Updated June 8, 2021
What are you trying to convince your readers to do? Buy a product? Attend an event? Donate?
Use these 10 secrets of persuasive writing to make your case!
Know Your Audience
Understand your audience. What are their needs, wants, and hobbies? What keeps them up at night? How can you help? When is the best time to reach them?
There’s nothing harder to regain than trust. So 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 airtight.
Testimonials and Reviews
It’s easy for us to cite our best features and qualities, but people trust independent references. That’s why employers request them before hiring.
Positive reviews, published on reputable third-party websites like Google, provide powerful social proof that affirms your company is trustworthy. Customer testimonials have the highest rating for content marketing. One of many review statistics cited in a 2021 article by Hosting Tribunal is that a whopping 89% of consumers won’t make a major purchase before reading 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.
The second version is 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 (external link), which may be why it can evoke such powerful emotional reactions.
This presentation, Success Through Senses (external link), 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. On the contrary, unclear writing forces your audience to invest precious time deciphering meaning.
Attention spans are short, especially on the web. So 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 (external link) than text.
Use graphics and third-party evidence to support your argument.
Principle of Reciprocity
The principle of reciprocity (external link) 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 allow companies to build a relationship with you and 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 ten tips and see how persuasive your arguments become.
Do you have additional insights? Please share. We’d like to hear them!