persuasive essay

What is persuasive essay definition, usage, and literary examples, persuasive essay definition.

A persuasive essay (purr-SWEY-siv ESS-ey) is a composition in which the essayist’s goal is to persuade the reader to agree with their personal views on a debatable topic. A persuasive essay generally follows a five-paragraph model with a thesis, body paragraphs, and conclusion, and it offers evidential support using research and other persuasive techniques.

Persuasive Essay Topic Criteria

To write an effective persuasive essay, the essayist needs to ensure that the topic they choose is polemical, or debatable. If it isn’t, there’s no point in trying to persuade the reader.

For example, a persuasive essayist wouldn’t write about how honeybees make honey; this is a well-known fact, and there’s no opposition to sway. The essayist might, however, write an essay on why the reader shouldn’t put pesticides on their lawn, as it threatens the bee population and environmental health.

A topic should also be concrete enough that the essayist can research and find evidence to support their argument. Using the honeybee example, the essayist could cite statistics showing a decline in the honeybee population since the use of pesticides became prevalent in lawncare. This concrete evidence supports the essayist’s opinion.

Persuasive Essay Structure

The persuasive essay generally follows this five-paragraph model.

Introduction

The introduction includes the thesis, which is the main argument of the persuasive essay. A thesis for the essay on bees and pesticides might be: “Bees are essential to environmental health, and we should protect them by abstaining from the use of harmful lawn pesticides that dwindle the bee population.”

The introductory paragraph should also include some context and background info, like bees’ impact on crop pollination. This paragraph may also include common counterarguments, such as acknowledging how some people don’t believe pesticides harm bees.

Body Paragraphs

The body consists of two or more paragraphs and provides the main arguments. This is also where the essayist’s research and evidential support will appear. For example, the essayist might elaborate on the statistics they alluded to in the introductory paragraph to support their points. Many persuasive essays include a counterargument paragraph to refute conflicting opinions.

The final paragraph readdresses the thesis statement and reexamines the essayist’s main arguments.

Types of Persuasive Essays

Persuasive essays can take several forms. They can encourage the reader to change a habit or support a cause, ask the reader to oppose a certain practice, or compare two things and suggest that one is superior to the other. Here are thesis examples for each type, based on the bee example:

  • Call for Support, Action, or Change : “Stop using pesticides on your lawns to save the environmentally essential bees.”
  • Call for Opposition : “Oppose the big businesses that haven’t conducted environmental studies concerning bees and pesticides.”
  • Superior Subject : “Natural lawn care is far superior to using harmful pesticides.”

The Three Elements of Persuasion

Aristotle first suggested that there were three main elements to persuading an audience: ethos, pathos, and logos. Essayists implement these same tactics to persuade their readers.

Ethos refers to the essayist’s character or authority; this could mean the writer’s name or credibility. For example, a writer might seem more trustworthy if they’ve frequently written on a subject, have a degree related to the subject, or have extensive experience concerning a subject. A writer can also refer to the opinions of other experts, such as a beekeeper who believes pesticides are harming the bee population.

Pathos is an argument that uses the reader’s emotions and morality to persuade them. An argument that uses pathos might point to the number of bees that have died and what that suggests for food production: “If crop production decreases, it will be impoverished families that suffer, with perhaps more poor children having to go hungry.” This argument might make the reader empathetic to the plight of starving children and encourage them to take action against pesticide pollution.

The logos part of the essay uses logic and reason to persuade the reader. This includes the essayist’s research and whatever evidence they’ve collected to support their arguments, such as statistics.

Terms Related to Persuasive Essays

Argumentative Essays

While persuasive essays may use logic and research to support the essayist’s opinions, argumentative essays are more solely based on research and refrain from using emotional arguments. Argumentative essays are also more likely to include in-depth information on counterarguments.

Persuasive Speeches

Persuasive essays and persuasive speeches are similar in intent, but they differ in terms of format, delivery, emphasis, and tone .

In a speech, the speaker can use gestures and inflections to emphasize their points, so the delivery is almost as important as the information a speech provides. A speech requires less structure than an essay, though the repetition of ideas is often necessary to ensure that the audience is absorbing the material. Additionally, a speech relies more heavily on emotion, as the speaker must hold the reader’s attention and interest. In Queen Elizabeth I’s “Tilbury Speech,” for example, she addresses her audience in a personable and highly emotional way: “My loving people, We have been persuaded by some that are careful of our safety, to take heed how we commit our selves to armed multitudes for fear of treachery; but I assure you I do not desire to live to distrust my faithful and loving people. Let tyrants fear.”

