What's a Persuasive Paragraph?

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By my very nature, I think I'm best at persuasive writing. And speaking. For some reason, I think I'm always trying to talk people into doing things. That probably goes back to my helpful nature and experience with teaching, but perhaps it's just who I am. Anyway, let's get on with this post about persuasive writing. Or, to be more accurate, persuasive paragraphs.

What's the aim of a persuasive paragraph? It's to make an effective and convincing argument. After all, you can be as effective as you want, but if you're not convincing, you'll never persuade anyone. And really, at the end of all of it, you'll want to change your reader in such a way as to do something that they were never planning on doing, thinking a new way, or altering an existing behavior. There's a goal to this type of writing and it's to get inside someone's head to tinker about a bit. You want them to think differently and you'll never do that without knowing how to.

We already discussed expository paragraphs here in this forum. Those types of paragraphs aim to explain things and to clarify them to such a degree as to create an understanding by your reader. When it comes to persuasive paragraphs, we plant our feet and take a stand on an issue. The thing is, we need to be careful how we do this. We can't simply say, "This is what I believe!" and that's it. We also need to back up our statements with facts and details. Writing persuasive paragraphs are much like going through a debate. Every statement and claim that's made in a debate needs to be backed up by some sort of true information. And beyond that, it's got to be information that persuades someone to act or think differently. Quotes, examples, opinions from professionals in their fields, facts from trusted resources - these are all fair game when it comes to persuading.

Having said all that, knowing facts and figures and conveying those things through your writing again isn't enough. To be effective, you'll need to organize your thoughts and writing so your persuasion seeps into your reader's mind in the most efficient manner. If you began with the ending and ended with the beginning, your reader would be thoroughly confused. But if you structure your writing the proper way, they'll understand your argument much more acutely.

I'll get into describing the specific pieces of these types of paragraphs below, but let me begin by saying that organizing persuasive paragraphs is much like organizing other types of paragraphs. They begin and end with introductory and concluding sentences that wrap the primary content. In this case, this primary content takes the form of your arguments and supporting evidence. Each of these sections should contain supporting information as well, so keep that in mind.

As I go through each section of a persuasive paragraph below, please remember that you won't need to strictly adhere to what I say. Just read everything over and become familiar with how these things work. Then, practice your writing. Come back here, reread this post and then practice some more. When I learn something new and then head off to practice it, I tend to forget what I'm doing. That's why I suggest practicing and then returning to the lesson. In this case, this page is the lesson.

Nothing on this page is meant to keep you constrained in any way. It's actually meant to help you flourish as a writer. It's meant to give you confidence and strength. And really, if you look at the suggestions I offer below, you'll find that they're more reminders than anything else. My goal is to make you aware of the expectations as they pertain to this type of writing. By following the guidelines below, you'll increase your effectiveness because you'll likely include the necessary parts of the paragraph. And once you get used to writing in this style well, you'll loosen up and become more creative, which in turn will likely increase your effectiveness. You'll do less positioning and formatting and more expressing and explaining, which is the key to persuading.


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Persuasive Paragraph Introductory Sentences

Like with many other types of paragraphs, a strong introductory sentence is key to the goals of the message that you're attempting to convey. Getting this sentence right can be a bit tricky though because it's actually got two goals: to introduce the topic of the rest of the paragraph as well as to introduce your argument. By failing to combine this mix of ingredients, you'll certainly have a tough time selling your reader on your argument. And just like so many others, this first sentence needs to contain the thesis of your writing, which makes it all the more critical you get it right.

What do writers hope to achieve when writing introductory sentences for their persuasive paragraphs? Here are a few things.

1. The issue of the paragraph needs to be introduced.
2. A glimpse of the writer's argument needs to be given. A general summary, if you will.
3. A quick outline of the arguments that will appear in the body sentences needs to be addressed.
4. If there are any points that counter the writer's arguments, mention them here.
5. And finally, the thesis statement needs to be given.

So, as you can see, there's a lot that goes into this first part of a persuasive paragraph. I'll discuss all this more below.

