Persuasive writing seeks to convince the reader to adopt the writer's point of view. The degree to which this is necessary varies greatly. Sometimes, you only need to reinforce ideas that
readers' already hold. Other times, you will seek to totally redefine
readers' opinion. In another situation, you will actually need to persuade a reader to take some type of action.
The way we present an idea is often as important as the idea itself. In persuasive writing, support
ideas with logic and clear presentation of examples, facts, and statistics. Be specific,
clear, and do not stray from the main point. Never make false or trivial claims - doing so will eventually undermine
Reasonable people can disagree. Persuasive writing is more effective when it acknowledges real or potential differing opinions.
Persuasive writers need to anticipate and overcome objections. Being up-front about negative details or opposing views is not only an ethical approach, but it also establishes
the writer's credibility.
Ethos, Pathos, Logos
A powerful way to bring people around to your way of thinking was developed by Aristotle thousands of years ago. It was effective then and it still works today. Simple put, the writer must establish three things.
- Ethos. This is the personal credibility that gives a person the integrity to speak as an authority on a subject.
- Pathos. These are the emotional appeals that get people's attention and
win them over.
- Logos. This refers to the logical presentation and the ability to convince people by leading them to reasonable conclusions.
While each of these three elements represent a powerful way to influence people,
used together, they are extremely effective.
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One way to get started with persuasive writing it to reflect on the position
you wish to advocate and organize the main reasons you support
that position into a chart, concept map, or outline. The actual
format is not important -- it just a tool that will help structure and
evaluate ideas. Start by identifying the position or thesis and
then identify different opinions people may take on this issue,
including your own.
State your position
- What makes this position a statement you believe? Be sure to
look at previous experiences or thoughts you have had on this
- List reasons why others may oppose your position or believe
- List reasons that support your position.
- State why there may be different perspectives on this issue.
might reasonable people disagree?
- Research the different positions on the issues that were
identified. Be sure to include other reasonable viewpoints on the
- Briefly summarize each position in a written statement.
- Identify evidence that will support your position and evaluate the
strengths and weaknesses of each.
- List areas where you anticipate others may disagree and the counter
arguments to your positions they may advocate.
Here are some more tips and tricks for persuasive writing:
- Include Supporting Details. Provide convincing reasons for your arguments.
- Use a Positive Tone. Make readers like you and want to listen to you.
- Incorporate Advertising Techniques. Pay attention to
how ads persuade. Successful advertisements are highly
persuasive. Pay particular attention to how they use loaded words
(best, perfect, deadly, dangerous) and bandwagon
phrases (all over the country, nationwide, people everywhere,
don't be left out).
- Answer Potential Objections. Use words and phrases such as: although, yet, rather, and
"while some may believe."
- Anticipate your Reader's Feelings. Acknowledging how
people feel, even when you disagree, is a powerful tool.
Empathy for opposing attitudes, values, and beliefs can make
different viewpoints more acceptable to readers.
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