What is Polemic?

A polemic is a style of writing used to express strong criticism or opposition to a particular opinion, belief, or idea. A common characteristic of a polemic argument is vigorous or combative language to either defend or oppose someone or something. Think of it as the modern style of argument, as opposed to the rhetorical arguments of old.

Polemics often challenge accepted beliefs or to argue for a particular point of view. Polemic can be used in a variety of forms, including essays, speeches, and debates. It is often used to challenge the status quo or to advocate for a particular cause.

It is often used to

How to pronounce Polemic?

Polemic is pronounced as “puh-LEM-ik” from the Greek “polemikos” meaning “warlike” or “hostile.”

Why Do Writers Favor the Polemic Writing Style

Polemic writing expresses strong opinions or to argue a single point. Due to this fact, polemic arguments typically express an opposing opinion or idea. Writers prefer to use polemic writing when they want to advocate for something, such as a cause, and when they want to express a strong opinion clearly and without any ambiguity or confusion.

How to Write a Polemic Essay or Argument

Much like any other essay or argument, a polemic essay follows a certain structure. Somewhat unique to this style of writing are specific keywords used in almost every polemic argument.

Before beginning, you must first identify key elements of the argument.

  • Identify the issue you want to address and take a stance.
  • Identify and locate key, reputable sources to back up your view.
  • List the 2 main points you want to make and then match each point with its supporting source in a logical, coherent way.

Now you’ve laid the groundwork, it’s time to begin writing your essay or argument. Polemic arguments generally follow the Toulmin model which is comprised of three key parts: Introduction, Body, and Conclusion.

Introduction – Here you want to introduce your subject and explain why it’s controversial. Once that’s done, you should provide a brief background on the topic. Most importantly, clearly state the stance you have taken.

Body – This section should be separated into two clear paragraphs, one for each point. For each point, evaluate it and include your stance. Provide any supporting evidence you have collected, such as charts, graphs, statements, etc.

Conclusion – An effective conclusion provides a clear synopsis, or summary, of the two points made, bringing them together to describe a clear and final picture of the subject addressed. You should never incorporate new points or evidence in this section.

During this process, don’t forget to incorporate your keywords and phrases from the list below.

  • Similarly
  • In the same way
  • However
  • On the other hand
  • Nevertheless
  • On the contrary
  • Despite
  • Subsequently
  • Moreover
  • Specifically
  • Furthermore
  • In consequence
  • It can be emphatically stated
  • Clearly this means
  • There is a definite logic to the view that
  • It cannot be argued that . . . because

Once you’ve completed all of these steps, congratulate yourself. You will have successfully written a polemic essay or argument.

Polemic in Literature 📚

Ok. So, modern examples of polemic writing include the closing arguments of attorneys, political debates, and op eds. What you might not realize is that some of the most notable works of literature in history are examples of polemic writing. Take a look.

  • Thomas Payne’s Common Sense
  • Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses
  • Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
  • Friedrich Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morality: A Polemic

For a Better Understanding of Polemic Writing 🧸

For a better understanding of how polemic writing is used in modern times, check out this useful video.

Fun Fact

Seemingly without reason, academics reject the polemic argument and rarely cover it in schools. Their reasons are vague, and it could be argued, unfounded since an explicit reason has never been given. However, some have noted the reason is perhaps the fact that polemic arguments go against polite discourse and do not allow for discourse. Rather, the polemic argument is entirely one-sided. Guess that makes sense.