Writing to argue - techniques

When writing an argument, there are certain techniques that you may wish to include as well so that you can back up each side of the argument.

It is best to make your view clear at the outset but to include some aspects of the other side to show that they understand the opposing view.

Use the list below to guide you and help you to improve your argument by adding these techniques:

  • Anecdote - a brief account or story. An anecdote is used to back up your viewpoint. For example, to keep the park, you might write, 'Many parents have said just how important the green area is for their young children as a safe place for play and exercise'. Anecdotes can be made up, of course – but they do need to appear realistic and reasonable.
  • Clusters of three/lists of three - this is usually three phrases or describing words used to emphasise a point, for example, 'it’s great, it’s brilliant, it’s amazing!'. Usually the list gets stronger as it builds up. A list of three can create a very impressive effect of emphasis but be careful if you are writing a balanced argument as it is a way to present one side of a point of view.
  • Contrasts - a contrast presents two opposing views, but in way that subtly shows one as a stronger view, for example, 'While it is true that the town is clogged with workers’ cars during the daytime and the park is often empty at that time, the opposite is true in the afternoons and especially summer evenings…'. This is essential in an argument as the writer’s job is to present each side of the case fairly.
  • Emotive words - these are words that are deliberately designed to try to make the reader have strong feelings. These can be positive or negative. Human beings will react to some words very positively. Words like ‘love’, ‘happiness’, ‘wealth’ and ‘good health’ tend to make us feel positive. Other words, such as ‘death’, ‘illness’, ‘poverty’ and ‘tears’ make us negative. You need to be subtle with your use of emotional language in an argument especially if you are writing a balanced argument.
  • Imagery - a mental picture or feeling in the mind’s eye. Imagery can help a reader engage with a text by making them feel almost as if they were 'there', seeing, hearing or feeling the things the writer saw, heard and felt.
  • Personal Pronouns - these are words like 'I', 'me' and 'you'. By using a personal pronoun such as ‘you’, you are addressing the reader directly. This can cause the reader to engage very closely with the text and help to keep them engaged in your argument.
  • Repetition - this is where a single word or phrase is repeated at least twice. Repetition works in a similar way to a list of three. By repeating a word or phrase, you draw attention to it and emphasise its importance.
  • Rhetorical question - this is a question stated in a way that presents a point of view, so is not truly asking for a response. When a reader is asked a question, it engages them in the topic of the writing.
  • Statistics (and facts) - statistics are numbers or facts that are presented to seem to be fair and convincing information. You should use these as a tool to convince your reader so take care if you are trying to create a sense of balance. The reader will feel that they cannot argue with statistics and facts and that the statistics will prove what you are saying.
  • Quotations - quotations are used when a writer brings in some information from another person or from another article and quotes their actual words. By using quotations from other interested – and often expert - parties, you can back up what is being said or promoted. It can help make the argument seem well researched and thought out.