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Arts & Letters Daily

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Essay: Persuasion

Persuading an audience

Persuasion

   Dr. Otto

YouTube Tutorial A – click HERE
YouTube Tutorial B – click HERE
PowerPoint Writing Tutor 14 – Persuasion Part A
PowerPoint Writing Tutor 15 – Persuasion Part B
Sample – scroll down to Sample
Assignment – scroll down to Assignment
Answer Key – scroll down to Answer Key
Practice oral English – click HERE
ASK DR. OTTO – click HERE

Notes

When a writer takes a position on a controversial issue, readers want to be persuaded before they accept the writer’s position. Readers expect the writer to do any number of things to convince them such as analyzing an issue carefully, challenging an opposing view, presenting sound reasons or addressing the readers’ interests in the issue. Similarly, readers want to be persuaded when a writer make a specific factual claim about a topic. Readers expect the writer to produce evidence supporting a factual claims or present the writer’s qualifications on the topic. These are reasonable expectations. They are particularly important when a writer tries to justify a course of action.

In summary, some of the more common tactics writers use to persuade an audience include:

1. Analyze an issue

2. Challenge an opposing view

3. Declare a solution

4. Present reasons

5. Produce evidence

6. Present the writer’s qualifications

7. Address the interests of the readers

A writer would select one or more of these tactics in an editorial.

After you have read the following editorial, read the analysis that follows. It demonstrates tactics used to persuade an audience.

Sample

Common Sense Punctuation

Poor punctuation is not limited to those who lack education or language ability. People with master’s degrees in English still sometimes confuse “its” and “it’s,” which should remind us that the rules of punctuation can be quite difficult or possibly downright arbitrary.

Consider this sentence, “The problem is solved, life can go on for Billy.” The meaning seems quite clear. However, some English majors will object to the use of a comma to separate the two independent thoughts in this sentence. They will claim that for it to be “correct,” the comma should be replaced by a semicolon or followed by a conjunction.

What about the use of commas in a sentence that includes a list? In the sentence, “Jane received congratulations from her parents, her brother and her close friends upon graduating from college.” Again the punctuation police will argue over whether the word “brother” should be followed by a comma even though this debate adds nothing to the clarity of the sentence.

It is common for professional writers to ignore the rules of punctuation with impunity.  Is there one set of punctuation rules for writers and another for the rest of us? If so, why?

The point of punctuation is not to overwhelm us with complex rules, but to remind us to write (and think) clearly. Therefore I suggest a more tolerant approach.

The key question that should govern the use of punctuation should focus on whether the meaning is clear. Is the meaning of a sentence obscured when “don’t” is written without an apostrophe? I don’t think so. (note that spellcheck inserts the apostrophe when the writer omits it).

I’m not advocating that people be encouraged to invent their own punctuation rules. Punctuation marks serve the purpose of road marks to guide readers through a text as efficiently as possible and to make the meaning of text as clear as possible. Let common sense prevail.

Template for persuading an audience

A writer used some of the following tactics:

1. Analyze an issue

2. Challenge an opposing view

The meaning seems quite clear. However, some English majors will object to the use of a comma to separate the two independent thoughts in this sentence.

– Again the punctuation police will argue over whether the word “brother” should be followed by a comma even though this debates adds nothing to the clarity of the sentence.

3. Declare a solution

The key question that should govern the use of punctuation should focus on whether the meaning is clear.

4. Present reasons

– Is the meaning of a sentence obscured when “don’t” is written without an apostrophe?

5. Produce evidence

6. Present the writer’s qualifications

7. Address the interests of the readers

Assignment

Read the following report and complete the template below.

Writing on Demand

The ability to ‘write on demand’ has been neglected in schools in the past few decades as teachers have focused on teaching the writing process and encouraging students to ‘express themselves’. In this paper, I advocate that teachers need to teach the skills of writing on demand without abandoning the writing process.

The research in support of teaching the writing process and encouraging students to express themselves is substantial. (Graves 1983, Murray 1985, Calkins 1986). Their main focus has been on encouraging students to write about what they know on topics of their interest. Through this experience, students discover that writing is a recursive process consisting of rehearsing, composing and revising. Gradually, they learn about the mechanics of writing through informal instruction and writing. This approach also emphasizes that students need to write frequently and receive feedback.

