Persuasive writing can be hard for students for a number of reasons, but one of the toughest is learning to address their words to the right person. Let’s face it. Thinking adults know that whining and stamping your foot will not work if you are asking the president for tax reform, although some politicians continue to try that approach. Conversely, a well-reasoned, heavily supported position does not work on a two year old. When students are learning to write persuasive essays, their audiences are usually their parents, their teacher, the principal or school board, or the city council.
The first step in choosing the best arguments for a persuasive essay is to determine exactly who the audience is. Who is the person or group responsible for making the decision that will give you what you want? If you want an increase in your allowance, to stay up later at night, or to get a pet, then your audience is your parents. If you want a decrease (or increase) in homework, more field trips, or fewer group projects, then your audience is your teacher. The principal would be the one to address if you want more after-school activities, more assemblies, or to change the playground rules. The school board handles issues such as closing school libraries, laying off teachers, and shutting down (or establishing) a music program. If you want a stop sign installed, cleaner sidewalks, or new parks, then you should write to the city council.
Once the audience is identified, you must get inside their head and determine what their objectons will be. On a city or school board level, the objection is usually money. Parents look out for the well-being of their children. Teachers and principals are focused on student learning. Which of the arguments for your position will work best for your intended audience? If you make a well-reasoned, well-supported argument to the school board about how important your idea is for the well-being of students everywhere, they are most likely to counter with a statement that they still have no money. Your argument may have convinced them, but it has not overcome obstacles and caused action. And that action, of course, is why you are writing.
Below are some arguments students have used for various assignments. Which audience would they be most effective with: parents, teacher, principal, school board, or city?
Write your choice in a comment, and add arguments of your own. Maybe use this space to test out arguments for an essay you’re working on.
* I will do my chores every day if I can have it.
* Streetlight maintenance will go a long way to reducing crime on the streets after dark.
*Reducing the amount of homework will allow students to spend quality time with their parents after dinner.
*Saturday school would cost more money because of the need to run heat and lights, and buses.
*Everyone else is doing it.
*Honor roll assemblies should be reinstated because they recognize achievement and that encourages students.
*School libraries should remain open so that students continue to have a wide variety of opportunities to read for pleasure as well as research.
*School projects should be done in groups because it allows the smarter kids to help the ones who aren’t as good.
On my Kindle: Ranger’s Apprentice #10: The Emperor of Nihon-Ja by John Flanagan