What Is Argumentative Writing?

Written by Scott Wilson

what is argumentative writing

What is argumentative writing? Argumentative writing is designed to prove a particular point with the use of supporting evidence, effective rhetoric, and persuasive debate. Most argumentative writing is clearly structured and attempts to convince the reader that the writer’s position is correct.

Argumentative writing is a style that is taught to most students during their primary and secondary studies. Like expository writing, it is usually taught following a standard formula that follows the five-paragraph essay format:

While expository writing seeks only to inform and educate, often in the same type of format, argumentative writing goes further. In an argumentative piece, the writer takes a position on the subject and presents evidence that attempts to persuade the reader to agree with that position.

Unlike expository writing, there’s no requirement in argumentative writing that all sides of an argument or all evidence be presented. Doing so might ultimately be more persuasive, if the writer has convincing counterpoints for opposing views, but the point of argumentative writing is to convince rather than inform, so it could be more effective to leave out any mention of the opposing view.

The Basic Elements of Argumentative Writing

Although the five-paragraph essay is the most commonly taught form of argumentative writing, it’s not mandatory. In fact, many argumentative pieces of writing are expanded into much longer papers, or even books.

Each of them will have similar components, however:

A Thesis Statement

The basis of the argument is presented early in the piece, often in the first paragraph. This outlines the position of the writer and explains what the remainder of the work will attempt to convince the reader to believe.

Evidential Support

The writer also has to introduce evidence of some sort to support the thesis. This may be factual or logical support.


Logical or rhetorical assertions regarding the evidence designed to convince the reader that the thesis is correct.


The conclusion of the pieces wraps up with a summary of the points made and tie them back to the thesis statement

Argumentative pieces are often less formal than expository writing, however. Writers are less constrained by format than by finding successful ways to prove their point. This can mean that rhetorical or literary devices might take priority over a carefully ordered list of evidence. And argumentative essays dealing with more complex subjects might be broken apart into separate sections involving sub-arguments and longer developments of evidence to make the point.

What Is the Purpose of Argumentative Writing?

The point of argumentative writing is to change opinions or behaviors among readers.

There can be many reasons for wanting to change actions or opinions. These are as diverse as:

In short, argumentative writing can be used effectively any time the writer would like to change the reader’s mind about a certain subject, or as a spur to action for beliefs that may not have been strongly held previously.

Argumentative writing has a long history in philosophy and politics.

Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France and its counterpoint, Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man, offer some of the most influential arguments on political philosophy ever made. They continue to shape various political positions even today.

Such pieces not only allow the writer to advance and articulate their own position, but often help readers to consider their own thoughts on the subject of the argument. Argumentative writing is often most persuasive when it incorporates other perspectives on the subject and dismantles them or provides counter-arguments to likely rebuttals. This introduces more information to the reader and different ways of thinking about the topic.

Creative writing degree programs do not typically teach argumentative writing with any particular emphasis. They do, however, make sure it is in the fully-stocked toolbox that all graduates leave with, along with other literary and rhetorical tools writers should have.