Classical Argument Essay Writing How-to

The term “rhetoric” comes from the Greek “retorikos” meaning “to speak or say.” It is said that the original tenants of rhetoric were taught to Greek farmers, so that they might be able to defend themselves in court.

By taking part in this course, you are entering the study of rhetoric, a discipline that has been at the heart of education for the past 2,500 years. Recognizing and utilizing the techniques of argument & persuasion, you will be able to support your opinions, beliefs and worldviews, not only in print but in your everyday lives. It is said that knowledge of logic and argument, give you the “ability to contend”…

The Classical Argument

As you have undoubtedly read in your textbook (!) a classical argument consists of the following 5 elements:

1) The Introduction: Gains readers’ attention & states your main claim/thesis

2) Background (Narration): Presents any necessary information, including personal narrating, important to your argument

3)Lines of Argument (Reasons & Evidence): Presents good reasons, including logical and emotional appeals, in support of your claim

4) Alt. Lines of Argument (Refutation & Rebuttal): Examines alternative points of view /opposing arguments

5) Conclusion: Elaborates on the implications of your claim and makes clear what you want the audience to think or do


In this section, you provide information so that your audience will understand the nature of the argument at hand. This should include:

• A great hook — the first line of the argumentative essay should grab your reader’s attention

• Establish the relevance of the topic to you and your reader

• State the main claim/thesis

This is the Introduction of the essay.

This should be 1 paragraph in length.

Your main claim or thesis should appear as the last sentence of this paragraph.

Background (Narration)

In this section, you provide information so that your audience can understand the context in which your argument takes place. Depending on your topic, more or less background information will be needed. This section could include:

• History of the debate/issue (keep it brief!)

• Facts relating to the background of the argument (stats, for example)

• Any narration (personal or not) which is relevant to your argument

This should be 1 paragraph in length.

For this section, you will need to do some research—give yourself ample time.

Lines of Argument (Reasons & Evidence)

Adhering carefully to your outline, you now present the heart of your argument: you make or confirm your case. You must discuss the reasons why you have taken your position and cite evidence to support each of those reasons.

• Develop 2-3 reasons why your claim is correct and explain each reason in its own paragraph (including evidence).

• Evidence can include expert opinion, statistics, case studies, personal experience, interviews or studies.

This is the body of your paper and should be multiple paragraphs.

Alternative Lines of Argument (Refutation & Rebuttal)

In this key section, you anticipate and refute opposing views. By showing what is wrong with the reasoning of your opponents, you demonstrate that you have studied the issue thoroughly and have reached the only conclusion that is acceptable in this case.

• These are the answers to the “…but what about…?” questions. Be sure to summarize opponent’s positions, using even-handed language (don’t straw man!)

This is also part of the body of your paragraph and can be one or more paragraphs .

Anticipate what those who oppose your idea would say and attack those positions.

One way to form a strong argument is to prove the opposition wrong


The concluding paragraph should summarize your most important points. In addition, you can make a final appeal to the values and feelings that are likely to leave your audience favorably disposed towards your case..

• Here you can issue a call to action, leave your readers will final questions to think about, or make your case one last time. Your work should be done—so don’t add more information here.

This should be one paragraph.

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