Formal argument vs Persuasive Writing

College writing is really interesting YET hard. Most of the time you’ll be asked to write about things that you need to prove profoundly and empirically. What is wrong, Why is it not correct, How is it not right and so on

If you suck at writing during middle school or high school, you’re in hot water and there’s high chance that you’re gonna suffer A LOT during your college years of any kind. Good news is that you can actually improve it :]

Last week I was given a reading piece about argument and persuasive writing and found it amazingly useful and helpful for me to clarify the purpose of this type of writing (which is usually misunderstood) and construct my idea effectively

If you have time reading the whole piece which is only 8 pages, please do. I can only sum up a little bit and trust me, I’m a lazy person and never like required reading but this is actually really worth your time.

Below is my sketchy summary of the whole article (Hope I won’t devalue its content by my sucky writing) :”>

The article’s first part was to clarify the differences between formal argument and persuasive writing

“formal argument [is] a line of reasoning that attempts to prove by logic.”

“persuasive writing “aren’t formal arguments. Their purpose is to persuade, not to prove by logic. In a persuasive essay you can select the most favorable evidence, appeal to emotions, and use style to persuade your readers. Your single purpose is to be convincing””

Then it discussed what kind of logic had been used to teach critical thinking during two different periods:

+ from the time of Aristotle through early 20th century: syllogism. The syllogism derives a conclusion from a set of statements called premise, which are thought to be true


Major premise: All men are mortal

Minor premise: Socrates is a man

Conclusion: Therefore, Socrates is a mortal

+ for the past 2-3 decades: argument of probability which has several elements:  claim based on evidence, with a warrant explains how the evidence support the claim, backing supporting the warrants and counter claims.

*Detailed information of claim, counter claim, warrant and so on can be found in the article

Except for the field of natural science, we don’t have absolute truths which can be proved with absolute evidence. Therefore, we need a lot of possible evidences and truths which are commonly believed and warrants and even counter-claim to prove our claim. That’s why it is called argument of probability, the “battle” of many possible facets of an issue to come up with the best argument which is eventually our claim.

With that being said, to figure out your claim, you should start out with the data, the possible truths and facts that can support your “potential” claim. How many times have you encountered a problem that you first set up a claim in your mind and the evidence you’ve found out all go against it ?

Just gather a lot of evidences and then come up with a conclusions which is your final claim, just as a detective investigate all of his possible theories and evidences before coming up with his final judgment.

The article at the end also had a really interesting example to teach children critical thinking skill and argument of probability by using a pseudo crime case study

Click HERE to download the reading piece. Enjoy! :)


Olivia, Peace & The Olive Tree |

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