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Rhetorical Argument

An introduction to the types of rhetorical arguments and related concepts.


Everything is an argument. 

Some arguments are self-apparent at this point, such as discussing an issue like gun control or abortion. There are two sides who are opposed to each other, and each believes that they are right. 

Other times the argument isn't as clear. If you write a literary analysis, you are, in a way, arguing that your thesis is correct and proving it with evidence and examples from the literary work. Or you may be trying to argue that people should act a certain way or believe a certain thing. All of these are examples of less clear-cut arguments.

In any case, you must persuade the reader of what your argument is. Sometimes, such as in our literary essay, you are using evidence to build a case, like a lawyer swaying a neutral jury. Other times, like in the case of hot topic issues, you are using evidence and appeals to persuade people who are on the fence to agree with your side. Sometimes you may even be attempting to persuade the opposite side, who may in fact be very hostile to you. 

In order to properly persuade an audience, you must: 1) know your audience, 2) know how to evaluate arguments, and 3) know what type of argument you are making.


Certain topics have been covered again and again. If you are allowed to choose your own topic, and want to avoid boring your instructor to tears, avoid the following topics: gun control, abortion, the legalization of marijuana. Challenge yourself! Pick a new topic that's important to you, or funny, or something that you have a unique perspective on.

Persuasion is the art of making someone believe or do something based on the argument you have made using style, evidence, and appeals. Persuasion does not have to be definitive; sometimes simply getting the reader to think about an argument in a new light can be effective persuasion.

Persuasive writing stresses the importance of logical, reasoned arguments, careful word choice, and different styles and methods of argumentation. Some styles may include the Toulmin argument method or the Rogerian argument method. In the more formal use of the term, the author should be taking a definitive stand for or against something.

Almost all writing is an attempt to persuade the reader of something. You may be writing a literary analysis and want the reader to believe your thesis that Jane Austen was supporting communism in her books. You may be writing about a hot topic issue and attempting to sway the reader to believe that your beliefs are right. You may even be writing a book review, in which case you are trying to persuade the reader to either read the book or avoid it at all costs. 

Even fiction writing has a purpose, which is generally to make the reader believe whatever meaning the author is attempting to convey. Farenheit 451, for instance, is an attempt by Ray Bradbury to persuade the reader that not reading books is a form of censorship of the self. 

Whatever you are writing, knowing how to effectively persuade an audience - through logical reasoning, evidence, appeals, word choice, or style - is essential. 

Examples of Famous Persuasive Essays

Examples of Famous Persuasive Speeches