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5 Ways to Write Better Arguments

Updated on July 6, 2018Writing Tips

If you’ve never written an argumentative essay, the concept might not seem to make much sense. What is the point of writing down an argument, let alone turning one into an essay? Arguments are rarely fun to witness or take part in. They tend to make people emotional, and, often enough, they fail to resolve anything. Argumentative essays are not like regular arguments. They are more complex, less emotional, and more thoughtful than the arguments we might have in our daily lives.

What Is an Argumentative Essay?

The core of an argumentative essay and the core of an everyday argument are more or less the same; there is a difference of opinion about a subject, and the two (or more) sides try to convince the other they are right. But that’s where the similarities end. In an argumentative essay, the writer presents both her own position on a topic and the opposing position, with the goal of building an argument that supports her position and beats the opposition. This is done by using evidence, which might come in the form of citations of previously published works, original research, and even anecdotes, but never emotions. For example, if you’re writing an argumentative essay about whaling and your thesis is that it should be abandoned, you can’t just say that whalers should stop it because it’s not a nice thing to do. You need to explain why whaling is bad and refute the argument a pro-whaling supporter might make about why whaling is important and should be resumed. Sounds simple, right? It is, as long as you know what you’re doing.

Do Your Research

Before you actually sit down and write an essay, you’ll need to do plenty of research. When you know the topic and your position on it, you need to cast a big net and get as much information about the topic as possible. From there, you will distill the claims you will use in your argument and the evidence you will use to back your claims up. In general, you should dig deep and wide for claims and evidence. It’s always better to have more material than you need and then discard the weakest parts.

Don’t Forget About the Opposition

Saying that you should get into the mind of the enemy might be taking the whole matter too far, but you definitely need to research the opposition and its strongest arguments against your position. And don’t be scared if you find out that you agree with the opposition on certain points—your job here is to defend your position. You don’t necessarily have to personally agree with your position to write a good argumentative essay. Remember, it’s about evidence, not emotion.

Compose an Outline and Turn It Into a Draft

While researching, you should write down the claims and evidence you come across. This will help you create an outline—you’ll have your position at the top, then a series of claims, evidence, counter-claims, and evidence against the counter-claims. If you do the outline right, you can easily turn it into a draft. Drafts are great because they don’t have to be perfect; they just have to be good enough to help you see any gaping holes in your argument.

Follow the Structure

Argumentative essays usually follow a simple form: introduction paragraph, a few paragraphs that contain the argument, and a conclusion paragraph. Following this time-tested structure will help you write better argumentative essays. In the introduction paragraph, you are supposed to present a generalized view of the topic the essay deals with, as well as some background information. That’s where you set up the context. In the final sentence or two of the intro, you should make a thesis statement that defines your position in the argument. The next few paragraphs—the body paragraphs—are where you make your case. The first sentence of each paragraph should be a claim that is then backed up by evidence in the rest of the paragraph. If you have enough space, you should include a paragraph or two analyzing the opposition’s position. The last paragraph is the conclusion, and it’s where you reaffirm the thesis statement. However, you can’t just say that you’re right because of everything you wrote in the body paragraphs. You have to present the argument you made, in short, and show that it supports your statement.

Mind Your Style

Argumentative essays shouldn’t have any filler. Your writing should be clear and concise. Anything that’s not absolutely necessary for the argument should be removed. Every claim should be evidence-based and logical. If you’ve done your research right, you won’t have any problems meeting the required number of words or pages. In fact, you’ll probably need to cut something out to avoid writing too much. Think of it as a debate where everything revolves around facts, claims, and evidence, and go for the win.

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