Section I -- Outlines for Speaking and Writing

  1. Toulmin Outline
  2. Graphic Organizer
  3. Rhetorical Triangle

Section II -- Speaking

  1. Thesis
  2. Organization
  3. Gabber and Metaphors
  4. Delivery
  5. Note cards
Section III -- Writing
  1. Thesis and Opening Paragraph
  2. Language and Grammar
  3. Organization
  4. Topic Sentences and Clinchers
  5. Conclusions (with commentaries)
  6. Metaphors
Section IV -- Additional Topics
  1. Writing Arguments
  2. Logical Structure of Arguments
  3. Evidence in Arguments
  4. Moving Your Audience
  5. Accommodating Your Audience

Welcome to the Guide to Better Persuasive Speeches and Essays. This handbook should provide effective tips and techniques for writing and speaking for any student in Rhetoric I.  In writing this handbook, I included the basics on giving speeches and writing essays, with many tips and examples.  There are also additional topics about the argument, the core of any speech or paper in rhetoric, and the audience, another key to this class. Hopefully this handbook will be useful in creating persuasive speeches and essays.

Toulmin Outline

The Toulmin Outline is a great way to start any speech or essay. Once a basic claim has been created, it can be refined with this outline, and a reason ("because" statement) can be added.  All of the support is also added at this point.  Along with the claim (in the Toulmin Outline the thesis is known as the enthymeme) is the warrant, which is the value or belief that the audience holds for the claim to be true.  There is also room to rebut the grounds and backing, as well as qualifiers, which limits the force of the enthymeme.



Original Enthymeme:






Conditions of Rebuttal:

        Rebut the Grounds:

        Rebut the Backing:


Graphic Organizer

The graphic organizer can either be the first step in writing a speech or paper, or the next step after the Toulmin outline. The graphic organizer is a detailed way of showing the layout of the thesis, support, and opposition. It also leaves room for the introduction and conclusion. The Graphic Organizer shows how the paper or speech begins and focuses down to the thesis, through the body, and then opens back up into the conclusion, with a restatement of the thesis.



Rhetorical Triangle

Think about these points when creating a persuasive paper or speech:

The Rhetorical Triangle shows the interrelated points of a speech or paper.  The triangle also ties into the three kinds of persuasive appeals: logos, ethos, and pathos. Logos refers to the consistency and clarity of the message and to the logic of the reasons. Ethos refers to the credibility of the writer/speaker, conveyed through tone and style. Pathos refers to the audiences capacity to feel and see what the writer feels and sees.

Thesis, a.k.a Claim

The thesis is the core of the speech.  It must be specific and arguable, which means you need ways to support the thesis and ways to oppose it.  The thesis, also known as the claim, is also arguable when an antithesis can be created for it. Also, a strong claim is one that is focused, which enables the speech to be specific and narrowed, so it does not drift away from the topic.


A strong thesis should be in active rather than passive voice.
Example of active voice: Scientists have conducted experiments.
Example of passive voice: Experiments have been conducted to test the hypothesis.

Mini-lesson courtesy of OWL (Online Writing Lab),

You need ample support for the thesis, and it should be repeated throughout the speech to keep listeners aware of the argument, and to emphasize the thesis.

Examples of clear, focused, arguable theses

  1. Priests accused of sexual abuse should be dealt with by the state courts, not the Church, because the Church is too secretive.
  2. Spanking children is an acceptable form of discipline when used properly.


A speech needs a clear, logical flow of ideas.  If the speech becomes confusing, or drifts from the topic, it is hard for the audience to follow.  The speaker will lose the interest of the audience, as did this man, who has fallen asleep listening to a speech because he could not follow it and lost interest. 

A speech needs support for the claim, and opposition with rebuttal so the audience can see and hear that the claim is valid and arguable.

Grabbers and Metaphors

Grabbers are an important part in any speech, and extremely important when starting a speech.  Grabbers get the audience's attention and gets them ready to listen. Grabbers can also make the audience question what the speech is about, therefore luring them in. Grabbers make the speech easier to start, and the ideas from the grabber can be used throughout the speech so the audience can follow along.

Examples of Grabbers

  1. Imagine hearing the news that your aunt has breast cancer.  Now imagine it's not your aunt; it's YOU.
  2. Shaken by scandal, the nation's Roman Catholic bishops adopt a new policy on ridding the Church of sexually abusive priests.  These are the headlines in all the papers.

A metaphor is a comparison between two things based on a similarity. Similes are the same thing, however similes use "like" or "as" in the comparison, whereas metaphors do not. A metaphor is a great way to end a speech. It brings home the point, and since the metaphor relates the topic to something, it may create a better understanding for the audience.

