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Argumentative and persuasive writing may, at first glance, seem to be one and the same. After all, both are intended to sway the audience to one point of view, are they not? Although it may seem as though persuasive writing is merely a synonym for argumentative writing, these formats actually differ on several key points, subtle though they may be. The most pressing and important differences between argumentative and persuasive writing include the purpose of the piece, the tone in which the piece is written, and the end result of the piece in question.
An argumentative essay has a more formal purpose. Argumentative essays require a great deal of research to be done effectively. They focus on evidence as a form of argument. To effectively begin writing an argumentative essay, research must take place to create a compelling and legitimate argument. The purpose of an argumentative essay, then, is to argue a certain point using evidence, regardless of whether or not the audience is convinced to believe the author’s argument.
Conversely, the starting point of a persuasive essay is opinion; the author of the piece in question thinks or believes something, and hopes to persuade the reader to adopt that same point of view. The purpose is not necessarily to present undeniable facts, but is instead to sway the reader. For this reason, persuasive writing is more prone to using emotional appeals and other non-formal types of debate.
The tone of an argumentative essay is an authoritative one; the author of an argumentative essay must appear to be an authority on the matter in question. This is achieved partly through the tone in which a piece is written (formal, rather than informal), and partly through the language used. An argumentative essay is more likely to use language that is aloof, complex, and filled with jargon related to the topic.
A persuasive essay takes a different approach, typically presented to the reader with a more relaxed tone, like that of a friend or trusted mentor. The style of writing is friendlier, and may appeal to the reader’s emotions, ego, or sense of intelligence, rather than trying to sway with facts alone.
An argumentative essay’s ideal end result is that the reader will know the author’s stance on the subject, as well as knowing a great deal about other points of view. Argumentative essays are robust in their tackling of subject matter, presenting differing opinions and other points of view to establish that the author’s position is the best among others.
A persuasive essay’s end result is not quite so robust, and treats the author’s position as something infallible and as the only topic or source of information that matters. The ideal end result of a persuasive essay is that the reader will know and agree with the author’s conclusion.
Although argumentative and persuasive writing are often confused with one another, and initially seem to be the same mode of writing, they differ in key ways, which drastically change the approach to writing.
An argumentative essay is designed to involve research, evidence, and the presentation of the research and evidence, while a persuasive essay is designed to involve arguments toward a single subject and viewpoint, with the goal of persuading the reader to agree.
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