Persuasive writing is an extremely important skill, whether you are selling something, writing for a cause or for your own satisfaction (or for your class!). Persuasive writing can be described as an argument or piece of writing that an author uses to convince his audience of a point or topic. This could potentially be to call the reader to action or it could simply be to convince the reader of an opinion or view.
Topic & Thesis
The first step in persuasive writing is choosing what you want to write about. Usually the easiest and most effective topics focus on something specific, rather than an extremely broad topic. More specific topics generally can be explained and supported more easily than extremely broad topics.
After you have determined your topic, you should then develop your thesis. A thesis is the primary argument that your essay will attempt to support. Thesis should be arguable points, not facts. If you are selling something, your thesis is “why you should buy this.”
Click here for a list of Persuasive Writing Topics
The next part of writing effective persuasive essays is choosing your supporting points. Supporting points are the reasons that you use to prove and support your thesis. Support is the largest part of your essay, and is used to show your reader why your thesis is true. Within these supporting points you should include facts, logic, expert opinions and statistics to further your point and thesis. Additionally, you can use emotion evoking stories to attempt to connect with your audience. Research should be done to support your points.
Your supporting points should be mapped out before you even begin writing your essay, developing an outline is a good way of doing this. The structure of your supporting points is very important; one supporting point should usually lead into another, although they don’t always have to.
After you have determined your topic and thesis, you should begin targeting and researching your audience. In order to convince somebody of something, you must first know who you are writing to. For example, one might take a different approach in writing to industrialists about climate change than when writing to college students about the same subject.
Choosing an audience is extremely important, and is a crucial step that many people forget to take into consideration when writing. Many people think that they are writing to everyone when they write persuasively, this may be true for some subjects, like why breathing oxygen is important, but for most there is usually a target that you may not even realize. The reason this step is so important is because different audiences will have different reactions to what you write, and you want to target the right reactions – you want to connect with people.
The next step in this process is to attempt to identify what the beliefs and characteristics of the audience you are writing to are. This includes the reasons why your audience might disagree with your views or what inhibitions they would have before doing what you are trying to persuade them. Also it is important to know why this cause is important to an audience.
Understanding your audience is also vital because it is very important not to offend your audience, as this will definitely turn them off to any persuasion.
Modes of Persuasion:
The next step in persuasive writing is knowing how to connect with your audience. There are three basic ways to do this, which are known as the modes of persuasion .
Persuasion through the authority of the author, known as Ethos,
Ethos can be developed by choosing language that is appropriate for the audience and topic (also means choosing proper level of vocabulary), making yourself sound fair or unbiased, introducing your expertise or pedigree, and by using correct grammar and syntax.
Persuasion through use of logic and facts, known as Logos,
Logos can be developed by citing facts and statistics (very important), using advanced and well developed language, using historical incidents, analogies, and by constructing logical arguments.
Persuasion through use of emotion and sympathy, known as Pathos
Pathos can be developed by using meaningful language, emotional tone, emotion evoking examples, stories of emotional events, and implied meanings.
Most of the work in persuasive writing is knowing how to use these methods effectively.
Anticipating and responding to arguments against your point are important parts of persuasive writing. A response to a counter arguments varies based on the validity of the counterargument.
In some cases, when a counterargument is completely frivolous, you can completely dismiss it using facts and logic. However sometimes you may have to concede parts – or even the entire argument to the opposing point. In these situations is important to show the audience why this argument is not important/less important to the big picture of
your argument.Acknowledging counterarguments contributes to Ethos, and makes the author seem more fair and balanced in the eyes of the reader.
More Tips and Techniques for Persuasive writing:
Drawing sympathy from your audience is one of the most effective forms of persuasion. This is especially true if your paper is focused around a certain problem or is a passionate topic. This technique is called using pathos. You can use this to draw both negative and positive emotions.
Emotions are a powerful tool. In order to use your audience’s emotion to your advantage, you must understand why something is important to your audience. Then you should focus on this importance, and make your audience feel the emotions associated with it. After you draw on their emotions, you should present your thesis as a solution to their pain or pleasure.
For example: If you are writing about wind as a source of renewable energy, to an audience of predominately older people, you could describe to them the consequences their children will face if this level of harm towards the environment persists. In this case, the fate of your audience’s children is important to your audiences. After you have drawn upon their sympathy, you should present to your audience why wind power will offer a solution to this.
If you are writing about equal rights to a predominately white audience, you could and try to place your audience in the shoes of someone who is being discriminated against. In this case human rights are important to your audience. After you have drawn upon your audience’s sympathy, you could show them why laws pertaining to equal rights are important.
Make Your Reader a Part of Something:
Feeling like a part of a group or club makes everyone feel good. Make your reader feel like they are a part of a group of people by agreeing with your thesis, while seemingly excluding those who don’t.
If your topic is convincing readers of climate change, you could make your readers feel like a part of a group of progressive enlightened people by agreeing with you.
Look into the Future:
Making assumptions about the future gives your audience a clear choice in deciding what to think after reading your writing. This technique can be especially useful if you are attempting to call your audience to action. Painting a grim future for the inaction of your thesis can be a powerful tool for persuading your audience; likewise you should describe a brighter future where your thesis is enacted. IE, this is what will happen if you listen to me, this is what will happen if you don’t.
