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The Persuasive Essay Process. Respond to prompts Brainstorm Construct Outline Thesis statement – last sentence of first paragraph 2 body paragraphs – First supports your argument, Second deconstructs the opposing argument

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The Persuasive Essay Process

  • Respond to prompts
  • Brainstorm
  • Construct Outline
    • Thesis statement – last sentence of first paragraph
    • 2 body paragraphs – First supports your argument, Second deconstructs the opposing argument
    • Concluding paragraph – restate thesis, paragraph 2 topic and opposing argument. (Say what you said)
    • Call to action
  • Draft 1 and 2 – Copy from Outline, sandwich, points of analysis and ELABORATE
  • Create a great lead – small moment, question, statistic, quote, unusual fact
  • Elaborate Lead using S.A.I.D.D. strategies
  • Edit for grammar, spelling, punctuation, sentence structure, agreement, etc.
  • Final Draft

The Important Parts of an Essay

  • An essay can be thought of in 3 parts:
    • Say what you’re going to say
    • Say it
    • Say what you said
  • Lead
  • Thesis Statement
    • Claim
    • Avenues
    • In a persuasive essay, the avenues are not always stated in the first paragraph because one of the body paragraphs is actually going to be about the opposing argument.
  • Body Paragraphs
  • Sandwiching of examples
  • Support of the thesis claim
  • In a persuasive essay, the last body paragraph is used to deconstruct the opposing argument.
  • Conclusion
    • Restates Thesis and avenues in different words
  • Transitions

The Persuasive Thesis Statement

A thesis statement in a persuasive essay is more limited than it is in a research or explanatory essay. A persuasive thesis statement always takes a side on a problem or question.

Therefore, the thesis statement can only be one of two things:

It can be in favor of the issue

It can be opposed to the issue


Students should wear uniforms to school.


Students should not wear uniforms to school.

The school day should be longer


The school day should remain the same.


The Sandwich Strategy – Persuasive Last Body Paragraph

  • The sandwich strategy is used with the examples in the body paragraphs. In a persuasive essay the first body paragraphs use the normal sandwich structure. In a persuasive essay the last body paragraph is a little different. Like this:
  • Introduce the opposition’s argument
  • State the opposition’s argument
  • Refute the opposition’s argument with at least 2 points of analysis


Some people feel however, that the length of the school day has a direct impact on student performance. Those who have argued in favor of lengthening the school day say that in other countries, students are in school for longer and that they perform better than U.S. students. 1Although there is a concern about U.S. students on the global level, lengthening the school day will not solve the problem. 2If studies were centered on learning to think rather than on memorizing facts, students could spend less time in school and more time learning to apply their skills.


2 Points of Analysis

The bottom “bread” of your sandwich should be the thickest of all. It ties your example to your topic statement and to your thesis. In order to analyze your example in depth you need to use at least 2 points of analysis – one for each of the topics you are comparing.

Prompts to consider using in the analysis section:

This shows that ___________________________

This demonstrates that _____________________

This reveals that __________________________

This is because ___________________________

This proves that ___________________________

Both Isabel and Percy’s initiation periods give the reader hints about the heroes that they will later become. Percy is initiated through his battles with Mrs. Dodds and the Minotaur, both of which 3reveal that although he has no training, he has a warrior’s spirit and will not give up. Like Percy, Isabel shows her potential on the dock after landing in New York when she takes the blame for Ruth and endures a harsh slap from Madam. 2This demonstrates that although it is not fully developed, isabel’s inner lion is present and waiting to emerge. Both of these hero’s have an inner courage that draws the reader in.

In your outline: Use 2 points of analysis – one for Isabel and one for Percy for each of your avenue examples.


A Good Analysis

  • The analysis piece in an essay is the most important part because it ties your examples to the thesis. This part of the essay is the “bottom bread” of the sandwich – the part where you explain your example. A good analysis has these qualities:
  • Ties the example to the thesis by explaining why
  • Is specific rather than general
  • Shows insight


Not So Good: The school day should remain the same because students already learn enough.

Better: The length of the school day does not need to be extended. The six hours each day that students are in school gives them plenty of time to focus on each subject area and learn what they need.

Even Better: The length of the school day does not need to be extended. As it is, students spend six hours a day focused on learning and skill development, as well as an hour or two in the evening doing homework. 1This gives them enough time to absorb and process what they need. 2If they spent more time, the process could reverse and they would become too tired to take in any new knowledge.


