I recently attended a workshop on academic writing. The workshop organiser advised that persuasive sentences should present the conclusion followed by evidence. In contrast, sentences that provide an explanation should present the evidence followed by conclusions.

Is anyone else aware of this structure? Is it commonly used in academic writing? Is it a standard sentence structure?

  • That should apply to any language, at least theoretically speaking. Have you asked on writersSE or another Q&A? This issue is not about the English language per se.
    – Kris
    Nov 9 '13 at 10:02
  • 4
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is not about the English language per se.
    – Kris
    Nov 9 '13 at 10:05
  • @Kris I don't disagree with you but, if you don't mind blurring language and culture, there are interesting differences. Japanese persuasive essays often omit their thesis entirely: and what could be more persuasive than allowing the reader to reach a conclusion for themselves?
    – Pitarou
    Nov 9 '13 at 15:58

It isn't a sentence structure. It's an argument structure, and there's no particular reason why you have to squeeze the argument into a single sentence.

And, in general, there's nothing "standard" about these structures either. It's simply a matter of what is, and isn't, effective.

  • Persuasive Sentences: 1. “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” ; 2. “If you can't fly, run; if you can't run, walk; if you can't walk, crawl, but by all means keep moving.” ; 3. “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” [from sources]
    – Kris
    Nov 9 '13 at 10:32
  • 1
    Explanatory sentences: 1. Either this man's dead, or my watch has stopped. 2. I don't wish to be a member of any club that will accept me as a member. 3. I'm only dining with this woman because she reminds me of you; that's why I like youyou remind me of you! [from a dubious source] Nov 9 '13 at 10:52
  • Was that purely an opinion by the way?
    – Kris
    Nov 10 '13 at 7:06
  • Was what purely an opinion?
    – Pitarou
    Nov 10 '13 at 7:08

As Pitarou says, the workshop advice makes sense only in the context of a longer piece of writing. It does not apply at the sentence level.

A common way of organising a persuasive essay is to include the conclusion in the introduction, and then to spend the rest of the essay supporting that conclusion. The common term for the "conclusion in the introduction" is thesis statement, which is usually the last sentence of the introduction.

Expository or analytical essays also typically include in the introduction some kind of brief summary of material to be covered in the body. This may or may not be referred to as the thesis statement. Sometimes this summary will include a conclusion and sometimes the conclusion will be drawn only in the final paragraph.

How you organize any given piece of writing should be determined by the typical rhetorical patterns for that genre in your field. So attentive reading of examples in that genre is probably more useful than generic advice from a workshop.

OWL at Purdue is a very good source of writing advice in the various genres.

  • Incidentally, the idea does apply as much to sentences, esp., compound sentences, and is indeed employed by writers.
    – Kris
    Nov 9 '13 at 10:04
  • @Kris, You are indeed right if you designate sentences such as following as persuasive and explanatory, respectively: Something terrible must have happened, because she is normally here on time. / She's not here on time, so something terrible must have happened. But I think the term persuasive in particular is more suitably used at the discourse rather than at the sentence level.
    – Shoe
    Nov 9 '13 at 10:22

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