The goal of writing a persuasive essay is to persuade or convince the reader to believe something. Writers do this through the use of logical arguments and emotional appeals. While there is no one correct way to write these essays, this page will show you some good practices to consider when learning how to write a persuasive essay.
Here is a brief overview of the contents on this page. I suggest that you start at the beginning, but if you’re looking for something specific, click the links below to hop around this page:
Overview of Contents
Preview of Main Points
Making the Connection
Restatement of Points
The introductory paragraph is the first-paragraph in the persuasive essay. I teach my students that their introductory paragraphs should have three parts: an attention-catcher, a thesis, and a preview. The introductory paragraph is perhaps the most important paragraph in the essay because it is the first and possibly last chance to make an impact on the reader. It should clearly express the subject of the essay as well as the writer’s position. While it is generally not required, previewing the main points shows readers that the paper has been thoughtfully composed rather than free formed. When I teach persuasive writing, we often devote the entire first week to the introductory paragraph because I believe that if a student can write a good introductory paragraph, then he or she can write a strong persuasive essay. Every introductory paragraph should begin with an attention catcher.
The attention catcher or lead should be the first sentence in the persuasive essay. It is the writer’s first chance to make an impression on the reader, so it should not be spent thoughtlessly. A good attention catcher is angled in a way that immediately pushes the reader toward the writer’s position. Here is an example of what I mean:
Example of a Weak Attention Catcher
Do you think students should have to wear uniforms?
Notice that this question is open-ended and does not provide an opinion. If my students wrote this, I would not know which side they were arguing. This should not be the case. The writer’s position should be clear before they even mention it based on the strength of their attention catcher.
Example of a Strong Attention Catcher
Do you think students should be forced to wear pants when it is over 100 degrees?
This example is much stronger because the writer’s position is clear from the first line. They ask a question to which they already know the answer. Persuasion is about forcing others to think along your lines. Practice this in your writing by using attention catchers that are angled toward your position. It may take more time to write your attention catcher than any other sentence in your essay, but this is time well spent in my opinion.
Attention Catching Techniques
Here is a short list of attention catching techniques for persuasive essays. This list is not to be thought of as exhaustive, but rather as a few guiding examples to help you get started. I encourage you to combine and experiment with these techniques as your writing develops.
- Asking a Question: This is my favorite technique because it can be used on any topic at any time. Additionally, it has a strong rhetorical effect on readers: people are conditioned to think about questions because answers are often expected of them. When you ask a question in your paper, readers are more likely to consider your ideas. As with any attention catcher, you’ll want to take your time making a good one that begins persuading your audience immediately.
- Quotation: A wise person once said, “No matter what you’re trying to say, someone else has probably said it better.” I find that in most cases this statement is true. While you are unlikely to have access to the necessary resources to dig up quotes for a timed essay or standardized test, if you do have time (example: a high school application letter), using an appropriate quote is a classy way to start off your essay. Just be sure that the quote is connected to your topic in some easily identifiable way.
- Anecdote: An anecdote is a short story. Beginning your essay with an anecdote that is clearly related to your topic is another great way to get the reader’s attention and briefly demonstrate your descriptive writing ability. There are a couple things to keep in mind, however, when using an anecdote to catch the reader’s attention:
- Stay on Point: as with everything in your paper, your attention catcher, especially if it is an anecdote, should be related to your topic and position.
- Stay on Mode: Remember that you are writing a persuasive essay, not a narrative. Your anecdote should be limited to a few sentences, lest your writing may be perceived as off mode.
- Startling Fact or Statistic: Did you know that two out of three persuasive essays do not begin with a proper attention catcher? Using a startling fact or statistic is another great way to pique the reader’s interest, assuming that you can locate just such a fact. I’ve heard other people suggest that students should fabricate facts or statistics when other sources are unavailable, but I personally don’t support that approach as it seems academically dishonest.
- Imaginative Scenario: Picture this! You have forty-five minutes to write an essay and you need an attention catcher fast. What do you do? One way to do this is to create an imaginative scenario such as the one that I just described. Immerse your reader in an example of the problem and show them why they should care. Use descriptive writing and sensory details to either positively or negatively charge your writing; however, as with telling anecdotes, be careful not to stray off mode. Remember that your main purpose is to write arguments not to tell stories.
