What is persuasive writing . . .
… and why is it an important skill for high school students to learn?
Sometimes called argumentative writing, persuasive writing is a way to present an argument or opinion that persuades the reader to see the writer’s point of view.
That’s the fancy definition. Basically, this form of writing helps students get their message out there to the exact person or group of people who need to hear it. Isn’t that a better reason for teaching persuasive writing than to just check off another writing style your kids need to know?
Persuasive writing is all around us. Every day, teens are exposed to writing and videos designed to influence them.
- Mouth-watering burger ads
- Postcards inviting them to apply to a university
- Newspaper opinion pieces
- Online restaurant reviews
Each one is trying to get your high schooler to buy into the writer’s point of view.
Teens can use persuasive writing skills any time they want to encourage their reader to think or act a certain way. And by understanding how to write persuasively, they’ll take their writing from “meh” to motivating!
When they can wrap their heads around the structure of good persuasive writing, it’s easier to recognize when something they’re reading is trying to persuade them. In other words, once they can write to change minds, they’ll know when someone is trying to change their mind.
And that could definitely spark some argumentative writing!
Persuasive writing: A key career skill
It’s not just another form of writing to learn; persuasive writing is a useful tool. Journalists try to present both sides of a topic. Writers who comment on an article use persuasion to object to or defend a point in the original article. Teach your teens how to gather their thoughts and present their opinions in a clear manner. This will allow them to be a part of the larger conversation.
No matter what field your homeschooled teen pursues, the ability to write persuasively will be one of their greatest assets. Here are just a few examples of how real-world careers depend on persuasive writing skills.
- Authors who want to inspire some sort of change use persuasive writing in their books to get their readers motivated.
- Policy-makers use persuasive writing (and speaking) when they are trying to convince their audience to vote a certain way or back laws they want to promote.
- Speech writers create persuasive arguments for speakers to present to an audience.
- Script writers for videos or television ads incorporate persuasive writing to move the viewer to action.
- Non-profit organizations rely on persuasive writing to get donations of money or time to support a cause.
- Attorneys present facts and evidence when they write documents designed to get a person or a corporation to act.
- Doctors share brochures and hand-outs written to educate their patients in medicines and healthy lifestyle choices.
An 8-point plan for teaching persuasive writing in your homeschool
To understand the basic structure of writing designed to persuade, teach these 8 points to your high schoolers.
1. Understand who you’re talking to.
If your message is to Everyone, it won’t be as powerful or concise as if you speak directly to one segment of an audience. Ideally, try to write as if you’re talking to just one person across the table.
2. Build your message to be about your audience.
Sure, you can just talk about what you think. But if you make your opinion meaningful and personal to your reader, your writing will have a greater impact.
3. Get your reader excited, or angry—or both!
By including ideas that stir emotions, your message will grab their attention and they’ll need to know more whether they agree with you or not. Then build on those emotions with facts and proof.
4. Point out the benefits of agreeing with you.
Changing your readers’ minds is easier if they can picture what’s in it for them and why it matters. If they don’t feel a personal connection to your argument, they’ll ignore your message. Sure, you can say “I believe.” But when your reader says, “So what?” you need to be prepared to tell why.
5. Engage your reader’s imagination.
Conjure images with your writing that will make your words real to them. Help them clearly see the point you’re making by giving concrete examples.
6. Research the topic and present the proof behind your point of view.
Tossing out opinions without researching the topic and referencing facts leads to hollow, ineffective writing. Having statistics back you up is much better than saying, “Because I said so!”
7. Simple is better.
The clearer your writing, the easier it will be for your reader to understand. If you lose them in a nest of complicated phrases, no one will read what you have to say.
8. Get your reader involved.
It’s not enough simply to get your reader to agree with your opinion. Call them to action by suggesting next steps they can take as you wrap up your argument. Challenge them to join a group, make a donation, make a phone call, or “comment below.”
They can create powerful persuasive writing if they follow these guidelines.
If you need extra help getting started with teaching 5-paragraph essays and persuasive writing, WriteShop II offers a solid introduction to opinion writing, definition essays, compare and contrast essays, and timed essays.
What’s the point of knowing how to write persuasively?
Once teens understand the structure of persuasive writing, so what? Why should they care about changing the mind of a reader or moving them to take action? I’m glad you asked.
Remember the examples from the beginning of this article? The delicious hamburger? The restaurant where you can get it? The university that wants you as a student?
Persuasive writing does more than just allow students to choose one side of an argument and make a case. While this is important for having a civilized debate on a topic, when they realize all marketing is based on nothing more than persuasive writing, the possibilities are endless.
Once your teens understand how to write in a way that causes their reader to take action, they’ll have acquired a valuable skill that can be used again and again, whether or not they decide to pursue a writing or marketing career.
How can teens use persuasive writing in their future?
This is where the rubber meets the road! Kindle a spark by giving your high schoolers practical ways to use their new persuasive writing skills, both now and in their college and career years.
- Writing a resume. Presenting less about your student and more about how the company will benefit from their talents can convince a potential employer to hire your son or daughter.
- Standing up for others. Does your student want to raise awareness for causes that are important to them? Getting their readers to help is easier when they can craft persuasive writing.
- Making suggestions. Whether your student needs to convince the city council to change the timing of traffic lights or a student group to sponsor an animal-rescue drive, knowing how to write persuasively can mean the difference between getting what he or she wants and being overlooked.
- Pursuing a career in copywriting. Marketing pieces, speeches, scripts, and website content are all examples of writing created by people skilled at persuasive writing. Once your kids understand the structure listed above, they can use this knowledge to become effective copywriters.
Hopefully, I have persuaded you to dive in to see for yourself just how useful and important persuasive writing can be for your students—both now and in their future!