Year 9 Persuasive Texts April ‘04 Part 1 Writing to Persuade: Using a Persuasive Style If you’re asked to argue, persuade or advise, you will be asked to write about a subject you’ll know something about, and will, as usual, be given a few prompts to get you going. This section looks at how to write a speech or magazine article: writing newspaper articles and letters are covered in the Inform/Explain/Describe Revise Bite. However, the style of writing and the structure are similar for any kind of persuasive text. You’ll need: A clear, strong introduction to your subject, perhaps including some background or history; One paragraph for each new argument, topic or piece of advice; Evidence or reasons for every argument you make; A clear, strong conclusion which leaves the reader with a definite picture of your opinions. You also have to be aware of the effect of your language on an audience. Every speech is made for a purpose - in order to make the audience change the way they think. So your choices of sentences and language have to be made carefully. Let's have a look at a sample question. Part 2 Using a Persuasive Style: The Opening and Layout Here's an example of the style of question which you could be asked: Imagine you overhear the following statement: 'We're always hearing about Girl Power and Independent Women these days, but all I see female stars doing is strutting around, looking good, posing for the cameras, making loads of money and bad-mouthing boys. What about making your own decisions and controlling your own life?' Write an article for your school magazine arguing EITHER that today's female stars are strong role models and examples of Girl Power, OR that they are sexist and just obsessed with image and money. A good speech, article or letter really needs to have a good opening, because unless you grab the audience's attention right at the beginning, you'll probably lose it! For example, if you start a speech like this: Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to talk to you today about my ideas about Girl Power and how I think it is unfortunate that we all associate Girl Power with.... .. you could well send the audience to sleep! Try reading it in a powerful way, and you can’t, because the words won’t allow you to. There are ways of starting your piece with more impact, while still using proper sentences. For example, each of the following has a much better chance of appealing to the reader or listener: Have you ever stopped to think what Girl Power really means? or Girl Power has become the most over-used phrase in the English language... Layout Do remember that you should NOT spend time on layout features such as big headings, columns or pictures. The examiner just wants to see the quality of your writing. If you want, you can use short subheadings between the paragraphs of a magazine article to signal to the reader what each section will cover, such as 'Girl Power – The Facts'. Sometimes these work well if you write them as questions, such as 'Rubbish or Reality?' Part 3 Using a Persuasive Style: Keeping the Audience Involved Including Opposite Views As with Analyse/Review/Comment texts, it’s often useful to mention the opposite side’s views early on in your text and then use your arguments to prove them wrong! Of course, if you’re persuading, you shouldn’t go into much detail about other people’s views – you’re trying to convince people to agree with you, so you don’t need to be as balanced as you do when analysing. Don’t rubbish others’ views, though – your audience will just switch off! For example, if you were writing the Girl Power speech, you might want to argue that Girl Power is about having being able to have choices in education, relationships and jobs. Other people might believe that it’s all about having money and a strong, attractive image. You could mention their view and break it down like this: We see so many films and music videos which tell girls that being strong is all about being rich, thin, pretty and wearing almost nothing. Since when was that powerful? I’m not saying we should all walk around in sacks, but what about what’s inside? Not all of us are rich, and not all of us fit in with the music video image of 'thin' or 'pretty'. Surely brains, creativity or a sense of humour are more important? Life won’t be much fun or very interesting if we’re all too worried about breaking a nail to try anything new. Tone and Style Although you need to use a formal, impersonal tone overall, you should also make your writing lively and engaging. Persuasive texts often sound more convincing if you actually do use a more personal tone from time to time, including phrases like 'as we all know', 'I can hardly believe' or 'no doubt you’ve often wondered' to involve and convince your audience. You can also keep your writing lively by varying your sentences as much as possible. Long, detailed sentences can be useful for proving points or building up an argument to a climax. Short, punchy statements can have a great deal of impact. Repetition of certain words and phrases can also help to drive home your point. In addition, you can build up drama by using groups of two, three or even four examples, verbs, adverbs or adjectives to illustrate a point. For example, in the paragraph above: ...being strong is all about being rich, thin, pretty and wearing almost nothing. It's also very effective to use rhetorical questions. These are questions used to make the audience or reader think and get involved with what you have to say. They're not supposed to be answered out loud! You should notice two examples in the paragraph above: Since when was that powerful? Surely brains, creativity or a sense of humour are more important? Using a Persuasive Style: The Closing Sentence What we said about the opening sentence of a speech, letter or article also applies to the closing sentence, because the idea is to send the audience away with your words ringing in their ears or printed in their minds. If you finished your piece like this, would you leave much of an impression? Well, I’ve spoken for long enough, I think, and I expect you’re all getting a bit bored, so I’ll stop. In any piece of writing, but especially when you are arguing, persuading or advising, you need to leave the audience with an impression which will last. For example: So next time you hear someone talk about Girl Power, ask yourself who the 'really' powerful women are. or Girl Power is in the head, not in front of a camera.
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