Christine Catlin. Kitty. Grade 10, Age 15. 2012 Gold Medal, Comic Art.

Post by Miryam Coppersmith, Scholastic Awards Alum & 2012 Scholastic/Alliance Fellow

Who doesn’t love to make an argument? We form arguments whenever we review movies, discuss politics or talk to our parents (that last part is a joke—humor can be an essential part of an argument!) Forming an argument is an invaluable skill in college and any career you might pursue. It does not just take skill either; a successful argument requires a lot of creativity. Reading through this past year’s Scholastic Award-winning Persuasive Writing in the Alliance’s online galleries, I was struck by how personal all of the pieces were. Even in a category where you might not use the word “I” in your entire piece, your personal voice shines through. Here are some tips to make your argument the most convincing and eloquent it can be.

Cicero, the famous Roman orator. He was so revered for his arguments that they made marble busts of him!

  • Be clear. Expressing your ideas in a clear, concise manner is difficult! One technique I use is arguing my main points out loud with a friend. Observe which pieces of evidence interest the person you are talking to. Play around with word choice and the way you present your ideas and see what makes an impression. Then translate that verbal argument back to pen and paper.
  • Include the opposition. Every argument has more than one side. Including another viewpoint in your essay shows that you have thought critically about the issue at hand and you are not just ignoring the weaker points of your argument.
  • Always provide evidence. This evidence can come in many forms—choose whatever type draws you and supports your argument the best. Ethan Emmert, in his essay “Living Latin,” uses his personal experiences learning Latin and applying that knowledge in his everyday life to advocate teaching Latin in schools. Stephanie Tomasson, in “And Thou Shalt Not Lie With a Man: Sodomy, Misogyny, and the Law in Seventeenth-Century Plymouth,” draws heavily on historical analysis to argue about the treatment of same-sex relationsin Puritan New England and contemporary America. Both essays argue their points eloquently, with very different argumentative styles!
  • Pick a topic that matters to you. The Scholastic Art & Writing Awards give you a unique platform to voice your ideas, so choose a topic you really care about. That passion will show through your writing and you will end up with a piece of writing you are proud of, regardless of the color of the award you receive.

So, how did I do? Did I persuade you to apply? If I did, happy writing!

Students can submit their work to the 2013 Scholastic Awards beginning September 17, 2012. To learn more about the Persuasive Writing category and how to submit your work, visit

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