Persuasive Essay Outline


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APPROACHING PERSUASIVE WRITING What’s the purpose of persuasive writing? To make the writer’s opinions agreeable, convincing to an audience To convince readers who disagree to change their minds, or their behavior To use argumentation as a rhetorical strategy for convincing people to agree with you, even when they may initially disagree. Notice how the word audience, readers, and people keep appearing as we try to define the purpose here? It’s the needs of the audience that you really focus on when you attempt to write persuasively. That will be crucial to remember when we talk about the parts of an argument. In all of these definitions of purpose, you can see that the need for persuasion implies that there’s some problem or issue or disagreement out there that’s “arguable” or “debatable.” That seems obvious, but what does it really mean? People get into ridiculous or even dangerous arguments all of the time because they try to argue or debate things they disagree about that really aren’t arguable because they are matters of belief, feeling, or faith. Feelings. If you feel happy, will you be easily convinced that you that you shouldn’t be? Conversely, if you’re sad, can you be “persuaded” to cheer up? If you hate someone or something, will a logical explanation change the way you feel? (Logic can influence the way you think, but does it budge how you feel?) Feelings can change, obviously, and sometimes changing your mind helps you change your feelings, but in general it’s
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understood that feelings are not arguable. You know the cliché—“people are entitled to their feelings.” Faith. Two people who have religious differences, for instance, can “argue” and debate all day and I guarantee neither one will “win.” We have vivid illustrations of this all over the world. Belief. Sometimes what’s a matter of belief can be a little blurry, and what’s arguable or not arguable becomes a lot more challenging to decide. For example, should a red state evangelical Christian argue with a blue state secular humanist that the United States should observe a separation of church and state? Are we talking about “belief” when we talk about the tradition of separation between church and state? In this case, I would say no—we are arguing about how to interpret the Constitution, which is not an article of faith but an article of secular law. In that case, the stronger interpretation, the one with more logical reasoning and evidence to support it, should “win” (be the most convincing). Of course we all know that disagreements which can’t be argued are often battled instead. Might makes right, as the saying goes. How long has that been going on? Forever, right? But this isn’t exactly satisfying for either party, and at various times in history there have
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