Persuasive Writing: Opinions
Unit 3 talked about persuasive writing and book reviews. A book review is one type of persuasive writing that persuades the reader to read (or not read) a book. In general, the purpose of persuasive writing is to convince the reader to agree with the writer’s opinion on an issue. Effective persuasive writing contains vivid, persuasive language. There are many types of persuasive writing.
Types of Persuasive Writing
Editorials are written by the editor of a newspaper or magazine and express his or her opinion about a particular subject.
Op-ed pieces are written for newspapers and magazines by experts on an issue. These experts are not employed by the newspaper or magazine. In op-ed pieces, they express their expert opinion on the issue.
Letters to the editor are letters written by readers of a newspaper or magazine and sometimes published in that particular newspaper or magazine. These letters express the reader’s opinion on an article or on a particular issue.
Book reviews are written by critics and express an opinion on a particular book.
Persuasive essays are written following a logical structure to convince the reader to agree with the writer’s position on an issue.
Persuasive speeches are speeches that are written to convince a particular audience to believe or do something, such as speeches by politicians who want people to vote for them.
Basic Structure of Persuasive Writing
- A clear description of the issue and why it is important
- A thesis statement that clearly states the writer’s opinion on the issue
- Factual evidence to support the writer’s opinion, particularly data such as percentages, statistics, and clear comparisons
- References to opinions from experts on the issue
- Arguments that support the writer’s opinion
- A presentation of the arguments of the opposing side (Sometimes these are presented before the writer’s arguments.)
- Counter-arguments that respond to the opposing side’s arguments
- A forceful restatement of the writer’s opinion
- An appeal to action, requesting that the reader do something, for example write a letter to an elected official of the government, or vote in a particular way
Counter-arguments and Concessions
In good persuasive writing, the writer must not only present his or her own strongest arguments. He or she must also try to imagine all arguments on the opposing side, present them, and then demonstrate that they are wrong. Often the writer’s argument will seem more persuasive if he or she makes a concession before demonstrating why he or she disagrees with the opposing side. When making a concession, the writer agrees that some part of the opposing argument is correct, while still arguing that the opposing argument is mostly wrong.
Language to start counter-arguments and concessions
Some people claim that …
They argue that …
While I do not disagree with this argument …
While I do not disagree with this argument, at the moment the only pathway to success … is a college diploma.
Despite the large amount of research, some people still insist that prevention programs are too costly.
Referring to Authoritative Sources of Data
To persuade the reader, the writer must support his or her point of view with factual information, examples, and details. When doing so, it is important to refer to the source of the information.
According to … [respected authority]
[Respected Authority] reports that …
The New York Times reports that for every dollar spent on early childhood programs …
Model Text 1: Op-Ed Article
The Economic Impact of High School Dropouts
A In a recent speech, President Obama discussed the startling rise in students dropping out of high school in the United States. Although in 1970 the United States was at the top of the world in both college and high school graduation rates, our position has dropped dramatically since then. B According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, C the United States is currently 21st in the world for high school graduation, and 15th for university graduation. D Such a sharp drop in graduation rates has damaged our economy and is costing the American people billions of dollars. This is an unacceptable situation that deserves our immediate attention.
2 Body Paragraphs
E President Obama has suggested a possible solution: making high school attendance mandatory until a student graduates or turns 18. Currently only 21 states require this. F While a good idea, G this proposal is an example of too little, too late. C Scores of research studies have shown that addressing this issue cannot wait until high school. The best prevention programs start in pre-school, when the children are just 3 or 4 years old. These programs usually include small group instruction, nutritious meals, home visits by teachers, regular parent/teacher meetings, and higher salaries for teachers.
F It can certainly be argued that such programs are costly. However, G not paying now will be even more costly over the long term. B According to the New York Times, C cutting the current number of dropouts in half would result in 700,000 more high school graduates every year. Since many studies have shown that the average high school graduate earns 50 to 100% more during his or her lifetime than the student who quits, more high school graduates would result in much higher tax revenues. What does this mean in dollars and cents? B The New York Times reports that C for every dollar spent on early childhood programs to prevent students from quitting, there is a return of $1.45 to $3.55. In other words, effective programs save the public $127,000 per graduate in tax dollars per year. With 700,000 fewer dropouts per year, this totals an astonishing $1 trillion dollars in savings in just 11 years!
Despite the large amount of research, E some people still insist that prevention programs are just too costly. G However, we now have sufficient evidence that better educated high school graduates help the economy. H It has become clear that we cannot afford not to invest in prevention programs. In fact, our economic future depends on it.
Model Text 2: Letter to the Editor
Letter to the Editor
A letter to the editor is a specific type of persuasive writing in direct response to a newspaper op-ed or editorial. The writer gives his or her own opinion or perspective on the issue addressed in the op-ed or editorial, agreeing or disagreeing with it. Letters to the editor are usually short and direct. The introduction is generally a simple statement of agreement or disagreement, along with a reference to the original article and its writer in parentheses. This is the letter writer’s “thesis statement.”
The body of the letter is also brief, usually just one or two paragraphs. In the body of the letter, the writer presents the reasons for his or her opinion. These can be based on the writer’s personal experience. They can also be based on factual evidence.
In the conclusion to the letter, the writer often includes a request that the reader take action, for example write a letter to an elected official of the government or vote in a particular way. This request is the writer’s “call to action.” It either contradicts or supports the original writer’s call to action.
A As a high school dropout with first-hand knowledge of the negative economic impact that the lack of a high school diploma can have, B I fully agree with the recent commentary on the high school dropout crisis C (“The Economic Impact of High School Dropouts”).
2 Body Paragraphs
A At 16, I made a foolish decision to leave school and get a job. At the time, it seemed obvious to me that earning a salary as a cashier made a lot more sense than sitting in a classroom, bored out of my mind. I have regretted that decision for the past 24 years. I have struggled to support myself at jobs that pay little more than minimum wage. When I compare myself to my friends who graduated, I am always reminded of how foolish my decision to quit was. Those who graduated and went on to college, easily earn twice what I do. Perhaps even more importantly, they enjoy the approval of a society that values professionals more than those who work with their hands.
D Some people claim that college is not for everyone. They argue that there should be other pathways to success for kids who are not academically-oriented. E While I do not disagree with this argument, F at the moment the only pathway to success for most young people is a college diploma. And to obtain that diploma, a high school degree is a necessity.
A I wish the programs that are proposed in the op-ed piece had been there when I was a teen—perhaps I would have made a different choice. G I urge everyone who cares about the economic future of our country to support all efforts to decrease the high school dropout rate.