As writers, we desire to influence.
Without that goal, it is pointless to even bother writing.
When you write, you present your audience with a position and you try to show them why agreeing with you is in their best interest. Sometimes you win, and earn with a powerful piece that readers connect and agree with.
Sadly though, sometimes you lose and your attempt to convince falls flat on its face.
In this post I have highlighted eight elements of persuasive writing that can tilt the balance favourably for your writing and help you convince and move any audience to take favourable action.
These strategies are not new. In fact, they are time-tested.
They have been used over the years because they work. Add this in your portfolio and edify your writings.
Focus on the reader
Your readers need to know from the start why they need to read on.
The headline should be a promise statement that is expanded in the opening paragraphs. That early in your message, the benefits stick out like a sore thumb.
Never allow the reader bother why they should bother. When they get to that point, it may be difficult to capture their attention again.
The focus on the reader should also reflect when you make an offer.
Whether you are selling an idea or a product, you need to present your offer with boldness to your reader. The benefit of consistency in your message will project you as having integrity and trust will grow.
We learn by association.
When you relate your ideas to what your readers already holds as true, most of your work is done for you.
Are you using metaphors strategically in your writing?
While metaphors have become everyday expressions, they can be very useful as strategic assets in your linguistic toolbox.
Just a shift in the position of a word or phrase can alter the meaning and make the difference between the success or failure of your communication.
Be positive, not negative.
Half full vs. half empty?
That’s not where I am coming from this time.
According to Michel Fortin, it is better to use up words when you intend to influence.
By stating what something isn’t can be counterproductive since it is still directing the mind, albeit in the opposite way. If I told you that dental work is painless for example, you’ll still focus on the word “pain” in “painless.”
• Instead of saying “inexpensive,” say “economical,”
• Instead of saying “this procedure is painless,” say “there’s little discomfort” or “it’s relatively comfortable,”
• And instead of saying “this software is error-free” or “foolproof,” say “this software is consistent” or “stable.”
Show Social Proof
In making decisions, we look to our peers to muster up boldness and to convince ourselves that the path ahead is not lonely. We are social creatures, and do not feel safe in decisions that are not collaborated.
When you link to authorities that share your views, you are leveraging a form of social proof.
When you display a large number of Feedburner subscribers, that may likely lead to faster subscriber growth, while displaying a low number can hurt you. You may be familiar with the fact that blog reader comments lead to more comments, and that displaying incoming links can get more persons to link to your post.
Social media is all about social proof. It is the world saying defiantly, you are not alone.
Repeat a phrase
Repetition is a good way to establish rhythm in your writing and pull your readers in.
When used in moderation, repetition is your friend, but overused it can reduce your writing to trash.
Calls to action present an opportunity to use repetition to good effect. Another time when repetitions can be useful is in communicating complicated information. When you are writing every day advice we have read a thousand times before, it is best to avoid repetition if possible, since on its own the information can be boring.
This one trait separates compelling writers from make-by writers, and it is not so much about grammar or vocabulary as you may think.
How this works is by first of all identifying your audience’s pain points. After the identification of the pain, you can apply gentle pressure on the pain points – a process referred to as agitation – before offering solutions that can take the pain away.
Understanding how your reader thinks is very important when writing persuasively. That insight will enable you anticipate objections and proffer satisfactory explanations.
The value of your solution goes up a notch if your writing demonstrates that you both understand and feel your audience’s pain.
Tell a Story
This is my favourite tool of persuasion.
Humans process information better when they are presented as stories. This is because stories do not force conclusions, but allows the reader to arrive at one ‘independently’. As a result, they are easier to remember.
There is nothing as easy to forget as a dry recitation of facts.
Despite that, what we see in most marketing communications are facts on facts on facts.
“Our product has this, does this and is better than this.”
That doesn’t stick.
If you want your writings to be animated with vibrancy and life, if you want your writing to be memorable, you need to turn your facts into stories.
No passive voice
Passive voice gives you away as deficient in the technical knowledge of grammar.
If someone’s doing something, it’s active. If something was done by someone, it’s passive.
What makes passive sentences less effective?
They suck the live out of your writings and leave your sentences flabby and lifeless. On the other hand, active sentences are full of energy, compact and immediate.
- Passive: The plate was broken by the boy.
- Active: The boy broke the plate.
Notice how passive voice uses more words without adding information — usually a sign of fluffy writing.
Passive voice is not always wrong. When used in the minimum, they can add balance to your structure and make your writing more realistic. The emphasis is the word “minimum”.
I have listed just 8 elements here and this list is far from complete. What other elements of persuasive writing do you employ in your writing?