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How to Write an Essay? Here Is One Persuasive Argument

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."

AA: "Why don't you fill us in a little bit about some of the conventions of writing a persuasive essay in American higher education."

DANNY 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 say-what-you're-going-to-say paragraph.

"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 understand.

"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."

DANNY 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."

AA: "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 I'm Avi Arditti.