Writing Persuasive Speeches

Writing Persuasive Speeches
Randy Pausch delivered a powerful speech on September 18, 2007, in front of 400 people, 10 months before he lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. The speech, seen by millions as it found its way across thousands of websites,

Prewriting: Choosing Your Topic
Persuasive communication is a powerful tool that is useful throughout life, in all types of situations. At home, for example, you might persuade your family to work together on a community project. At school, you might pers

Strategies for Generating Topics
Find a "Hot Topic"
When controversy flares up in the news, the debate usually centers on important political or social issues. Scan newspaper headlines and listen to newscasts for controversial topics that evoke strong rea

Hold a Discussion Group
Tap into school or community issues by holding a discussion with students, neighbors, or other local residents. Find out what key issues and concerns really get people talking. Note topics that generate the most controversy or disa

What is a "hot topic"?

A "hot topic" is a controversial issue that elicits a strong response.

Prewriting: Narrowing Your Topic
After selecting a broad topic, focus on a specific element or aspect of it that you can fully and completely support.
If, for example, you choose a topic such as "Health Care," you would need many hours to identify every i

Creating an Outline
You may be familiar with outlining a topic as a way of organizing an essay, but you can also use this strategy to narrow your topic.
Creating an outline helps to divide your topic into smaller parts. Follow these steps to create an out

Marvin created an outline that included these three topics: student life issues, peer pressure, and student social issues. Which of these items should Marvin select if his goal is to narrow his topic?

Marvin should select peer pressure. This item is narrow enough for Marvin to write a focused persuasive speech. The other two topics are too broad.

Prewriting: Considering Your Audience and Purpose
As you plan your speech, it is important that you consider both your audience and your purpose.
Your audience might be one person, such as a friend, parent, or boss, or a large crowd, such as a school asse

Suit Your Audience's Needs
Putting yourself in your audience is a good way to make sure that you have gathered enough information about a topic. Imagine that you are an audience member, and make a list of the things you would like to find out when listeni

Identify a Specific Purpose
It's not enough to say that your purpose is to persuade. You need to state a specific purpose for your speech and then gather details that will help you to achieve that purpose. For example, do you want your listeners to sign a


General Purpose

Specific Purpose

Persuade people to support the school theater department.

Persuade parents to attend the opening-night benefit performance of the play.

Inspire students to achieve success at school.

Inspire every student in your class to set five specific school goals that they can achieve by the end of the month.

Convince people that animals have rights.

Convince students to support animal rights by writing letters to businesses discouraging testing on animals.

Which purpose is specific?

convince neighbors to help you plant flowers in the park

Prewriting: Gathering Evidence
The strength of your persuasive speech will depend on the quality of your analysis and evidence.
You won't persuade anyone unless you have facts, details, anecdotes, and personal experiences to support your statements.
Use t

Conduct Research
Unless you're already an expert on your topic, explore reliable sources to collect facts, statistics, and examples you can use to support your argument. The following are suggestions to guide your research:
Consult books by experts, respe

Complete a T-Chart
Use a two-sided T-chart to organize information for and against your position. This is particularly effective when you plan to talk about a controversial subject.
It is important to collect information on both sides of an issue so that

Reasons to Vote for
the Library Tax Levy
library is understocked and overcrowded
Reference sources are outdated
The expansion will create a new multimedia center
Reasons to Vote Against
the Library Tax Levy
It is expensive
The library is used by only 43%

Which is a purpose of a T-chart?

to organize information for and against an opinion

Conduct Interviews and Surveys
In addition to conducting research, you may want to conduct live interviews�if appropriate for your topic. If you decide to conduct an interview, keep these tips in mind:
Prepare a list of questions that will help you focus

Drafting: Shaping Your Writing
Once you've finished gathering evidence to include in your speech, write out a first draft. In preparing your draft, keep in mind that your argument will be presented orally. Pay attention to the sound of the language, as we

What sort of appeals have you seen on pamphlets like the one being distributed in the picture?

Your response to the question will vary, depending on your particular experience. In the photograph, the pamphlet's appeal is to enforce fire safety.

