Fast food is everywhere. Many of us don’t stop to think what we are eating when we grab a convenient bite to eat on the way to school or an out-of-town ball game. Lately, however, the media have reported the harmful effects of this type of food. Your principal is considering whether or not to add fast food selections to the cafeteria menu. The principal has asked for recommendations from various groups of people, including students. Think about what would be best for the students at your school.
Directions for Writing
Write a letter to your principal in which you present your position on the issue of adding fast food to the school menu. Provide reasons and evidence that would convince the principal to accept or reject adding fast food to the menu.
(reprinted from Gordon and Murphy, From Formula to Form)
A Sample Prompt, Marked to Show Issue, Audience, and Task
Writing Topic Number 1
Fast food is everywhere. Many of us don’t stop to think before we grab a convenient bite to eat on the way to school or an out-of-town ball game. Lately, however, the media have covered more and more stories about the harmful effects of this food.
Your principal is considering whether or not to add fast food selections to the cafeteria menu. The principal has asked for recommendations from various groups of people, including students. Think about what would be best for your school.
Directions for Writing
(Write a letter to your principal) in which you support your position on the issue of fast food in your school. [Provide reasons and evidence] that would convince the principal to accept or reject fast-food offerings for the students in your high school.
background information to introduce the issue in a broad context and the different positions.
the issue as it applies to the writer
[Suggestions for how to persuade the audience. These suggestions apply to all the Writing Topics.]
A note about the letter format: The format merely provides a realistic type of response to issue. The test response is a formal essay, even if the prompt specifies a letter or speech.
Approaches to Persuasion—from the Writer’s Perspective
“What I want and why”
“What I want, why you (my audience) probably won’t want to give it to me, and what we can do about your objections that will satisfy both of us”
“Here’s what’s wrong—or at least unattractive—
about the other options or points of view and that’s why you will agree with my choice because it looks better by comparison”
Approaches to Persuasion from the Writer’s Perspective
“Let me tell you a story that will make my point, make you cry, or make you so mad you want to fix the problem”
“You’ve got a problem and not only do I know what’s wrong with the solutions you’re thinking about, I have a solution that will work for both of us”
“We’re both on the same team, the winning team”
Appealing to Emotions
Forming an alliance with the audience
Playing to audience’s ego
Sharing a bonding story
Making a confession
Loaded, compelling description
Letting the story speak for the writer
Going for guilt
Making the reader laugh
Creating an analogy or parallel experience
Appealing to Logic and Reason
Pointing out the practical benefits for the audience of giving the writer what he or she wants
Prewriting Questions for the Writer to Think About
1. What is the issue?
2. What do I think and feel about the issue?
What are the different sides of the issue?
Which side of the issue (for or against, agree or disagree, solution to the problem, or plan to propose) do I have the most to write about?
Who is the audience?
What concerns and objections are the audience likely to have about the issue?
What can I say in response to these concerns to minimize the audience’s objections?
What is my focusing statement (i.e., my position on the issue)?
Writing Sample on the Fast Food Topic What NOT To Do: The Ineffective Five Paragraph Formula
Dear Principal O’Connor:
Fast food should be served in our school for three reasons. The first reason is because fast food tastes good. The second reason is because fast food is cheap. The third reason is because teenagers like fast food.
The first reason fast food should be served in our school is because it tastes good. French fries are the best. I am sure you agree they are tasty. I don’t know if you are thinking about pizza, but my friends and I love pizza with pepperoni and lots of extra cheese. Burgers are good too, especially the ones with cheese and bacon.
The second reason you should give us fast food is because fast food is cheap. Everywhere you go you can find 99 cent specials. I could get fries and a burger for less than two dollars. Pizza is cheap too because my friends and I could share a whole pizza. Why would we want to pay for salad when we can get our favorite foods?
The third reason is because teenagers like fast food. We don’t like healthy stuff. The food in our cafeteria is not very good. That’s why we throw it away or spend our money in the vending machine. We are teenagers after all. We like French fries and pizza.
In conclusion of my writing, you should give us fast food. The first reason is because it tastes good. The second reason it because it is cheap. The third reason is because teenagers like fast food.
A Quiz on the Fast Food Essay to Illustrate How Much Information is Missing
What is the current menu?
What is wrong with the food that is currently served in the school cafeteria?
How much money are students currently spending on school lunches?
How much money would fast food save?
What reasons does the writer provide for not adding fast food options? Why are these reasons relatively unimportant?
Who will object to adding fast food?
