify the situation. 5 Use a variety of persuasion techniques to hook your readers. The art of persuasion has been studied since ancient Greece. While it takes a lifetime to master, learning the tricks and tools will make you a better writer almost immediately. For example, on a paper about allowing Syrian refugees, you could use: Repetition: Keep hammering on your thesis. Tell them what you're telling them, tell them it, then tell them what you told them. They'll get the point by the end. Example: Time and time again, the statistics don't lie -- we need to open our doors to help refugees. Social Validation: Quotations reinforce that you aren't the only one making this point. It tells people that, socially, if they want to fit in, they need to consider your viewpoint. Example: "Let us not forget the words etched on our grandest national monument, the Statue of Liberty, which asks that we "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” There is no reason why Syrians are not included in this. Agitation of the Problem: Before offering solutions, show them how bad things are. Give them a reason to care about your argument. Example: "Over 100 million refugees have been displaced. President Assad has not only stolen power, he's gassed and bombed his own citizens. He has defied the Geneva Conventions, long held as a standard of decency and basic human rights, and his people have no choice by to flee." 6 Be authoritative and firm. You need to sound an expert, and like you should be trustworthy. Cut out small words or wishy-washy phrase to adopt a tone of authority. Good: "Time and time again, science has shown that arctic drilling is dangerous. It is not worth the risks environmentally or economically." Good: "Without pushing ourselves to energy independence, in the arctic and elsewhere, we open ourselves up to the dangerous dependency that spiked gas prices in the 80's." Bad: "Arctic drilling may not be perfect, but it will probably help us stop using foreign oil at some point. This, I imagine, will be a good thing." 7 Challenge your readers. Persuasion is about upending commonly held thoughts and forcing the reader to reevaluate. While you never want to be crass or confrontational, you need to poke into the reader's potential concerns. Good: Does anyone think that ruining someone’s semester, or, at least, the chance to go abroad, should be the result of a victimless crime? Is it fair that we actively promote drinking as a legitimate alternative through Campus Socials and a lack of consequences? How long can we use the excuse that “just because it’s safer than alcohol doesn’t mean we should make it legal,” disregarding the fact that the worst effects of the drug are not physical or chemical, but institutional? Good: We all want less crime, stronger families, and fewer dangerous confrontations over drugs. We need to ask ourselves, however, if we're willing to challenge the status quo to get those results. Bad: This policy makes us look stupid. It is not based in fact, and the people that believe it are delusional at best, and villains at worst. 8 Acknowledge, and refute, arguments against you. While the majority of your essay should be kept to your own argument, you'll bullet-proof your case if you can see and disprove the arguments against you. Save this for the second to last paragraph, in general. Good: It is true that guns can be used to protect you against threats. However, it has been proven time and time again that you are more likely to hurt yourself with a gun than protect you against someone else. Good: While people do have accidents with guns in their homes, it is not the governments responsibility to police people from themselves. If they're going to hurt themselves, that is their right. Bad: The only obvious solution is to ban guns. There is no other argument that matters. Part 2 Laying the Groundwork 1 Read the prompt carefully. In most cases, you will be given a specific assignment for your persuasive essay. It’s important to read the prompt carefully and thoroughly. Look for language that gives you a clue as to whether you are writing a purely persuasive or an argumentative essay. For example, if the prompt uses words like “personal experience” or “personal observations,” you know that these things can be used to support your argument. If you aren’t sure about what you’re supposed to write, ask your instructor. 2 Give yourself time. If you can, make the time to craft an argument you'll enjoy writing. A rushed essay isn’t likely to persuade anyone. Allow yourself enough time to brainstorm, write, and edit. Whenever possible, start early. This way, even if you have emergencies like a computer meltdown, you’ve given yourself enough time to complete your essay. 