Last Updated: December 11th, 2023

Teaching Persuasive Writing: Characteristics, Elements, Structures of Persuasive Writing

Teaching Persuasive Writing: Characteristics, Elements, Structures Of Persuasive Writing

Persuasive writing doesn’t have to be complicated; when given a format or a set of guidelines, students often enjoy and excel at persuasive writing. More often than not, students know what to say but not how to say it, so after students have chosen a topic, explain that you will show them a format for the organization.

Considering the Rhetorical Situation

Before beginning to write, students should ask themselves some questions about their specific writing situation; doing so will help them formulate the appropriate voice and understand their reader, both of which are key for effective persuasive writing.

  • Why are you writing? What is your purpose?
  • Who are you writing for? Who is your reader or audience?
  • Would a serious or formal tone be most appropriate for this audience?

Basic Elements of Persuasive Essays

Introduce the following elements and their explanations to students via lecture and/or notes:


the beginning of the essay; presents your opinion or position and provides any background information (definitions, history, key terms, etc.) your reader may need to understand your topic.

Position Statement

The main point you want to get across (called a thesis statement in expository essays) – for persuasion, make sure you have a position statement that indicates the issue and your opinion about the issue.


Supports Position Statement: Use logical, emotional, and ethical appeals (see below) to develop your support and to present opposing positions with your refutations. Organization – there are several ways to organize your appeals:

  1. Order of Importance: begin or end with your strongest appeal (strongest in the eyes of your audience).
  2. Chronological Order: begin with the most recent or the oldest appeal.
  3. Logical Order: opposing positions and refutations – all objections then all refutations are presented and refuted.


end your essay by reemphasizing your position, perhaps summing up your most important ideas, repeating your strongest argument, or giving a call to action (something your audience should do).

After students understand the basic structure of an essay, as presented above, help them understand how to develop the body of their essays.

Developing Persuasive Support: Some key terms and their meanings


Support for a persuasive essay; there are three types of appeals;

  1. Logical Appeals: appeals to reason, clear thinking; use of facts, statistics, or expert testimony as evidence.
  2. Emotional Appeals: appeal to a person’s heart and mind; choose words carefully; connotations mean everything. These types of appeals will pull at a reader’s heartstrings.
  3. Ethical Appeals: establish your credibility and character – being a trustworthy source is an appeal in its own right: demonstrate knowledge, reasonability, and fairness.

Opposing Positions

Opposing Positions anticipate the arguments against your position and prepare to refute them.

Conceding a Point

Conceding a Point is admitting an opposing position has merit; this can show you are fair and establish credibility (ethical appeal)


Refutation is a response to an opposing argument

Letter to the Editor Activity

Students learn about persuasive writing and citizen involvement in national presidential elections with an authentic letter to the editor assignment.

Persuasive Writing in an Election Year

Persuasion is indeed a hallmark of democracy. What would America have become had the founders not been schooled in persuasive writing? The ideals of the fledgling nation were penned by the likes of Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton. They used elements of Aristotelian rhetoric to determine a new course for the fledgling American colonies.

Students need to be taught how, through the presentation of well-crafted arguments, they can become actively involved in the democratic process today.

  • Content Areas: civics, persuasive writing, current events, computer research, typing skills
  • Materials: multiple examples of letters to the editor, a list of presidential candidates for each student, computer lab

Rhetorical Rhombus

Explain to students that all writing occurs within the context of what is known as the “rhetorical rhombus.” The MBA essay writing service advises illustrating, draw a large rhombus on the board, and labeling each point of the design with the following:

  • Author
  • Audience
  • Topic
  • Purpose

Persuasive Appeals

Define the three types of persuasive appeals used in persuasive writing:


Based on ethics or morality, the writer appeals to the reader’s sense of right and wrong to persuade.


The writer uses emotions like humor, fear, pity, or pride to change a reader’s opinion.


Facts, statistics, examples, and inductive or deductive reasoning cause readers to draw logical conclusions.

Modeled Writing

Before students are asked to write, they should be presented with models of various qualities. Because writing is a metacognitive skill, so evaluating writing samples will help students make their own writing choices.

  1. Break students into small groups. Present each group with example letters to the editor from local and national newspapers.
  2. Ask students to work within their groups to determine each letter’s author, audience, topic, and purpose.
  3. Now ask student groups to rate the writing samples by effectiveness. As a class, discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each piece and determine why one piece is better than another at achieving its purpose.
  4. Ask students to develop a list of attributes they would find in a successful letter to the editor.

Researching Presidential Candidates

Now discuss how students can use the power of persuasive writing to make a difference in presidential politics by writing letters of support to local newspapers. Provide students with a complete list of candidates from various parties (Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Green, Reform, Unity, etc.).

Provide class time for online research of the various candidates. Once students have had time for research, assign a letter to the editor.

Letter to the Editor Writing Assignment

Choose a local or state newspaper for which to write a letter to the editor. Following that newspaper’s guidelines for word count, write a letter in which you use at least one ethical, one emotional, and one logical argument in support of anyone presidential candidate from any political party.

Students with no preference should take this time to educate themselves on a candidate they know nothing about. The writing should show a good understanding of the relationship between the author, audience, topic, and purpose.

Grading the Writing

Be sure to provide students with a specific assessment rubric before they write. This rubric should include elements from the class discussion.

Encourage process writing by allowing students to peer edit and work through several drafts of their letters.

Finally, publish the letters in a classroom newspaper so students can read about various candidates.

Once your students have been introduced to these basic elements of persuasive writing, have them practice identifying the different elements and support by doing one or both of the following exercises as homework, class work, or small group work.

Find or write a few of each of the persuasive appeals: using advertisements works well for this activity. Have students identify which appeal(s) is/are being used. Take this activity a step further and have students identify the elements of the Rhetorical Situation: the author’s purpose and intended audience. Have students explain how the ad works or does not work to meet the previously identified purpose and audience.

Choose a couple of different persuasive essays: Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal” and Thomas Pain’s “Common Sense” are two easily attainable classics. Using old student work is always a good idea, but ensure you have obtained the author’s written consent.

Once you have chosen your essays, have students identify the different persuasive elements and appeals. Make sure students are ready to explain their answers.

Are you working on a paper or teaching a persuasive writing assignment? This article includes the basic elements of persuasion and assessment ideas. At essaywriterfree, we are persuaded that they should use the format as a loose guide to include the key elements.

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