Make Your Point! | What is Argumentative Writing?

Posted on Feb 7, 2024

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Ever find yourself tongue-tied arguing foreign policy with your aunt over a Thanksgiving turkey? Do you write essays that do less than inspire? Are you trying to sell something? (Maybe a book? đź‘€) You might benefit from learning argumentative writing!

Whether you’re trying to spice up your debate homework, working sales, or ready to tell Aunt Ellen what’s what, read on for the tools to accomplish it.

What is argumentative writing?

Argumentative writing is a form of writing where the author presents a particular thought, point-of-view, or argument. These pieces are typically on the formal side, style-wise, including examples, evidence, data, and reasoning to support the argument.

Some common elements you can expect in argumentative writing include:

  1. Thesis statement. This is a clear, concise statement specifying the writer’s main argument/position on the topic at hand. This is toward the beginning of the piece and should be restated at the end.
  2. Evidence/research/data. Come correct! Argumentative writing requires real information to support claims. To be effective, you need great research. This can include facts, stats, expert opinions, and reasonable logic.
  3. Counter-Arguments. Get ahead of the nay-sayers by addressing common opinions that oppose yours. This is your opportunity to strengthen the argument by explaining why the other side is wrong. This may include nuanced takes and gray areas.

What is argumentative writing used for?

Argumentative writing is used to persuade the reader of a certain point. This can take many contexts, like:

  1. Academic writing. You’ve probably written an argumentative essay if you participated in school. It’s an English 101 type skill, and if you were able to retain those lessons, you’re better off for many situations!
  2. Debates. Argumentative writing is essential in a debate or discussion where parties express their arguments with supporting evidence. Writing on the subject ahead of time gives the participants clarity on the subject.
  3. Public speaking. Argumentative writing benefits public speaking in the same way it strengthens a debate. Argumentative techniques can convey messages effectively and influence the listeners. 
  4. Legal writing. Legal professionals mostly write argumentative pieces. They draft briefs, requests, and persuasive documents for their clients. They must present arguments that are legally and logically sound, including evidence to support their request or position. Check out this lawyer using laws and logic to defend copyrighting your work.
  5. Marketing/advertising. Though irritating, marketing is one of the best examples of argumentative writing. They have to make it seem like it isn’t argumentative! Marketing that is pushy and incessant is often less effective, so the marketing industry employs psychological and sociological research into their efforts to compel consumers to buy their product/service.
  6. Advocacy. Argumentative writing is imperative in advocacy. Pushing for systemic change is hard, and it’s important for advocates to use facts to strengthen their case and make effective change.

The difference between argumentative writing and opinion writing

Argumentative writing is more formal in tone. The writer utilizes research, data, and logic to prove their point and state their case. Argumentative writing is usually found in academic institutions.

Opinion writing, on the other hand, is generally less formal in tone. The writer might use some reason and research to back their opinion, but usually, the writer is sharing more personal experience. Opinion writing is usually found in newspapers and magazines.

The difference between argumentative writing and other types of writing

There are many different styles of writing, which we’ve outlined elsewhere in that article.

Argumentative writing is a type of persuasive writing. The writer is trying to make a point, using research, logic, and data to support a view–and hopefully convince their readers to take a similar view.

Tips for argumentative writing

Here are some guideposts that can help you write a strong piece of argumentative writing:

1. Start strong 

Craft a clear, concise thesis statement. It should be specific enough not to be misinterpreted by a reasonable person, and your reader should be able to understand what you’re about to argue for.

2. Introduce with trumpets

The opener of an argumentative piece is just as important—if not way more important—than the opener of a piece of fiction. Hooking someone to finish nonfiction is a taller order. Open your piece strongly—use a compelling bit of information, a brief anecdote, or a shocking fact to grab your reader, then state your thesis at the end of that first paragraph.

3. Organize

Your piece should run in a logical, coherent, and followable structure. Use paragraph breaks to separate your ideas and don’t forget transitions to guide your reader into the next point.

4. Prove it!

Support the arguments you present with relevant, convincing evidence. Strong evidence includes proven facts and real data, but it’s okay to include expert opinions, anecdotes from your own experiences, observations, and other “soft proof” along with your more concrete points. Make sure you give credit to your sources, in a way that makes sense for your style of writing.

5. Release the diss track (address counterarguments)

Avoiding or hiding the counterpoints to your argument will not strengthen it. Address and refute the most common opposing views. You should anticipate the counterarguments and explain why your position is stronger.

6. Be real, but be logical

Logic should be a consistent thread throughout your piece. Stating baseless opinions that just don’t make any sense when you think about it won’t accomplish much. Be sure you’re setting aside personal bias (at least for a portion of the process) and find the logical reasoning in your argument.

7. Don’t muddy the water

Be clear and precise in your language. Each sentence should serve a point, so avoid fluff! Vague or ambiguous statements also have no place in a convincing argument. Use specific, concrete language to convey your argument.

8. Write well!

No matter how strong your argument is, a sloppy presentation can shoot it out the gate. Use transitions and paragraph breaks for flow, and don’t forget a thorough grammar check!

9. Stay on topic

It’s easy to jump off on tangents when we’re making an argument. You might keep a post-it note with your thesis statement on hand while you write. Make sure your arguments are supporting THAT point. If you end up with a spin-off idea, make a note to write a different essay!

10. Understand your audience

Different people are receptive to different types of messages. Your strategy—down to the verbiage you use—should change with the reader. Are you writing to a younger crowd? Use accessible language. Are you writing to a certain political group? Avoid buzzwords that will throw up their antennae. Knowing who you’re trying to convince is imperative to writing a successful argument.

11. Mic drop

End with a bang! Your ending should restate the thesis in light of all we’ve just learned. If you’re trying to persuade a certain action, include a call to that action at the end. What do you want the reader to take away? What should they do now? Give them a clear path moving forward.

Conclusion

Keep your thesis clear and concise, support your claims with good evidence, and craft your piece in a readable and engaging way. Argumentative writing is incredibly important in many areas of life. Being able to craft and support a compelling and convincing point—whether that’s in writing or aloud—is an immeasurably helpful tool to have!

Now, go! Stir things up, get people thinking, and maybe even influence some positive change.

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