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Persuasive writing is an essential skill, it is useful whether you are selling something, writing for a cause, for business purposes, or even 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 merely 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 most natural 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. Theses should be arguable points, not facts; for example, if you are selling something, your thesis will be “why you should buy this.”
The next part of writing effective persuasive essays is choosing your supporting points. Supporting points are the reasons used to prove and support thesis. Support is the largest part of your essay, and it 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 begin to write your essay, developing an outline is a good way of doing this. The structure of your supporting points is critical; one supporting point should usually lead to another, although they don’t always have to.
After you have determined your topic and thesis, you should begin to target and make research your audience. In order to convince somebody of something using writing, you must first know the impact the writing will make on that person and you must also understand 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 that 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 relevant to an audience.
Understanding your audience is also vital because it is imperative 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.
Much 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 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 some parts – or even the entire argument to the opposing point. In these situations, it is important to show the audience why this argument is not important or 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 (using pathos) 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. 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.
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 audience. 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 try to place your audience in the shoes of someone who is being discriminated against. After you have drawn upon your audience’s sympathy, you could show them why policies about equal rights are important.
Make Your Reader a Part of Something:
Feeling like a part of a group or club makes everyone feels 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 progressive group, enlighten 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. I.e., 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. Misusing this technique can discredit your entire essay and make you seem like a fool!