Anyone can type a thousand-word-long text, but making it compelling and persuasive is a feat not many can boast of.
You probably know it already. That can be the reason why right now, you might be thinking “I have to do my homework now” and actively dreading the prospect. That’s also why writing a convincing essay seems to be plain impossible to pull off.
Fortunately, persuasive writing is a skill, not a talent awarded at birth. Here are five techniques to help you develop it – and hand in a work that would be worthy of the highest grade.
Use Aristotle’s 3 Persuasion Modes
How to persuade readers or listeners is hardly a new area of knowledge. It dates back to Ancient Greece. In the 4th century BC, Aristotle formulated three modes of persuasion – and they have endured well enough to ring true today.
Ethos = Credibility
The audience trusts the author because they are believed to be credible. Think about your favorite celebrity or politician. Most likely, you don’t double-check everything they claim – instead, you trust their words because you believe them to be experts.
Students are rarely considered credible experts. Yet, the sources they quote are not. To ensure the credibility of the information you quote and present:
- verify that the mentioned scientific studies are representative enough and have been reproduced;
- do a background check on the quoted researchers’ or experts’ reputations;
- get rid of any misspellings, typos, or grammar errors: they may undermine your image.
Logos = Logic
This aspect presupposes that the author uses facts and sound logic to prove their point rationally. This means using studies, statistics, and experts’ opinions to support your opinion and draw logical conclusions.
Make sure your paper’s logic is solid. Avoid common fallacies like:
- unnamed sources;
- confusing correlation with causation;
- unsubstantiated claims or generalizations like “Many scientists say…”.
And always (always!) provide sources wherever it’s possible.
Pathos = Emotions
This is all about connecting with the reader on an emotional level. The author should be able to empathize with the target audience, address their current emotions, and inspire new ones.
How to use it:
- use figurative language (hyperboles, metaphors, etc.) and powerful verbs and adjectives;
- straightforwardly empathize with the reader and use “you” to talk to them if the format and requirements allow this;
- select some arguments that will hit home for the reader.
Predict & Address Potential Objections
The whole point of persuasive writing is to sway the reader’s opinion. To do so, you need to become well-versed in the subject and what experts have to say in support or opposition to your point.
Once you do your research, find the counterarguments to the opposition’s stance. The whole point is to address any doubts or objections the reader may have in the text itself.
If it could help, think of it as a debate: you have to not only present your thesis but also disprove the other party’s statements.
Keep Your Text Well-Organized
Any persuasive essay consists of these three general components, be it written for academic purposes or not:
- Introduction. First, hook the reader with a surprising statistic or fact. Then, give some background information on the topic, define the key terms if needed, and present your thesis. The latter one is a short statement describing your stance on the matter that you’re going to prove further in the text.
- Main body. It’s usually three-to-five-paragraph long, with each paragraph presenting one of your arguments in support of the thesis. The argument itself has to be backed by evidence from credible sources.
- Conclusion. Reiterate the thesis and all the reasons why it’s valid. To make it more powerful, explain why the conclusion is important and/or end the paragraph with a question for the reader to ponder.
Use PEEL method: Point, Evidence, Evaluation, Link
When it comes to the main body – the heart and soul of a persuasive text – ensure that each of its paragraphs follows this structure:
- Point. Also known as the topic sentence, it reflects the main point of the paragraph. In persuasive writing, it usually means a short description of your argument for the thesis.
- Evidence. Statistics, research, primary sources, or authority quotes, – all of this can be used to support the point. Personal stories or anecdotal evidence can also come in handy depending on the topic.
- Evaluation. Just linking sources isn’t enough. You need to explain why this evidence is relevant and how it proves your thesis right. This is also the right place to address any potential counterarguments against the point.
- Link. Any text should have a good flow to it. Linking one paragraph to the next one is how you help the reader to follow your logic.
Remain Consistent in Your Writing
Always remain focused on the topic and your arguments. Don’t switch your stance or its nuances throughout the text. Don’t ramble or trail away just to meet the minimum word count requirement. Stick to the structure and use as few words as possible to communicate your thoughts.
Consistency isn’t only about the content, though. It’s about the language you use, too. In academic writing, you are expected to use formal language and, in most cases, a third-person narrative.
So, while proofreading the text, ensure that there are no informal or slang words and that tenses and the point of view remain consistent.
How does anyone get better at persuasive writing? Well, persuasion – be it written or spoken – is a skill. As with any skill, it can be boosted by practice and hard work.
Of course, it takes time, but it’s a good investment. Persuasion is one of those competencies that are valuable on the job market across a number of fields, from marketing to sales.