A persuasive essay is an essay that tries to persuade the reader to take a position on an issue. This may be an issue that's currently in the news such as the war in Afghanistan, or health care, or it may be an issue that never seems to die, such as abortion or gun control. In any case, these are topics on which people hold diverging opinions and which do not have clear answers.
Sometimes persuasive essays are called "argumentative essays" because you are arguing for or against a point of view. Think of the topic of a persuasive essay as something two people in a bar might get into an argument over. It's so much more civilized to write it out in an essay. The point in writing a persuasive essay is to research facts to back up opinions and to present these facts in a logical manner.
Literary or history essays can also be
persuasive essays because they try to persuade
a reader to agree with a particular
interpretation of a work or of events.
At one time rhetoric was one of the
cornerstones of a classic education. Gentlemen
(and I mean this: ladies and the lower classes
were not educated) were taught to debate. They
were taught the elements of logic and how to
apply it in making arguments. These days we
simply ask students to write on a controversial
topic. Most are up to the task. Some fail
utterly to differentiate between opinion and
fact. Some fail to arrange their arguments
logically. Some don?t seem to want to take a
An important part of a persuasive essay is to
know where you stand and what you want your
reader to believe at the end of the argument.
Never sit on the fence. Even if the opposing
arguments are good, and often they are, you
must be sure where you stand on the issue. This
is your thesis. Check
out the page on thesis statements
A persuasive essay takes the following
conclusion. The introduction provides
the reader with some basic background
information. It may begin with a quote, a
statistic or a general statement. The
introduction gives the thesis statement?the
statement that the author intends to prove, or
the point of view that he/she is defending. The
body provides the evidence. The conclusion sums
up, taking into account the presented evidence.
See the page on: essay structure.
There is a special type of persuasive essay
called a Rogerian
persuasive essay. There is a separate
article on how to write this type of essay.
In the body of the essay, the writer presents
the strongest facts in support of the argument.
A good persuasive essay will also examine the
evidence that supports the opposite conclusion.
It will attempt to undermine this evidence by
presenting alternative interpretations,
additional facts or expert commentary. It is
important to acknowledge the existence of these
alternative points of view because readers may
start off being sympathetic to these points of
view and if you simply attack them or treat
them without respect you will alienate these
readers instead of persuading them.
It could be argued that most essays are
persuasive essays. Sometimes an essay is about
a topic that's not controversial, except to a
select group of people. For example no one gets
into a fight at a bar over whether TS Eliot's
"The Wasteland" was an ode to marriage or an
ode against marriage. You might be able to
raise a few hackles at an English department
meeting, but to the average man on the street,
who rarely contemplates interpretation of early
imagist poetry, it's a moot point. Nonetheless
it's a valid topic for an essay to take a stand
on. Similarly, Marx's interpretation of the
Sino-Russian split, or A History of Western
Table Manners would each have a thesis
statement to be proved and a series of
arguments to back up that thesis statement.
In sum, a persuasive essay is one in which you
are deliberately setting out to persuade a
reader to believe your point of view is