The art of persuasion has probably been around as long as at least two people have existed, and it continues on to this very day. Studies show that every five seconds, 13,000 people around the world are persuaded to do something (note: not an actual statistic – if only I had persuaded you that it was true, though….) The main objective of persuasion is to convince – you may be trying to convince someone to do something, to think something, or both. Persuasion may take the form of a speech, or, more often than not, writing, which is what we will be discussing today. Some of the more popular written forms of persuasion include essays, editorials, reports, reviews, and all forms of advertisement.
Certain situations call for specific writing styles, and it’s up to the writer to find the appropriate one. For example, a persuasive style of writing wouldn’t fit into the reporting of a football game, but would do quite nicely in a political campaign. If you’d like to become a writer, but aren’t sure what style of writing is best for a certain situation, don’t worry – it’ll be pretty obvious when you should be persuading people, and when you shouldn’t. This course on novel writing will help those interested in long-form writing, and this course on writing for children has some good information for those that want to write for kids, from picture books, to young adult.
Four Types of Writing
In order to give persuasion some context, let’s first talk about the four major styles of writing. Don’t get these confused with genres of writing, such as mystery, western, or science fiction. These are simply different styles that a writer may use, and encompass all genres, including fiction and non-fiction.
- Expository Writing Reserved more for textbooks and “How To” tutorials, this style of writing focuses just on the topic at hand, leaving out the opinion of the writer. Facts and figures are the stars of expository writing, with things such as processes, and logical order and sequences taking the spotlight. As you can probably tell, this style of writing is used more in an academic setting, and this article on expository writing prompts might be helpful for people who write in this environment.
- Descriptive Writing The opposite of expository writing, descriptive writing focuses more on the details of a situation or character. It is less concerned with the blow-by-blow action as it is the more poetic aspects that lie in the description. For example, instead of saying “We walked up the hill”, a descriptive version of that sentence would be “We tiredly and slowly trudged up the interminable, Mt. Everest-like mound of earth.”
- Narrative Writing This is the style of writing that we’re all probably most familiar with. Narrative writing tells a story, and it’s the style of writing that most people read for fun, and describes the style of novels, short stories, poetry, biographies, etc. A narrative basically makes the reader ask “What happened next?” Also part of the narrative field are movies, and if you’d like to write a movie, this article on the steps to writing a script will help with the process.
- Persuasive Writing Finally, persuasive writing gets into the head of the author, and he or she explains their opinion about something. Not only is an opinion stated, they are also attempting to either change the reader’s mind about the subject, or to reinforce an already held opinion. Below, we will explain the techniques of this style of writing.
Persuasive Writing Techniques
Now that you know a bit about the four types of writing types, let’s focus our attention on the persuasive type. Like we said before, the basis of it is that the writer has an opinion, or at least a stance on something, but more than that, they have a motive, and that motive is to get you, the reader, to side with them in that opinion.
Getting Others On Your Side
Writers whose job it is to persuade must do more than just say “I’m right,” or “Buy this,” they have to appeal to the readers in different ways. Changing someone’s mind about something requires more than just being the loudest or the most abrasive – there needs to be some thought put into it, and the following four methods are how writers persuade.
- Appeal to Logic Logic makes use of facts and figures to appeal to someone’s sense of reason. The use of logic in persuasion is meant to keep out any emotion and anger when appealing to a reader, not just on the writer’s side, but they also want to prevent the reader from getting too worked up, as well. Not only does it prevent negativity from creeping into the discussion, it also lends an air of credibility when a writer can back up their claims with hard facts. Logic is especially useful when used in dealing with more controversial matters. This course on logical argument will help with your critical thinking and logic skills.
- Appeal to Emotions More broad and easier to understand than an appeal to logic, the use of emotion in persuasion is very effective. Great care must be taken when using this approach, however, as credibility may easily be lost if the emotional appeal is poorly executed. If an emotional appeal lacks substance, the reader may feel manipulated and alienated, but when done well, especially when combined with logical appeals, it can be quite effective.
- Appeal to Tradition “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” can sum up this appeal. This method is dangerous and can lead to fallacies, but can also be effective when used, as it often is, in advertising and politics. Both writers and readers should be wary of these types of messages, and are most effective for writers when evidence and logic can back up any claims.
- Appeal to Ethics Using ethos in persuasive writing requires a credible writer (and sources) for it to be effective. Not only must what they say be true and able to be proven, but the reader must see the writer in the best possible light for the message to take hold. An example of an appeal to ethics would be to convince a family member to stop smoking because of the effects of secondhand smoke on the rest of the family and the pets.
You just learned how a persuasive writer formulates their ideas, and next we will show you the techniques they employ in order to present them for the reader. Good reasoning, ethics, or a well thought out emotional appeal aren’t enough – they must be presented in a manner that ensures that the message takes hold in the reader, and the following techniques are just some of the tricks persuasive writers rely on.
- Repetition Not only must a point be made several times in order to be persuasive, but it must be made in different ways. The repetition makes it stick in their head, and the different approaches keep the subject matter from getting stale to the reader.
- Consistency In the interest of appearing stable and focused, consistency in the message makes sure the writer appears credible and rational, as well as being easier for the reader to understand.
- Social Proof The driving force behind social media, this technique appeals to those that are concerned what other people think, not only about them, but about the subject being discussed. Used delicately, as opposed to blatant name dropping, this can be a powerful tool.
- Agitate and Solve This technique is meant to create empathy in the reader. The writer first works up the reader, mentioning a problem that will get a reaction, then tells the reader that they understand and are able to solve it.
- Prognosticate Another technique built on author credibility, this idea convinces the reader that if current events continue into the future, this is what we will be dealing with. This can be quite persuasive if the writer has credentials, as well as a firm grasp of the subject.
- Tribe Mentality Going along with the social proof technique, the idea that people want to belong to a larger group will always hold true, and will remain an effective technique of persuasion. People will always want to be part of the group that’s cool, or rich, or green, etc.
- Storytelling Ideally, all other persuasion techniques culminate in this one. If you can deftly blend other techniques while simultaneously telling a compelling story, you’ll be the most persuasive person on the block.
This article was more an example of expository writing, rather than an example of the topic, persuasion, but we didn’t need to persuade you about persuasion, did we? You can see there’s much more to persuading in writing than just stating your opinion and hoping for the best, and maybe next time you need to do some convincing, you can use some of the stuff you learned here today. If you’d like to learn more about it, this course on the art of persuasion, and this course on the power of persuasion might just help you win your next argument.