on June 22, 2005
The author, Frank Cioffi, provides a roadmap to follow in creating exciting, unique persuasive essays -- particuarly those for difficult, highly subjective fields like literature, management, or sociology. Although it has been successfully applied in the medical field by his students.
This is an edgy book that presents the author's strong opinions on how persuasive essays should be written. It might be used as an adjunct textbook in a persuasive writing class as it is not an introductory type of book. The book assumes you have some previous experience in writing persuasive essays.
I particularly liked the following topics:
- The plea to the reader to stay forever curious and to constantly be writing persuasive essays that require researching and deep thinking. His chapter on writing research papers was most helpful.
- Great text selections (and references to authors).
- His plea to look for disconfirmatory evidence as well as confirmatory ones. Particularly his concept of Infeeling (sync'ing up with the reader). Also how disconfirmatory evidence helps you create his "Delta T" (changed Thesis) that's finalized in the conclusion. This discussion was new and helpful, but may not work in all types of essays.
- The need to argue for something new, not obvious, not taken for granted, or superficial; otherwise, you'll have a boring essay.
- Why you must know your audience and how/why to lead your reader's questions. His (borrowed) idea of the reader over your shoulder called the Development Demon tracking the reader's questions.
- How to use questions in the early writing stages to help you find a new and exciting Thesis.
- His unique concept of starting with a Thesis and then concluding with a changed Thesis (Delta T) after taking into account your proof and the con arguments that don't destroy your Thesis but change it in a modest way.
- Some of his idea-creation techniques were interesting.
- How to use the concluding sentence on a paragraph.
- How to integrate quotations and proof, particularly how not to do it.
- His nicely organized list of things not to do when considering style. And the list of things to do to delight the reader.
- The importance of surprising the reader.
- The importance of metaphors found in great writing.
However, I really took issue with the following:
- When talking about style and paragraph development the author never referenced Joseph Williams on "Style" yet used what I consider to be William's logic of providing Old information first, then New. And furtermore, Williams does it so much better. Look online here on Amazon for the more recent editions of "Style" or any of his other books on style by Joseph Williams.
I liked this book very much and highly recommend it for anyone writing essays -- particularly persuasive essays. The book also applies to writers of "creative non-fiction."
Once I started it, I couldn't put it down. Keep your dictionary handy as I must have added about 50 new words to my new vocabulary book.
Sugar Land, TX
In his preface, Frank Cioffi defines the subject of his book as "written argument, which logically explains and defends a controversial idea." His goal in the book is the defense and nurturance of this form of discourse, and that is surely a fine and noble cause. As commonplace a thing as argument in the sense of dispute and disagreement may be in today's world, argument in the sense of presenting and defending an idea with honesty, clarity, and creativity is all too rare. It's the latter sort of argument that Cioffi teaches here, and I'd say he does an excellent job. This book is intended primarily as a college-level textbook, but it will certainly be useful and interesting to anyone who wants to improve their skills at presenting a point of view in writing.
In this volume's chapters, the topics discussed include writing with your intended audience in mind, developing a thesis, different possible structures for your essay, recognizing and avoiding a range of logical fallacies, the importance of an elegant and professional writing style, and more.
Of those topics, I was particularly impressed with the section on knowing and avoiding logical fallacies. As Cioffi says, logical fallacies are cheating at argument, and by learning the common fallacies, one can not only detect this cheating in others, but also avoid sloppy and invalid arguments in one's own writing and thinking.
In his final chapter, Cioffi sums up the value of this book better than I ever could:
"What happens when people don’t write? They have others do their thinking for them. [...] They accept written communications from companies or organizations and submit to the authority of that institutional rhetoric. They hire attorneys to write for them, attorneys who themselves often have to rely on associates or paralegals to do the actual composition. Writing is passed down and passed down, and the result is that no one thinks for himself or herself, and society lurches along more and more mindlessly."
Study this book, and help make society a little less mindless.
Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book in return for a review.
on November 9, 2014
Got this for class a few semester ago as our (semi-evil) Professor loved this guy.
Shockingly, it's not actually a bad book!
It's written quite well and is an easy read as a result. The author pokes fun at himself and common theories from time-to-time, which is always fun.
You'll come out from reading this having gained valuable writing skills!
on October 10, 2013
I used to assign this for my ENGLISH 100 class because it was so readable, but as I was a new teacher, I needed something that had more in-class support. The book I chose has grown and GROWN though - double in size since 2007.
We've switched models to a more conference-style class, and I think I'm going back to the simple readability and passion of this book.
I need to find my old copy to be sure if I'm re-adopting this, but I'm somewhat relieved there's no new editions. Cioffi said what he had to say, said it once, and there's no need to update it biennially.