Examples of Persuasive Essay

1. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter From Birmingham Jail”

Dr. King directs his essay at the Alabama clergymen who opposed his call for protests. The clergymen suggested that King had no business being in Alabama, that he shouldn’t oppose some of the more respectful segregationists, and that he has poor timing. However, here, King attempts to persuade the men that his actions are just:

I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eight century B.C. left their villages and carried their ‘thus saith the Lord’ far beyond the boundaries of their hometowns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco-Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my hometown.

Here, King is invoking the ethos of Biblical figures who the clergymen would’ve respected. By comparing himself to Paul, he’s claiming to be a disciple spreading the “gospel of freedom” rather than an outsider butting into Alabama’s affairs.

2. Garrett Hardin, “The Tragedy of Commons”

Hardin argues that a society that shares resources is apt to overuse those resources as the population increases. He attempts to persuade readers that the human population’s growth should be regulated for the sake of preserving resources:

The National Parks present another instance of the working out of the tragedy of commons. At present, they are open to all, without limit. The parks themselves are limited in extent—there is only one Yosemite Valley—whereas population seems to grow without limit. The values that visitors seek in the parks are steadily eroded. Plainly, we must soon cease to treat the parks as commons, or they will be of no value to anyone.

In this excerpt, Harden uses an example that appeals to the reader’s logic. If the human population continues to rise, causing park visitors to increase, parks will continue to erode until there’s nothing left.

Further Resources on Persuasive Essays

We at SuperSummary offer excellent resources for penning your own essays .

Find a list of famous persuasive speeches at Highspark.co .

Read up on the elements of persuasion at the American Management Association website.

Related Terms

  • Argumentative Essay

persuasive essay definition literary

  • Literary Terms

Persuasive Essay

I. what is a persuasive essay.

A persuasive essay takes a point of view on an issue and tries to convince the audience to agree with the stated point of view. The contents of the essay include evidence and arguments ; it also may try to reach the audience’s emotions in order to make them think with their heart as well as their mind.

II. Examples of persuasive essays

  • Dogs are better pets than cats
  • Why the school day should start later
  • Why you should support a political candidate
  • People should not eat meat
  • Soccer is better than basketball
  • Don’t eat junk food

III. Types of persuasive essays with topics

No matter what type of persuasive essay you choose to write, the goal is always to convince your audience to agree with your opinion. Opinions come in one of three types:

a. One side is better than another

In this type of essay, there are several points of view about a topic. The writer’s goal is to persuade the audience to choose one side over the other(s).

Example: “Basketball is better than baseball.”

In this essay, the writer is choosing the side of ‘basketball’ over ‘baseball’. The essay would persuade the audience to agree by introducing evidence to support their side. For instance, the writer could talk about the higher scoring and faster pace of basketball, and the fact that baseball is affected by the weather while basketball is not.

b. People should support, believe, or do something

In this type of persuasive essay, the writer wants the audience to say ‘yes’ or agree to something – an idea, opinion, or action.

Example: “The school day should start later.”

The author of this essay wants the audience to support the idea of a later start to the school day. The essay would include evidence like a study that shows that teenagers need to sleep longer than adults to persuade people to agree. It may also bring up the emotions of the students (who would be glad to be allowed to sleep later) in order to convince the audience to support a later start to the school day.

c. People should oppose, reject, or avoid something

This type of persuasive essay is used when the writer wants the audience to say ‘no’ or disagree with something – and idea, opinion, or action.

Example : “Vote ‘no’ on the proposal for a new highway”

The author of this essay opposes the town’s plans to allow a new highway to be built nearby. In order to get the audience to also oppose the plan, the author would present evidence about why the highway is a bad idea. For instance, a highway would increase noise and pollution, as well as damage to the local wildlife. This essay might also bring up fears of increased taxes to pay for the highway in order to emotionally persuade people to oppose the highway proposal.

IV. Parts of a persuasive essay

a. Topic: A persuasive essay must state the topic clearly so that the audience knows what the focus is. The author should also express the importance of the topic to show why the audience should care.