- Combinations: You might find yourself using some hybrid of two or more of these techniques, which is completely acceptable. You can begin with an imaginative scenario and end with a question. Try something wild. When it comes to writing, the most restrictive limitations are the bounds of your own imagination. I encourage you to stretch those bindings whenever you have the opportunity.
A thesis is a clearly worded statement telling readers exactly what the writer intends to do in the essay. Good persuasive writing does not make the reader guess as to what the author’s intentions were. The writer’s intent should be made very clear. The best place to do this is immediately after the attention catcher. After gaining the reader’s interest, clearly state the position of your essay, as in the following example:
Do you think students should be forced to wear pants when it is over 100 degrees? Of course not. Students should not have to wear uniforms.
The emboldened text represents the thesis or central argument in my essay. Every sentence in my paper should in some way connect to that central argument. Any sentence that is not furthering my thesis is distracting from it and should be removed. Clearly state your thesis in your introductory paragraph and spend the rest of the essay trying to support it. If your position changes during the course of your writing, don’t be afraid to go back and revise your thesis, but your thesis must align with the arguments in your essay.
Preview of Main Points
The preview briefly states the main points that will be argued in the essay. The preview is not where the arguments are developed. The preview merely summarizes each point in as few words as possible. Each body paragraph should have one main point. All of the main points should be concisely stated in the preview. An appropriately structured five-paragraph essay will preview three main points. It is important for writers to preview their main points in the exact order that they will be developed. For example, if I claim that my essay will argue square, circle, and triangle . My first body paragraph should be about squares, my second should be about circles, and my third should be about triangles. I instruct my students to put their previews right after the thesis statements in their introductory paragraphs.
Educators and professionals argue back and forth on the value of previewing points. Consequently, previews are not required on many standardized tests; however, I require them for my students because it is an easy way to tell if they are considering format in their compositions. Previewing and structuring main points in this manner is a good way to scaffold into a more personalized and sophisticated writing style.
The term body refers to all paragraphs after the introduction and before the conclusion. The metaphor that comes to mind most often in describing this structure is the sandwich: the introductory and concluding paragraphs represent slices of bread while the body paragraphs are the meat and cheese of the essay, so to speak. There are three body paragraphs in a five paragraph persuasive essay. Each body paragraph should focus on one argument, called the main point. Though I encourage my students to have three body paragraphs, it is certainly possible to write a successful essay with more or fewer body paragraphs.
A main point is the purpose of the body paragraph. Each body paragraph should have one clearly stated main point that is expressed in the topic sentence of the paragraph. The main point should then be developed and supported with emotional or logical arguments. A five-paragraph persuasive essay should have three main points and each main points should support the thesis of the essay.
Topic sentences clearly state the purpose of the paragraph. Each body paragraph should begin with a topic sentence. A topic sentence may or may not restate your thesis or position but always should state the paragraph’s central argument. The goals of a persuasive essay are somewhat opposite to that of a mystery novel: when writing a persuasive essay do not attempt to build suspense by keeping secrets from the reader. Write topic sentences that are clear, direct, and upfront about your purpose.
Students should not have to wear school uniforms because they limit students’ ability to express their individuality.
Notice that this example has two parts: the non-emboldened text restates the thesis of the essay and the bold text is the main point. The rest of the paragraph should argue the main point.
Supporting details are arguments, examples, or descriptions that justify, explain, and develop main points. My students perennially struggle with properly supporting their main points. In order to help them, I teach them to use thought stems to extend and develop their arguments. These thought stems are something like training wheels for writing: once students learn to write they won’t need to them; but when they are first learning, students can learn to better sequence and develop their support by using thought stems.
Persuasive Essay Thought Stems
- What I mean by this is…
- Another way to say this is…
- This connects to my argument because…
- The reason for this is that…
- To put it another way…
- This shows that…
- This is important because…
- For example…
With a little bit of practice, students can use these thought stems to better explain and support their arguments. I keep a large poster with these thought stems in my classroom and I title it “The Elabor-8.”