Examples of Metaphors

  1. Childhood is like a house built on the sand.  Without a strong foundation, it will give in to the pressures of the world; the parents need to be the strong foundation upon which childhood depends. (Courtesy of Shannon Bradford)
  2. Police in high schools create the security blanket, not only for the school, but for the students, faculty, and parents. (Courtesy of Allison Mundy)

"Special Delivery"

The delivery of the speech is probably the biggest aspect that really wows the audience.  Here are some tips for an effective delivery:

  1. Make sure you are easily heard.  Not only do you have to be loud, but you also have to speak clearly – no mumbling.
  2. Look more at the audience then anywhere else.  Scan the audience, trying to look at every member.
  3. Keep upright and balanced.  Don't slouch or lean over the podium.  Make sure to stand on both feet.  This will make you look more professional and confident about your speech.
  4. Control arm movements. Try to keep your arms down and only use them to emphasize parts of the speech.  Too much arm movement can be distracting, but too little makes you seem less confident and not involved in the speech.
  5. Watch the emphasis on your voice.  Do not speak in a monotone.  Pause at key moments in the speech to stress certain points or to move along to the next thought or ending.
  6. Avoid using "um," "ah," or "like."  It takes away from the strength of your speech, and it tells the audience that you don't know where you are.
  7. Change the pace of the speech a little now and then to keep the audience interested.

Note cards

Note cards are useful for a speech. They can be used as an outline while you speak. When possible, don't use note cards at all. But if you must, here are some tips for using note cards:

  1. Write down only the key parts, such as the support and opposition, without the reasons and rebuttal.  If you write everything down, you will be more likely to look at the note cards too much.
  2. Use big lettering and lots of space so the cards are easy to read and you don't have to look at them for a long time (such as trying to see what it says).  Big lettering and lots of space will also deter you from writing all the information down.
  3. Make sure to look at the audience more than the note cards.

Thesis and Opening Paragraph

The opening paragraph should really catch the readers' attention. It should include a grabber or some other way to get the reader interested. The opening paragraph should also include the thesis. Along with these two pieces, the opening paragraph should have an introduction to the topic, and then a focus on the issue before stating the thesis.

The thesis is the core of the speech. It needs to be specific and arguable, which means you need ways both to support and oppose the thesis.

You need ample support for the thesis, and you should repeat it throughout the speech to keep the listener aware, and to emphasize the thesis.

Examples of clear, focused, arguable theses

  1. All high schools should have police officers stationed in their buildings full-time, because the police presence will reduce the number of teen crimes.
  2. Women enrolled in the military should be allowed in all positions, including direct combat situations.

BAD Examples (can you tell why?)

  1. It is necessary that every student learn about cultural diversity and independent thought in college, because it will help later on in life.
  2. Breast cancer surgery patients need long-term emotional support after treatment because it helps their quality of life over the years.

Language and Grammar

Here are some points to remember when writing an essay:

  1. Watch out for the word "it."  This word can confuse readers as to what the "it" goes to.  Try to limit yourself to one "it" per paragraph, or better yet, per page.  Doing this will help make your writing more focused.
  2. Try not to use unsupported generalizations, i.e. "most graduates" if there are no numbers to support the generalizations.  Ask yourself "How do you know?"  If you can't answer that question, don’t use the statement.
  3. Avoid using pronouns, which can confuse readers.
  4. Never end a sentence or paragraph with a pronoun. This is a weak way to end a sentence or paragraph, and the end should be a power position.
  5. Make sure all the punctuation is correct.  Use commas and semicolons properly.


Essays need a clear and logical flow of ideas so readers can follow the writer's thought process.  Just because you understand all the ideas in your head doesn’t mean readers can.  If the essay gets confusing, it is much harder to follow along, and the readers will lose interest.

You cannot have an unclear thought process; otherwise the support and opposition of the thesis will not make any sense.  It is a good idea to use a graphic organizer before writing the paper to get a clear flow of ideas.

Transitions are important in keeping good organization to the essay. These let the reader know where the paper is going. Topic sentences and clinchers are other writing techniques which help the organization and overall flow of the paper.

Topic Sentences and Clinchers

Make sure to use topic sentences to let the reader know what the paragraph is about and what that paragraph has to do with the thesis.

Be sure to give clues as to the paragraph's purpose, and how it relates to the thesis.

Here are some examples of transitions that are helpful in writing:

First, Second, Third, etc.
However, But, etc.
Overall, then,
In fact,
Most important,
On the other hand,
In conclusion,
For instance,
for example...

Clinchers are useful in summarizing support.  Clinchers are also very important in summing up the paragraph and giving more clues to the paragraphs purpose. You don't want the reader to be asking "So? What's the point of that?" If they ask, then you have not done a good job of relating the paragraph to the thesis.

Example (argument on eating disorders): Without help, physical emotional and behavioral damages will not improve and the victim will move closer and closer to death with each passing day.  (Courtesy of Shannon Bradford)


Conclusions should include the thesis, and a bit of a commentary about the thesis and main idea.  This signals to the reader that the paper is coming to a close.

