AA: I'm Avi Arditti and this week on WORDMASTER: what a teacher and a student have to say about writing a persuasive essay.
DANNY SHEFFIELD: "My name is Danny Sheffield and I teach in Bentonville, Arkansas, at Northwest Arkansas Community College."
"Why don't you fill us in a little bit about some of the conventions of
writing a persuasive essay in American higher education."
SHEFFIELD: "Well, one of the basic things about writing any essay is to
remember three key points about how to present an English essay. Number
one, say what you're going to say, so you're telling the reader what
you're going to talk about, what you're going to write about, and maybe
even your stance during that first introductory
"The second thing is,
say it. And here's where you introduce the topics that you have
generalized in your say-it paragraph, your introductory paragraph, and
provide details and specifics and statistics and facts to support what
you have stated.
"And the third part is, say it again.
Summarize the main parts of your essay and re-emphasize definitely the
key points that you have made and that you want your reader to
"And I think as far as writing essays at the
secondary level, post-secondary level, to keep it that simple -- to say
what you're going to say, say it and say it again -- is a key to having
students produce effective essays."
AA: "But what really separates an outstanding essay from one that's maybe just good or average?"
DANNY SHEFFIELD: "I would maybe characterize an excellent essay as having a personal tone -- "
AA: "And what do you mean by a personal tone?"
DANNY SHEFFIELD: "A person using their personal voice rather than trying to academinize -- "
AA: "Make it sound overly academic."
SHEFFIELD: "Yes, yes. Because people respond to a personal voice a lot
of times much more emotionally than they do -- and psychologically --
than they do to an academic voice. And so if you're writing an
argumentative or persuasive essay, you want to touch that person's
emotions, and by using your natural voice, then that -- that puts it
more into the excellent category rather than 'Oh, this is a good
academic essay.' No, you can say 'This is an excellent persuasive
argument that you have presented here. I can hear you saying this.'"
PEI-WEN JUAN: "My name's Pei-wen Juan, I'm from Indiana State University."
AA: "And how long have you been there, how long have you been at Indiana State?"
PEI-WEN JUAN: "It's one and a half year."
"And you're from Taiwan. So now you've been at Indiana State University
for a year and a half studying, and have you found it's been difficult
getting used to American academic writing? Or were there many
differences from academic writing in Taiwan?"
PEI-WEN JUAN: "Yes
we do. That's a big problem for most of Taiwanese students or Asian
students because when we are writing, when we are taught to write, we
use the euphemistic way to deliver our opinions. We have the general
ideas and we kind of tell people indirectly, and at the end we focus on
what we want to say. But in America it's not like that. You have to
show the most important part, the thesis statement first, then you give
a lot of supporting ideas which make it clear and people know what you
are going to say."
AA: "And what are you getting your degree in?"
PEI-WEN JUAN: "Teaching English as a second language."
AA: That was Pei-wen Juan from Taiwan, and before that Danny Sheffield
from Arkansas. I spoke with them in Denver, Colorado, at the recent
convention of TESOL, or Teachers of English to Speakers of Other
Languages. And that's WORDMASTER for this week. Archives are at
voanews.com/wordmaster. I'm Avi Arditti.