Persuasive Writing Assignment

Assignment: Write a persuasive essay about an issue of personal importance.

Instructions (words in red are defined below):

1. Have a clear purpose in mind as you begin writing.
2. Have a clearly stated opinion statement (thesis) on which you base your argument. (Here are some!)
3. Direct your argument toward the appropriate audience.
4. Employ an appropriate tone for that audience.
5. Address the counterclaim (opposing "side" of the argument); prove your "side" correct.
6. Sequence your reasons and evidence in the most effective order.
7. Include logical, emotional, and ethical appeals within your reasons and evidence. (Mostly logical)
8. Use connotative words ("loaded language") to create emotional appeal.

Vocabulary of Persuasion

persuasive writing: writing designed to convince readers to take action or to change their opinions about the topic

opinion statement (thesis statement): a clear sentence that states the issue and the writer's opinion about it; the "side" of the issue for which the writer is arguing

counterclaim: the other "side" of the issue; the writer must show logically why the counterclaim is invalid or incorrect or why his/her own opinion statement is better

connotations of words ("loaded language"): implied or underlying meanings of words that create emotional responses in readers
Example: I am responsive. You are talkative. He is obnoxious. Responsive, talkative, and obnoxious may all be used to describe a student who is making noise in a classroom, but each word carries a different connotation (emotional appeal). Responsive has a positive connotation (i.e., the student is responding to another person). Talkative has a neutral connotation; it could be good or bad depending on the circumstance. Obnoxious has a negative connotation, clearly indicating behavior that is grossly impolite or inapproporiate.

audience: the people the writer is trying to persuade; you must have a clear audience in mind before you start, and you must be sure you are appealing to the correct audience; for example, if you argue that school lunch should be ten minutes longer, you'll have to make sure that your argument appeals to the administration (the ones who could make that change) and not just your classmates (who would likely already agree with you and would not need to be persuaded).

purpose: what the writer is trying to convince his/her audience to do or believe

tone: the writer's feelings about the subject; the "voice" the writer assumes: serious, sarcastic, funny, etc. Writers use different tones to appeal to different audiences.

reasons: explanations of why an opinion in valid; you usually need at least three of them in a persuasive essay

evidence: specific examples, details, facts, anecdotes, case studies, quotes from experts, and/or commonly accepted beliefs that prove a writer's reasons; in persuasive writing it is wise to use logical evidence because your writing needs to be logical and rational; you can't just fall back on arguments like "It's not fair!" or "Everyone else gets to do it!"

sequencing: the order in which the writer's reasons are presented; many writers save their best argument (the "kicker") for last so that it will remain in the reader's mind.

Here are some student samples of persuasive papers from Winter 1999:

Rage Against the Machines by Carly Lindgren

Mutual Respect by Jessica Moulton

School Uniforms = Better Education by Heidi Jacobsen

More Than a Weapon by Ben Hendricks

Later School Make Better Schools by Chana Pierce

Violence: Don't Play That Game? by Jason Craig

Showering in Schools by Noah Johnson

Make Skateboarding a School Sport by Daniel Kohli

Student Catch-up Day by Kim Weir

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