Making the Connection
Making the connection is when the last sentence in a body paragraph connects the support back to the main point. My students generally do pretty well at coming up with main points and creating support, but they often fail to connect the two. That is to say, they put the support next to the main point but don’t clearly explain the relation between the two or how they connect. The analogy I use to explain this is that of the prosecutor in a criminal case: the attorney doesn’t just say, “There were some blood drops in the defendants car,” and then end his argument. Having evidence is not enough. The prosecutor must explain what the evidence shows. Likewise, writers need to explain what their evidence shows to make the connection. Don’t make the readers draw their own conclusions; that’s your job.
We should not have to wear school uniforms because they limit our ability to express our individuality. What I mean by this is that students have the right to express who they are and how they are feeling. One of the most important ways they do this is through dress. This is how we show the world who we are, particularly in an environment where we are forced to be quiet for 90% of the day. Our fashion makes a unique statement. If students are forced to wear uniforms, their ability to express themselves will be severely limited. Schools should promote student expression not restrict it. Because of this we should not have to wear uniforms.
This paragraph begins well by clearly stating the position on the topic and the main point of the paragraph. The paragraph is well developed with logical arguments, and then it closes strongly. But imagine if it ended without the parts in bold? This is how many of my students write: they state their point, they support it with some evidence, and then they move on with the essay. Bringing the argument back to the topic sentence is an essential and often overlooked step. By connecting the support to the main point, writers help readers make the connection. This is entirely essential to writing excellent paragraphs.
The conclusion is the last paragraph in the persuasive essay. A good conclusion will not only restate the main points of the argument, it will bringing something new to the table and end with strength and resolution. It’s been compellingly argued that readers or listeners best remember the first and last things stated. With this notion in mind, you should allot yourself an appropriate amount of time to craft a resonant introduction and conclusion. One way to write a strong concluding paragraph is to restate the thesis and main points of the essay, but then attempt to leave a strong impression on the reader by ending on a clinching statement.
Restatement of Points
A restatement of points is when the writer briefly reviews the main points of their argument. It is very similar to the preview in the introduction but, while maintaining the sequence of the arguments, the writer should not repeat it word for word. Educators argue over the value of having a preview and review in the introduction and conclusion. The main argument against it is that such practices promote formulaic writing, but I would counter that it is extremely helpful until students develop a strong sense of the structure of a persuasive essay.
The clinching statement is the last idea in the persuasive essay. Since it is your final opportunity to leave an impression on the reader, you should attempt to close with finesse. Here is a list of a few techniques that may help you end your persuasive essays more effectively.
- The Better World:The writer attempts to describe an idyllic scenario that will occur if their proposal is accepted. The sun will shine brighter and the sky will be bluer if the writer’s resolution is adopted, so to speak.Example: If students aren’t forced to wear uniforms, our school will have a much more pleasant and productive environment in which everyone will learn and grow.
- The Worst Case Scenario:The writer again attempts to describe a scenario, this time imagining how bad the world might become if their proposal is rejected. Fear is a highly motivating emotion, so the writer should strive to make their scenario as frightful as possible without sounding ridiculous.Example: If students are required to wear uniforms, the environment of our school will become drab and colorless, and the structure of our hallowed institution will be further from a college and closer to a prison.
- The Call to Action: Another good way to end your essay is to ask or demand that your reader take someaction in support of your proposal. Perhaps you ask them to write a letter or email to their congressman or relevant authority. Perhaps you ask them to recycle their trash instead. The scope of your call is dependent on the topic.
Example: If you understand how important it is for students to have the right to dress themselves, it is your civic duty to attend your local school counsel meeting and demand that this proposal be rejected.
These are just a few suggestions to get budding writers to think about how to effectively close their persuasive essays. No matter which approach you choose, remember the importance of your parting words to the reader and dedicate an appropriate amount of time to closing your essay with finesse.
Looking For Something Else?
Persuasive Essay Topics
Persuasive Essay Worksheets and Activities
Narrative Essay Topics
Narrative Essay Worksheets and Activities
Research Paper Topics
Alicia/ October 19, 2017
These videos were awesome! i had my students watch the video, then I showed examples, and then they wrote their own paragraphs on a guided sheet with each component broken down. Finally they put it all together into a persuasive essay. It made the writing process simple and smooth. The videos were well done and easy to follow even for my advanced ELLs. I would love to see more videos like this for narrative essays, etc. Thank you for your obvious hard work and dedication!