Using Emotion to Persuade

Saying it Rationally

Most students would not respond well to an extended school day. They would feel cheated out of their after school activities, many of which are as important to them as what they learn in school.

Using Emotion

Most students would not be happy about an extended school day. Many young people spend a great deal of time after school closes for the day pursing activities that excite and interest them. These after school activities are often the only arenas in which some students can feel that they are successful, that they are worth something and that they are appreciated. Denying students the opportunity to participate in those activities would be do deny them a chance to express and celebrate their own uniqueness.

Notice that the second example is much more powerfully persuasive because it touches on topics that most people have experience with: personal success, self worth, uniqueness.


Using Comparison to Persuade

You can use comparison to support your point of view.

Example from: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

By Robert Persig


You see things vacationing on a motorcycle in a way that is completely different from any other.1In a car you're always in a compartment, and because you're used to it, you don't realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. 2You're a passive observer, and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame. 1On a cycle the frame is gone.  You're completely in contact with it all.  2You're in the scene, not just watching it anymore, and the sense of presence is overwhelming.  That concrete whizzing by five inches below your foot is the real thing, the same stuff you walk on.  It's right there, so blurred you can't focus on it, yet you can put your foot down and touch it anytime, and the whole thing, the whole experience, is never removed from immediate consciousness.


In your writing journal: Try on one detailed paragraph contrasting your point of view with another. Be sure to include points of analysis.


Essay Lead

  • Hooks the reader
  • Relates to the topic, but often more indirectly
  • Should not be too short that it feels abrupt
  • Should not be too long that it seems to take forever to get to the point

A Good Lead in a Literary Essay Should:

  • Give the name and author of the book
  • Give the basics of the story – setting, time place, etc.
  • Broadly outline the main problem of the story
  • Mention the main character and possibly one or two others
  • Give the reader enough information to understand the analysis that will follow, but don’t give too much away.

A Good Lead in an Expository Essay Should:

  • Give background information about the broad topic
  • Explain anything that the reader may need to know in order to understand the thesis and argument

The First Paragraph and Creating a Lead

  • The first paragraph is the most important in your essay. It not only draws your reader in and tells him/her what your paper is about, it gives a preview about how you intend to prove what you say through your subtopics.
  • Remember: The Thesis Statement and two Avenues are all incorporated into one sentence, and it is the last sentence of your first paragraph.
  • You can begin your paper several different ways. Each type of lead, except for the anecdote, requires details to support it. The lead comes first, then the details the transition, and finally the thesis and two Avenues, which are the last sentence of your first paragraph!
  • Open with an unusual detail. Example:
  • Did you know that the most famous thing about San Francisco is not the hills or the cable cars, it’s the denim. (Details) San Francisco is actually the birthplace of bluejeans. Back in 1853, Levi Strauss founded the company that made the first denim pants. This essential piece of modern fashion was actually designed originally for gold miners who had come to California during the gold rush. They needed tough and comfortable clothing for the rugged work they did. (Transition) Levi Strauss put San Francisco on the map when he founded his company and the city has added many dazzling new aspects since then. (Thesis) It is therefore clear that San Francisco should be considered the best vacation city in the United States because of its (Avenue 1) rich history and its (Avenue 2) tourist attractions.
  • Open with a statistic or fact. Example:
  • According to Annie Leonard, creator of The Story of Stuff, most people throw away 99 percent of what they buy. (Details) Think about it. Most people don’t have the same furniture, clothes or computers they did 10 years ago. They regularly replace kitchen items, bathroom products and light bulbs, most of which end up in landfills. (Thesis) If our planet is going to survive we must find a way to change the way we consume by (Avenue 1) changing the way we package and sell products, and (Avenue 2) creating biodegradable products.