  • Which animal makes the best pet
  • Whether or not to support plans for the new highway
  • Should people ride bicycles without a helmet
  • How should we raise money for our project

b. Stance: The stance of a persuasive essay is the side of the issue that the author supports. The stance should be stated strongly and clearly so that there is no doubt what the author’s stance is.

  • Dogs make the best pets
  • The new highway is a terrible idea
  • Helmet laws are unnecessary
  • A bake sale is our best way to raise money

c. Claim : A claim is a statement that the author believes. Most persuasive essays include between two and four claims.

  • Dogs are easier to train than a cat or bird
  • Highway construction will damage our wetlands
  • It is hard to enforce a helmet law
  • Everyone loves homemade brownies

d. Support : Support is the evidence used to prove the author’s claim. The support should be based on solid facts, but may also include emotional factors to convince the readers to accept the claim. Each claim made in the essay must be accompanied by its own support.

  • The average dog knows between six and ten commands. The average cat knows only one.
  • How sad it would be if our ducks and herons have nowhere to build their nests
  • The cost of making five dozen baked goods is around $12. If we sell them for 50₵ each, we can make $18 profit.

e. Conclusion : Persuasive essays should end with a powerful conclusion. The conclusion should summarize the author’s claims, and also encourage the audience to agree with the opinions that the essay presents.

  • It is clear that dogs are cleaner, friendlier, and easier to train than any other pet. By now you must agree with me that dogs make the best pets.
  • The proposal for a new highway must be opposed. Otherwise we will face higher taxes, too much noise, and the loss of our beautiful wildlife. Join me in voting ‘no’ on the proposal.

V. How to write a persuasive essay

1. choose a topic you care about.

If you are not passionate about the topic, you will have a very difficult time getting your audience to care about it.

2. Take a clear stance

A persuasive essay is not about being ‘fair’ or giving every point of view equal time.

If you want to argue that dogs are the best pets, you do not have to give any reasons why cats can also be good pets.

3. Do your research

Every claim you make must be supported. Read about your chosen topic so that you can find the most useful facts.

A persuasive essay wants to convince the audience that dogs are better pets than cats. The essay makes the claim that “dogs are more friendly and sociable than cats.” This claim needs to be backed up with factual evidence.

persuasive essay definition literary

4. Know your audience

Different people will be persuaded by different claims. Focus on claims and supports that your audience care about the most.

In the case of opposing the new highway proposal, a persuasive essay delivered to the local business owners would focus on different claims than an essay delivered to the local hikers or fishing club. Business owners would be persuaded by a claim that construction would shut down the roads and hurt local businesses. A claim that the highway would damage natural habitats would be successful with the hikers or fishing club.

5. Understand the power of emotion

Every persuasive essay must use facts to support its claims – if you have no facts to support your point of view, you won’t persuade anyone to agree with you. However, people also listen to their emotions, so use that fact to help persuade your audience. If you have an opportunity to show your audience how happy they will be if they agree with you – do it! If you can show them how disappointed they will be if they don’t side with you – then do it! A combination of facts and emotions makes for the strongest persuasive essay.

An essay against the new highway proposal may use emotional arguments such as:

  • Imagine how sad local business owners will be when they have so few customers.
  • Local birds will be terrified when machines come and destroy the trees holding their nests.
  • People who come to town to fish or hike will be very disappointed to see a bunch of asphalt instead of our beautiful natural environment.

List of Terms

  • Alliteration
  • Amplification
  • Anachronism
  • Anthropomorphism
  • Antonomasia
  • APA Citation
  • Aposiopesis
  • Autobiography
  • Bildungsroman
  • Characterization
  • Circumlocution
  • Cliffhanger
  • Comic Relief
  • Connotation
  • Deus ex machina
  • Deuteragonist
  • Doppelganger
  • Double Entendre
  • Dramatic irony
  • Equivocation
  • Extended Metaphor
  • Figures of Speech
  • Flash-forward
  • Foreshadowing
  • Intertextuality
  • Juxtaposition
  • Literary Device
  • Malapropism
  • Onomatopoeia
  • Parallelism
  • Pathetic Fallacy
  • Personification
  • Point of View
  • Polysyndeton
  • Protagonist
  • Red Herring
  • Rhetorical Device
  • Rhetorical Question
  • Science Fiction
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
  • Synesthesia
  • Turning Point
  • Understatement
  • Urban Legend
  • Verisimilitude
  • Essay Guide
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persuasive essay definition literary

