Most college writing is persuasive in one way or another. In order to be successful, such writing requires that its author attend to six different skill sets at once:

1. Try to say something worth saying. Don’t just argue that women have come a long way in the past hundred years. We already know that. You can talk about why this observation is important to your argument, but it shouldn’t be your argument. Avoid common knowledge wherever possible.

2. Keep your argument under control. It should progress logically, and it should contain nothing that is not relevant to its thesis (your thesis might or might not be directly stated, but you should always have one, and if your instructor requests that you state it directly, be sure to do so). Make sure your body paragraphs are focused on points that are relevant to, and that help to develop, your thesis.

3. Support all of your claims with carefully-reasoned evidence, explanations, and examples. Be sure to cite any borrowed ideas or material carefully, whether the information is directly quoted or not, using the documentation style your instructor has requested that you use.

4. Try to demonstrate a clear understanding of the complexity of the issue you’re addressing by acknowledging, conceding, and refuting relevant counterarguments wherever necessary.

5. Be aware of who your audience is, what they can be expected to know already, and what needs to be explained to them. Read your work out loud to see how it sounds; your tone and style should be appropriate for the audience you are addressing.

6. Your work should be clean at the surface. Be alert for typos and errors in punctuation, mechanics, usage, and grammar. If your paper isn’t important enough to you to proofread it carefully, your audience will see it as unimportant as well, and you will lose their respect.

Once you have a complete draft, it’s a good idea to read it through at least six times, once with each of these criteria in mind, making revisions along the way. Then, before submitting it, read it yet again. If you’re satisfied that you’ve done your best in all areas, it’s ready to turn in.

Good luck!