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writing that persuades


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PERSUASION AND ARGUMENT - what's the difference?
Okay, so you've been asked to write to persuade. But what's the difference between persuading and arguing? Well... not a lot! In fact, you'll be creating two very similar styles of writing. This is because they are both writing that has a similar purpose, that of seeking to influence. But, you've guessed it... there are key differences that the examiner looks for and knowing about these will help push up your marks and help you towards a higher grade!

When you set out to persuade someone, you want them to accept your opinion on an issue: you want to change that person's mind to your way of thinking. To do this, you will - just as with 'writing to argue' - be presenting a form of written argument; but when you are trying to persuade, your argument is expected to be more passionate, even more one-sided than the far more balanced presentation of views typical of "Writing to Argue". This is because persuasion is based on a personal conviction that your way of thinking is the right way.

This difference means that when you write to persuade, you can afford to be:

!!TWO TOP TIPS!!

TOP TIP NUMBER ONE
A powerful persuasive device - and one that examiner's love - is the emotional anecdote. An anecdote is a brief and fascinating tale, often a story taken from personal experience. Its purpose is to create a powerful and emotional illustration of why your view is the right view to hold.

  • Although anecdotes are based on real events, for your coursework and exam, you can make up the story, so long as it is realistic and reasonable. Click here for more on this.

TOP TIP NUMBER TWO
A second powerful technique to help win a person round to your way of thinking is to forge common ground between both of you: a goal that both you and your opponent share. This reduces the differences between the two of you to something much more manageable and achievable: a common goal. More on this later!

 


WHAT IS EXPECTED OF YOU?
For coursework or exam, you will be asked:

To gain a high grade, you will need to:


WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW...
The art of argument and persuasion is a very ancient art indeed. In fact, the ancient Greeks called the art of using language persuasively, rhetoric (hence, phrases you might have heard such as 'rhetorical language' and 'rhetorical devices' - these both refer to ways of using language that seem especially persuasive or powerful). Two of the most famous teachers of the ancient art of rhetoric were Plato's student, Aristotle and the Roman, Cicero.

CLASSICAL RHETORIC

If the two ancient teachers Aristotle and Cicero were helping you write to persuade, they would be trying to convince you (using rhetorical language, no doubt...) that the ideal form of argument was through the use of one thing and one thing alone... reason (which they called logos); however, these ancient scholars both realised that, humans being human after all, we were prone to being persuaded by two other techniques: an appeal to character (which they called ethos) and an appeal to emotion (which they called pathos).

LOGOS
THE APPEAL TO REASON
Most people believe themselves to be reasonable and to have a logical mind, so appealing to a person's sense of reason is generally thought to be the single most effective means of convincing them to change their way of thinking (e.g. 'If you do this, then that will happen...').

ETHOS
THE APPEAL TO CHARACTER
We all share certain common ideas about what is right, just or fair. By demonstrating your own, or appealing your opponent's, sense of what is right and fair, you can create quite a powerful persuasive device. (E.g. 'Both of us, I'm sure, would agree that trampling roughshod over a child's rights must be very wrong...').

PATHOS
THE APPEAL TO EMOTION
It is said that when emotion comes in through the door, reason leaves via the window, thus when trying to persuade, using emotional pleas need great care. That said, persuasion does very often succeed by the careful and considered use of an emotional plea - especially one that shows just how passionate you feel for your point of view (E.g. 'Can we genuinely call ourselves human beings when we allow this kind of thing to continue unabated..?).

 


HOW TO GAIN A HIGH GRADE

1. In all you write, never ignore your audience (i.e. your reader): always show you have thought closely about their needs

Just imagine how difficult it would be to persuade a stranger! Always 'get to know' your reader by working out what brought them to think the way they do. Showing a close awareness of your audience is a key aspect of the mark scheme for this particular question in the exam.

Follow these tips...

 

2. Show you have thought long and hard about why you are writing - your purpose
Read your question with care until you are absolutely absorbed into the scenario it requires: try to become the person that holds this viewpoint. Only then will you be at your most convincing.

But be realistic: your purpose is to change minds and sometimes a compromise is the most sensible next step in the process. Minds rarely change quickly and easily: take this into account when working out your objectives - maybe a meeting to discuss the issue is a sensible objective to hold?