"A word after a word after a word is power."1 This sentiment, attributed to Margaret Atwood, uses simple language to express a bit of common knowledge. Speechwriters, advertisers, and the media know that persuasive words are necessary to sway their audience. A persuasive essay uses a combination of emotion, credibility, and…

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"A word after a word after a word is power." 1 This sentiment, attributed to Margaret Atwood, uses simple language to express a bit of common knowledge. Speechwriters, advertisers, and the media know that persuasive words are necessary to sway their audience. A persuasive essay uses a combination of emotion, credibility, and logic to defend, challenge, or qualify a claim.

Persuasive Essay: Definition

When you write an essay to convince the reader about your opinion on a subject, it is formally known as a persuasive essay. Sometimes this can also be called an a rgumentative essay , but there are technically some stylistic differences between them.

Persuasive essay. A Greek philosopher. StudySmarter.

To write an effective persuasive essay, you must first construct a solid argument. So, how do we structure a solid argument? Aristotle to the rescue! Aristotle developed the three interlocking parts of an essay (or Elements of Rhetoric ) that work together to persuade an audience.

These three parts are:

Ethos (or "character"): The audience must feel like your opinion is credible, or they will never listen to what you have to say. Make sure you use reliable sources to back the claim in your persuasive essay.

Pathos (or "experience" or "emotion"): The reader has to care about your topic to be influenced, so write your persuasive essay in a way that appeals to their experiences or emotions.

Logos (or "reason") : Use logic when writing your essay. Effective persuasive essays are a balance between solid facts and rational feelings.

Aristotle was a Greek philosopher (384 BC-322 BC). He is considered one of the most influential philosophers, and he contributed to various fields, including math, science, political science, and philosophy. Aristotle developed many ideas still discussed today, such as the structure of persuasion.

Standard Terms in Persuasive Writing

Your thesis statement may be referred to as a claim . Claims are written in different styles:

  • Definitional claim: argues whether the topic "is" or "is not" something.
  • Factual claim: argues whether something is true or false.
  • Policy claim: defines an issue and its best solution.
  • Passive agreement claim: seeks audience agreement without expecting action on their part.
  • Immediate action claim: also seeks audience agreement but expects them to do something.
  • Value claim: judges whether something is right or wrong.

In a persuasive essay, you can:

  • Defend a position : Provide proof that supports your claim and refute the opponent's claim without saying they're wrong.
  • Challenge a claim : Use evidence to show how an opposing view is invalid.
  • Qualify a claim : If no compelling information is available to completely refute the opposing idea, admit some parts of the claim are true. Then, point out the parts of the opposing idea that are not true because this weakens the opposing argument . The valid part of the opposing argument is called a concession .

What Are Some Persuasive Essay Topics?

If possible, pick a topic for your persuasive essay that interests you because it ensures your passion will shine through in your writing. Any debatable topic has the potential to be crafted into a persuasive essay.

For example:

  • Universal healthcare.
  • Gun control.
  • The effectiveness of homework.
  • Reasonable speed limits.
  • The military draft.
  • Drug testing for social benefits.
  • Euthanasia.
  • The death penalty.
  • Paid family leave.

Persuasive Essay: Structure

A Persuasive essay follows the standard essay format with an introduction , body paragraphs , and a conclusion .

You should begin by reeling your audience in with an interesting quote, a shocking statistic, or an anecdote that catches their attention. Introduce your subject, then state your argument in the form of a claim that defends, challenges, or qualifies a claim. You can also outline the persuasive essay's main points.

Body Paragraphs

Defend your claim in the body paragraphs. You can also challenge or qualify the opposing viewpoint using verifiable sources. Take the time to investigate the opposite opinion to add depth to your subject knowledge. Then, separate each of your main points into their own paragraphs, and devote a section of your essay to disproving the rival belief.

The conclusion is your space to bring the message home to the reader and is your final opportunity to persuade them that your belief is correct. After restating the claim and reinforcing the main points, appeal to your audience with a call to action, a brief discussion of questions your essay raises, or a real-world consequence.

