Posted by: jockmackenzie | January 14, 2010

Persuasive Writing – Part 1

In my October 1, 2009 entry, I touched on a mnemonic I created that helps students remember 7 strategies to develop ideas. The 7 strategies or methods are useful in persuasive writing. To repeat myself (and repetition isn’t one of the strategies but life has taught me that some people think it’s the only technique one needs to win an argument), here is the mnemonic and a more detailed explanation:


F =Facts and Statistics

R =Reasons

E =Examples

Q =Quotes

O =Opinions

E =Experiences

S = Senses

Information noted in blue type comes from my book Essay Writing: Teaching the Basics from the Ground Up. Red type has been used to emphasize the FREQOES strategy being explained.

Facts and Statistics

Information that is truthful (a fact) or numerical data that has been collected (statistics) can make an argument more believable.

Fact: After high school I worked for a year before furthering my education.

Statistic: 68.3% of statistics are made up.

In persuasive writing, the writer or speaker needs to employ facts and statistics that support his opinion or stance or he needs to negate the point of view held by his opponents.

In a possible class scenario, let’s assume Jared has chosen to write about airport security. Further, his thesis (his overall point of view) is that the billions of dollars spent on high tech body scanners is a waste of money. Classmate Brittany has taken an opposite view; Brittany believes that spending any amount of money is worthwhile if it means saving even one human life.

As Jared prepares to persuade his readers that his point of view is the more correct one, he notes a number of facts:

– despite increased efforts, security continues to be a problem at airports throughout the world

– throwing money at a problem is not the only way to find a solution

– once a particular type of security is in place, the “bad guys” develop methods to work around that new system.

Keeping his victory over Brittany in mind, Jared also notes:

– it’s true that human life is valuable, but no one has an endless supply of money to try to solve every problem.

– past security advances have not been foolproof so why should the new body scanners be much better?

In the realm of statistics, Jared has to do some research. He goes to Google and types in “airport security” and gets an article from a newspaper called The Chronicle Herald (along with 18, 906 other possibilities). He notes the source of his information ( and scans the article for numbers or percentages.

“The acquisition of 44 scanners, which use radio waves to create a 3D image of the body beneath the clothes, is the centrepiece of Canada’s stepped-up effort to prevent air terrorism.”

“In addition, Canadian airlines will have to comply with U.S.measures that require pat-downs and enhanced screening of passengers travelling to the U.S. from or through 14 countries that Washington deems to be sponsors of terrorism or “of interest.””

***”For as Transport Minister John Baird revealed this week, Halifax’s Stanfield International will be among eight major Canadian airports (along with those in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal) to introduce full-body scanning of U.S.-bound passengers by this spring.”

Jared puts a few asterisks beside the last statistic and makes a mental note that Stanfield International will get a full-body scanner (Stanfields  is a major Canadian manufacturer of underwear) in response to a terrorist attempt to blow up a plane using a bomb sewn into underwear. Jared has a sense of humor and any mention of underwear is definitely humorous.

More research under cost “full body scanners” provides Jared with a dollar amount from an article in the Vancouver Sun ( – “The scanners, manufactured by American company L3 Communications Security and Detection Systems at a cost of about $250,000 each, involve a technology that projects what is called low-millimetre wave radio frequency.”

Jared is happy with the “Facts and Statistics” he’s gathered, so moves on to Mr. Mackenzie’s next suggestion – REASONS


Tell the reader why, give some “becauses” with specific details.

If we had more recreational facilities we would have less crime. To begin with, young people would be busy having fun. They would have a lot of time on their hands and be so bored that they would go looking for trouble.

Jared decides to explain “why” he believes it won’t help to spend billions on full body scanners. His first resource is simply why he thinks it’s a bad idea. (Purists might argue that this falls under the O of FREQOES – opinion. Ah, a persuasive point – but it’s a grey world. For now, let’s run with what Jared thinks as REASONS:

– money spent on full body scanners could be more effectively used for other life problems – poverty, health care, education

– not all airports will get scanners

– scanners will invade the privacy of hundreds of thousands in an attempt to identify a tiny minority

– scanners might increase the risk of cancer

Jared continues to read and listen and view because of his new interest in airport security. From this variety of sources he finds a few more reasons to support his argument:

– corporations have been accused of getting rich by charging exorbitant fees for scanners

– media hype over a failed terrorist attempt shouldn’t result in the need for scanners

– security of scanned images poses a problem

Jared has a hockey game, needs to practice his tenor sax, and has an unmerciful amount of math homework from Mr. Roslinsky so he sets aside his research on his language arts project for the time being . . . but he will return!

To be continued . . .

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