AP English Language

STEP 4
Review the Knowledge You Need to Score High

CHAPTER 9

Comprehensive Review—Argument

Some Basics

What Is ARGUMENT?

In its broadest sense, all writing is argument. It is the presentation and defense or support of a specific thesis, assertion, or claim. This thesis can be a strongly held belief, a critical view of an issue, a presentation of an insight, a search for the truth, or even a description of that mountain view that moved you to tears that you hope others will share. To convince the reader to accept the position, the writer provides support using objective facts or logical evidence, and sometimes, even emotional appeals.

You can find argument almost anywhere: from ads in your favorite magazine or on television to academic journals, from “Peanuts” to political cartoons, from letters to the editor of Sports Illustrated to editorials in the New York Times, and from a plea to your parents to a President’s speech to the nation. Possibly the only writing that is not an argument is a piece that offers no support for a claim.

What Is the Difference Between Argument and Persuasion?

The intended results of each of these strategies is where the difference lies. ALL persuasion is a type of argument. The goal of an argument is to have you accept the writer’s thesis. However, with persuasion, after you’ve accepted the position of the writer, the goal is to have you get moving and do something. For example:

ARGUMENT: Walking is necessary for good health.

PERSUASION: I want you to walk every day for good health.

What Does the AP Expect Me to Be Able to Do with an Argumentative Essay?

Most frequently, the AP exam will present you with a prompt that could be:

  • A brief excerpt
  • A quotation
  • A statement
  • An anecdote

You will then be directed to defend (agree with), challenge (disagree with), or qualify (agree with some and disagree with other parts of the text) the:

  • Author’s position
  • Statement’s main idea
  • Narrative’s main point

Other types of argumentative prompts will ask you to:

  • Write an essay indicating which idea among a given set is more valid
  • Explore the validity of an assertion

No matter which type of argumentation prompt is given, the AP expects you to be able to:

  • Take a position on the issue or situation
  • Support your position using your own experience, reading, and/or observations

How Do You Argue a Point or Position?

Basically, support for your position on an issue should be rational and logical, not emotional. It should be objective rather than biased (one-sided). This support can be developed using any of the rhetorical strategies and devices we’ve reviewed for you in Chapter 8.

The classical formula for an argument is:

  1. Present the issue/situation/problem.
  2. State your (writer’s) assertion/claim/thesis.
  3. Support your claim.
  4. Acknowledge and respond to real or possible opposing views.
  5. Make your final comment or summary of the evidence.

The order of the presentation can be varied, and any of the rhetorical strategies can be employed. You must make certain that your support/evidence is appropriate and effective.