However, this technique should only be used if you can adequately convince your readers that what you are saying will happen or is likely to happen. Using this technique improperly can actually discredit your entire essay and make you seem like a fool.
Aristotle’s "modes for persuasion" – otherwise known as rhetorical appeals – are known by the names of ethos, pathos, and logos. They are means of persuading others to believe a particular point of view. They are often used in speech writing and advertising to sway the audience.
Meaning of Ethos, Pathos and Logos
Aristotle used these three terms to explain how rhetoric works:
"Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds. The first kind depends on the personal character of the speaker [ethos]; the second on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind [pathos]; the third on the proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech itself [logos]. Persuasion is achieved by the speaker’s personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible."
Ethos (sometimes referred to as an appeal to ethics), then, is used as a means of convincing an audience via the authority or credibility of the persuader, be it a notable or experienced figure in the field or even a popular celebrity.
Pathos (appeal to emotion) is a way of convincing an audience of an argument by creating an emotional response to an impassioned plea or a convincing story.
Logos (appeal to logic) is a way of persuading an audience with reason, using facts and figures.
Examples of Ethos, Pathos and Logos
Here are some examples of using ethos, pathos, and logos to persuade.
- "As a doctor, I am qualified to tell you that this course of treatment will likely generate the best results."
- "My three decades of experience in public service, my tireless commitment to the people of this community, and my willingness to reach across the aisle and cooperate with the opposition, make me the ideal candidate for your mayor."
- "The veterinarian says that a German Shepherd will be the perfect match for our active lifestyle."
- "If my years as a Marine taught me anything, it’s that caution is the best policy in this sort of situation."
- "You know me – I’ve taught Sunday School at your church for years, babysat your children, and served as a playground director for many summers – so you know I can run your preschool."
- "Our expertise in roofing contracting is evidenced not only by our 50 years in the business and our staff of qualified technicians, but in the decades of satisfied customers who have come to expect nothing but the best."
- "He is a forensics and ballistics expert for the federal government – if anyone’s qualified to determine the murder weapon, it’s him."
- "Based on the dozens of archaeological expeditions I’ve made all over the world, I am confident that those potsherds are Mesopotamian in origin."
- "If my age doesn’t convince you that I know what I'm talking about, at least consider that I am your grandfather and I only want the best for you."
- "Doctors all over the world recommend this type of treatment."
- "If you’re still unsure, please consider that my advanced degree and field work speak for themselves."
- "If we don’t move soon, we’re all going to die! Can’t you see how dangerous it would be to stay?"
- "I’m not just invested in this community – I love every building, every business, every hard-working member of this town."
- "There’s no price that can be placed on peace of mind. Our advanced security systems will protect the well-being of your family so that you can sleep soundly at night."
- "Where would we be without this tradition? Ever since our forefathers landed at Plymouth Rock, we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving without fail, making more than cherished recipes. We’ve made memories."
- "They’ve worked against everything we’ve worked so hard to build, and they don’t care who gets hurt in the process. Make no mistake, they’re the enemy, and they won’t stop until we’re all destroyed."
- "Don’t be the last person on the block to have their lawn treated – you don’t want to be the laughing stock of your community!"
- "You should consider another route if you leave later. I heard that that street is far more dangerous and ominous at night than during the daytime."
- "You’ll make the right decision because you have something that not many people do: you have heart."
- "After years of this type of disrespect from your boss, countless hours wasted, birthdays missed… it’s time that you took a stand."
- "Better men than us have fought and died to preserve this great nation. Now is our turn to return the favor. For God and country, gentlemen!"
- "You will never be satisfied in life if you don’t seize this opportunity. Do you want to live the rest of your years yearning to know what would have happened if you just jumped when you had the chance?"
- "The data is perfectly clear: this investment has consistently turned a profit year-over-year, even in spite of market declines in other areas."
- "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury: we have not only the fingerprints, the lack of an alibi, a clear motive, and an expressed desire to commit the robbery… We also have video of the suspect breaking in. The case could not be more open and shut."
- "It’s a matter of common sense that people deserve to be treated equally. The Constitution calls it ‘self-evident.’ Why, then, should I have been denied a seat because of my disability?"
- "More than one hundred peer-reviewed studies have been conducted over the past decade, and none of them suggests that this is an effective treatment for hair loss."
- "History has shown time and again that absolute power corrupts absolutely."
- "Private demand for the product has tapered off for the past three years, and this year’s sales figures are at an all-time low. It’s time to research other options."
- "The algorithms have been run in a thousand different ways, and the math continues to check out."
- "You won't find any deer along this road. In 25 years of driving the same route, I haven’t seen a single one."
- "He has a track record of success with this company, culminating in some of our most acclaimed architecture to date and earning us Firm of the Year nine times in a row."
- "Research compiled by analysts from NASA, as well as organizations from five other nations with space programs, suggests that a moon colony is viable with international support."
Understanding the different aspects of rhetoric will make you more aware of what goes into creating a persuasive argument. The examples above should also help you construct your own arguments or appeals.