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Persuasive Essay: Format, Topics & Examples

Instructor: Sharon Linde
Writing a persuasive essay may sound tricky, but it really isn't. This lesson will take you through the process, present possible topics and show you some examples of great persuasive essay elements.

What Is a Persuasive Essay?

Think of a time you tried to convince someone of something. Maybe you wanted your parents to buy you a car, or you tried to talk a professor into a higher grade or more time for an assignment. These are examples of using persuasion, the act of trying to get someone to believe or do as you want.

Persuasion is used in our lives every day. Think of the last time you watched TV, listened to the radio, or even drove down a busy street. Companies were trying to persuade you to buy their products, using commercials and billboards. Many careers use persuasion, like law, politics, sales, blogging, and publishing. And so, knowing how to create, organize and write a persuasive essay is an important skill to develop.

Writing a Persuasive Essay

Writing a persuasive essay is much like trying to convince your parents to buy you something, like a car. You voice your belief, argue with facts, and try as hard as you can to sway them. A great persuasive essay is based on evidence that supports your opinion, and includes not only why you are right but also why the opposite is wrong.

Choosing a Topic

When looking for a topic for a persuasive essay, the best advice is to pick something you have passion for and know a little bit about. Steer clear of issues you may not have experience with. For example, it may be more difficult for a young person to write an essay on raising the retirement age, since they have no experience with retiring. Current topics are also a good choice, like wages, equal rights, humanity issues, the environment, education and employment. Take a stance on any of these issues, and find plenty of evidence to support it. Pay attention to topics you have strong reactions to, and you'll find one easily.

Introduction

The first paragraph of a persuasive essay is your chance to hook the reader. Use this opening to immediately grab his attention, and give background information on your topic. The highlight of your introductory paragraph is your thesis sentence, sometimes called a thesis statement. This sentence is the core argument of your paper, and will sum up your beliefs.

Once you're clear on 'what' your mission is, and 'how' you're planning to convince the reader to agree with your viewpoint, you're ready to put this information into an introduction. Make sure to get to the point and keep your interesting and supportive details for later.

Let's say you want to convince readers that the minimum wage should be increased to $15.00/hour. That's your 'what'. You plan to support your stance with evidence of how a low minimum wage impacts workers, their families and society as a whole. Your statement would sound like this:

'The minimum wage needs to be raised to $15.00/hour, because paying workers a low salary has negative consequences for employees, their families and society as a whole.'

Do you see how you wrapped up your argument, the 'what' of your idea, with the things you'll use to support it, the 'how', to create a framework for the rest of your paper? Let's take a look at how this plays out.

Supporting Paragraphs

Now that you have a good beginning to your essay, you need to write a few paragraphs to support your stance. The number of paragraphs you have will depend on the amount of evidence and facts you have to argue for or against the topic. Most essays have two to three supporting paragraphs; more can be overwhelming and less is often not enough.

Take the 'how' of your thesis statement and use it to build your paragraphs. In our example, the first reason we gave is a negative impact on the employee. Structure the first supportive paragraph on this statement, adding facts and details to grow a solid piece of support. Bring in evidence in the form of interviews, research or anecdotal notes, or your own observations. Make sure they are true and not an extension of your opinion.

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