What is a Persuasive Argument?

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Whatever a topic, your essay should have a persuasive argument to be worth a high grade. More than that, this argument should have a definite structure for your essay to sound logical and credible enough.

Here you’ll learn the structure of a persuasive argument, find persuasive argument examples to understand this concept, and see how to use it for your persuasive essay to sound better.

Persuasive Argument Structure

A persuasive argument is the one making readers agree with your opinion. You can’t just make a claim; you should offer a series of statements with evidence to support it. Only the claims with evidence are worth using in your argumentative essay.

What can serve as the evidence for your persuasive argument?

  • Proven facts and statistics
  • Definitions and research
  • Quotes from experts in the topic
  • Your personal experience, if you can provide the examples illustrating your point of view

If you can support your claim with further statements (evidence), your argument will be persuasive and successful. If you don’t support the claim, your argument fails. In other words, offer readers the reasons to believe you.

It’s the purpose of an argument: to prove that your claim is true or that others’ claim is false. If your series of statements can’t do that, then it’s not an argument.

Depending on the length of your persuasive essay, the argument can take the form of a sentence, a paragraph, or several paragraphs. But regardless of the length, each persuasive argument consists of three elements: premise, inference, and conclusion.

persuasive argument formula

1. Premise

A premise is the statement or a fact, supposed to give reasons or evidence why your claim is true. It’s the basement of your argument, and it’s what you’ll use to support your conclusion.

The term “premise” itself comes from Latin and means “things mentioned before,” leading to a logical resolution in the argument. Joshua May, a professor at the University of Alabama, defines it that way:

Joshua May, PH.D.
Associate Professor
U. of Alabama at Bimminghan

“A premise is a proposition one offers in support of a conclusion.

That is, one offers a premise as evidence for the truth of the conclusion, as justification for or a reason to believe the conclusion.”

And according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, a persuasive argument is valid only if it follows logically from premises, both major and minor ones.

Example:

  1. All mammals are warmblooded. [major premise]
  2. Whales are mammals. [minor premise]
  3. Therefore, whales are warmblooded. [conclusion]

However, you need to be careful when choosing major premises for your persuasive argument. If wrong, they can lead you to wrong conclusions, which is not good when you write about persuasive essay topics.

Example:

  1. All women are Republican. [major premise: false]
  2. Hilary Clinton is a woman. [minor premise: true]
  3. Therefore, Hilary Clinton is a Republican. [conclusion: false]

2. Inference

In persuasive argument examples, inferences are the reasoning parts. They link a premise with a final conclusion.

From Latin, the term “inference” means “bring in,” and it’s valid only if based on the evidence that makes a logical conclusion from the premise.

The author of Language in Thought and Action, Samuel Ichiye Hayakawa defined it as follows:

S. I. Hayakawa
Academic and politican

“An inference is a statement about the unknown made on the basis of the known. It can be made on the basis of a broad background of previous experience with the subject matter or with no experience at all.

But the common characteristic of inferences is that they are statements about matters which are not directly known, statements made on the basis of what has been observed.”

Inferences come from factual premises, therefore linking them to the argument conclusion. You can’t come to a logical conclusion without an inferential claim, because it’s the only way to prove a premise and connect it to the evidence.

Example:

  1. Doctors have a lot of money. [major premise]
  2. With that money, a person can travel a lot. [minor premise]
  3. Doctors can travel a lot. [inference, from premises 1 and 2]
  4. I want to travel a lot. [a new premise, based on inference 3]
  5. I should become a doctor. [inference, from 3 and 4]

For you to understand the concept of inference better, let’s appeal to the talk of Sheldon and Raj (The Big Bang Theory):

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Sheldon: I took another look at the board, and I realized you were right.
Raj: So you were wrong.
Sheldon: I’m not saying that.
Raj: That’s the only logical inference.
Sheldon: I’m still not saying it.

3. Argument Conclusion

An argument conclusion is a claim you justify by a number of premises with inferences. It follows logically from your premises, and your argument can be called persuasive if those premises are true to support your conclusion.

Here goes the example from Michael Andolina’s Practical Guide to Critical Thinking.

An argument:

“This job description is inadequate because it is too vague. It doesn’t even list the specific tasks that should be performed, and it doesn’t say how my performance will be evaluated.”

The argument’s structure to see if it’s persuasive enough:

  1. This job description is inadequate. [conclusion]
  2. It is too vague. [inference]
  3. It doesn’t list specific tasks. [premise]
  4. It doesn’t state how performance will be evaluated. [premise]

How to Know Your Argument is Persuasive

If you’ve already checked our ultimate guide on how to write a persuasive essay, you know five elements of persuasion that make your argumentative writing sound legit.

If not, here they go:

  • Your clear position.
  • Your effective communication (know what hooks to use, what words to choose, etc.)
  • Your solid argument (that’s what we discuss here now).
  • A clear structure of your essay.
  • Its solid conclusion.

The argument with evidence is what turns your writing into persuasive essays. Remember about the structure (premise, inference, conclusion) and use a straightforward language to communicate it.

And now you may ask:

What’s the heck is a straightforward language?

It refers to brief and concise writing: short sentences, power words, active voice, and transitional phrases you use for an essay’s better readability. In other words, follow the rules of academic writing and avoid empty phrases all teachers hate so much.

Okay, What’s Next?

Persuasive essay topics and the ability to state a persuasive argument in your academic writings help you grow critical thinking and creativity. So don’t hurry up to curse your professors if they assign such tasks to you. Learn to make a claim, prove your position with evidence, train your brain to think critically and question every claim you read in a book or online – and you’ll know how to make points for others to listen to you.

Those able to clarify their thoughts and bring their point home, they rule the world.

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