What makes an essay persuasive? How can you convince people that your position is the stronger side? In this lesson, we'll explore reasons and evidence and how to use them in a persuasive essay to convince others to support your side.
Argument & Persuasion
Joey and Jill are in the store. They have enough money to buy something to eat, but they can't decide between candy or fruit. Joey wants candy and tells Jill, 'I think we should buy candy.' But Jill disagrees. She says, 'No way! I think we should buy fruit!'
Who has the better argument? Who is more persuasive? If you're like most people, you are probably thinking, 'Well, neither of them is very persuasive.' And you'd be right. The type of argument that Jill and Joey are having is very shallow. They are just each stating their position. But to be persuasive, they have to move to a richer argument, including reasons and evidence to help support their side.
What happens if they don't? Well, they probably won't ever resolve it and they'll end up without candy or fruit. But if, for example, Jill can put together a good argument with reasons and evidence, she just might be able to convince Joey to put down the Snickers and pick up an apple.
Let's look closer at how Jill and Joey can make their arguments stronger with reasons and evidence.
Right now, Jill and Joey are just arguing by stating their positions. As we've seen, that's not very convincing. Both in persuasive writing and face-to-face arguments, it's very important to state your position. But it's equally important to include reasons why your position is a good one.
For example, Jill could say to Joey, 'I think we should buy fruit because it's healthier for us.' Joey might have his own reason and might say something like, 'I think we should buy candy because it tastes better.'
When writing a persuasive essay, it is important to state reasons for your argument. A reason is a justification for why your position is the better position. Just like Jill and Joey do when they are talking, presenting reasons in an essay makes your essay more persuasive. It makes the other person think, 'Hmm…That sounds like a good idea.'
Notice that when Jill and Joey add reasons to their positions, they both use an important word: 'because.' When writing a persuasive essay, you can check if you are providing reasons for your position by using the format that Jill and Joey said in their argument: 'I believe… because…' By using this format, you know you are providing reasons and not just stating your position.
Many times, writers choose to write a paragraph for each reason they have to support their argument. For example, if Jill was writing an essay about why fruit is better, she might write a paragraph about how fruit is healthier. She might write another paragraph about how they can get more fruit for the same amount of money because fruit is cheaper than candy. Jill could continue like this, writing one paragraph for each reason until she runs out of reasons.
Let's go back to Jill and Joey's argument for a minute. Jill says to Joey, 'I think we should buy fruit because it's healthier than candy.' That's a pretty good reason! But wait! What if Joey responds, 'How do you know it's healthier? Maybe candy is healthier!' The issue that Joey is taking with Jill's argument is that, even though she stated her position and gave a reason, she did not provide evidence to support that reason.
Evidence is comprised of facts or information. For example, in addition to giving her reason that fruit is healthier, Jill can add evidence that the fruit offers more vitamins and nutrients than candy or that fruit has fewer calories and less refined sugar than candy.
When writing a persuasive essay and presenting a reason, it's always good to back it up with evidence. As we said before, many writers choose to dedicate a paragraph to each reason. In that paragraph, in addition to stating the reason, you can offer evidence that supports that reason.
In addition to stating your position in a persuasive essay, you will want to provide reasons, or justifications why your position is strong. Using the format 'I believe… because…' is a good way to present your reasons with your position. Many writers choose to structure their essays so that each reason gets its own paragraph.
Further, the most persuasive essays include evidence, or facts and information, to support their reasons. In an essay, each paragraph could start with a reason and then present evidence to support that reason.
After exploring this lesson, test your ability to carry out these actions:
- List the characteristics of a persuasive argument
- Discuss the use of reasons and evidence to strengthen an argument