A Definitive Guide on How to Write a Persuasive Essay [2022]

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We have all tried to persuade someone at some point in our life. In fact, whether at school, at work, or in our daily lives, persuading others is something we do without even knowing.   

Despite this, many people struggle with writing a persuasive essay, which should already come to us naturally. In most cases, this is because the art of persuasion through writing would require an effective structure and format that should be easy enough for your readers to understand and emotionally compelling to sway their emotions towards the single idea that you are trying to convey. As the American writer Richard Bach once said, “compelling reason will never convince blinding emotion.” 

While the art of persuasion through writing is complex due to the ‘lack of personal interaction’ between the reader and the writer, most experienced writers would tell you that practicing how to write a persuasive essay is the only thing that could help address this gap. By writing frequently, one can find the perfect balance between a persuasive essay structure and content to strike a balance between emotion, content, and delivery.

In line with this, I would like to focus on some of the fundamental skills writers should know and have in writing a persuasive essay. This includes the inherent differences between persuasive and other kinds of essays, tips on crafting an effective persuasive essay format, and persuasive essay examples to help you practice your writing skills. 

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I. Persuasive Essay Definition

1. What is a Persuasive Essay?

Generally, a persuasive essay is an essay that aims to convince your reader to agree with your main idea (or ideas) through the use of rhetorical elements like logic (logos), emotion (pathos), and credibility (ethos). 

In a more technical context, an argumentative essay is an essay that uses a mixture of information – evidence, personal anecdote, shared knowledge, etc. in order to prove a point. Thus, it is good practice to have a clear, concise, and compelling persuasive essay format to strike a balance between your rhetorical elements with the end goal of having your point ‘realized’ by your reader himself.

2. What Makes a Persuasive Essay Different?

One of the reasons new writers find it challenging to write a persuasive argument is its striking similarities with other kinds of essays like expository, narrative, and argumentative essays, to name a few. Thus, the next section will focus on differentiating these common types of compositions. 

Before this, however, any writer should remember that there is a thin yet crucial line between persuasive and other kinds of essays. For example, while most of these essays could have a direct purpose (i.e., persuasive and argumentative essays) of persuading their readers, others may only have this as secondary in nature (i.e., descriptive essays). 

Knowing these small but crucial differences could significantly affect your persuasive essay structure, format, tone, and delivery, among others. 

A. Persuasive Essays vs. Expository essays 

Generally, expository essays focus more on explaining a topic or idea (explanation). In contrast, persuasive essays have the primary purpose of making the readers realize their main point through the use of literary devices and elements (i.e., evidence, personal anecdote, commonly accepted knowledge, etc.).

For a more detailed discussion about the differences between these two kinds of essays, check this post by Camille Beredjick.

B. Persuasive Essays vs. Argumentative Essays

One of the most commonly mistaken kinds of essays. Both argumentative and persuasive essays are almost similar in nature, especially when it comes to their aim of (1) proving a point and (2) persuading the readers to believe a specific argument. 

However, one of their main differences is that while an argumentative essay would focus more on using related and credible evidence in driving towards a point, persuasive essays prioritize their emotional appeal. As the late Benjamin Franklin once said, “if you would persuade, you must appeal to interest rather than intellect.”

if you would persuade, you must appeal to interest rather than intellect.

In other words, in a persuasive essay, the use of emotion takes precedence over the presentation of specific, related, and credible evidence to make your point. 

C. Persuasive Essays vs. Narrative Essays

Unlike the previous two, narrative essays are vastly different from persuasive ones. As the name would suggest, a narrative essay has the primary purpose of simply narrating or ‘storytelling. 

Note, however, that plenty of authors also aim to subtly convince their readers through the use of narration. Check out the posts below for an extensive discussion about narrative essays. 

II. How to Write a Persuasive Essay – Step-by-Step Guide

Now that you know the difference between a persuasive essay and other kinds of essays, the next step is the actual writing process. This is part where your persuasive argument is manifested and conveyed to your readers with the help of an effective structure, delivery, tone, and (of course) content. 

Let’s dig in and write your award-winning persuasive essay without further ado. 

1. Choose the Right Topic

Every persuasive essay should start with a good topic. Otherwise, the argument would either be minimal, which leaves little room for persuasion, or very diverse, which leaves much left to be covered. Additionally, without a specifically-tailored topic, your final result faces the risks of having its emotional and psychological appeal reduced. 

In order to find good persuasive essay topics, it is best to strike a balance between (1) contentiousness, (2) evidentiary support, and (3) interest. 

A. Contentiousness

First, a persuasive essay topic should be contentious enough that there is room to make an argument toward a specific position. For example, if your topic is “the water cycle,” you would find your arguments very limited. There’s neither contention nor the need to use emotions to persuade your readers. In fact, it might even be better to use a descriptive or expository essay instead. 

B. Evidentiary Support / Rhetorics

Second, an argumentative essay topic should also have sufficient evidentiary support (or rhetorics if empirical evidence is not needed). Yes, we said earlier that the main focus of persuasion is the use of ‘emotional appeal.’ Yet, evidentiary support can be a critical rhetorical device to increase the persuasiveness of your persuasive argument and composition. 

For example, if your topic is about “Whether unicorns exist,” you would find yourself struggling to find evidentiary support to prove that they exist. In fact, persuading your audience to believe this would be difficult unless your target readers are kind. Additionally, even if it is easier to prove that they don’t (by lack of evidence), there would still be little contention on this topic at all, thereby lacking our first element.