Don't put new ideas in the conclusion.  This opens up new paths for the paper that won't be addressed if the paper is at an end. You could, on the other hand, add a commentary, or a summary of your personal explanation or interpretation of the thesis.  A commentary can also be used at the end of the opposition and support sections of the essay.

A good technique is to return to the opening example (if the paper has one) in the conclusion.  It gives the opening more meaning, and is another clue that the essay is ending.


Intro - Imagine a man named Joe is given a project to complete in a group at work, and does not understand why one of the group members does not show up for a meeting because of a religious holiday...
Conclusion - ...If Joe had acquired this knowledge, he would have a better understanding of his co-workers.


Metaphors are a great way to relate the thesis to something to help the reader understand the thesis and to give the paper a nice twist.

Metaphors can be used in a conclusion to end a paper, and parts of the metaphor can be used in the beginning, as a grabber.

A metaphor is a comparison between two things based on a similarity. Similes are the same thing, however similes use "like" or "as" in the comparison, whereas metaphors do not. A metaphor is a great way to end a speech. It brings home the point, and since the metaphor relates the topic to something, it may create a better understanding for the audience.

Steps in Writing Metaphors

  1. Choose a noun or phrase from your topic and thesis.
  2. Ask yourself, "What different things can I compare it to?"
  3. If you need to, write out a simile first, then think about how to rearrange the words.
  4. Write your metaphor.


Examples of metaphors courtesy of OWL (Online Writing Lab)

Writing Arguments

When writing arguments, try to achieve these two goals:

  1. Persuade the audience towards your stance on an issue.
  2. See the issue in its entirety so your stance has an ethical consideration of conflicting views.

Ways to improve your writing process:

  1. Have a starting point / issue that you may be undecided about. Ask who would be interested, who would disagree and why, and who needs to be persuaded.
  2. Research the issue carefully to get as much information as possible, and try to understand both sides of the argument.
  3. Make some sort of map or chart with all the points of the argument to get a nice flow of ideas and to see what's missing (think Toulmin and Graphic Organizer).
  4. Write a first draft to get down all the ideas you have and to get an idea of how much information you really have.
  5. Revise and edit for content and then for grammar and style to create the perfect argument.

Another idea is to play the believer / doubter game. As a believer, you are open-minded to all the ideas presented, which you listen fully to, and suspend any disbelief. As the doubter, you are critical and judgmental, finding all the flaws in the argument, support, and any other ideas presented.

Logical Structure of Arguments

Enthymeme, summed up:

  1. Has a claim and a reason, plus a warrant.
  2. Claims are supported with reason. Reason is usually stated with a because clause attached to the claim.
  3. To create a complete logical structure, an unstated assumption must be expressed in addition to the claim and reason.
  4. The unstated assumption, or warrant, should be a belief, value, or principle that the audience grants.
  5. The stated reason should have grounds, which is the supporting evidence that goes with the claim. The grounds answer the question "How do you know that...?" The warrant also needs support, which is called the backing. The backing answers the question "Why do you believe that...?"
  6. The grounds and backing also should be argued, since there may be a resistant audience that might try to refute the argument.  These are the conditions of rebuttal, which would be the grounds and backing for the antithesis of your argument.

Do these points of the enthymeme sound familiar?  They should, because they represent the Toulmin system, which is where the Toulmin Outline came from.  The Toulmin system focuses less on formal logic and more on an audience-based model.

Evidence in Arguments

Here are some sources of evidence to support your argument:

Here are some ways to use evidence persuasively:

Moving Your Audience

The impact of the argument on the audience depends on the audience's acceptance of the underlying assumptions, beliefs, or values. To move your audience, find enthymemes that have reasons deeply rooted in the values of the audience.

Ask these questions about your audience to find the best reasons for your enthymeme:

How to create an effective ethos (appeal to credibility):

How to create pathos (appeal to emotions):

Accommodating Your Audience

One way to persuade your audience is to determine the audience's resistance to your views.

If you are appealing to a supportive audience, you can use a one-sided argument. A one-sided argument only expresses the views of the writer or speaker without summarizing and responding to the opposition.

If you are appealing to a neutral or undecided audience, you can use a classical, or multisided, argument.  A multisided argument is one that presents the writer or speaker’s position but also summarizes and responds to any objections the audience might have. The writer or speaker would want to respond to the opposition to get the audience to be supportive of his or her views.

To appeal to a resistant audience, a different type of multisided argument can be used.  This argument would be a delayed thesis or Rogerian argument.  A resistant audience would be untouched by a classical argument, because it attacks their views too quickly.  For resistant audiences, it might be better to keep the issue open and delay revealing your position until the end.

The Rogerian argument usually begins with the writer or speaker exploring the common ground between himself and the audience.  In exploring common ground, the writer/speaker tries to state the audience’s side fairly and objectively.  In the body of the argument, the writer/speaker gives an objective look at his or her position, avoiding loaded language. The conclusion is where the thesis lies, phrased so that it seems the writer/speaker made concessions towards the audience's views, but shows that his or her view is acceptable.

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