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  • Writer's pictureAnqi Teng

What is a "convincing argument"?

It is easy, after having learnt the PETAL, PEEL, *insert more argument structures* writing structures, to think that essay writing is all about finding techniques that exist in the text. A poor essay results when the writer forgets about their goal.

A convincing argument is made when all of your evidence work together to support the final idea. Each single piece of evidence does not need to prove the entire idea, only part of it. Each piece of evidence also need to link to the piece before and after it in order for the argument to be cohesive and understandable.

1. The premises are believable and as correct as our current knowledge of the situation allows us to infer

First, a definition:

Premise: a statement that is given to lead towards the conclusion

Example: As all intelligence originate from the brain, plants do not have intelligence.

The premise of this argument is that all intelligence originates from the brain.

If the audience agrees with the premise, then you argument is already pretty convincing.

2. The argument must be valid or strong.

Once you have a valid premise, the conclusion that you draw from that premise needs to be correct.

Here is an example of a poor argument:

The world has 7.53 billion people. It will only increase in number.

This is a terrible argument, because what does the number 7.53 billion have anything to do with increasing populations? It would be much more effective to use a premise that reveals the trend of growth in the world population.

3. The premises does not assume the conclusion.

What's wrong with the following arguments?

  • Africa is the largest continent because it has the largest area of any continent.

  • Left-handed people are better painters because right-handed people can't paint as well.

They both assume that the conclusion is already correct. How do we know that Africa has the largest area? There is no premise that actually supports this conclusion. Where is the proof that right handed people can't paint as well? Was there a study? Did someone conduct painting experiments?

The evidence used to prove the argument is basically the argument itself.

~~~~~~ For you to do ~~~~~~

Read the following sample response and point out why it is not a persuasive (and overall terrible) argument!

Question: What is the atmosphere of the poem and how is it constructed through techniques?

The atmosphere of the poem is nostalgic because there is a lot of longing in it. The excitement the memory instils in the persona is illustrated through the fast pace created through asyndeton as his climb “reveald, fearfully, high I’d climb”. This shows that he really wanted to go back to this time because it was very exciting for him. The use of enjambment in “part/to find my own, my secret” emphasises the persona’s nostalgia. The nostalgic atmosphere is created with techniques that show us his longing.

Make sure your arguments follow the 3 rules above and avoid just mindlessly using PETAL or PEEL!

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