3 Examine the rhetorical situation. All writing has a rhetorical situation, which has five basic elements: the text (here, your essay), the author (you), the audience, the purpose of the communication, and the setting. The text should be clear and well-supported with evidence (and considered opinion, if it’s allowed). You, as the author, need to retain credibility by doing necessary research, stating your claims clearly, and providing a fair argument that doesn’t misrepresent facts or situations. The purpose of the communication here is to convince your readers that your view on your topic is the most correct one. 4 Understand the conventions of a persuasive essay. Unless your prompt or assignment states otherwise, you’ll need to follow some basic conventions when writing your persuasive essay. Persuasive essays, like argumentative essays, use rhetorical devices to persuade their readers. In persuasive essays, you generally have more freedom to make appeals to emotion (pathos), in addition to logic and data (logos) and credibility (ethos). You should use multiple types of evidence carefully when writing a persuasive essay. Logical appeals such as presenting data, facts, and other types of “hard” evidence are often very convincing to readers. Persuasive essays generally have very clear thesis statements that make your opinion or chosen “side” known upfront. This helps your reader know exactly what you are arguing. 5 Consider your audience. What’s persuasive to one person may not be persuasive to another. For this reason, it’s crucial to consider to whom you are targeting your essay. Obviously, your instructor is your primary audience, but consider who else might find your argument convincing. For example, if you are arguing against unhealthy school lunches, you might take very different approaches depending on whom you want to convince. You might target the school administrators, in which case you could make a case about student productivity and healthy food. If you targeted students’ parents, you might make a case about their children’s health and the potential costs of healthcare to treat conditions caused by unhealthy food. And if you were to consider a “grassroots” movement among your fellow students, you’d probably make appeals based on personal preferences. 6 Consider your topic. You may have a topic assigned to you. However, if you have to choose your own, there are a few things to consider: Pick something that appeals to you. Because a persuasive essay often relies heavily on emotional appeals, you should choose to write on something about which you have a real opinion. Pick a subject about which you feel strongly and can argue convincingly. Look for a topic that has a lot of depth or complexity. You may feel incredibly passionate about pizza, but it may be difficult to write an interesting essay on it. A subject that you're interested in but which has a lot of depth — like animal cruelty or government earmarking — will make for better subject material. Begin to consider opposing viewpoints when thinking about your essay. If you think it will be hard to come up with arguments against your topic, your opinion might not be controversial enough to make it into a persuasive essay. On the other hand, if there are too many arguments against your opinion that will be hard to debunk, you might choose a topic that is easier to refute. Make sure you can remain balanced. A good persuasive essay will consider the counterarguments and find ways to convince readers that the opinion presented in your essay is the preferable one. Make sure you choose a topic about which you’re prepared to thoroughly, fairly consider counterarguments. (For this reason, topics such as religion usually aren’t a good idea for persuasive essays, because you’re incredibly unlikely to persuade someone away from their own religious beliefs.) Keep your focus manageable. Your essay is likely to be fairly short; it may be 5 paragraphs or several pages, but you need to keep a narrow focus so that you can adequately explore your topic. For example, an essay that attempts to persuade your readers that war is wrong is unlikely to be successful, because that topic is huge. Choosing a smaller bit of that topic -- for example, that drone strikes are wrong -- will give you more time to delve deeply into your evidence. 7 Come up with a thesis statement. Your thesis statement presents your opinion or argument in clear language. It is usually placed at the end of the introductory paragraph. For a persuasive essay, it’s especially important that you present your argument in clear language that lets your readers know exactly what to expect. It also should present the organization of your essay. Don’t list your points in one order and then discuss them in a different order. For example, a thesis statement could look like this: “Although pre-prepared and highly processed foods are cheap, they aren’t good for students. It is important for schools to provide fresh, healthy meals to students, even when they cost more. Healthy school lunches can make a huge difference in students’ lives, and not offering healthy lunches fails students.” Note that this thesis statement isn’t a three-prong thesis. You don’t have to state every subpoint you will make in your thesis (unless your prompt or assignment says to). You do need to convey exactly what you will argue. 8 Brainstorm your evidence. Once you have chosen your topic, do as much preparation as you can before you write your essay. This means you need to examine why you have your opinion and what evidence you find most compelling. Here’s also where you look for counterarguments that could refute your point.