Grade 12 Students – If you’re a high school student in grade 12, you’ve hopefully already been taught that the main purpose of an essay is to persuade your audience into siding with your argument. This is easy if your audience already sides with your argument, but not so easy if your audience holds contradictory views.
If, for instance, you write an essay for one of your advanced online grade 12 courses arguing that bicyclists should always have the right of way, readers who think bicyclists shouldn’t be allowed on the road, let alone have the right of way, are unlikely to agree with your argument. Even if you write clearly and support your claims with research, if your readers aren’t willing to change their minds, they won’t.
In the mid-19th century, Ignaz Semmelweis, a Hungarian obstetrician, put forth a simple argument: doctors at maternity clinics should wash their hands when dealing with patients. Well duh, you might think, but his contemporaries dismissed him as a madman. Dr. Semmelweis ended up dying in a mental asylum in 1865.
No argument, no matter how perfect, will persuade everyone. All you can do is try. The word “essay,” in fact, comes from the French word “essayer,” which means “to try.” Here are 3 ways for grade 12 students to essayer their best when writing an essay.
#1 Understand the Prompt
High school students are typically assigned essay topics in response to prompts. A prompt often comes in the form of a question. For instance, “Should bicyclists always have the right of way?”
Ideally, your essay will explore this question to arrive at an answer that your audience will agree with. To do so, you need to have a solid understanding of the question. If possible, try dissecting the question into different parts.
#2 Do Your Research
Some essay forms, such as research papers, require more research than others, but all good essays require at least some research. At the secondary level, doing research may mean going through the notes and readings that you’ve done for the class you’re writing the essay for. At the post-secondary level, doing research may mean visiting the library for additional sources.
If you’re doing basic research on the right of way topic, you may want to read about the Netherlands, where bicyclists do already always have the right of way. When doing your research, keep a few questions in mind, like:
- Are the rates of traffic accidents lower in the Netherlands than in countries where bicyclists don’t have the right of way?
- Did the number of traffic accidents go down after the Netherlands gave bicyclists the right of way?
- What is cyclist culture in the Netherlands?
#3 Write Clear, Concise Sentences
It’s not uncommon for high school students to believe that, to write a persuasive essay, they need to sound smart, and to sound smart, they need to write long, complicated sentences full of big words.
In reality, however, this kind of essay ends up being messy and confusing. Also, teachers can pick up on when students are trying to sound smart, and trying to sound smart is not the same as being smart.
The smartest, most persuasive essays at the high school level should use clear, concise sentences that avoid the passive voice wherever possible and make their arguments easy to follow.