What does the writer recommend the principal do to respond to the objections?
How is the cafeteria menu connected to the purpose of school and what the principal wants to accomplish?
Why should the principal give teens what they want? In other words, what’s in it for the principal?
Repetition of Simple Language in the Formula-Driven Essay
First, second, third reason
More Effective Word Choice
Instead of fast food
“Answer to a busy mother’s prayers,”
“food you don’t have to wait for,”
specific foods or brand names
Word Choice and Description
Instead of cheap
“99 cent special”
“a filling meal with enough money left to eat tomorrow”
Moving from Formula-Driven Writing to Writing for Meaning
Ineffective Formulaic “Three Reasons”
The Loose List
Effective Approach With Major Supporting Ideas Connected to Each Other and to the Position on the Issue
What the Major Supporting Ideas Are
Fast food tastes good
Fast food is cheap
Teenagers like fast food
School is the perfect setting for all kinds of learning
A varied menu, including fast foods, would make the cafeteria into a science lab
Once we learn through experimentation what foods make us feel good and which ones make us feel bad, we’ll make smart choices.
Why the Approach Does or Does Not Work
The three reasons are simplistic
Small ideas, such as “cheap,” lead to lists of details such as the names of foods and prices
The three reasons show a lack of understanding of the major supporting points that would work for the principal as the audience
The major supporting ideas are connected through an internal logic, provided by a unifying concept- education- and an organizational plan showing cause-effect and problem-solution connections
between the ideas
The ideas demonstrate an understanding of the audience, appealing to the principal’s need to promote education
Avoiding Formulaic Persuasive Writing
Examine the prewriting list of “what I know and feel about the issue” for connections between the ideas such as cause-effect, comparison-contrast, or order of importance.
Change places with the audience assigned in the writing topic. look at the reasons and evidence to support your (the writer’s) position from the audience’s point of view. What’s “wrong” with what you want? What can you say to both acknowledge the audience’s objections and get them to change?
Instead of the five-paragraph persuasive essay, provide support for the position on the topic through an extended narrative. Tell a compelling story that is clearly linked to both the issue and your position on it.
Instead of the five-paragraph persuasive essay, produce a counter argument that shows awareness of how the audience thinks about the issue. Present a well-thought out alternative.
Instead of a five-paragraph persuasive essay, reframe the issue as a problem and offer convincing solution(s).
Avoiding Formulaic Persuasive Writing While Maintaining a Formal Structure
Restate rather than repeat the thesis and major supporting points in the body and conclusion.
Save the supporting points for the body paragraphs. Write an interesting introduction that uses a stated controlling idea as transition to the body paragraphs.
Avoid repetition of key ideas by adding details that answer the reader’s who, what, why, when, where and how questions. More importantly, develop the "so what.“
Avoid repetition by stating key ideas with synonyms, pronouns, words that are more specific or general, descriptive or figurative language, nicknames or proper nouns (if suited to the text) and words or phrases that reveal your point of view. Do this activity before writing the first draft and again, if needed, at the editing stage.
Persuasive Writing with the Audience in Mind
Topic: Fast Food
Brainstorming Why I (the Writer) Want Fast Food Served in the school cafeteria
Thinking about Why This Idea Works or Does Not Work for My Assigned Audience, the Principal
Changing My Idea to Make It Fit (If I Need To) or Expanding It If It Works
Fast food taste great.
The principal has to stick to a budget and make parents happy, so taste isn’t a good enough reason.
Change the idea
We are currently wasting money because we don’t eat the food that’s served and it’s thrown away.
Serving fast food, even once a week, would prevent waste and end up costing less than the current menu
Fast food will make the lunch hour seem like a social event with my friends.
The principal wants us to eat and learn, not eat and play.
Change and then expand
If we have a true break in the middle of the day we will be better students.
Fast food will make lunch feel like a social event without adding any time to the lunch hour.
We’ll get “visiting” out of our system and pay attention when we get back to class.
One meal won’t ruin our health.