Drafting: Providing Elaboration
Layering�A unified paragraph, in which the ideas flow logically, is much easier for an audience to understand than a paragraph of disjointed ideas. As you draft, use layering to help you create unified, effective paragraphs

What is a persuasive appeal?
A) a clear and specific statement that gets your audience listening to your ideas

Revising Your Overall Structure
Once you've finished your first draft, revise it by focusing on its overall structure, paragraphs, sentences, and words.
Unity�Your speech should leave listeners with a strong, lasting impression. To achieve this goal, you

Outlining and Reflecting�Just as you can use outlining to narrow a topic, you can also use it to evaluate the structure of a first draft.
First, summarize the main point of each paragraph. In the margin of your paper, write a heading that describes it.

What is a unified argument?

A unified argument is an argument that focuses on a single important or main idea.

Revising Paragraphs
Revising to Create Parallelism�Speakers use a variety of techniques to help them communicate effectively. One common strategy is to use parallelism, the repetition of words, phrases, or grammatical structures.
Like repetition, parallel

What is one way to revise the following sentence so that it has parallel structure?
The media center will be a vital place to study and learn.
A)The media center will be a vital place to study, to learn, and to explore.

While drafting his speech, Marvin revised the final sentence of his opening paragraph to include a set of parallel ideas that establish an effective flow of ideas.

Which sentence uses parallelism?
A) By working, playing, and dreaming together, we can build a better neighborhood.

Revising Your Sentences: Eliminating Errors in Logic
Look for the following errors in logic as you review your draft. Correct any and all instances you find.
Circular reasoning is an attempt to prove a statement by restating it in a new way.
Either/or arg

Example: Circular Reasoning
This recommendation is illegal because it is against the law.
Example: Either/Or Argument
If we advertise on television, people will buy our magazine.
Example: Questionable Cause-and-Effect
Most offices today use computers inst

circular reasoning

Increasing the minimum wage is important because money is needed.

either/or argument

If we don't buy that blue car, I won't be able to get to school.

questionable cause-and-effect

Most students join after-school clubs because they aren't good at sports.


All cats like tuna.

Revising Your Word Choice
Trim Unnecessary Words and Phrases�Few things are as tiring as listening to someone go on and on about a topic. Avoid boring your audience�trim unnecessary words and phrases from your persuasive speech. Doing so will ensure that

Following are some examples of empty phrases and hedging words:
Empty Phrases
as I said before, needless to say, in my opinion, it is a fact that, it is also true that, there are, the reason was that, the thing is, what I mean is, given the fact that

Read the sentence.
Consumers should try quite hard to buy products that are produced without significant negative effects on the environment.
Which words are unnecessary in the sentence?

try quite hard to

Consider Connotations�A word's dictionary definition is called its denotation. The feelings or associations the word suggests are its connotations. Be sure to write these two definitions in your notebook.
An example of two synonyms with different connotat

in style

Annotating Word Choices�Use + or - signs to mark the positive or negative connotations of important words in your speech. You might use ++ or - - to indicate words with particularly strong connotations.
After marking each important word, look at the overa

Peer Review: Replay
Practicing your speech for a partner is one of the most valuable strategies you can use to review a persuasive speech. After practicing your speech, assess its impact by asking questions such as the following:
� What was your main impr

Editing and Proofreading: Focusing on Proofreading
Before you present your speech aloud, check your grammar, usage, and spelling carefully.
As you proofread your draft, look for words that are commonly mistaken for one another. Check for words that have s

During the rain of Henry the Eight, they're where many be headings.
A) During the reign of Henry the Eighth, there were many beheadings.

Publishing and Presenting: Building Your Portfolio
Speech�Deliver your speech to your classmates or to another audience. While making your presentation, make frequent eye contact with your audience and use hand gestures to emphasize your key points. Speak

Publishing and Presenting: Reflecting on Your Writing
After you have completed your persuasive speech, take some time to think about the experiences you had while writing and presenting it.
Use these questions to direct your reflection, and record your re


practicing your speech for a partner


the emotional associations that a word calls to mind


the objective meaning of a word; its definition independent of other associations the word calls to mind

empty phrases

a group of unnecessary words that offer no content to your audience

hedging words

a group of unnecessary words that lessen the impact of what you say to your audience

Which word has a negative connotation?


Persuasive Speeches I
In this section, we have learned the following:
To generate a topic for an effective persuasive speech, start with a topic that truly interests or concerns you.
Create an outline to narrow your topic and focus on an aspect that you c