Mr. Morton/ October 19, 2017
Thanks so much for saying so, and thanks for the suggestion. I’ll put it on my to-do list.
El Alibouch/ June 23, 2017
You opened my eyes to a lot of things I didn’t know about a persuasive essay, especially English is not my mother tongue. I am a math teacher and failed the writing and reading sections of GK several times. Could please give more advice that will help me pass that test?
I really appreciate your time. Thank you
Mr. Morton/ August 1, 2017
I’m not familiar with that test, but keep reading appropriately leveled texts and eat a good breakfast on test day. Best wishes!
SunsetKittyKat/ May 28, 2017
Thank you so much! You help sooooooo much with my homework! Have you done a Narrative page? Well, if you haven’t then you should because I don’t know how to write really good Narratives.
And again. Thank you soooooo much for your help!
Mr. Morton/ May 31, 2017
I have. Check it out here: http://www.ereadingworksheets.com/writing/writing-narrative-essays/
Diana Pwaka/ May 12, 2017
I teach in a remote school with no proper text books. I got so confused because a text book we are using taught differently from the way I always taught it. I started searching and found your website.
Diana Pwaka/ May 12, 2017
Thanks for the notes.
John Doe/ April 2, 2017
Thank you for taking the time to write this and it helped a lot. I have to write a essay in ELA soon so I have one question. Are there any tips or helpful information that you have or didn’t put in your website that might help me?
Mr. Morton/ April 6, 2017
Something always gets left out. I’d love to make more content to help students write. Perhaps soon…
Kirby/ March 17, 2017
I made some notes of this, hope that it will help me in the future!!!! Thank you so much!
Mayank/ January 25, 2017
This is very helpful.
Will Sosnowsky/ December 23, 2016
upasana/ September 30, 2016
so well n clearly explained….. great help
jayboy/ September 7, 2016
I don’t know how to write a lead in. I don’t know how to start? Can this website give me an example of a lead in about the persuasive essay?
Mr. Morton/ September 10, 2016
A “lead in” is just another way to say attention catcher. Learn about those here: http://www.ereadingworksheets.com/writing/writing-persuasive-essays/#attention-catchers
Basically, the first sentence of your essay is probably the most important, so it should be a good one.
Chloe/ August 27, 2016
this really helped me, now i know how to write a persuasive essay, thxx 😀
Ms.Jain/ April 28, 2016
This is amazing thx I understand persuasive writing so much better now. Thanks again. 🙂
amina/ April 22, 2016
this is very well explaned thanx sooooooooo much
Ernest/ April 9, 2016
Thanks for this all-encompassing package in persuasive essay writing. I particularly find the ‘ELABOR-8’ imperatively useful. You deserve standing ovation.
Mr. Morton/ May 5, 2016
Thank you! Thank you!
tom/ April 1, 2016
I love this web site
edrees/ March 23, 2016
Great presentation. Thank you for sharing
Jordan Addiman/ March 16, 2016
Thanks sir, I enjoyed it
Young-Miller/ February 27, 2016
This is an excellent presentation! I used the pointers as reference in creating my lesson and the students were so receptive. Keep it up!
Mr. Morton/ March 15, 2016
Thank you. Will do.
me/ January 6, 2016
amazing website love it…….!!
nina yeboah/ December 8, 2015
wow! I really love this website, is awesome.
Bu Chris/ December 5, 2015
I’m an English teacher from Indonesia. I can’t say more how thankful I am to get all these materials. Tons of thanks!
ziyad/ July 23, 2015
this was really helpful. i won my competition of essays bec. of this
Mr. Morton/ July 30, 2015
The victory belongs to you, my friend.
jahseek/ July 13, 2015
this a great site.
Ginger/ July 6, 2015
I may be wrong, but I wanted some clarification. I was taught in college that the thesis statement always have to be the last sentence in the introductory paragraph. Yours does not follow that rule. So as long as a thesis in somewhere in the intro, it is okay? I am trying to teach my HS son to write an essay.
Mr. Morton/ July 22, 2015
That’s right. The thesis statement is often at the end of the introductory paragraph, but it doesn’t have to be, unless teacher X requires it. Then you better do what teacher X says.
yves/ May 20, 2015
Thank you so much I got an A+ on my essay
ITS A SECRET/ March 26, 2015
Thank you so much!I now totally understood about persuasive writing!