This approach to writing reflects a number of serious weaknesses, especially as it relates to the ability to write on demand. First, it is excessively student centered in that students are free to write about topics of their choice. Hence, their writing tends to focus on personal narratives. This does not prepare them for writing on assigned topics within time limits.

Second, personal writing experiences do not prepare students for writing essays or reports. It does not introduce them to the formats and thinking strategies required to write expository text. What if all high school graduates were unprepared to write reports required by the workplace? Who would hire them? How would they get jobs?

Third, a student centered approach to writing does not prepare them for the workplace. For example, suppose a foreman requires an employee at Canadian Tires to prepare a report on the inventory of automobile tires on a specific day. After counting and classifying the tires, the new enthusiastic employee eagerly begins to write a report. He prepares an accurate report on the inventory. But, the inventory numbers are contained in a colorful report which includes a description of different tires, a narration of an unusual encounter with a skunk and some personal impressions on working at Canadian Tires. Consequently, the preparation of the report took several hours longer than necessary. Including personal information in an inventory report interfered with the preparation of business report for the company.

Writing on demand requires students to go beyond the ability to ‘express themselves’. According to Leila Christenbury, professor of English education at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, writing on demand includes timed writing where attention is paid to correct writing as well as accurate content. She notes that teachers who teach writing on demand “have students practice using sample texts as prompts writing and checklists of items to be aware of as they write including organization, sentence variety, effective vocabulary, spelling, usage, and grammar.”

Sherry Swain, director of the Mississippi Writing/Thinking Institute at Mississippi State University , maintains that students should have a set of strategies that includes thinking through a topic, generating ideas, organizing them, and choosing what’s relevant.” The co-authors of Think More…Write More, Joan McCreath and Otto Toews have identified a set of thinking strategies and a set of writing strategies that students should know and be able to use to write expository text. This includes introducing students to basic formats for writing essays and reports. Sample texts are used to demonstrate how formats are used to organize text.

In short, if students received solid instruction in expository text structures, thinking and writing strategies, and the procedures of the writing process, they should be able to write on demand. Of course, they need to write frequently and receive feedback. In short, teaching the skills of ‘writing on demand’ challenges the assumption held by some educators that if students learn to express themselves they are ready to meet the writing demands of the workplace. There is more to writing than ‘expressing oneself’.

Template: Persuading an Audience

Complete this template for Writing on Demand:

  • State a position

___________________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________________

  • Analyze an issue

___________________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________________

  • Challenge an opposing view

___________________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________________

  • Declare a solution

___________________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________________

  • Present reasons

___________________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________________

  • Produce evidence

___________________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________________

  • Present the writer’s qualifications

___________________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________________

  • Address the interests of the readers

___________________________________________________________________________

Assignment

Persuading and audience

Write a paragraph in which you try to persuade an audience on a topic of your choice. Complete the template below to ensure that you have taken steps to persuade your audience. Submit it to your teacher or tutor for feedback. Then edit your paragraph based on the feedback you received.

Template: Persuading an Audience

Complete this template on your paragraph:

  • State a position

___________________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________________

  • Analyze an issue

___________________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________________

  • Challenge an opposing view

___________________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________________

  • Declare a solution

___________________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________________

  • Present reasons

___________________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________________

  • Produce evidence

___________________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________________

  • Present the writer’s qualifications

___________________________________________________________________________

___________________________________________________________________________

  • Address the interests of the readers

___________________________________________________________________________

Answer Key

Persuasion

Writing on Demand

  • State a position

I advocate that teachers need to teach the skills of writing on demand without abandoning the writing process.

  • Analyze an issue
  • Challenge an opposing view

Current view – teaching the writing process and encouraging students to express themselves

Opposing view – teachers need to teach the skills of writing on demand without abandoning the writing process

  • Declare a solution

if students received solid instruction in expository text structures, thinking and writing strategies, and the procedures of the writing process, they should be able to write on demand.

  • Present reasons

it is excessively student centered in that students are free to write about topics of their choice

personal writing experiences do not prepare students for writing essays or reports

a student centered approach to writing does not prepare them for the workplace

  • Produce evidence
  • Present the writer’s qualifications

The co-authors of Think More…Write More, Joan McCreath and Otto Toews have identified a set of thinking strategies and a set of writing strategies that students should know and be able to use to write expository text.

  • Address the interests of the readers