When discussing subjects we feel strongly about with friends and family, we say things like "I think" or "I feel." Avoid beginning statements with these phrases in persuasive essays because they weaken your argument . By making your claim, you are already telling your audience what you believe, so including these unnecessary phrases in your persuasive essay shows a lack of confidence.

Persuasive Essay: Outline

Once you've picked a topic, done the research, and brainstormed, you're about ready to start writing your persuasive essay. But wait, there's more! An outline will organize your main points and sources, giving your persuasive essay a roadmap to follow. Here's the main structure:

I. Introduction

B. Introduction to the topic

C. Thesis statement II. Body paragraph (the number of body paragraphs you include will vary)

A. Main point B. Source and discussion of source C. Transition to next point/opposing belief

III. Body paragraph

A. State opposing belief

B. Evidence against opposing belief

C. Transition to conclusion

IV. Conclusion

A. Summarize main points

B. Restate thesis

C. Call to action/questions raised/consequences

Persuasive Essay: Example

While you read the following example of a persuasive essay, find the immediate action claim in the introduction and see how the writer defends their position by using reputable sources. Further, what does the writer say in the conclusion to make a final attempt at persuading the audience?

Persuasive essay. An apple with a bite in it.. StudySmarter.

To summarize :

  • The example persuasive essay uses an immediate action claim to outline the topic. It is an immediate action claim because it states a problem and requests grocery stores, restaurants, and farmers to do something about it. The stated opinion that excess food should be donated to food banks clarifies that the essay is persuasive.
  • The body paragraph uses respected sources (USDA, EPA) to defend the claim to the audience. It challenges an opposing point. The example persuasive essay follows a logical path to its conclusion.
  • The conclusion of the example persuasive essay changes the wording of the claim to summarize the argument without insulting the audience's intelligence. The last sentence makes a final attempt to persuade the audience by appealing to their rational and moral emotions.

Persuasive Essay - Key Takeaways

  • A persuasive essay attempts to convince the audience of your opinion using reliable sources to back your claim.
  • When writing a persuasive essay, you can defend a claim you wish to support, challenge a claim using evidence against it, or qualify a claim if it cannot be completely refuted using concessions to discuss its valid points.
  • Using a combination of credibility, emotion, and logic is the key to crafting an effective persuasive essay.
  • Avoid using "I think" or "I feel" statements in your persuasive essay because they weaken your message.
  • If you can agree or disagree with it, you can turn it into a persuasive essay.

1 Lang, Nancy, and Peter Raymont. Margaret Atwood: A Word After a Word After a Word is Power . 2019.

2 "How We Fight Food Waste in the US." Feeding America. 2022.

3 "Key Statistics and Graphics." USDA Economic Research Service. 2021.

4 "Reduce Wasted Food By Feeding Hungry People." United States Environmental Protection Agency. 2021.

Frequently Asked Questions about Persuasive Essay

--> what is a persuasive essay.

A Persuasive Essay offers an opinion on a topic and attempts to convince an audience it is correct.

--> What is the structure of a Persuasive Essay?

A Persuasive Essay includes a thesis statement written into an Introduction, followed by Body Paragraphs, and a Conclusion.

--> What are some topics I can write about in a Persuasive Essay?

Any topic you can agree or disagree with has the potential to be crafted into a Persuasive Essay including:

  • Universal healthcare
  • Gun control
  • The effectiveness of homework
  • Reasonable speed limit
  • The military draft
  • Drug testing for social benefits
  • The death penalty
  • Paid family leave

--> What are some examples of persuasive essays?

Some examples of persuasive essays are:

  • "Ain't I a Woman" by Sojourner Truth
  • "Kennedy Inauguration Speech" by John F. Kennedy
  • "Freedom or Death" by Emmeline Pankhurst
  • "The Pleasure of Books" by William Lyon Phelps

--> Why is writing persuasive essays important?

Writing persuasive essays is important because it teaches you how to examine both sides of an issue and helps you recognize a persuasive tone. 

Final Persuasive Essay Quiz

Persuasive essay quiz - teste dein wissen.

Which type of essay relates both sides of an argument and allows the audience to make their own decision?

Show answer

Argumentative essay

Show question

What subjects make good topics for persuasive essays?