Yang/ March 25, 2015
Thank you! The video helped me a lot! Tomorrow I will be having my English exam, I hope I will do well in my exam
Mr. Morton/ March 27, 2015
You’re going to do fantastic!
Issam/ March 15, 2015
Amazing website u have taught us every thing thank u very much
Anshul Chawla/ February 17, 2015
This really helped me on my persuasive essay. I just hope I get an A on it. Thanks!!!!
Kenneth Holbert/ November 11, 2014
I got an ‘A’ on an assignment by using this. Thank you so much.
Mr. Morton/ November 19, 2014
I’m so happy to hear it.
Sariah/ November 10, 2014
Thank you so much. I got an A on my persuasive essay and I have to give you the credit for taking time to post this.
Mr. Morton/ November 19, 2014
Oh, come on, you did all of the work. I’m happy to have given you a little inspiration. I’m sure that you earned that A.
alexpengyu/ October 31, 2014
I find this website extremely useful! I use a lot of its materials to teach my child. Thank you so much!!
Michael Mesbahi/ September 11, 2014
Hi! As an English teacher teaching “O” Level in an international school in KL, Malaysia, I would have to say that your info has been very comprehensive, useful and user-friendly! I’m certainly going to use them and hand them out as worksheets to my year 11 students. Thank you very much and God bless.
Mr. Morton/ September 11, 2014
You are so welcome. I am happy to be reaching you all of the way out there. I appreciate the kind words. God bless.
Carlton/ September 6, 2014
Your work is valuable beyond estimation… Keep up the good work and have a wonderful day… Thank you.
Mr. Morton/ September 10, 2014
Thanks for taking the time to comment. More coming soon. Best wishes!
Damarys/ August 30, 2014
Love it, very clear and precise… I learned so much!! Thanks!
Mr. Morton/ September 2, 2014
You are so welcome.
Kate Gallagher/ August 4, 2014
I just found great stuff for my 8th grade budding writer. The more I look the better this website gets. I can not tell you that in comparison to what is available you guys are just shining example of having what is needed and the quality is excellent. Your stuff provokes critical thought…love it!
Mr. Morton/ August 4, 2014
Thanks so much for saying so. Your comments motivate me to continue. Best wishes!
adnan/ February 7, 2015
This is really good advice..May you have long life
Thank you 😛
Mr. Morton/ March 2, 2015
Thank you. I also hope that I may. 😀
Mila/ June 9, 2014
I loved this article, it’s so helpful.
Thank you a lot
Evan/ May 13, 2014
Thank you for taking the time to write this, it really helped me on my english ten ECA.
Mr. Morton/ May 13, 2014
I’m happy to hear it.
Mr.Chicken/ April 23, 2014
Karimah/ March 24, 2014
I love your explanation! And you really help me with my homework. Perhaps you should come to Singapore and teach.
Mr. Morton/ April 21, 2014
That would be soooo cool.
Can I stay at your place?
How about my family?
Can they stay at your place too?
I am honored by your comment.
D Thomas/ March 20, 2014
The videos have really helped me teach the concepts for persuasion. Thank you so much.
Desiree/ February 18, 2014
Thank you so much you are helping me and my class on our work so we know what to do for our aims test!!!
jacob hutchinson/ March 10, 2013
Thanks this really helped i got an A on my paper because of you<3 [=
Mia/ February 26, 2013
Thanks these steps helped me become a better writer on my essays. 🙂
Snoppy/ February 1, 2013
This is really good advice! Thanks it really helped me with my essay! 🙂
Jessica/ January 30, 2013
This is like REALLY helpful! Thank you so much [:
bayan salah/ December 19, 2012
amazing u helped me a lot..good effort god bless u
H.Ibrahim/ October 20, 2012
This is an awesome website. Work well done. You really helped me. All the reading comprehensions, figurative language worksheets, and the different essay topics are of great help. I will make sure my colleagues know it too. Thank you:)
L Harris/ September 27, 2012
Wow! Thank you so very much for providing such comprehensive, yet user-friendly lessons and associated documents and worksheets.