A solid structure is extremely important when it comes to writing a persuasive essay. If your essay isn’t well organized, you’ll have a difficult time sustaining the attention of your reader and persuading them to agree with your point of view.
That’s why it’s always a good idea to create an effective outline for your persuasive essay before sitting down to write a draft.
What is a persuasive essay?
A persuasive essay is one of the four main types of essays you will be asked to write throughout nearly every level of education.
When assigned to write a persuasive essay, you’ll typically be asked to pick a topic that you feel very passionate about. Your goal is then to persuade your reader to agree with your point of view.
In order to be compelling, persuasive essays should be full of verified facts, which requires a great deal of research. The goal of a persuasive essay, though, is not to simply regurgitate information. Because you are trying to persuade someone, you have to mix in a bit of emotion.
What should you do before writing your outline?
Since your topic is supposed to be something you’re passionate about, you likely already know a lot about it. But, in order to persuade someone else to agree with you, you need verified facts and statistics. For that reason, you need to further research your topic before you sit down to create your outline.
Once you’re done with the research stage, you need to take a moment to organize the notes and thoughts you gained from your research.
A good persuasive essay includes at least three main points. Let’s say, for example, you’re writing a persuasive essay to convince your high school to establish a wrestling program. Your three main points could be:
- There is a demand for the sport.
- Establishing a wrestling program could help students land scholarships at universities.
- There is little risk of injury in wrestling.
Each point you make will serve as the topic sentence of a body paragraph. But, you also need at least four more sentences worth of material to complete each body paragraph. So, before you even sit down to write your outline, group your notes into independent categories that could serve as “supporting details” to reinforce your topic sentences.
UNC Chapel Hill’s writing center suggests asking yourself the following questions:
- “Do some of my notes naturally cluster together?”
- “How many clusters are there?”
- “Which ideas are more important or general?”
- “Which ones are more like supporting details?”
- “What order should the ideas be in?”
* A word to the wise: As far as ordering your body paragraphs, your most compelling point should be made in the first body paragraph. The second best point should be made in the paragraph after that, and so on.
Structure of a persuasive essay outline
A. The hook
The hook should be a fact, a rhetorical question, or an intriguing sentence that sucks the reader in and makes them want to continue reading.
Sticking with the wrestling example, you could start the essay with a fact highlighting the impressive number of high schools in the district that already have a wrestling program.
B. Introduce your points
Right after the hook, you should introduce your main points. The body of your essay is where you will provide detail and further explain these points. Here, though, each point should be introduced in no more than one or two sentences.
C. Thesis statement
This is where you should succinctly explain what you want. If what you want is your school to start a wrestling program, state that.
You want to be very clear and sometimes even blunt with persuasive essays. The point of a persuasive essay is to persuade, not to show off descriptive writing skills or portray your personality.
In the body of your persuasive essay is where you get to convince your reader. Just like if you were arguing with a family member at the dinner table, this is your opportunity to lay out your points and convince your reader to agree with you.
A. Paragraph 1
Topic sentence: There is a tremendous demand for a wrestling program among students and community members.
- Supporting evidence 1: Provide the number of students at the school who have already agreed to join the team.
- Supporting evidence 2: Provide attendance numbers from wrestling meets held at schools in the district that already have a team.
B. Paragraph 2
Topic sentence: Establishing a wrestling program could help students land scholarships at universities.
- Supporting evidence 1: Tell a brief success story of a student in your community or surrounding region who wouldn’t have been able to go to college had they not wrestled. Make the point that this could happen at your school.
- Supporting evidence 2: Add a statistic about the percentage of high school wrestlers who earn scholarships to wrestle in college. Check the statistics regarding those who receive scholarships from your region, your state, and nationally. Use the most impressive number.
C. Paragraph 3
Topic sentence: There is little risk of injury in wrestling.
- Supporting evidence 1: Address the school administration’s fears about students’ safety by explaining that there is little risk of injury in wrestling. Compare it to other sports your school offers, like football, to make your point. Of course, you do need statistics to back this up.
- Supporting evidence 2: Break down the types of injuries that are most common in wrestling. Explain that concussions and bone breaks are more common in sports like football and that wrestling injuries are often less severe.
NOTE: The facts/points made in this article are not verified.
A. Restate your thesis
Make your point abundantly clear by restating your thesis. Because the reader has read your arguments at this point, you can add a little more detail than at the beginning.
B. Summarize main points
As you did with your thesis statement, you’ll want to restate your topic sentences. This will drive the point home and cement your position in the reader’s brain.
C. Write a call to action
End your essay with a call to action. In this example, you’ll be asking your administrators to create a wrestling team.
Constructing an outline is not always the most fun part of the essay writing process. However, without an outline, your writing runs the risk of lacking structure. So don’t underestimate the importance of your outline, and certainty do not skip over it. Take time before the writing process to outline, and it will save you the frustration of having to extensively edit and revise after you’re finished.
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Jackson Schroeder is a graduate of Ohio University with a B.A. in Journalism from the E.W. Scripps School. He is originally from Savannah, Georgia. Jackson has covered a wide range of topics, including sustainability, technology, sports, culture, travel, and music. He plays bass and guitar, and enjoys playing and listening to live music in his free time.