Persuasive Signals for a Unifying Concept To Show The Reader The Writer Is Building on Points Already Covered or That More Points Follow, Instead of My First Reason, My Second, My Third
a final reason and finally furthermore likewise next too
again another in addition more other with
also for example last of all moreover similarly
Persuasive Signals for Support of a Generalization To Let The Reader Know A Specific Example of the More General Point is Coming Next, to Move the Reader from “What” to “So What” or “Why”
for example just as happened to X such as to illustrate
for instance much like that is
in the same way that specifically to demonstrate
Persuasive Signals for Comparison Contrast and Counter Argument To Move The Reader Through Changes in Point of View
While I respect
While there is merit in your
point of view
While there is value in what
you are proposing
While you may believe that
Some believe that … While others
On the other hand
Persuasive Signals for Comparison Contrast To Announce To The Reader/Audience That The Writer Is Aware of Different Points of View
although even though on the contrary still
but however on the other hand while
conversely in spite of otherwise
despite nevertheless rather
Persuasive Signals for Comparison Contrast To Indicate to The Reader That The Writer Sees Similarities and/or Differences Between Points of View on the Issue
as a result of due to if…then since therefore whether
because from in order that so thus while
consequently hence resulting from so that unless yet
Persuasive Signals for Problem Solution To Identify the Problem or Problems
A concern I have
A concern we share
A serious matter
A little-known problem
A well-known problem
One way of correcting. . .
An easy and inexpensive method/plan/solution
An alternative to
A better choice to deal with X
A way to fix
To Signal the Solutions and Value of the Writer’s Ideas
Improving the ORGANIZATION Domain FROM A LOOSE LIST TO AN ESSAY WITH A PLAN
An Ineffective Strategy
An Effective Strategy –Sample I
Support – A List of Unrelated Ideas
A List that Lacks An Underlying Plan
Supporting Ideas Linked to a Unifying Concept
Underlying Plan Based on Unifying Concept
Fast food tastes good.
Fast food is cheap.
Teens like fast food.
Note: These ideas are “too small” to develop
Each idea is related to the topic but the ideas are not logically linked to each other.
The third idea (teen likes) repeats the first two rather than further elaborating the writer’s position. That is, teen like fast food because it tastes good and they can afford it.
Students attend school to learn about academics and about life.
School is the perfect place to learn how diet affects us. We can study, do research and even experiment.
School may be the only place some students will learn good nutrition.
All the supporting ideas focus on and thus support a single concept: High school is the time and place to learn about health.
Improving the ORGANIZATION Domain FROM A LOOSE LIST TO AN ESSAY WITH A PLAN
An Effective Strategy--Sample II
Supporting Ideas Connected on the Basis of Problem-Solution
food (and therefore money) is being wasted
students are complaining about the cafeteria menu
your time is being spent on this issue but you have more important things to do
you have to balance giving students what they want with doing what’s right
The essay would begin by identifying the problem and the principal’s role in solving that problem. The writer would then follow with easy, appealing solutions. The final bullet in the Problem list provides an effective conclusion.
Adding fast food to the menu could save money because students would “clean their plates” and you would not need as many cafeteria workers.
Fast food offerings could be limited to one day a week (Fast Food Friday) which would improve attendance and prevent health conscious students and parents from complaining.
Local fast food chains could be required to provide scholarships which would help the school’s money situation.
The money you save could be used to provide better tasting healthy food (purchase ingredients, send the cooks to school)
Putting a group of students in charge of surveying students to select the new menu would teach us responsibility and free up your time to deal with other problems.
The Issue: Whether or not to Writer's Position on the Issue: No
serve fast food in the
school cafeteria Audience: Principal
Focusing Statement: Spending the day in a kids' museum taught me the dangers of fast food.
I’m changing what I think about fast food!
Description: I do everything I can to get my parents to let me stay in the hotel while they take my annoying little brother to a museum called The Health Adventure.
To get away from the pest I crawl into an artery tunnel
Along the way I read signs about food and exercise, especially junk food
I'm looking at my future if I keep eating the greasy food I love
I back out of the tunnel before I get stuck for life.
I catch up with my family. My brother is "shopping" for fruits and vegetables.
This wasn't so dumb after all
Closure and connection to the issue: I promise to eat less junk food and to educate my friends.
Unless we want a heart attack served with those fries we should keep our current menu.
The Counter Argument
In Counter Argument the writer sets himself up as the expert, the authority on a different point of view. To write effective counter argument, the writer must learn to think like the reader-audience, to stand, momentarily in their shoes. The thought process requires the writer to
be clear about what he/she wants and why
identify each of the reader-audience’s objections to his/her position and the reasons he/she have taken that stance
offer a well-thought out reply i.e., to counter to each objection
elaborate each counter argument so that it is fully understood by the reader-audience
DOES THE WRITER WANT?
