What are you trying to convince your readers to do? Buy a product? Attend an event? Donate?
Whatever argument you are trying to build, use these 10 secrets of persuasive writing to develop a position nobody can refute!
Know Your Audience
Who are you trying to convince? What are their needs and wants, their hobbies and schedules? When is the best time to reach them?
Know what makes your audience tick if you want to make your case.
You can assemble a strong argument, but if it doesn’t resonate with the audience you’re trying to convince, your effort will be fruitless.
There’s nothing harder to regain than trust. Be truthful with your audience.
Don’t use misleading information, and make sure any research you include in your argument is well-documented and vetted.
The web makes it easy to fact-check your assertions. Make sure your facts are air tight.
Testimonials and Reviews
It’s easy for us to extol our best features and qualities, but what people trust are independent references. That’s why employers request them.
Positive reviews, published on reputable third-party websites like Google Plus and Yelp, provide powerful social proof that affirms your company is trustworthy. Customer testimonials have the highest rating for content marketing at a whopping 89%, per research by WebDam.
- 78% of Americans (ages 18-64) say that they depend on online reviews during their purchase process.
- The importance of reviews increases in respondents who have a higher level of education.
- Testimonials are universally influential, across countries and cultures.
Ipsos Open Thinking Exchange reached a similar conclusion in an in-depth study published in 2012 examining the degree to which online reviews influence buying behavior. The Ipsos study showed 80% of those surveyed said they are influenced by online reviews while women and younger generations are most likely to be strongly influenced by online reviews.
Testimonials and positive reviews strengthen your credibility.
Acknowledge the Other Side
Another way to build trust is to acknowledge the other side of your argument. The art of persuasion is about explaining an idea/process/opinion, and convincing others to agree with it based on the information presented to them.
There will always be questions:
- Why should I do it this way?
- Have you ever thought about doing this instead of that?
- What other options do I have?
Address alternative views so your reader can stop wondering. If you don’t discuss the other side’s arguments, your audience may turn elsewhere to answer their questions. Curtail that behavior.
Examine the strengths and weaknesses of the opposing options and then explain why your plan is better.
Writing in an active voice creates a sense of urgency in the reader. Consider these two sentences:
Your argument should be constructed using active voice.
Construct your argument using active voice.
Most of your readers will find the second (active-voice) version more compelling. It encourages action and creates a sense of accountability in your reader’s mind.
Appeal to the Senses
Persuasive arguments use creative language to evoke sensory experiences.
Research suggests that smell connects directly to memory, which may be why it can evoke such powerful emotional reactions.
This presentation, Success Through Senses, is perhaps one of the best ways to understand the idea of making an argument by appealing to your reader’s senses.
You can’t persuade a confused reader. Unclear writing forces your audience to invest precious time deciphering meaning.
Attention spans are short, especially on the web. If you don’t make your points quickly, you will forfeit the chance to make them at all.
Follow these simple steps to improve clarity:
- Write in complete sentences
- Use correct grammar and spelling
- Never substitute a simple word for a fancy word unless the simple word is inadequate. For example, say “use” instead of “utilize.”
While this statistic, among others in the Literacy Project Foundation’s research, reveals disturbing truths and implications about literacy outside of persuasive writing, it also reminds us that we must know our audience.
Show and Tell
Kindergarten students enjoy show-and-tell. The underlying principle applies equally to adults.
Visuals, statistics, and independent research are persuasive.
We process visual input 60,000 times faster than text.
Use graphics and third-party evidence to support your argument.
Principle of Reciprocity
The principle of reciprocity states that we feel compelled to repay what we have received from others.
We see this aspect of social psychology at work every day from companies and people who are trying to win us over.
Have you ever felt a bit obligated to buy a product at your favorite grocery store after someone gave you a free sample?
Free offers provide companies an opportunity to build a relationship with you, and also to make you feel indebted. The reciprocity principle is an equally compelling way to make a written argument.
Give your readers something.
Underpromise and Overdeliver
Have you ever watched a movie preview that motivated you enough to buy the $10 ticket and overpriced snacks, and then discover you’d already seen the best parts when you watched the trailer? Or read a book that promised a great mystery only to realize you figured it out halfway through?
Interactions like these disappoint us, and in some cases, can make us hesitant to engage again.
Remember these feelings when you write to persuade. Resist the temptation to make grand assertions you can’t substantiate and promises your article won’t deliver.
Try these 10 tips and see how persuasive your arguments become.
Do you have additional insights? Please share. We’d like to hear them!