Writing to argue

A written argument is not the same as a verbal argument with a friend – which is often full of passion and you say strongly what you think. When you write to argue, your audience are strangers not friends. This means a more formal, fair and well-structured approach is likely to work best.

A written argument can work well when it is presented as a debate between opposing views. This can help make you seem much more fair-minded and that you have weighed up the pros and the cons before coming to your own view.

Example

Imagine the following article has appeared in your local paper:

Squirrel on some grass.

Park or car park?

Ashfield Park is threatened with closure next month as a local business has applied for planning permission to turn the area into a car park. Local residents have begun a fierce campaign to save the park, which is a popular walking spot for young children and the elderly, as well as home to the war memorial and many wildlife species.

Task

You might be asked to write to your local paper, arguing that the park should be preserved.

It is clear in the article that there is a debate and that other strongly held views exist. Therefore, it wouldn’t be convincing to simply state your own single view. It wouldn't even be enough just to list all the good things about the park. That would be ignoring other views – as if they didn’t matter.

An effective argument presents different viewpoints. For instance, the park might well be a wonderful natural habitat; but it also likely costs a lot to maintain; and it might be a good place to walk; but the town is clogged with cars. An argument is a debate and requires you to present the main ideas for and against.

It helps to link these differing viewpoints logically. This is done using connectives, for example, 'however others might disagree…' or 'although different views exist, for example…'.

Connectives act like signposts to guide your reader through the debate that you present. They create a fluent and logical structure that helps to suggest fairness and balance. If done well, they can also make the contrasts clear between the two sides in favour of your view.

Structuring an argument

When you are writing an argument, it is important to start with a plan which starts with a list of views both for and against the topic.

  • Start with a clear opening that explains what the argument is about and where you stand on it.
  • Write a series of structured 'body paragraphs' that present the debate, that is, the differing sides of the argument – but in each case use this to show how your viewpoint is the best one to take. For example, 'It is true that the town is crowded with parked cars and that many of these are from workers at local businesses. This means that a new car park would be welcome to relieve the congestion and pollution in town; however, to take away a green space that is the home of the town’s war memorial and such a popular walking spot for the young and elderly is surely the wrong way to go about it.'
  • A strong conclusion that very briefly summarises the strongest point from each side of the argument, before restating the writer’s view as the best compromise to follow.

You can see from the example how the use of a connective can help the argument to flow smoothly and seemingly logically: '…in town; however, to take away a green space…'. There are many connectives and they often work well after a semicolon as this creates a useful 'pause and emphasis effect'.

Useful connectives:

  • but
  • so
  • and so
  • however
  • although
  • instead of
  • alternatively
  • in contrast
  • whereas
  • on the other hand
  • unlike
  • otherwise
  • likewise
  • similarly
  • equally
  • as with
  • in the same way
  • like