C. Interestingness

Finally, a persuasive essay should also be interesting. This goes the same for almost any kind of writing. However, since interest is a relative term, the writer should first understand his audience and utilize a topic (and content angle) that fits the interest of this specific audience. 

For example, writing a topic about “Masculinist themes in Katherine Paterson’s Bridge to Terabithia” would interest literary scholars. Still, science majors would find it hard to take an interest in reading it. In other words, you have to consider the interests and predispositions of your audience in order to learn how to write a persuasive essay. 

Here are some persuasive essay topics that have the right balance between the three. 

A. Sample Persuasive Essay Topics [2021 – 2022] 

    1. Why is Gun Control (or Prohibition) better in reducing crime rates than liberalization? 
    2. Does Imposition of Death Penalty reduce Crime Rates?
    3. Which approach to the Drug War is the Most Effective?
    4. Should Public Health be Prioritized over the Economy during the COVID-19 Pandemic?
    5. Is Supporting the Taliban’s return to power a good idea?
    6. Do the Benefits of newly created COVID-19 Vaccines outweigh their potential costs?
    7. Why is Brexit Disastrous for the Global Economy?
    8. Should the world push for the 2022 Winter Olympics despite the Looming threat of the Pandemic?


Note that interest fade over time. Some topics might already be too old or irrelevant that your audience would not even read past the title. If you are looking for good topics to write about, you can check other posts on persuasive essay topics 2021 or get a free pre-written essay example that you can use to practice your writing style. 

2. Use an Effective Persuasive Essay Structure

Just like any composition, persuasive essays require the appropriate structure or format. While some writers use a free structure, experts say that you can be persuasive enough even with a basic essay structure, as shown below. Nonetheless, what’s different is that your structure should be able to ‘create a sliver of doubt’ rather than merely force your argument on your reader. I will discuss this in a moment. 

As you progress and improve your ability to write a persuasive essay, you can use dynamic and less structured formats, which may appeal to advanced audiences. In the meantime, you can use the structure as shown below. 

A. Persuasive Essay Outline

  1. Introduction
    1. Hook
    2. Discussion/ Background
      1. Debate and Contentions
    3. Hypothesis/ Thesis Statement
  2. Body
    1. First Supporting Evidence
      1. Topic Sentence
      2. Rhetorical Device(s)
      3. Transition sentence
    2. Second Supporting Evidence
      1. Topic Sentence
      2. Rhetorical Device(s)
      3. Transition sentence
    3. Third Supporting Evidence
      1. Topic Sentence
      2. Rhetorical Device(s)
      3. Transition sentence
    4. Contrary Evidence / Counter-argument
      1. Topic Sentence
      2. Rhetorical Device(s)
        1. Sliver of Doubt
      3. Transition sentence
  3. Conclusion
    1. Re-statement of your Main Idea
    2. Summary of Evidence and Counterargument
      1. Subtle Re-clarification of doubt
    3. Additional Rhetorical Device
    4. Call to action / Recommendation


Generally, it could be seen that the persuasive essay outline (aka persuasive essay structure) as shown above is similar to the general kind of essay structure that we have learned as early as middle school. However, some of the notable additions include a (1) presentation of contrary evidence/counterargument and (2) rhetorical devices. 

On the one hand, the presentation of a counterargument is essential for the soundness of the structure of a persuasive essay (and even for argumentative essays). This counterargument entices your reader since it creates a ‘confusion’ or ‘conflict’ in their minds thinking that (1) you are open to multiple arguments and (2) that you are even contradicting yourself. Nonetheless, this contradiction to your argument should be subtly and immediately cleared. 

Always remember that the goal of a persuasive essay is not a direct attack through the use of evidence since it has a tendency for your readers to be more defensive about it. The goal, instead, is to plant a seed of doubt that would grow and unravel, making them agree to what you are saying instead. As the American author and CEO Bo Bennett once said, “A single question can be more influential than a thousand statements.”

A single question can be more influential than a thousand statements.

3. Use the Appropriate Rhetorical Tools

Rhetorical tools have existed as early (or even before) the time of Aristotle. Today, the use of rhetoric has become more prominent due to the plurality of opinions and an individual’s tendency to hold to what they believe in. 

Generally, there are three types of rhetorical tools, which include; (1) logos, (2) pathos, and (3) ethos. All of which are necessary and essential for maximizing your effect on your readers.

If you want to learn more about these three elements of rhetoric, you can check out Purdue University’s post here

4. Re-read and Polish your Persuasive Argument

We have learned how to write a persuasive essay and actually wrote our piece. The next step is re-reading your content out loud. 

While there are several benefits of re-reading your piece out loud, one of the most important in terms of writing a persuasive essay is its ability to improve comprehension. 

Studies done by Corcoran and Davis (2005) show that re-reading your essay can help improve your comprehension of both the subject matter and your piece. This means that as you read, you don’t only increase your understanding of your paper and your arguments but also detect flaws, fallacies, and other gaps in your persuasive essay structure and content. 

There you have it. Now that we have learned about everything regarding a persuasive essay, such as choosing a persuasive essay topic, finding an effective structure, and polishing your arguments, we can now practice with the help of persuasive essay examples. 

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III. Persuasive Essay Examples

The following section provides an excellent example of a persuasive argument regarding the importance of academic excellence for future success. I highly recommend that you use this example to learn more about how to create an effective persuasive essay format and content. 

However, note that this uses a free structured composition compared to the previous basic structure we discussed earlier. 

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