WHAT THE WRITER KNOWS ABOUT THE TOPIC-SPECIFIC AUDIENCE
OBJECTIONS THE AUDIENCE IS LIKELY TO HAVE TO WHAT THE WRITER WANTS
IDEAS THE WRITER CAN USE TO COUNTER THE OBJECTIONS
THE COUNTER ARGUMENT THOUGHT PROCESS
Development and Organizational Strategies for Persuasive Writing
Method: The Counter Argument (Addresses the Reader’s Concerns)
Portion of the Essay Content of the Essay
Acknowledges and then reviews the widely held viewpoint on the issue, generally the audience’s point of view
Makes the issue or problem clear
Does not reveal the writer's supporting ideas
Ends with a transition to the body of the essay, introducing the writer’s differing viewpoint on the issue.
Multiple paragraphs (no magic number) that present the writer’s logic for holding his or her different point of view
Each of the audience’s (objections opposing arguments or reasons) are presented and countered with logic or an appeal to emotions
The writer’s counterarguments are thoroughly developed, distinctive, not repetitious or overlapping
Counterarguments are logically sequenced based on their actual content (for example, time sequence, order of importance, then and now…)
Avoids repetition of ideas already covered
Evolves out of the writer’s specific arguments
Reminds the audience of the larger controversial issue and value of varying perspectives on the issue
TOPIC OR ISSUE: Should fast food be served in the school cafeteria?
WRITER’S POSITION ON THE ISSUE: No
What the Audience Thinks about the Issue: The Reader's Concern
Waste is a problem but eating poorly is a bigger one.
C. The school needs money
Money is mentioned as a way of demonstrating the writer understands the principal’s responsibilities
D. Saying no will be unpopular
Some students, like me, will help you convince other students. Leaders have to do what's unpopular.
E. Parents, not educators, are responsible
for what teens eat.
While it’s true that. . . what we learn at school also influences us.
My parents may complain if you. . .
Some parents don’t know themselves. .
My parents stick to the healthy items.
The Problem Solution Essay
Content of the Problem Solution Essay
Makes the nature of the problem clear through definition
May identify a series of related problems
May argue for the seriousness of the problem, giving a
series of consequences
May acknowledge the audience's role in solving the
Ends with a transition to the body of the essay, suggesting a solution is forthcoming
The writer’s analysis of the problem and the possible
solutions are thoroughly developed
Multiple paragraphs (no magic number) that present the writer’s logic for holding his or her point of view
If different solutions are proposed, they begin with the
ones the writer rejects
Appeals to the audience to help solve the problem or
accept the writer's solution
Brings the argument to a close
Evolves out of the writer’s specific arguments
WHAT DOES THE WRITER WANT?
WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO THE AUDIENCE? (THE INDIVIDUAL WHO CAN GIVE THE WRITER WHAT HE/SHE WANTS)
HOW THE WRITER’S PLAN WILL WORK
RESULTS OF THE WRITER’S PLANS
ADVANTAGES OF THE PLAN FOR THE AUDIENCE
ADVANTAGES FOR THE AUDIENCE
THE PROBLEM SOLUTION THOUGHT PROCESS
Introductions that Engage the Reader and Set the Stage for the Writer’s Position on the Issue
Setting the stage with description
Placing the issue in a broader, more meaningful context
Identifying multiple points of view,followed by the position the writer will defend
A brief, compelling anecdote
The Introduction Often Ends with a Sentence or Two that Announces the Writer’s Position
It’s almost lunchtime here at Georgia High. I close my eyes and imagine the mushy green beans and dry, stringy chicken that await me. Oh, and don’t forget the styrofoam granola bar for desert. Does this sound like a teen’s food fantasy? I think not! Principal O’Connor, while fast food is not healthy, it does have potential benefits for our beloved school.
Sample Introduction: Setting the Stage with
Being a teenager is both challenging and rewarding. One of the best ways for us to grow without getting seriously hurt is to make choices that have consequences. High school is a time and place for us learn. Even something as trivial as whether or not to eat fast food for lunch provides the opportunity for important life lessons.
Sample Introduction: Placing the Issue in a Broader, More Meaningful Context
Our parents send us to school to learn enough to get into college or get a good job. They assume that the school is safe and probably never give a thought to the food that’s served. Ask the teachers about lunch and they think “yeah, a few minutes of peace and quiet with my teacher friends.” For me and my fellow students, though, the topic of school lunches is a big concern. If we add fast food choices to the menu, you will make parents, teachers, students, and yourself very happy. Happy students are well-behaved individuals who want to learn!
