A few rules for using kernels of text effectively in persuasive essays.

  1. Have them! Paragraphs that are entirely philosophical or theoretical make the essays more difficult to understand and can often become contradictory. Using kernels to provide evidence for the reader helps her understand your claim without constant explaining and re-explaining.
  2. Treat the audience with respect. In the past, you may have been taught that you should write as if your audience doesn’t know anything about your subject, but I would avoid that. Assume your reader is an educated person who will understand references to common cultural and historical knowledge.
  3. However, the more specialized the knowledge is, the more you need to explain. If you make a reference to something that the reader is not likely to be familiar with/understand, explain enough that they will. If the specialized knowledge is so obscure that you’ll need a lot of time to explain it, you may want to reconsider its use.
  4. Combine kernels for more power. For instance, you might write something like this: “Whether we’re recalling the death of Tom Robinson in To Kill a Mockingbird or the all too real death of Tamir Rice in the streets of Cleveland, the death of young black men at the hands of law enforcement is a stain on the American experience.”
  5. Try to avoid examples that have become cliches. You absolutely can make effective use of examples like Martin Luther King, Jr., for instance, but if you do, try to include parts of his life and ideas that are less well-known or combine him with figures that are not so often used. You certainly could talk about King marching in Selma, but why not discuss Representative John Lewis as well or instead?
  6. Make use of the knowledge you’ve acquired. Read things! 🙂
    • AP Language content
    • US History content
    • podcasts
    • New Yorker, Atlantic, New York Times, etc.
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