Any subject that you can agree or disagree with can be crafted into a persuasive essay.

What are the three Elements of Rhetoric?

A, B, and C

Why should you avoid "I think" and "I feel" statements in your persuasive essay?

You should avoid "I think" and "I feel" statements because they weaken your message.

How should you structure your persuasive essay?

A persuasive essay should include a thesis statement that lays out your argument and main points in an Introduction. Argue your main points in the body paragraphs. Use your conclusion to finalize your argument while restating your thesis and summarizing your main points.

Why are persuasive essays important?

Persuasive essays help you to think critically about your beliefs.

How is a persuasive essay different from an argumentative essay?

A persuasive essay presents one side of a topic and refutes the other. An argumentative essay presents both sides and allows the audience to form their own opinion.

Who was Aristotle?

Aristotle was the Greek philosopher who developed the Elements of Rhetoric.

What are some fields that use persuasive writing?

Persuasive writing is used in advertising, the media, and by speechwriters.

Where in your essay do you initially state your opinion and main ideas?

Thesis statement

It is when an audience trusts you.

It is when an audience cares about your topic.

It is when an audience understands your facts and rational explanation.

You have made someone angry. What have you used?

You have made someone understand a concept. What have you used?

You have made someone follow your line of reasoning. What have you used?

You have established your credibility. What have you used?

It  argues whether the topic "is" or "is not" something.

Definitional claim

It  argues whether something is true or false.

Factual claim

It  defines an issue and its best solution.

Policy claim

It  seeks audience agreement without expecting action on their part.

Passive agreement claim

It  also seeks audience agreement but expects them to do something.

Immediate action claim

It  judges whether something is right or wrong.

Value claim

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Persuasive Essay

Definition of persuasive essay.

The term “persuasive” is an adjective derived from verb “persuade,” which means “to convince somebody.” A persuasive essay is full of all the convincing techniques a writer can employ. It presents a situation, and takes a stand – either in its favor, or against it – to prove to readers whether it is beneficial or harmful for them.

Why Persuasion?

The question arises why persuasion if the people are already aware of everything. Its answer is that each person’s ability of seeing and understanding things depend on his vision. He believes only what he sees or is told about. If another side of the coin is shown, the people do not believe so easily. That is why they are presented with arguments supported with evidences , statistics and facts. Persuasion is done for these reasons:

  • A Better World : To ask the people that if they accept your argument , it will be good for them to take action and make the world a better place.
  • A Worse World : It means that if readers do not do what they are asked to do, the world will become a worse place.
  • Call to Action : It means to persuade or tempt readers to do what the writer wants them to do.

Difference Between a Persuasive Essay and an Argumentative Essay

A persuasive essay is intended to persuade readers to do certain things, or not to do certain things. It is the sole aim of the writer to coax or tempt readers, and force them to do certain things or take actions. However, an argumentative essay intends to make readers see both sides of the coin. It is up to them to select any of the two. In other words, an argumentative essay presents both arguments; both for and against a thing, and leaves the readers to decide. On the other hand, a persuasive essay intends to make readers do certain things. Therefore, it presents arguments only about one aspect of the issue.

Examples of Persuasive Essay in Literature

Example #1: our unhealthy obsession and sickness (by frank furedi).

“Governments today do two things that I object to in particular. First they encourage introspection, telling us that unless men examine their testicles, unless we keep a check on our cholesterol level, then we are not being responsible citizens. You are letting down yourself, your wife, your kids, everybody. We are encouraged continually to worry about our health. As a consequence, public health initiatives have become, as far as I can tell, a threat to public health. Secondly, governments promote the value of health seeking. We are meant always to be seeking health for this or that condition. The primary effect of this, I believe, is to make us all feel more ill.”

This is an excerpt from a persuasive essay of Frank Furedi. It encourages people to think about how the government is helping public health. Both the arguments of persuasion start with “First” in the first line and with “Secondly” in the second last line.

Example #2: We Are Training Our Kids to Kill (by Dave Grossman)

“Our society needs to be informed about these crimes, but when the images of the young killers are broadcast on television, they become role models. The average preschooler in America watches 27 hours of television a week. The average child gets more one-on-one communication from TV than from all her parents and teachers combined. The ultimate achievement for our children is to get their picture on TV. The solution is simple, and it comes straight out of the sociology literature: The media have every right and responsibility to tell the story , but they must be persuaded not to glorify the killers by presenting their images on TV.”