Many writers are highly intelligent human beings. They know so many things, but oftentimes fail at organizing their thoughts to they're coherent and rational. Because of this, their messages aren't taken as seriously as they may have been if their writing was better organized. When it comes to writing persuasive paragraphs, so many arguments have failed to gain traction because they lacked their necessary introductions. As mentioned above, it's critical to set the writer's arguments up front, so the reader can prepare mentally to comprehend what's being addressed. That said, a great way to set these types of sentences up is to offer some background information on the arguments at hand. Think of this is laying the foundation for the entire paragraph. For example, if a writer wanted to address the dangers of climate change, they might begin be introducing the topic like this: "Rising temperatures, polar bears drowning and dying, sea levels rising to swallow cities whole - global warming is at our doorstep." If a paragraph is introduced like this, there's little discrepancy as to what the remainder of the writing will entail. Informing your audience is critical at this point.

Why write introductory sentences? What's their purpose?

Introductory sentences explain to the reader why the paragraph is important. They also introduce the topic of the paragraph.

Example: A recent study has concluded that rising sea levels due to global warming has already had a catastrophic effect on marine life as well as coastal communities, resulting in significant loss of biodiversity as well as economic activity.

In the example above, I explain to the reader how detrimental global warming can be and I imply that by taking action now, we can reduce the negative effects going forward.

Introductory sentences also play a large part in creating and communicating the structure of the following paragraph. They also express the main ideas that will be conveyed.

Example: When we take note of how few Americans appreciate the severity of global climate change, we find that media, internet forums, and conspiracy theories play a huge role in their ignorance.

Above, I explain what I'll be addressing and in what order I'll be addressing it. I also inform the reader of the main ideas I think are important.

And finally, introductory paragraphs offer the paragraph's thesis.

Example: Climate change is harming many facets of our global environment and civilization and as such, education regarding these detrimental effects should be encouraged around the world.

In my final example, I state what I'll be arguing throughout my writing.

It really is all about informing your readers of your intentions. So while you're introducing your primary topic, you're also expressing what you'll be arguing. You can consider the introduction as sort of a map to the rest of what follows. And like so many other types of paragraphs, both your readers as well as yourself will benefit from this type of setup. So many times I have gotten far too deep into my own writing that I've actually forgotten what I was writing about. Or, I forgot what my main point was. Or what my arguments were. By crafting a thorough introductory sentence, I basically write myself a reminder that I could easily come back to during subsequent sittings.

Just like with debates, it's critical that any counter arguments are tackled up front. The introductory sentence is a great place to do this. Basically, these counter arguments will contradict your thesis, so admitting that these counter arguments exist and giving them a pre-rebuttal, you can actually strengthen your own argument. Think along these lines:

While it's been said that global warming isn't something we need to concern ourselves with now, the facts tell us that...

You can see how easy it is to deflate a counter argument is not so many words.

We've already covered many examples of what you should and shouldn't do in introductory sentences in this forum and when it comes to persuasive paragraphs, the same rules apply. Don't apologize, don't stereotype or use generalizations, and don't use dictionary definitions. Your goal is to appear strong and convincing, keep your reader engaged and your argument valid, and to stick to your viewpoint, not a fact.

Here are some areas that are suggested you do:

- Captivate your reader and keep them engaged.
- Tell your reader what the primary issue is.
- Keep your explanations simple and easy to read.
- Be short, but thorough. Write coherently.
- State and counter-arguments and refute them.
- Tell the reader what your thesis is in a concise arguable fashion.
- Offer a structure that includes the arguments your reader will find in the paragraph body.

No one wants to read a boring persuasive paragraph or any type of paragraph for that matter. So when writing these things, keep your reader interested and entertained. If you desire to keep your reader reading, you'll need to captivate them from the very beginning. A good trick to achieve this goal is to start your writing off with something of great interest.

Did you know that every single whale that's ever lived has weighed over three million pounds?

Okay, that was an exaggeration that obviously wasn't true, but it certainly was interesting, wasn't it? I'm not saying you should lie, but I'm sure that what ever topic you choose to write about most certainly has something interesting about it. Find out what it is and use it. And then continue on and use the same amount of interest to cover the points made above. Also, when using an opening piece of interest, be sure that it integrates and relates well to the rest of your writing. The last thing you want to do is captivate your reader and then confuse them because of some disjointed writing.