ANALYZING PERSUASIVE TEXT
Opinion or persuasive writing brings unique challenges to the reading experience. In this era of “fake news,” it’s especially important that readers have the critical reading skills to distinguish when a text is factual and when it is someone’s opinion. They need to be able to assess the writer’s credentials for writing about this topic and the quality of the writer’s reasoning and support. In particular, they need to be able to recognize subtle techniques the writer is using to sway the reader’s thinking. Here are some questions readers should ask when analyzing a piece of opinion, argumentative or persuasive text.
Of course all of these features apply to writing persuasive text. It’s important for students to know how to generate their own opinions, reasoning and evidence, and convey them in clear and powerful prose. Click here for ideas for TEACHING PERSUASIVE WRITING.
1. OPINION: Is the writer’s opinion or thesis clearly stated upfront?
2. REASONS: Has the writer justified the opinion with strong reasoning?
3. EVIDENCE: Are there facts, statistics, quotes, and and examples to support the reasons?
4. BIAS: Has the writer provided factual, verifiable information to support the thesis? What information has the writer left out?
5. RECOGNITION OF AUDIENCE: Who is this piece written to persuade? Do the voice, tone and content of the piece speak to the intended audience?
6. WRITER’S TECHNIQUES: Has the writer effectively used any rhetorical devices such as those listed below?
WRITER’S TRICKS, TIPS & TECHNIQUES
“Loaded Words” – carefully chosen vocabulary to pack an emotional punch, either positive (e.g., exciting, healthy) or negative (e.g. polluter, dangerous)
Anticipating the Argument – Stating and refuting a potential argument against the writer’s opinion (e.g. Other people might say…but I say…)
Powerful Pronouns – YOU, ME & WE – Using the words I, you, me and we draws readers into the text, presumes alignment of their thinking with the author’s thinking and invites them to be part of the solution.
Sentence Variety – Occasional questions, exclamations and commands add voice and engage readers.
“Magic of Three” – putting three related words, phrases or even sentences together can provide power and persuasion.