Narrow The Topic
When teachers assign a persuasive paragraph, they often link the topic to material from class. If this is the case, flip through your textbook and notes for ways to begin. Jot down ideas that relate specifically to the assigned topic. For instance, if your class is reading The Jungle by Upton Sinclair and your teacher assigns a persuasive paragraph with the topic of ethics involved with muckraking, begin by looking in two places: One, look at your notes for specific class discussions focusing on muckraking or ethics; two, go back through the book and find examples of muckraking. The more you narrow down your topic, the better.
Once you specifically know what you will persuade, make a small outline of your ideas. Your outline should contain a:
- topic sentence
- two or three supports (or ideas)
- concluding thought
As you research and continue brainstorming, you can always add to the outline.
Once you have brainstormed and outlined your paragraph, look at a variety of sources to support your ideas. Persuasive papers often include several sources, as they should. If limited to a paragraph, don’t use more than one or two sources. Readers will discredit you if you are merely reporting information. The bulk of your paragraph needs to be original content, only supported with primary sources. Keep track of sources and document them when finished.
Look at your outline as you write the paragraph. Gain your reader’s attention with a shocking or little-known tidbit. Questions (Did you know that…) are fairly common; think of unique wording for your paragraph. The interesting information should lead into the topic sentence, or the map for the paragraph. Consult back to your outline for the order of points. Add transitions between your main ideas. End the paragraph with a concluding punch, or something that will impact your reader. As you finish, think of what you want the reader to remember and turn that reflection into your final sentence.
When writing in a persuasive tone, it is important to remain objective. Although writers may feel passion and emotions concerning the subject, students best deliver a message when the reader doesn’t walk away feeling belittled or bossed around. Likewise, do not assume that readers have predisposed ideas or feelings. Present your argument skillfully and powerfully. Don’t try bullying your readers into agreeing with you, because they won’t. Direct your message in a helpful and understanding tone instead.
Too often a student places a period at the end of her final sentence and turns the paper over to the teacher. Doing so will ultimately result in a lower grade than the student could actually earn. Read over the paragraph for clarity and ask yourself, “Does this make sense”?
Look for misspelled words and incorrect punctuation. It helps to read the paragraph aloud or to have another person read over it as well. Be sure that your topic sentence explains what the paragraph will cover. Review your sources to be sure you attributed information correctly. Finally, check that you have conveyed the correct tone and message.
Author’s Personal Knowledge and Experience