AP – Some Notes about Persuasive Papers

Here are some thoughts, in no particular order, about writing persuasive papers that you may want to consider when you write your persuasive impromptu on the exam day. These were issues that I saw when I was grading your major persuasive paper:

  • Some people were using single quotes around things, especially words or phrases as opposed to complete sentences. Don’t do this. It’s wrong. The ONLY time you should use single quotes is when you have a quote within another quote.
  • Speaking of quoting words, if you are using a word in a sentence but it isn’t part of the syntax of the sentence, you should quote it–with double quotes. For example, if this were your attention-getter: What is meant by “fear”? According to Dictionary.com, “fear” is…
  • One part of the persuasive mode/organization people did not take enough advantage of is the opportunity to define terms/concepts. This is one of the things you can do in your narration (or in your intro for a shorter impromptu). For example, many people wrote about the Machiavelli quote–whether it is better to be loved or feared as a leader–but didn’t define what they meant by a “successful leader.” Then, they would do something like use Stalin as an example of a successful leader who ruled with fear. While I certainly wouldn’t argue that Stalin ruled with fear, I WOULD argue with the assertion he was a successful leader–you know, seeing as he murdered millions of his own people and all. However, if the writer who wished to use this example defined “successful leader” for me–and that definition was reasonable–I wouldn’t have been able to apply my OWN definition as a reader. I would have had to accept the writer’s definition, at least in the context of the argument he/she was making.
  • Speaking of Stalin, he is now joining the ranks of 9/11, Martin Luther King, and Hitler as clichéd examples you shouldn’t ever use. (Since I said you shouldn’t use Hitler, I have a feeling a lot of people just substituted Stalin as the next best thing!)
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