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How to Write Persuasively

By Jennifer Stewart
Posted Saturday, September 18, 2004

When writing an advertisement, your aim is to persuade your readers to follow a particular course of action--willingly.

There are three elements in this process:

1. You must win the trust of your audience.

2. You must appeal to their emotions (rather than to their intellect).

3. You must rationalise their decision for them, so that they feel comfortable in making it.

If you succeed in all three areas, you will have engineered their consent to buy your product or service.

Here are some tips to help you to achieve this desirable state of affairs:

1. Win the Trust of Your Audience

The first step is to show that you are a person who can be trusted--so try to give your audience something of value--advice, interesting "inside" information or helpful tips. Indicate why your opinion here should be valued--give a little detail about your background and your credentials.

To win their trust, you must know something about your audience:

What sort of people are they?
How old are they?
What are their special interests?
You must also try to find some common ground with your audience:

Begin with a point of common interest e.g. "I'm sure we all want to give our kids the best start possible . . ."
Anticipate their responses by using rhetorical questions e.g. "You're probably wondering where you'll find the time to . . ."

Use generalisations to persuade your audience to agree with you--people feel more comfortable when they know that, "80% of families use . . . " or that "8 out of 10 teachers state that parental interest improves student grades . . ."

2. Appeal to the Emotions

We all know that people respond to emotional appeals more readily than to intellectual appeals, so utilise this in your advertising. There are three steps to follow:

First, arouse an emotion--anger, fear, resentment, envy, greed, sympathy.

Second, give a reason for the emotion--"your children are precious to you, don't risk their future by . . ."

Third, give your audience an appropriate course of action to follow-- "Call now to ensure your place in this new . . ."

When appealing to the emotions, your most powerful tools are words--learn to use them to create the desired effect on your readers.

Words can have literal meanings (denotation) and emotional meanings (connotation); e.g. a 'house' is a building where people live, but a 'home' is much more
Some words have strong emotive appeals built-in; e.g. 'chaos' implies something much stronger than 'disruption'
Select your facts carefully--choose only those that support your point of view

3. Rationalise

This is giving people good reasons to believe what you're telling them. We all do this to ourselves everyday. How many times have you said something like this to yourself, "My old car is going to start costing me money soon; I'd be better off buying a new one now"?

Tell your would-be customers that they'll save money in the long run by spending it now and you've given them a reason to act immediately.

Summary

Emphasise and repeat your key points--use logic and reasoning only when necessary
Be convincing in your presentation, so that your audience forgets to ask about the points you skip over
Use plenty of emotional words and focus on the audience.
Consider how you can use these persuasive techniques to sell your products or services.

About the Author
Jennifer Stewart offers professional writing services for web pages, press releases, advertising material, business reports, content for autoresponders, technical booklets and articles for newsletters. For those who want their own writing double-checked for accuracy, Stewart offers proof reading or full editing. Website: (http://www.write101.com) Free writing tips: mailto:WritingTips-subscribe@onelist.com?subject=Tips