Argument Paragraph


H.L. Mencken said, “I delight in argument, not because I want to convince, but because argument itself is an end.” For Mencken, the greatest opinion-maker of his time, argument alone was sufficient. The rest of us, however, argue to persuade. In other words, we argue because we want to change another person’s mind. The most effective way we can change someone’s mind is to make sure our argument has merit. And the surest way we can make sure of that is to back up the argument with convincing evidence.

In an argument paragraph, evidence comes in three packages: examples, facts, and expert opinion. If I argue that breast milk is healthier for a baby than formula, I must to talk about the science behind that claim. I might cite statistics from studies showing that babies raised on human milk get sick less often. I might cite studies showing that breast milk-raised kids are, on average, taller and thicker-boned than kids raised on formula. To bolster my pro-breast milk argument, I might interview an expert—a scientist who has studied the effects of nursing, or a researcher for La Leche, the pro-breast milk organization. Or I might quote from a scientific paper, a news article, or a book. In short, to make my argument convincing, I must cite a convincing arguer.

Nevertheless, an argument paragraph must state both sides of the issue, then support one of those sides with evidence.

The following paragraph argues against Sesame Street.


For thirty-five years, Sesame Street has been a reliably sweet hour of Muppets and music. But it has never taught kids to read. This comes as startling news not only to parents who have, for decades, been parking their kids in front of the show as a guilt-free alternative to Scooby Doo and Power Rangers, but also to the folks at Sesame Street, a subsidiary of the The Children’s Television Workshop. CTW is a billion-dollar corporation that has sown goodwill, won over TV critics, and earned a fortune, in part by claiming that the show, and its products, teach kids how to read. Relying mostly on a 35-year-old study conducted by the Educational Testing Service, the producers of Sesame Street insist that the show teaches basic literacy. But researchers led by Thomas D. Cook at Northwestern University re-examined the ETS study and found that the learning gain was surprisingly modest. “Kids who watched for a season gained about two letters of the alphabet,” says Cook. If that’s not sobering, consider this: in 1870, a century before Sesame Street’s celebrated debut, the illiteracy rate in America was 20%. By 1992, twenty-five years after Sesame Street’s debut, twenty-five years after a good chunk of American kids had been weaned on Bert and Ernie and Big Bird and guest stars from Paul Simon to Hillary Clinton , the illiteracy rate had climbed to 23%.


Choose one of the following topics, then write an argument paragraph, or come up with your own idea.

Should we ban Internet porn?

Should men always pick up the tab on a date?

Should polygamy be legalized in America?

Should orphans be adopted only by families of their own racial or ethnic group?

Should gay marriage be legalized?

In light of the AIDS pandemic, should all schoolchildren be taught how to use condoms?

Should prayer be allowed back in the public schools?

Should we legalize corporal punishment?

Pick your own topic.





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