WRD 104: Composition & Rhetoric II Rotating Header Image

Reasons & Purposes for Arguing and Persuading

Arguing to convince: claim + support

More often than not, out-and-out defeat of another is not only unrealistic but also undesirable. Rather, the goal is to convince other persons that they should change their minds about an issue. A writer must provide reasons so compelling that the audience willingly agrees with the writer’s conclusion. Such is the goal of advocates of assisted suicide: they well know that they cannot realistically hope to defeat or conquer those who oppose such acts. Rather, they understand that they must provide reasons compelling enough to change people’s minds.

Arguing to understand: stasis & truth seeking

Often, a writer must enter into conversation with others and collaborate in seeking the best possible understanding of a problem, exploring all possible approaches and choosing the best alternative. The Rogerian and invitational forms of argument both call for understanding as a major goal of arguing. Argument to understand does not seek to conquer or control others or even to convince them. Your purpose in many situations—from trying to decide which job to pursue to exploring with your family the best way to care for an elderly relative—will be to share information and perspectives in order to make informed political, professional, and personal choices.

Arguing to change yourself: Exploratory Essay 

Sometimes you will find yourself arguing primarily with yourself, and those arguments often take the form of intense meditations on a theme, or even of prayer. In such cases, you may be hoping to transform something in yourself or to reach peace of mind on a troubling subject. If you know a familiar mantra or prayer, for example, think of what it “argues” for and how it uses quiet meditation to help achieve that goal.


“But, as we’ve already suggested [invitational rhetoric], arguing isn’t always about winning or even about changing others’ views. In addition to invitational argument, another school of argument-called Rogerian argument, after the psychotherapist Carl Rogers-is based on finding common ground and establishing trust among those who disagree about issues, and on approaching audiences in nonthreatening ways. Writers who follow Rogerian approaches seek to understand the perspectives of those with whom they disagree, looking for “both/and” or “win/win” solutions (rather than “either/or” or “win/lose” ones) whenever possible. Much successful argument today follows such principles, consciously or not.” 

— From Andrea Lunsford, Everyone’s an Author