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The Art of Persuasion
By Brenda B. Covert
  

1     You want an Xbox, a computer, a raise in your allowance, or permission to attend a concert with your friends. What do you do? You might try whining, wheedling, or begging, but that conduct rarely does more than annoy people. You might employ tantrums, threats, or sarcasm, but that sorry behavior won't win you any awards either. If you use the art of persuasion, you stand the best chance of being heard, respected, and perhaps rewarded with the desired response. Surely by this stage of life you have already mastered the art of the persuasive argument.
 
2     Let's take what you know about the art of persuasion and apply it to the written word. Your assignment is to write a persuasive essay. We'll take it step-by-step.
 
3     First you need to choose a topic. It must be something debatable. It can't be a fact. If you were to choose as your topic "Vipers are dangerous," you wouldn't have to persuade anyone of that. However, if your topic was "Vipers should be eliminated from the animal kingdom," then you would have presented an opinion that could be debated. That's not to say that your argument would win, but you could give it your best effort!
 
4     Your persuasive essay will focus on only one side - your chosen side - of the argument. This will not be a pros-and-cons essay. Also, it won't be a personal opinion essay. You must be prepared to back up your logic with evidence collected from research that supports your position.
 
5     Students often choose topics such as school uniforms, the legal driving age, or saving endangered animals. I'd like you to move past those topics to something new and creative. Come up with a topic that excites you. You need to decide your position on the chosen topic. Your argument should persuade others to agree with you.
 
6     Once you have a topic and have researched it thoroughly, you will write your introduction. Capture the reader's attention with a quotation or story related to the topic, or ask a leading question. If I were writing about eliminating vipers, I might begin with the sad tale of a villager killed by an eyelash viper hidden in a bunch of bananas and how his death affected his family.
 
7     After the attention-commanding ploy, you move directly to your argument. In the viper argument, I'd probably give a statistic about deaths per year caused by vipers, and my next sentence would clearly announce my opinion that vipers serve no useful purpose and should be exterminated. Follow your statement of persuasion with three main points that support your position on your topic. You will elaborate on those points in the following paragraphs.
 
8     The body of your essay will be made up of three paragraphs. Each paragraph will present one argument, or point, for your position, based on the three points you gave in your introduction. Now is the time to expand your argument with facts, quotes, statistics, examples, or other evidence that supports your cause. Choose only the most powerful items that will convince the reader that your idea is the right one.
 
9     To continue the viper essay, my reasons for reducing the viper population might be that vipers are poisonous, too-well-camouflaged, and serve no useful purpose to humanity. I would present evidence about their toxic nature and ability to hide themselves. The teacher would probably deduct points for that third argument because I couldn't find evidence to support that opinion. On the contrary, there is much evidence to be found that shows a very useful purpose for vipers, such as controlling the population of destructive rodents and other pests. These rodents not only destroy crops and food stores but also spread disease that could result in plagues and other health threats to humans. If I were still determined to persuade readers that vipers need to be wiped off the face of the Earth, I'd need to come up with a new argument. I'd also try to disprove the opposing argument that states that vipers help control the pest population, since I know that someone might raise that issue. Just as I need to be prepared to defend my position, you'll need to be prepared to defend yours!

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