What Is The Overriding Purpose Of A Persuasive Essay

We start the course with a basic question: How can we craft and deliver messages that influence and engage audiences?

In this course, we will consider the process of persuasive public speaking from the origination of an idea through post-speech analysis and evaluation. We’ll draw on advice of ancient rhetoricians as well as contemporary scholars, including empirical social scientific investigations of affect, source credibility, and literary techniques. 

As part of our exploration of persuasive public speaking, we’ll consider persuasion in multiple domains, including marketing, law, and health campaigns. We’ll consider which challenges and opportunities are unique to public speaking venues while examining persuasion in mass- and computer-mediated messages. 

There will be two major formal speeches in the course, several brief speeches, written activities, peer evaluations, and class discussions. The online Blackboard (Bb) course site will be used often in the course for blog postings, discussions, document distribution, evaluations, pre- and post-speech analysis, Wikis, and other purposes. 

How do we transform our arguments into clear, convincing, compelling and credible speeches? How do we craft and deliver public messages that persuade? Discovering answers to these questions and many others will be a challenging and rewarding goal of this course.

Analyzing an essay’s purpose is the crucial first step in understanding it.

Essays with a thesis—a single point the entire essay is designed to prove—have one overriding purpose, which is to persuade or convince you of that thesis.

Other essays may have one of a variety of different purposes:

  • to evoke emotion (sorrow, humor, anger, etc.)
  • to inform
  • to reinforce or instill values
  • to produce a change in consciousness
  • to urge action
  • to inspire or uplift
  • to arouse admiration for the beauty of the essay itself, or the skill of the author in writing it.
  • (Technically the last two items could be considered examples of evoking emotion, but they seem like enough of a special case to justify separate mention.)

Notice that in all cases, including those whose purpose is to persuade, purpose is always about the reader. In other words, when we define the purpose of an essay, we are saying something about the effect the essay tries to create in the reader. Look again at the list of purposes above: all the verbs in that list are about doing something to someone. They all have an object, and the object is the reader.

In defining the purpose of an essay, be sure to focus on the effect on the reader.

While essays may have more than one purpose, one tends to predominate. For example, an essay may use emotion in order to urge action. In this case, urging action is the dominant purpose, and arousing emotion is subordinate to that purpose. Or it may inform you about a subject in order to persuade you. Here, the purpose of informing is subordinate to the purpose of persuading.

When defining the purpose of the essay, try to find the main one, to which all the others are subordinate.

There are many synonyms for persuade: show, convince, demonstrate, prove, etc. All of these refer to a mostly intellectual process involving evidence and reason. Persuasive essays—essays with theses—are a special class with their own rules and customs and procedures. Essays that do these things are primarily speaking to the reader’s mind, not to their heart or spirit or senses. It’s important to be sure, when using one of these terms, that it accurately describes the primary effect on the reader that the essay is trying for. In other words, don’t say it “shows” something when its main purpose is really to evoke an emotion or instill values.

When defining the purpose of an essay, use the appropriate terms to describe the primary effect on the reader.

0 Replies to “What Is The Overriding Purpose Of A Persuasive Essay”

Lascia un Commento

L'indirizzo email non verrà pubblicato. I campi obbligatori sono contrassegnati *