Sample Introduction: Identifying Multiple Points of View Followed by the Position the Writer Will Defend
I’ll never hear their insults again. I’ll never watch them watching me as I add a desert to my tray. After all, I paid for it and what harm can one desert do to my 300 pounds. Nope, I won’t vomit in the bathroom before returning to class. I won’t cry. I won’t diet. I’ll just swallow this whole calorie-free bottle of pills. Principal O’Connor, while I don’t know what obese teens think when contemplating suicide, just the possibility this could happen here makes me oppose serving fast food for lunch at Georgia High.
Sample Introduction: A Brief, Compelling Anecdote
Conclusions that Bring the Writer’s Argument to a Close
Remind the reader/rater/audience of the essence of the argument (without repetition)
Extend the argument from the immediate issue to a more meaningful context
Remind the audience of personal connections to the issue
Provide resolution to a problem or make a recommendation that is reasonable or appealing to the audience
The Style Domain
EVIDENCE OF AUDIENCE AWARENESS IN PERSUASIVE ESSAYS
Presence of Evidence – What the Writer Does
Absence of Evidence
Identifies the Audience
Address to the Audience
Writer writes to self
Word choice conflicts with or contradicts the assigned audience
Major Supporting Ideas/Information/Examples and /or Details are Inappropriate to Audience
Reference to audience switches often enough to be confusing
Writer attacks, threatens, or insults the audience
First Person-”I want you to…”
Second person-”You should…”
“Dear Mrs. Walker…”
Knowledge of the subject establishes writer as an authority
Explains “what” or “who” rather than assuming audience knows.
Includes supporting points that are compelling to the particular audience
Relates to goals of audience- “As and American…”
Introduction sets the stage or hooks the audience
Conclusion gets the reader thinking
Relates by including self-”I think we should…”
If we take a stand…”
Asks audience to consider writer’s situation or circumstances
How Writers Make Decisions to Frame Their Ideas to Influence the Audience
Examples ofSubject-Specific Word Choice that Reveals the Writer’s Point of Viewand Presents the Writer’s Point of View in a Favorable Light and the Alternatives in an Unfavorable Light
To oppose serving fast food in the school cafeteria
The obesity epidemic
Gross, greasy, globules of fat left on the plate where tasty fries used to be
To support serving fast food served in the school cafeteria
Americans are free to choose whether it’s where to live, what to worship, or even what to eat for lunch
The tantalizing aroma of everyone’s favorite vegetable, the french fry
What teen wants to be known as “granola boy”?
How Writers Frame Their Ideas to Make Them Persuasive Sample Topic: Course to Add to Prepare HS Students for Real Life
To establish the seriousness of the problem
My brother is dodging bullets in Iraq and I’m dodging insults in the hallway.
Needing to know the difference between mitosis and meiosis ends with the graduation test. Needing to know the difference between right and wrong is a lifetime lesson.
To establish the positive nature of the solution (the new course)
Knowing how to defend myself is essential whether I’m in a war zone or a mall.
Facts are important whether we are taking tests or choosing presidential candidates. What is even more important, though, is knowing that cheating is wrong, whether you did it to pass a test you didn’t study for or because you think you’re “above the law” like some of our Presidents.
What Writers Say to Show They Are Persuading Acknowledging Varied Points of View—Speaking to the Audience
You might find reason to disagree, but. . .
You might be asking yourself how we can. . .
If you are saying that we do not. . .
It’s important to keep in mind that. . .
We all know that. . .
Most people do not know that. . .
It is my belief. . .
I would like to argue that. . .
Research shows. . .
9 out of 10. . .
What Writers Say to Show They Are Being Persuasive
Direct Address to the Audience
. . . And yes, that’s a compliment. . . .
. . . And I hope you. . .
. . . For you to consider my suggestion. . .
. . .I might have the answer to your question if you keep reading my letter. . . .
. . .One main thing you are probably looking for. . .
. . .Trust me. . .
. . .I understand that you need. . .
How would we. . . . Might be what you’re thinking right now. Here are my thoughts on that.
What Writers Say to Show They Are Persuading
Words That Show the Writer’s Point of View
. . . should. . .
. . . would want to. . .
. . . the best person. . .
. . . an outstanding choice. . .
. . . extreme inspiration. . .
. . . especially eager. . .
. . . incredible. . .
. . . fantastic. . .
. . . inspire
. . . less fortunate. . .
Value-laden Word Choice
Words Expressing the Writer’s Position on the Issue
approve believe conclude encourage
reassure recommend recognize spent time considering support
Value-laden Word Choice
Words to Establish the Value of the Writer’s Point of View