Shmoop Writing Guide

Type: Persuasive/Argument Essay
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Type: Persuasive/Argument Essay

What’s the point?: Here's a quick look at what persuasive/argument essays try to accomplish.

No man is an island. Some people may have islands, but no one, strictly speaking, is an island. Anyway, the point is that we don’t live in isolation. Sometimes you need to convince people to do things—to lend their island to you, for example—and for that, you’ll need some seriously adept persuasive skills. That's what the persuasive essay is all about. It informs, convinces, explores, and moves a person to action. For example: “Do your homework or you don’t get to go out this weekend.” Some classic persuasion right there.

Sample prompts: Here are a few typical persuasive/argument essay prompts. Do any of them look like what you’ve been doing?

  • Convince your reader that Stand Your Ground Laws, which permit the use of deadly force against perceived attackers, do or do not cause the number of hate crimes to increase. Consider the following questions: How do you measure or define a hate crime? Is shoplifting a hate crime because the thief really “hates” paying for stuff? If there are more hate crimes in states that implement Stand Your Ground Laws, is the increase caused by this legislation or something else entirely?
  • Persuade your reader that high schools should or should not offer more vocational training classes in the place of the traditional academic track. Consider the benefits and risks: Could a vocational program discourage students from entering college, which might be vital to their financial success? Or does a vocational program give valuable work experience to students who do not have interest in a purely academic track?
  • Persuade your reader that graffiti is either art or vandalism. Consider what "art" means and whether graffiti fits into this definition. Is graffiti a criminal act that threatens society or does it create beautiful and constructive messages for onlookers?

Key words: If one of these words has been used a lot in the essay assignment, or your class discussion, you might be working on a persuasive/argument essay.

  • Convince
  • Persuade
  • Prove
  • Argue
  • Evaluate
  • Propose
  • Appraise