This is an excerpt from Grossman’s essay. He is clearly convincing the public about the violent television programs and their impacts on the kids. See how strong his arguments are in favor of his topic.

Example #3: The Real Skinny (by Belinda Luscombe)

“And what do we the people say? Do we rise up and say, ‘I categorically refuse to buy any article of clothing unless the person promoting it weighs more than she did when she wore knee socks?’ Or at least, ‘Where do I send the check for the chicken nuggets?’ Actually, not so much. Mostly, our responses range from ‘I wonder if that would look good on me?’ to ‘I don’t know who that skinny-ass cow is, but I hate her already.’

Just check the strength of the argument of Belinda Luscombe about purchasing things. The beauty of her writing is that she has made her readers think by asking rhetorical questions and answering them.

Function of a Persuasive Essay

The major function of a persuasive essay is to convince readers that, if they take a certain action, the world will be a better place for them. It could be otherwise or it could be a call to an action. The arguments given are either in the favor of the topic or against it. It cannot combine both at once. That is why readers feel it easy to be convinced.

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persuasive essay definition literary

Step-By-Step Guide: How to Write the Perfect Persuasive Essay

What is a persuasive essay.

A persuasive essay, also known as an argumentative essay, is a piece of academic writing where you use logic and reason to show that your point of view is more legitimate than any other. You must expose clear arguments and support them by convincing facts and logical reasons.

Persuasive Essay Topics

Do you know what the biggest problem with these types of assignments is? Students don’t get enough instructions. Sure, they might ask the professor for the persuasive essay definition, but the instructions won’t go much further than that or they can ask for the help from the best essay writing service .  Anyway you’ll be left with a general theme and a requirement to complete the essay by a specific deadline.

With such lack of information, it’s difficult for you to get ideas that would spark your inspiration for academic writing. You don’t even have a precise topic, so you have to start from that step.

What title do you set? We’ll suggest few college persuasive essay topics from different areas of study. This list will help you understand how good persuasive essay topics look like, and it will get you inspired to start writing the project.

You’ll notice that most of these topics are set in the format of a question, so they give you a good foundation to express and defend your opinion.

  • Should aggressive dogs be euthanized or resocialized?
  • Should gambling be banned in the USA?
  • Are cats better pets than dogs?
  • Should every family have a detailed survival plan for natural-disaster situations?
  • Should children get payment from their parents for doing home chores?
  • Are biological weapons ethical?
  • Should gay couples be allowed to adopt children?
  • Should abortion be banned?
  • Are good-looking people being underestimated because they look good?
  • Is fashion a good or a bad thing for society?
  • If God doesn’t exist, is everything allowed?
  • Are there such things as good and evil?
  • Are all people selfish?
  • Is truth universal?
  • Is human behavior determined by genetics?
  • Should child molesters be euthanized?
  • Should the government be spending so much of our money on the Olympic Games?
  • Should psychiatrists and priests break their vows when asked to testify in court?
  • Should people go through psychological testing before being allowed to have children?
  • Should people with disabilities be advised not to have children?
  • Should football teams be mixed in terms of gender equality?
  • Should governments be using cyber-attacks to spy on other countries?
  • Should there be borders between countries?
  • Is nationality a justified concept when the world is moving towards globalization?
  • Should same-sex marriages be allowed or banned in the USA?
  • Is euthanasia cruel?
  • Is sex orientation determined in childhood?

Now that was a pretty long list of persuasive essay ideas, wasn’t it? The more options you have, the easier it will be for you to understand what this type of assignment calls for. You probably noticed that all topics above required your straightforward opinion and left space for a discussion.

You should choose a topic that inspires you to write, but also gives you tons of materials to research. This type of paper is heavily based on research data, so don’t go for a topic that doesn’t give you access to tons of resources.

