Writing an argumentative essay

What is it for? It is an essay in which the writer tries to convince the reader(s) that his/her opinion in a controversial issue is the correct one.

How you do it? The writer presents one side of the issues and presents his/her opinions with arguments backed up by statistics, examples, facts, and expert opinions. In short essays (500 words), five paragraphs is the standard format.

To write an essay: 

Introductory paragraph. Begin with a topic sentence that is interesting enough to catch the reader’s attention.

For example: 

1) Quotations: The Pope said: “Gay marriages will never be accepted by the catholic church”;

2) Definitions: “Euthanasia”: The act of killing someone to relieve pain and suffering;

3) Facts: “John F. Kennedy was killed on November 22, 1963 in Dallas”

The introduction ends with a thesis statement, an affirmative sentence that expresses the writer’s opinion about the topic of the essay.  Gay marriage should not be banned.

Body paragraphs. The second, third, and fourth paragraphs make up the body of the essay. IMPORTANT: Each of the paragraphs must begin with a transition term (First, second, to continue, in conclusion, etc) followed by an argument that supports the thesis statement. The Topic sentence must be supported with evidence.

There are 3 types of evidence:

1) Statistics: 

Facts: “John F.Kennedy was killed on November 22, 1963 in Dallas” 

Figures: However, polls conducted from1966 to 2004 found that as many as 80 percent of Americans have suspected that there was a plot or cover-up

2) Expert opinion: 

Quote: Abraham Lincoln said: “The government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from earth”

Paraphrase: Abraham Lincoln said the government where the people participate would never disappear

3) Example: The assassination of John F. Kennedy Demonstrates that the United States security system has fail before the 9-11 attacks

IMPORTANT: Ideally, at least two types of evidence are used in the body essay

Conclusion: This is the fifth paragraph, it begins with a transition term (to summarize, to conclude, in summary, in conclusion, etc) and a summary in which the thesis and three arguments are re-stated. The essay ends with a “clincher” – a technique used to encourage the reader to think about the essay.

3 Types of clincher techniques: 

1) Connecting with the introduction

An example would be : Gay marriage should not be banned

People have the freedom to choose what to do with their lives and the government should respect that.

2) Asking a rethorical question

Should gay marriage be banned? Absolutely not!

3) Offering a suggestion

Who we marry should not be a decision that is made by the state, the choices that change our lives should only be made by us.

Persuasive strategies:

Here 4 basic strategies to use when writing an argumentative essay. They are:

  1. Do not use any first or second person pronouns (I, you, we, my, our, etc) By only using the third person singular or plural (he, she, it, they, etc), the essay appears impersonal and there for rational
  2. Do not use any contractions (he’s, she’s, don’t, mustn’t, can’t, etc). Remember that when we write an academic paper or other formal paper we cannot use contractions except to indicate possession (the pope’s opinion) Being formal will give credibility to your essay
  3. Place the weakest argument in the second paragraph of the body (paragraph 3). By placing the weakest argument in the middle of the two paragraphs, the strength of the two arguments hides the weakness of the second one. In other words, you begin and end strong.
  4. In the introduction, present the opposing viewpoint first, and then refute it in your thesis statements. By presenting the opposing position and then refuting it, you appear open-minded; you indicate that you have considered both sides of the issue, opting for the better of the two.

Language structures and transition terms

Some useful language structures to present and then refute an opinion are:

  • While proponents claim that…,it would appear the opposite is true
  • Some have asserted that…; nevertheless, …
  • It could be argued that…; however, ….

IMPORTANT: Notice the words nevertheless and however. They are transition words and, like the terms first, second, and third, they help the reader follow your train of thought.

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