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Distinguishing Argumentation from Persuasion

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Distinguishing Argumentation from Persuasion

Stick figure contemplating apples vs oranges

What is the difference between persuasion and argumentation? Both types of writing attempt to convince readers, but they use different methods:

  • Persuasion appeals to readers’ emotions to make them believe something or take specific action. Persuasion can also use logic and evidence.

    • Imagine the life of an abandoned house pet—unwanted, hungry, and cold. Your donation to an animal shelter can make all the difference. 

  • Argumentation relies on logic and evidence to build a case for a specific claim. Argumentation de-emphasizes appeals to emotion.

    • Communities without animal shelters often struggle to control the proliferation of stray and feral dogs and cats.

The following table will help you recognize the differences between persuasion and argumentation.

  Persuasive Writing Argument Writing
Writer starts with a strong opinion and researches reasons to support it X  
Writer starts with a topic, researches and discusses all sides of the issue, and chooses one side to support   X
Appeals to readers with logic X X
Appeals to readers with evidence X X
Appeals to readers with emotion X  
Outlines multiple sides of the issue   X
Calls readers to action X  
Uses passionate, urgent writing voice X  
Uses calm, neutral writing voice   X

Your Turn Read the following paragraphs. Decide which one uses persuasion and which one uses argumentation. Identify three qualities from the table above to support your answer.

Paragraph A

Native Americans receive too little representation in media. Though they make up about 2 percent of the U.S. population, Native Americans account for less than a half percent of characters in popular films and television shows. What little representation they receive often includes harmful stereotypes. “Westerns” often typecast Native Americans as savage warriors or mysterious spirit leaders in headdresses. Many sport mascots depict Native Americans in a similarly limited manner. According to recent studies, these portrayals lead to poorer self-esteem and mental health among Native American youth.

Paragraph B

Humankind has entered a brand-new relationship with our planet. For millennia, human beings battled nature for survival, but now we've won. Our continued aggression toward our planet is ravaging ecosystems worldwide, the very ecosystems we depend upon for survival. If we destroy our world, we destroy ourselves. We must confront this danger.

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