Argumentative vs Persuasive essay: What’s the Difference?

argumentative vs persuasive writing
lorenzocafaro / Pixabay

There are some of you out there that wish they had a Dr. Seuss or Shakespeare gene because you feel writing isn’t your forte. Don’t worry we all do. Writing just a few lines can seem like a daunting task. Especially when your teacher/lecturer specifies that your 2,000-word essay has to be argumentative or persuasive. That’s when you wish the world could just open up and swallow you whole, so you totally have a good excuse for a missed essay.

What’s the Primary Difference Between Argumentative and Persuasive?

Let’s get to the nuts and bolts to this dilemma. When you are faced with persuasive writing you’re dealing with emotion. You are trying to influence or change another person’s mind with your words. The writer tries to make the reader feel better about them by agreeing to the cause. For instance, an advert of a sweet puppy with the title, “How much do you love me?”, or an advert asking “Hands up who wants our kids to live longer?”

An argumentative writing approach is more formal and academic. The writer has to back up his or her argument with hard evidence. This is what persuasive writing is lacking since it’s all about making the reader feel the heartfelt emotion or the writer’s well-defended opinion. Argumentative writing has to dig a little deeper and refer to scientific studies and quotes from experts.

For example, an advert that says, “Smoking Kills”, obviously this claim is backed up by the FDA and WHO. Or by stating that Colgate toothpaste reduces plaque up to 98% for 12 hours, the brand is using scientific evidence to prove its usefulness.

What’s an Argumentative Essay?

When you start your argumentative essay, you have to make sure you’ve got your facts straight. That means, and yes I know, more work. Because the writer has to research and perhaps gather figures and facts before the actual writing process. Once that’s out of the way, you have to approach this style of writing as an attempt to convince the reader that the writer’s idea is true.

This type of writing is basically a debate typed out on paper. As you get into an argumentative essay, you have to be aware of the pros and cons of the argument. The only instance when you can place an opinion under suspicion is when you have proof.

What’s a Persuasive Essay?

In persuasive writing facts and figures are thrown out the window and the writer has to convince the reader of his or her beliefs just with the use of his or her own words. For the sake of lack of facts, the writer has to come up with their own ideas and opinions that can stir up emotion in the reader so much so that they agree with the writer’s opinion.

Therefore, as a persuasive writer you are dealing with a reader’s emotions rather than minds, so knowing your audience is crucial. What would influence a group of teenagers, isn’t going to work successfully for a group of pensioners. Phrases in the First Person Narration and Second Person Narration such as, `In my opinion’,` I believe’, are usually used.

Both types of essays have their challenges that you have to keep in mind. Some students may feel that a little research before writing up a lengthy essay is easier than trying to know what your audience wants to read. Or vice versa. In any case, it’s good to know the difference between an argumentative and persuasive essay before you bite the bullet, get in front of your keyboard to buckle down and write.

In Conclusion

As discussed before, argumentative essays are a genre of writing that attempts to convince the readers to accept the writer’s idea as true, by using statistics, facts and figures, etc. while persuasive essays are a genre of writing that attempts to convince the readers to agree with the writer, by using emotions, personal ideas, etc.

In other words, an argumentative essay is based on logic and reasons while a persuasive essay is based on emotions and personal opinions. When it comes preparations, before writing an argumentative essay, the writer needs to do a thorough research on the subject but does not need to have the knowledge about the audience. On the other hand, the writer can write a persuasive essay even without doing much research, but he should have certain knowledge about the audience. On the other hand, the writer can write a persuasive essay even without doing much research, but he should have certain knowledge about the audience.


  1. very helpful information, I was beginning to think these two are one and the same thing using different words. I almost argued in a persuasive essay.

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