Open with a quotation. Example:

  • Albert Einstein once said, “"Teaching should be such that what is offered is perceived as a valuable gift and not as a hard duty.” (Details) Many who hear this quote would immediately think of a school setting, but what about other kinds of teaching and learning? Shouldn’t the unfailing support and guidance of a dance instructor or a soccer coach be included in any consideration of teaching and learning? It seems clear that although these pursuits are not necessarily academic, they have much to offer the learner in terms of social skills, self-confidence and goal-setting. (Thesis) Instead of spending more time in school, students should have free time after school to pursue the interests that make them passionate. (Avenue 1) This will give them a truly well-rounded education and will (Avenue 2) keep local economies functioning.
  • Use an anecdote or small moment story to set the scene. Example:
  • All right, you’re a leopard and you’ve been very clever. You’ve cornered an eighty-pound baboon with three-inch fangs and frightened him into an adrenaline-stoked frenzy of hatred. Great! Now what, hotshot? Remember – you’re supposed to be happy about this; you’ve worked hard to put yourself in this position.
  • What you do if you’re a leopard is simple. You fake a step forward, inducing the baboon to make a do-or-die lunge at your eyes with those fangs. Then you pull back. The fangs click together a half-inch in front of your face, and before the stumbling primate can open his mouth again, you swing your right leg sharply from the shoulder and clout him on the side of the chest. He flies ten feet and lands in a tangle of broken ribs and crushed organs, and you heave a sigh: whew! Not that you ever doubted your superior strength, or your speed or your craftiness. But all the same, those fangs, if they did get in your eyes…
  • (Transition) The leopard is one of nature’s greatest predators, capable of taking on animals even larger than itself and equally as dangerous. But there is one predator that is greater than the leopard- one that is systematically destroying these great and majestic felines until there are almost none left. Who is this great beast? Humans. (Thesis) It is imperative that we stop destroying the species that share this planet by (Avenne 1) stopping habitat destruction, (Avenue 2 ) and expanding wildlife preserves.


  • 3 Parts to a transition
    • Refer back to what you just talked about
    • Refer forward to what you’re going to talk about
    • Linking idea
  • Transitions can be used between sentences as the first step in revision
    • Go through each paragraph two sentences at a time and build a transition sentence between each pair.
    • Re-read your paragraphs aloud.
    • Add anything that feels unsaid
    • Delete where you feel like you’ve overdone it

Revision Strategies

  • Build Transitions
  • Use Elaboration Strategies
  • Use the Sandwich Strategy
  • Use Strong Verbs
  • Check Sentence Structures
  • Fully Develop Analysis Sections

Elaboration Strategies

  • Explain Why
  • Explain Why Not
  • Explain How
  • Explain the Details
  • Define
  • Give an example

Using Powerful Verbs and Adjectives

(And Dropping Unnecessary Adverbs!)

  • Some verbs are better than others. When you revise:
  • Go through your draft and underline all the verbs.
  • Give them the “vanilla” test.
  • If they are too vanilla, or if you are using adverbs to spice them up, use a thesaurus to find a more “spicy” verb.
  • Avoid using the same “spicy” verb twice.



San Francisco has a very nice historic district.

Less Vanilla:

San Francisco’s historic district is very charming.

Very Spicy:

In San Francisco’s historic district, visitors can experience the exciting days of the Gold Rush and the many quaint and charming buildings of the city’s colorful past.

Notice that as you spice up your verbs, your sentences can also become more complex and interesting!


Fine-Tuning Sentences for Better Flow

  • Sentence structure affects the way the language of your piece flows.
  • Read through the piece ALOUD to yourself
  • Read it through ALOUD to someone else
  • Have someone else read it ALOUD to you
  • Listen for:
    • Short, choppy sentences
    • Repetitious words or ideas
  • Combine short sentences
  • Delete or reword repetitious ideas or words


Not So Good: San Francisco is the best city to visit. It is the best city to visit because it has many interesting tourist attractions. It is also the best city to visit because it has lots of great food.

Better: San Francisco is clearly the best travel destination. It has many interesting tourist attractions and lots of great food.


Editing Basics


Agreement – Subjects and verbs.

Tense – Check each verb – are they all in the same tense?

Variety – Are you using the same verbs over and over again?

Person – Does it switch anywhere from you to I, from I to they, from you to they or he/she? Have you taken “I” out of it, as in “I think”…

Word Variety – Are you using the same word over and over again?

Sentence Structure – Are your sentences varied and not all the same?

Spelling – Check for words the spell checker won’t pick up and incorrect duplicates ie. Aloud/Allowed

Capitalization – Beginning of sentences, and proper nouns

Sentences – Check for run-ons and fragments.

  • Strategy:
  • Read your piece backwards. This will help you find spelling and technical errors.
  • Read it aloud to a partner – have the partner read it aloud to you.