Dr. Kristi Siegel
English Department
Mount Mary College

Developing a Convincing Argument - Persuasion

If you were ever a teenager--preferably a smart teenager--you already know how to argue.  Consider this scenario.  Marjorie, a junior in high school, wants to use the family car.  The car is in high demand on Friday nights and Marjorie just got a parking ticket two weeks ago. Marjorie's younger sister, Ann, needs to be driven to the dance at her middle school.  Marjorie's parents are debating whether to go to a movie, and they feel Marjorie's parking ticket demonstrates a decided lack of maturity.

Marjorie knows disorganized begging and groveling won't work.  She develops her argument carefully, considering the key components in logical persuasion:

1) Anticipate the objections of your opponents;
2) State your position clearly;
3) Back up all your assertions with data; and
4) Demonstrate the benefits of your position

With these points in mind (not consciously, perhaps; she is a teenager), Marjorie develops the following argument:  Her ticket was a slight lapse (it was her first ticket since getting her license over a year ago), and she paid the ticket with money she earned at MacDonald's.  She would be happy to drive Ann to the dance and save her parents the trouble.  Also, with both herself and Ann occupied, wouldn't her parents prefer a quiet evening at home.  Marjorie knows that a movie they wanted to see, Tea with Mussolini, is now available at Blockbuster's.  She and her incredibly responsible friend Sarah (the girl her parents like so much), will only be going to the mall and then to Sarah's house.  Marjorie will be home early and plans to fill up the gas tank.

Majorie's argument, though not eloquent, has merit.  She has not lied, she's anticipated her parents' probable objections well, she's offered specific data to counter their objections, she's stated her position clearly, and she's offered a number of benefits her audience (her parents) will receive by agreeing with her position.


A cultural critique is, in part, an argument.  You are persuading your audience that some aspect of your culture merits their attention, disapproval, or perhaps, even action.  On a more sophisticated level, you'd would be employing the same principles Marjorie used in the example above.  For example, I could write a tongue-in-cheek critique in defense of harmless, but attention-challenged, drivers.  Assuming, perhaps that I was this sort of driver, I could begin by lining up the benefits of marginally poor drivers and anticipating the probable objections:

I've never caused an accident
My driving makes other drivers more alert and attentive
My driving makes an otherwise "ho-hum" experience for passengers more stimulating
Marginal drivers do not have to carpool; people willingly offer to drive your children
Marginal drivers provide self-esteem for other drivers
Marginal drivers are rarely tailgated and often enjoy the "distance" other drivers grant them
Marginal drivers make driving seem arduous and challenging; my four teenagers take driving very seriously.  Two of them never want to drive at all.

My mock-topic would be written in the style and/or tone of Erma Bombeck or Dave Barry, perhaps.  Though the critique's intent is largely humorous, Bombeck (and I) do have a message.  In short, we're not perfect.  Though we live in a society that celebrates success, most of us fall short.  Rather than wallowing in our lack of supermomdom or career stardom, we might find more sanity--and certainly more humor--in laughing at our foibles instead.


Module Two

 Submit your Web Site to over 900 Search Engines and Link Listings. FREE!