How to Write a Persuasive Essay

Now that we got the type of assignment explained and we inspired you with some topics, it’s time for the real lesson: how do you write a persuasive paper? Before we start with the step-by-step guide, let’s go through few general tips that will help you complete the project:

  • Set your position straight from the beginning, and maintain it throughout the paper. If, for example, you’re writing a persuasive paper on the woman’s right to abortion and you decide to support the pro-choice movement, you’ll have to make that position clear from the introduction, and you should keep it strong throughout the paper.
  • This is a type of paper that demands facts. Find data in the form of statistics, scientific experiments, and research materials that support your arguments.
  • Build the arguments in progression, so you’ll move from the least important to the most important one. This gradation will keep the reader’s attention and will convince them that you’re standing your ground by the end of the paper.
  • Your professor is the audience for your persuasive essay. However, you should still write this paper as if you were explaining things to a beginner. Assume the reader doesn’t know anything about this issue. Throughout the body of the essay, you’ll defend your point of view, but you’ll also provide information on the opposing positions, so the reader will know what you’re arguing against.
  • Disproving the opposing claim is one of the most effective ways to prove your viewpoint. Thus, you’ll be searching for resources not only to support your point of view, but to refute the opposing positions as well. In academic writing, this approach is called refutation.
  • Specific, relevant, and realistic examples can make your position stronger. Although persuasive writing is all about actual facts, you may also use well-known or less-known examples to prove your viewpoint.
  • There are three main elements of persuasive writing to remember:
  • Logos – the appeal to reason and logic. You express it by using facts presented in logical manner.
  • Ethos – the appeal to ethics. In persuasive writing, you must convince the reader that you’re right from an ethical point of view.
  • Pathos – the appeal to emotion. You have to awaken the reader’s sympathy, sadness, anger, or any other kind of emotion, so you’ll make your main argument more convincing.

How to Write a Persuasive Essay Outline

Your persuasive paper should achieve the perfect balance between logos, ethos, and pathos. That’s how it will convince the reader to consider and even adopt your point of view. But how do you achieve such an impression? How exactly do you write a persuasive paper?

Once you pick your topic and you do enough research, you’ll be ready to think about the structure of your paper. In the outline, you’ll write brief points on what you intend to include in each section of the paper.

Let’s say that you’re writing an essay on the topic “Is feminism justified today?”, you may plan to include the following points throughout the content:

  • Introduction:
  • Some background: why did feminism start and what did the movement stand against?
  • Yes, feminism is justified (main argument)
  • Thesis statement: Feminism is justified because although women in Western cultures have more freedom than ever, some women from all over the world are still being oppressed.
  • First paragraph: the lifestyle of women in Western societies is not what feminists were initially fighting for.
  • Second paragraph: women in many cultures are still being oppressed.
  • Third paragraph: argue the opposing viewpoint that feminism is redundant in today’s societies.
  • Restate the thesis statement and show how you proved it.

What Are the Parts of a Persuasive Essay?

As you may see from the example of a persuasive essay outline above, this looks like a pretty standard essay with these main parts:

  • Introduction, where you’ll introduce the topic and expose your thesis statement.
  • Body, where you’ll state your facts and prove your thesis with arguments, and disprove the arguments of your opponents.
  • Conclusion, where you’ll bring all points down to a logical ending.

How to Write a Persuasive Essay Introduction

When you have your outline ready, it will be easy to start with the actual writing process. Still, the introduction might give you some trouble.

The most important part of the introduction is the clear and concise thesis statements, which defines your point of view, as well as the direction that the entire essay is going to take. Before that thesis statement, you should “hook” the reader. You may do that with a fact related to your topic, an anecdote, a quote, or even a definition. Think of something that would keep the reader interested in your paper.

A solid introduction will seamlessly flow towards the body paragraphs, which will prove the thesis statement with strong arguments.

How to Write a Conclusion for a Persuasive Essay

It’s strange to see how many students write the main parts of the persuasive paper and then get stuck with the introduction. You must pay great attention to this element of the paper. It’s not there just because your professor said so; it’s there because it has to balance out the essay and lead the reader towards a logical conclusion.

It’s a good idea to restate the main arguments and show how they prove the thesis statement. Don’t just paraphrase what you already wrote. Show exactly how your point of view is the right stance to have on this matter, and invite your reader to take action.

It’s no wonder why the persuasive paper is one of the most common assignments you get at college. This type of essay strengthens your skills of persuasive thinking, speaking, and writing. When you master those skills, you’ll be more prepared to tackle any professional challenge in the future, regardless of the profession you choose.

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