When you were a child, how many times did your parents say “absolutely not” when you asked for something? How many of those times did you persuade your parents to finally say yes?
Sometimes it’s a given that you’ll never be able to convince your parents. It’s almost impossible to convince them of any rather pricey endeavors, like building an indoor pool. You might, however, be just good enough to convince them that you need a retro superhero comic book collection for your birthday.
My point here is that, no matter how many times you’ve used your amazing powers of persuasion to convince your parents (or someone else), you already know lots of persuasive techniques.
In order to write persuasively, you simply need to transfer your powers of persuasion into the written word.
So put on your superhero attire, and let’s learn more about persuasive writing techniques.
The Art of Persuasion
Think that persuasive techniques are used only in persuasive essays? Think again.
When you write a persuasive essay, the entire point is to convince your audience. But persuasive techniques appear in all types of writing, including cover letters, business proposals, advertising, op-eds, and other types of essays (think argumentative essays, opinion essays, and often literary analysis essays).
Persuasive writing techniques even appear in those emails you send to your prof when you need to score some extra credit to improve your grade.
See? Persuasive writing is everywhere. Persuasive techniques are important tools, whether you’re trying to convince an employer to hire you or your prof to give you a chance to improve your grade.
Now that you’re (hopefully) convinced that persuasion is an important technique in many forms of writing, let’s hone your superpowers of persuasion and look at a few specific techniques to help make your writing more convincing.
Persuasive Techniques to Make Your Writing More Convincing
Even if you have the powers of persuasion at your fingertips at all times, it’s always good to have a few more techniques in your arsenal. You know, just in case you have to fight off an evil villain with a few clever and persuasive words (or in case you need to persuade a particularly hard-to-impress professor.)
Superman always sought to appeal to truth and justice, and you can too. But you might also choose to appeal to emotion or logic to help make your case.
Be careful, though, because not all appeals are appropriate for all types of writing.
For instance, if you’re writing an argumentative essay about pesticides harming the environment, your goal is to present reasoned, logical arguments to support your stance. In other words, don’t paint a picture of dying trees, a land without butterflies, a world with no more bees, and a crying child who can no longer enjoy nature. This type of emotional appeal is way over the top for the context.
Instead, write a factual, logical argument about the implications of the declining numbers of butterflies and bees. Use evidence from sources to explain the causes (and maybe even solutions) of their declining numbers.
Want to learn more about appeals? Go read Ethos Pathos and Logos: Be More Persuasive in Your Next Essay.
When you define a word, you can define it by its literal or dictionary definition (called denotation), or you can define a word by its implied or cultural definition (called connotation).
Denotation: The word “house” can be defined as “a building for human habitation.”
Connotation: Think about other words that mean a place where people live: shack, home, mansion, crib, or residence. While all of these could fit the dictionary definition of “house,” they imply different meanings.
For example, you wouldn’t find legal documents that use the word “crib” to describe someone’s residence to be very persuasive. And you wouldn’t use the word “shack” to describe a friend’s house (unless, of course, you wanted to offend your friend).
Words are powerful. Choosing the right word for the right situation can make all the difference in building up your credibility and persuading your readers.
Counterarguments strengthen your own argument. By acknowledging another point of view, you give yourself an opportunity to refute opposing claims and thus be more likely to convince your audience.
Learn more about counterarguments by reading What Is A Counterargument in an Argumentative Essay?
You can also learn how to refute arguments by reading What Is a Rebuttal, and How Do You Write an Effective One?
Metaphors and similes
Drawing comparisons can create powerful images to help your audience see things in a different light.
Consider this example: Let’s say you write a descriptive essay in which you simply write that your mom does a lot during the day. You could list any number of different tasks to illustrate what she does. But if you use a metaphor or simile, you can create a more vivid picture.
Instead of just listing what your mom does, compare her to a superhero who is able to tackle everything, from taking care of children to managing her karate studio.
The superhero comparison brings to mind someone who is strong, powerful, and invincible, right? So by using a metaphor or simile, you make it easier for your audience to see why Mom is so amazing.
If you ask a rhetorical question, you’re not actually hoping for an answer. You’re asking a question that has a fairly obvious answer. Thus, you can use this persuasive technique to lead an audience to a specific conclusion.
For instance, if you’re arguing for better security on campus, you might write something like this: “Increased security would create a safer campus. Isn’t this what every student wants?”
By asking this rhetorical question, you’re assuming that everyone wants a safe environment, yet you’re leading readers to further consider the topic and relate to it on a personal level.
When you think of storytelling, you probably think of narrative essays. If you’re not writing a narrative essay, it can be hard to imagine telling a story smack in the middle of, say, an argument essay, but it’s actually the perfect place to tell a story.
In most cases, if you’re writing a research paper, you won’t include your own personal stories. But that doesn’t mean you can’t tell someone else’s story.
Here’s what I mean. Imagine writing a research paper about the need for art and other creative programs for children. If you write a basic description of how art classes can spur creativity in young children and bolster confidence, it gets the point across, but now imagine telling a story within that description.
Imagine writing about a program at a local school and telling the story of a young, shy boy who wouldn’t talk to anyone and had trouble making friends.
When he was introduced to art and theater class, his entire demeanor changed. Suddenly, he was able to express himself through painting and was more than willing to play Superman in the class play. He even became friends with a boy who loved Superman just as much as he did.
This example of storytelling is persuasive because it uses an emotional appeal and helps readers make a connection with the story of another person. That furthers your goal of helping readers understand the importance of art and other creative programs in schools.
It is, of course, important that you carefully choose your stories. Don’t just make up hypothetical stories because they’ll sound persuasive. Use actual stories from personal interviews or from a credible research source to help persuade your audience.
Hopefully, I’ve successfully used my own powers of persuasion to persuade you that using persuasive techniques can improve your writing and make it more convincing.
Looking for additional help honing your essay skills? Check out these posts to help you improve your writing even more:
- 15 Rhetorical Devices That Will Spice Up Your Essays
- The Ultimate Guide to the Perfect Word Choice for Your Essay
In need of a quick persuasion refresher? Check out these helpful posts:
- Persuasive Essay Writing Made Simple (Infographic)
- How to Write a Persuasive Essay That’s Convincing
- How to Create a Persuasive Essay Outline
For an example (or two) of persuasive techniques in action, read The Problem of Student College Debt and Proposed Solutions and The Various Ways in Which Advertisement Targets Consumers.
Have you tried out a few persuasive techniques but still aren’t sure that your writing is convincing? Get the professional opinion of a Kibin editor.