Helping Others Follow

As you switch from component to component in your paper, you’ll be making what are called rhetorical moves—taking subsequent steps to move your argument along and be persuasive. Your readers will probably know what you’re doing because the components in everyday oral argument are the same as in written argument. But why you’re switching between components of your argument, and with these particular sources, might be less clear.


The ideas and examples in this section are informed by Gerald Graff, Cathy Birkenstein, and Russel Durst, They Say/I Say with Readings (New York: WW Norton & Company, 2012).

You can help readers follow your argument by inserting phrases that signal why you’re doing what you’re doing. Here are some examples:

  • “Many people have believed …, but I have a different opinion.”
    To state that what you’re saying in your thesis is in opposition to what others have said.
  • “Now let’s take a look at the supporting research.”
    To move from a reason to a summary of a research study that supports it (evidence).
  • “The point they make is…”
    To introduce a summary of a resource you’ve just mentioned.
  • “At this point I should turn to an objection some are likely to be raising…”
    To acknowledge an objection you believe a reader could have.
  • “But am I being realistic?”
    If the objection is that you’re not being realistic.
  • “So in conclusion…”
    To move from the body of an essay to the conclusion.

Phrases like these can grease the skids of your argument in your readers’ minds, making it a lot easier for them to quickly get it instead of getting stuck on figuring out why you’re bringing something up at a particular point. You will have pulled them into an argument conversation.

Examples: The Language of Arguments

The blog that accompanies the book They Say/I Say with Readings, by Gerald Graff, Cathy Birkenstein, and Russel Durst, contains short, elegantly constructed contemporary arguments from a variety of publications. Take a look at the They Say/I Say blog for a moment and read part of at least one of the readings to see how it can be helpful to you the next time you have to make a written argument.

The book They Say/I Say with Readings provides templates of actual language to be used in written arguments. This can be extremely helpful to beginning writers because it takes some of the mystery out of what to say and when to say it. For these templates, check the book out from your library.

Additional Advice Sources

Take a look at these sites for argument essay advice for students: