Structures of Effective Arguments

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

This article is a continuation of my review, The Art of Persuasion, a lecture series by Prof. Michael Drout. He talks about five possible structures used for a compelling argument depending on the situation and topic. These five structures are as follows:

  1. Five-Paragraph Essay
  2. Sermon
  3. Inverted Pyramid
  4. Delayed Lede
  5. Delayed Lede with Kicker

Five-Paragraph Essay
A five-paragraph essay is the most common form of formal argument. It is composed of an introduction, a body, and a conclusion.

The introduction includes a thesis statement and tells the audience why they should read or listen.

The body part makes three significant points each in a separate paragraph.

The conclusion gives a big picture of the essay; why your audience must accept your arguments.

The thesis and research articles mainly use this structure. The five-paragraph essay extrapolates to five-sections, five-chapters, or five-telegraphs depending on the requirements. The more significant rhetoric point that Prof. Drout makes is:

When you use this structure, you communicate seriousness: It is the standard form of an academic essay, and people respond to it. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and it follows the “rule of three,” which is that people simply like things grouped into threes, and they can remember them more easily.


A sermon is the thoroughly tested and polished form of compelling arguments that have evolved over centuries. It is composed of six-parts; an introduction, a protheme, an explanation of protheme, a real-world story, moral of the story, and a conclusion. The presentation is the same as the introduction in the five-paragraph essay. A protheme is a text from the Bible, constitution, Quran, or Hadith that supports the thesis made in the first part. The final section is also similar to the five-paragraph conclusion, but it can include blessing, prayers, slogans, etc. as well.

Inverted Pyramid

Inverted Pyramid organizes all related facts of a story in the order of their importance. This format starts with answering the five Ws and H questions, i.e., who, what, where, when, why, and how. Mostly the news stories fall under this category. The audiences start reading the story and stop at any time. They stop depending on how much they want to know or interested in the topic.

Delayed Lede

Delayed Lede is the same as the inverted pyramid, but the answers to five Ws and a Hs do not come right in the beginning. The story starts with an illustrative introduction like a scene description and then evolves explanations of five Ws and a Hs.

Photo by Nathan Bingle on Unsplash

Delayed Lede with Ticker

Same as the previous one, but the story ends with a great answer or a remark that ties things up neatly. I think most of the suspense stories, fiction, novels fall in this category. Ahmed Nadeem Qasmi’s (احمد ندیم قاسمی) short Urdu story AalaaN (افسانہ: عالاں) is a perfect example of the Delayed Lede with Ticker structure.

“…اُس نے جیسے کائنات کا راز فاش کر دیا…”

Originally published at on February 16, 2012.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store