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Choosing the right essay type: argumentative vs. persuasive essays

Essays can take many different forms depending on your objective. Some are meant to explain processes, like the way to bake a cake, while others tackle the similarities and differences between things through comparison and contrast. When your essay has to present two opposing views you can pick the argumentative route or the persuasive one. Here’s how you can decide which one to use.

Persuasive Essays

While persuasion may sound like the gentler of the two options, it is actually the one that is more direct in its approach. It may not be particularly objective because it clearly states the view that is considered “correct” while paying little if any attention to points that may favor the opposing view. It tends to be an appeal to the emotions of the reader rather than to his or her sense of logic. This type of writing has its place, however and you can often see it being used by political speech writers or anyone in an arena where taking a firm stance is preferable to allowing any concessions to dissenting views. A persuasive essay can come off as too biased, however, so when it is applied to subjects that have no immediately obvious wrong or right view many readers or listeners will feel alienated.

Argumentative essays

While the idea of “arguing” can seem like a chaotic or violent thing, the true meaning of the word has little to do with a verbal fight. An argument requires the discussion of the various points in favor and against something with the ultimate goal being to put forward a particular stance but only after adequate analysis. Essays in this style sound logical and fair which gives them a much broader appeal than just readers who were already thinking in line with the proposed view. It may fall flat, however, when the audience in question unanimously believes something and the essay does not sufficiently tap into their distaste for the opposing view.

The same topic can yield wildly different results depending on your choice of essay type. Your best guide in making your selection will be your knowledge of the audience followed closely by the topic itself. Some audiences will always see a persuasive essay as one sided while others will be bored by logical arguments. Similarly, many topics lend themselves naturally to one style or another. Let your instincts guide you.

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