In persuasive or argumentative essays, we try to convince others to agree with our opinions and facts, and share our values. For you to be able to convince another person, you need to know your facts and be able to present them convincingly enough. You have to be sure of the facts by making sure your sources are correct and verifiable. You should remember that since you are writing, many people will see your work and that is why you need to be sure your facts are in order or else you will not be able to convince anybody. You will only end up being frustrated by the time people start dismantling what you think you have built up. Unlike narratives and descriptive essays which can be based on fiction, argumentative writings are hooked on facts. Your reasoning must sound logical to the human mind and your motive achievable.
Some of the strategies discussed here are those identified by study guides and strategies (see reference at the end of this unit) In argumentative essays, we try as much as possible to convince people to adopt our way of thinking. You can use the following guidelines while writing.
It is important that you do some fact finding work on whatever topic you choose. Decide on the facts or the points you want to present, their number and how you want to arrange them. This is important because your style of presentation matters a lot. Some people start by giving heart provoking questions to the audience or readers. For example, you can have questions such as- Ladies and gentlemen, why do you think we have constant power failure? Why are our roads as bad as they are? Why can we not feed our families with balanced diets?
These are thought-provoking questions that border on people’s welfare and which are likely to draw the attention of the reader or the listener to the topic. If the arguments that follow these questions are well managed, the speaker is likely to convince the audience to his/her side. For you to make convincing statements on a topic that borders on the questions above, you need to research into some of the causes of power failure, problems of food production in the country, road management in the country etc.
Some people, on the other hand, start with some allusions while some others just go straight to the topic, declare their stand on the issue and give reasons for their arguments. Some people start with pleasant jokes while some start on a level ground emotionally and then build up to elicit the interest, concern and compassion of the audience. You have to think about possible emotions/ emotional reactions and use them in your discussion of the topic.
Introductions are very important because they give the reader the first impression of the write up. Bill Daly, (1997) in ‘writing introductions to argumentative essays (see reference at the end of the unit) notes that there are four parts of an introduction- It introduces the topic, states why the topic is important, states the differences of opinion about the topic and describes how the assignment will be structured and what the writer’s stand is. All these should be ordered in an introduction.
Ordering sentences in an introduction
In an introduction, sentences should be ordered in such a way that the writer’s line of argument or position is clear. Below is an example of an ordered introduction from the model essay on Marine Parks by Bill Daly. The issue of whether we should allow marine parks to stay open has been widely debated in our community recently.
It is an important issue because it concerns fundamental moral and economic questions about the way we use our native wildlife. A variety of different arguments have been put forward about this issue. This essay will consider arguments for having marine parks and point to some of the problems with these views. It will then put forward reasons for the introduction of laws which prohibit these unnecessary and cruel institutions.
You must make sure that as a writer, your introductory sentences are not haphazard. Write in such a way that the reader will be encouraged to continue reading your work. The first sentence in the example above is a general opinion on what people’s feelings are on the issue of marine parks and the writer then zeros in on his/her own stand in the last sentence.
It is important that as you develop your paragraphs, there must be paragraph flow. This is where you have to make use of transitional words that you learnt in the earlier units- however, in addition, nevertheless etc. You should be able to quote sources of information to support your argument and establish authority for what you have written. As much as possible, you should make sure that your arguments are logical and sensible. Try as much as possible not to contradict yourself or else, the purpose of writing an argumentative essay will be defeated. There could be as many paragraphs as you want depending on the purpose for which the essay is written. If it is a class essay, it may not be more than five or six and this includes the introduction and the conclusion. But if you are contributing to a newspaper article it could be more than that.
This is a very important aspect of the essay. Whether the essay is written or presented orally, summarising the major points is important. If a writer has presented a number of points, the reader may forget some of them. If the major points are not summarised to remind the reader of the salient points you have advanced to support your argument, the reader may forget. While writing the summary, you need to refer to the initial paragraphs and the main points. Your conclusion should restate the main ideas and emphasise the importance of the arguments.
This is an important aspect of any essay writing not just argumentative essays. You need to go over your work and make all necessary corrections before you submit. There could have been omissions- that is some points or ideas you wanted to include which you forgot while writing. On the other hand, there could be some points which you included at a point but which you found unnecessary when you went over again. There could also be punctuation and spelling mistakes which if uncorrected could mar the presentation or essay.
The advent of computers has however made editing easy because it is just a question of deleting and re-writing. After you have edited your essay, go over the whole essay again to be sure that your ideas are well presented. If it is not a class assignment where every one is expected to present their work individually, you could give your essay to a friend to go through for you. Ask for their comments. If there is any form of criticism, check your facts again before you submit your work.
Conclusion of the Essay
Conclusions are as important as introductions. The conclusion is aimed at informing the reader that you have come to the end of your presentation and that you have covered all the important points. Some writers try to highlight these important points in the summary/conclusion so as to remind the reader of the writer’s line of argument. The conclusion must be carefully written because this is the last part of your essay that the readers will come in contact with and it will make a lasting impression on them. Below is an example of the conclusion from the model essay on marine parks as recorded by Bill Daly (1997)
In conclusion, these parks should be closed, or at the very least, no new animals should be captured for marine parks in the future. Our society is no longer prepared to tolerate unnecessary cruelty to animals for science and entertainment. If we continue with our past crimes against these creatures we will be remembered as cruel and inhuman by the generations of the future.
In your conclusion, you need to restate your own side of the argument which you have presented strongly in your essay. You also need to include two or three sentences which give a general summary of your side of the argument. You can also provide information on the consequences of not heading your advice and what humanity stands to gain if people identify with your stand on the issue.
Sentences can also be ordered in a conclusion to give a logical presentation to the concluding part of the argument. You should try to order the sentences in your conclusion so that the reader can make up his/her mind on what decisions to take as regards accepting or rejecting your line of argument
In this work, we have been able to highlight what an argumentative essay is and what the main components are. Argumentative essays are meant to persuade and convince the reader to accept your line of reasoning. Researching the topic is important because you need strong points to convince your reader to change his/her opinion about a particular topic or opinion. The introduction and the concluding sections are very important as they introduce the reader to the topic and remind the reader of the essential points at the end of the essay.
In this article, you learnt that:
- for you to be able to convince another person, you need to know your facts and be able to present them convincingly enough.
- in persuasive or argumentative essays, we try to convince others to agree with our opinions and/or facts, and share our values.
- you have to be sure of the facts by making sure your sources are correct and verifiable.
- it is important that you do some fact finding work on whatever topic you choose.
- in an introduction, sentences should be ordered in such a way that the writer’s line of argument and position are clear.
- you must make sure that as a writer, your introductory sentences are not haphazard.
- it is important that as you develop your paragraphs, there must be paragraph flow.
- whether the essay is written or presented orally, summarising the major points is important.
- the conclusion must be carefully written because this is the last part of your essay that the readers will come in contact with and it will make a lasting impression on them.