 

3. Show clearly you have considered the needs of what you are creating - its form
Be sure you know the conventions required for various forms of writing

 

4. Show you know how to be persuasive

Writing that is coherent and fluent and which flows naturally, smoothly and with a sense of unity (i.e. singleness of purpose) is writing that seeks to help your reader trust and believe in you and your cause; it shows a sensitive understanding of their current beliefs; it seeks to forge common ground; it is consciously shaped and is a form of crafted persuasion that offers something in return to your 'opponent'...

All of this will show that you are using a sophisticated and subtle persuasive style. It is such points as these that will allow the examiner to give you the high grade you want.

Switch roles!
Which points and style would change
your mind?

Here is a small section of the mark scheme the examiners from a major examining board use when they award a grade A:

  • shows sustained awareness of the audience
  • arguments are convincingly developed and supported by relevant detail
  • ideas are selected and prioritised to construct a sophisticated argument
  • paragraphs are effectively varied in length and structure
  • a wide range of appropriate, ambitious vocabulary is used
  • the writing flows and is made coherent through the use of connectives
  • a range of rhetorical devices are used appropriately - CLICK HERE FOR MORE ON THIS IMPORTANT ASPECT!


WRITING YOUR ESSAY FOR COURSEWORK OR EXAM...

1. Plan
2. Write
3. Check

1. PLAN

 

2. WRITE
THE OPENING PARAGRAPH

 

THE BODY (CENTRAL) PARAGRAPHS


RHETORICAL DEVICES

Rhetorical questions, similes, metaphors, emotive language (used with care), irony (but never sarcasm), 'lists of three', repetition, parallel structures, hyperbole (i.e. exaggeration for effect), humour (care: backfires very easily!)...

CLICK HERE FOR THE ENGLISHBIZ GUIDE TO RHETORICAL DEVICES

LINKING EXPRESSIONS
'However... 'although...', 'if so...', 'and so...', 'but...', 'clearly...', 'on the other hand...', 'therefore...', 'supposing that...', 'furthermore...', 'looked at another way...', 'in contrast...', 'on the contrary...', etc.

 

THE CONCLUDING PARAGRAPH

 

3. CHECK

Each year, literally thousands of students fail to achieve the marks they could. Don't be one of them ALWAYS CHECK YOUR WRITING BEFORE HANDING IN!

Read each sentence immediately after you write it
Use a variety of sentence types and styles and remember that shorter sentences are often clearer and crisper sounding. An occasional ultra-short sentence can add real impact to writing.

Read each sentence before you proceed to the next to check it is fluent, accurate and complete. Does it follow on logically from the previous sentence?

Check every paragraph
A paragraph is a series of sentences (often at least five) that develop from a single topic sentence used to introduce the point of the paragraph.

Avoid creating overly short paragraphs as this suggests either a) you do not know what a paragraph is or b) that you have no explained the point of the paragraph in sufficient detail. Try to make sure that each paragraph flows naturally on from its predecessor by using the final sentence of each paragraph to subtly 'hook into the topic of the next paragraph.

To correct a missed paragraph simply put this mark where you want in to be: // then, in your margin write: // = new paragraph. The examiner will not mark you down for this so long as you have not forgotten all of your paragraphs.

Examine each comma
A very common error and poor style is to use a comma instead of a full stop to end a sentence. This makes two or more stylish, short and crisp sentences into one long, drawn out and boring sentence! Always end each sentence with a full stop - or a semi-colon if you know how to use this punctuation mark.

Look at every apostrophe
Apostrophes are only ever used for two reasons. But so many students fail to use them effectively. If two words are squeezed together into one and a letter is missed out in the process, show where the letter was by inserting an apostrophe. So should not becomes shouldn't

And when one of two nouns belong to the other, show which one possesses which by adding apostrophe+s to its end. So the school's entrance is correct because the entrance is 'possessed by the school, also Alan's book shows a similar possession.

But watch out for your use of it's. With an apostrophe this is always a shortened form of it is or it has, as in it's cold. If you mean belonging to it, as in its fur is shiny and smooth, no apostrophe is needed.


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