My second attempt at writing a persuasive argument in college wound up changing my perspective about the topic. I say second because my first attempt received a very low grade. This was my first journey into writing so my understanding of a persuasive argument would be to persuade my reader. Right?
I went to my professor to complain about the ‘D’ I received on my paper. In the moment, I assumed she graded me according to her own view on the subject and I marched over to her office.
I knocked pleasantly on her door with the rage of a Tiger brewing inside. Banging on the door was what I really wanted to do but that was beneath my behavioral standards. When she opened the door, in a calm voice, I asked to speak with her about my paper. By her demeanor, I believe she was already waiting for me.
I ranted, “You asked for a persuasive argument. I wrote one. It meets all of your criteria so what is this ‘D’ for?”
She looked at me and said in a tone not far from my own, “The fact that you followed my directions and wrote from a persuasive standpoint is why you got a ‘D’ and not an ‘F’.” She quickly explained, “In a persuasive argument, you want your reader to be persuaded but first you must present the contradictions and variables that persuaded you of the topic’s validity. Otherwise, it is just you writing about what you know in your own opinion. That isn’t a persuasive argument if you haven’t researched the topic from other angles, including viewpoints that contradict your own. This is necessary for persuasion. Present as many angles as possible, then present the evidence that supports your view. “
I won’t go into further details of the conversation but I sat in her office for quite a while learning the value of a persuasive argument that has been thoroughly researched.
Simply put, if you are writing a non-fiction title intended to persuade the reader, be prepared to thoroughly support your topic. The best persuasion is a persuasion that includes other facets presented through solid research. This builds credibility in the eyes of the reader as it proves you are not afraid to explore other viewpoints and evidence. If we really want a reader to believe what we write, we must be confident in the material. To be confident in the material, we must know it from every angle.
Writing persuasive non-fiction from only one perspective will draw readers who already agree with that perspective. You don’t need to provide evidence or research from opposing angles when it isn’t required by your audience. Where is the challenge in persuading readers who already agree with you? In fact, that isn’t persuasion at all.
After my discussion with the professor, she advised that I could re-write the paper and turn it in for a better grade if I present material from the opposition, as well as evidence to support my claim.
When researching as she requested, I found my original perspective crumbling under the evidence presented by the opposing view. In my case, I wound up writing a persuasive argument over the need for research in writing. I didn’t get an ‘A’ but I did get a better grade.
Not every non-fiction writer will consider researching another perspective. It isn’t against the law, or particularly taboo by today’s standards, to write on a topic from only one point of view. There are plenty of non-fiction titles available that prove this is so.
From CMP’s point of view, non-fiction titles need to be fully researched to the best of the author’s ability. If the topic is a theory or experience that cannot be proven with physical evidence, researching from angles that oppose your theory is a way to present in lieu of physical evidence. Variables are part of research in any theory or hypothesis and should be included for the reader.
Ultimately, for the success and credibility of a non-fiction title, present the whole and let the reader decide whether they are persuaded or not. To CMP, this proves the author is confident in the material they are presenting and a confident author will not cringe under opposing reviews.
Authors are not required to agree with opposing material and I encourage this truth to be stated. Perhaps the evidence says something completely different to you, as an author, than mainstream society. This is transparency in writing. Let the reader know your truth throughout and it will be broadcast through your voice.
Be confident, transparent, and thorough in writing your truth for persuasive non-fiction.
Remember: Truth is subjective.
By: Lily Gianna Woodmansee; Executive Editor for Cactus Moon Publications