Organizing a Persuasive Essay
Persuasive essays are organized like every other well-written essay: they begin with, and center around, a thesis. In the case of a persuasive essay, a writer is attempting to reason or convince readers of the validity of his argument, so the thesis must have prongs, each of which gives demonstrable proof of the points of persuasion.
The Thesis and its Prongs
The prongs of a thesis are the natural divisions that occur in the argument; ideally, there should be three for a well-organized essay that is not too short or too long. The thesis should mention the three prongs, so that the essay can be easily outlined. "Hybrid cars are the wave of the future" may be true, but as a thesis it needs to establish arguing points; a better statement would be "Hybrid cars are the wave of the future due to their economy, their lack of pollutants and their longevity."
Outlining the Essay
Once the thesis' prongs are established, organizing the essay becomes a simple matter. Most writers prefer to begin with an outline, the components of which spring from the thesis. Outlining begins with sections designated by Roman numerals which include "I. Introduction; II. Body; III. Conclusion." Within the "Body" section, there are alphabetical designations such as "A. Economy; B. Non-Pollutants; C. Longevity." These divisions align to the prongs of the thesis; these are the three central arguing points of the work, and can each be sub-divided into "1, 2 and 3" as sub-topics occur.
The Structure of Persuasion
The actual essay begins with a three-sentence introduction: the first sentence "hooks" the reader with a fact or statement, the second gives background information, the third is the thesis itself. The essay now presents each argument, with each section's paragraph following this sequence: a. topic sentence from prong; b. embedded evidence, which is a quote, fact or concept that is valid, provable and referenced and c. commentary, three to five sentences arguing the evidence's support of the thesis. An essential element of each section is the counterargument; the essay should include, and immediately answer, any objections that opponents might raise.
Concluding the Work
The conclusion of the persuasive essay introduces no new material; in fact, an easy method for creating a conclusion is to reverse the three sentences of the introduction, thus beginning the concluding paragraph with a restatement of the thesis. The remaining sentences are rewritten as finishing statements, moving from specifics to a general closing. The persuasive essay is organized sentence by sentence to its very end.
Michael Stratford is a National Board-certified and Single Subject Credentialed teacher with a Master of Science in educational rehabilitation (University of Montana, 1995). He has taught English at the 6-12 level for more than 20 years. He has written extensively in literary criticism, student writing syllabi and numerous classroom educational paradigms.