Revising & Strengthening a Written Argument

Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

You've written an argument and now all you have to do is turn it in, right? Wrong! This lesson outlines some strategies for making a written argument stronger.

Written Arguments

Your teacher names a topic and asks for a written argument for one side of the issue. You have clear beliefs, but what is the strongest way to outline your opinion?

First, let's clarify the definition and purpose of a written argument. An argument is a set of reasons used in support of one side of an issue or topic. The key to every written argument is persuasion, which means convincing the reader to agree or to take certain action. Thus, in order to create a strong written argument, you want to provide logical and solid reasons that will persuade the reader. The rest of this lesson describes some tips on how to do this.

Planning

The first strategy involves planning, or all the preparations for the argument. First, research and gather information that will support your argument. However, throughout the whole writing process, if you ever feel lacking in factual support, return to this step and find more evidence.

Next, plan an effective presentation for the argument. Some arguments begin with the strongest support first. For example, imagine you are arguing for expansion of stem cell research. If your strongest point is the role of stem cells in curing disease, then begin the argument with this. As you continue, explain the other reasons, from with the next strongest point and ending with the weakest. Be sure your presentation makes sense within the context of your purpose.

Lastly, planning also involves coming up with an intriguing hook, or an interesting introductory element. The hook needs to draw the reader in, and impel him to keep reading. Your thesis, or the statement of the main idea, should follow the hook. Your reasons should be the body of the argument, and then end with a conclusion that provides closure. This type of planning will ensure your reader clearly understands your argument.

Revising and Rewriting

After the planning stage, write a rough draft. Once it is written, there are a few more steps you can take in order to strengthen the argument, including revising and rewriting. These terms are very closely related, as they both refer to modifying and altering the content of the sentences.

Reading through your rough draft, you might notice a weaker section. In this case, rewrite it in order to make it seem more believable or logical. How to do so will vary, depending on your argument and why it sounds weak. You may need to return to the planning stage and find more factual evidence. Also, you might end up deleting whole sentences that either do not belong, or that contradict your main purpose. Whatever it is, revise and rewrite as needed to strengthen the argument.

Editing

Next, edit your argument. This refers to adjusting the grammar and mechanics of the writing. Editing is different from revising and rewriting, as it rarely looks at the actual content of the sentences. Instead, editing focuses on the smaller aspects of writing that can affect the overall work.

For instance, imagine you are the professor reading the written argument in favor of stem cell research. The evidence and reasons might be very logical and supported, but grammatical errors can make it impossible to read. Which means your argument will be ineffective.

In addition, there are some other editing factors you can adjust in order to strengthen an argument. First, try to edit your wording. Avoid any repetition, which is repeating words or ideas. Repetition will make your argument seem invalid. Second, look at the voice of your argument. If too much is in passive voice, which occurs if the subject comes after the verb, then the argument might seem too submissive and weak. The opposite is active voice, where the subject comes before the verb. Here is an example of both types.

  • The doctor used the new approach pioneered through stem cell research to save the patient's life. (active)
  • To save the patient's life, a new approach pioneered through stem cell research was used by the doctor. (passive)

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