At some point in your life, you’ll have to do some persuasive writing.
A proposal at work to greenlight your passion project, a cover letter for an interview, copywriting to persuade people to buy your product, donate to a charity cause, or even a letter asking for a new coffee machine in the employee pantry or more power outlets to charge laptops in your school library –
How would you accomplish your goal through just your writing?
Informative or critical writing, the type you do in school or during research, presents the facts but isn’t very compelling to the reader to get them to take some sort of action.
This is the role of persuasive writing – to convince the reader to support a cause, change their point of view, purchase a good or service.
And in order to persuade your audience, you need to understand what appeals to your audience.
What works? How would you connect to the reader? How can you convince them of the need you are trying to get across to them?
You can’t simply tell them to buy your brand, or donate to your cause, or alter their lifestyle – after all why should they?
If I told you to change how you write suddenly, I bet you wouldn’t immediately agree either.
I would have to persuade you – show you the benefits of incorporating certain techniques and elements in your writing, to demonstrate how this would benefit you.
So, let’s do just that – I’m going to show you 5 ways to write persuasively like a pro, and how they benefit your writing!
5 Ways to Write Persuasively like a Pro
1. Use the First- and Second-Person Perspective
“I’ve” been using the first-person point of view to speak to “you” in the second person.
By doing so, I create a personal dialogue with you specifically.
By referring to you specifically, and by talking to you throughout the article, the first and second person perspectives create a more personal, engaging read which feels more like a one-to-one conversation.
Imagine this entire piece being written in third person, instead.
You’d be reading things like “Students learn informative or critical writing in school” or “Employees may need persuasive writing to succeed at work.”
Doesn’t that feel rather passive and impersonal?
It would be like reading a textbook, and I don’t know about you, but I haven’t been persuaded to do much by reading textbooks.
When you treat the audience as a third party, you’re not really engaging them as the intended reader for your piece.
They may not know or understand that your advice is meant specifically for them, and even if they do feel informed after reading the piece, they might not feel compelled to act in the way you hope to convince them to.
On the other hand, by referring to your audience directly and specifically, the reader feels as though you wrote this piece for them – the information, advice, appeal, is, to your reader personally.
2. Ask Rhetorical Questions
When you use rhetorical questions in your writing, you’re not expecting an answer – it’s rather used to get your reader thinking, to prime them in anticipation for the answer you’re about to give them.
By setting up a question – such as, “How can you persuade readers through your writing?” – I’m not asking you to give me the answer, but rather setting the question up in your mind to frame a problem with a solution I’m going to present later on.
Questions like these pique the readers’ curiosity – you bring your reader’s attention to a problem that exists and pertains to them, and then begin to present them with solutions to that problem.
Rather than telling your reader to buy your new book, for example, you can frame the existence of the need for your book through a rhetorical question.
“Are you so busy you don’t have time to cook full meals at home?” or “Are you struggling with your study/workload and failing to keep up?” help frame the problem to your reader.
“Did you know you could cook meals for the entire week in just an hour?” or “Did you know you could learn in half the time if you have the right strategies?” – questions like these help set up the existence of solutions to that need.
Then, you proceed to give them the solution – “With this book, you can ____”.
In this way, by identifying a potential problem and then presenting the solution, you are persuading your readers of their need for your product, service, cause, etc.
But simply a series of rhetorical questions and then the presentation of a complete solution won’t convince your readers entirely – you have to prove to them why your solution will work.
3. Cite Expert Opinion
You can use this expertise to add weight and credibility to your advice!
Show your readers why they can and should trust your advice.
For example, I’m a learning expert – I’ve developed many strategies to help learners from all over the world to learn and remember anything faster, and that includes quality writing.
My strategies have benefited over half a million kids, and my success formula for learners has worked wonders for 30 years.
Rather than a stranger on the internet, knowing who is talking to you and how valid the information they’re sharing removes the uncertainty of trying out something new.
If you trust the writer to know their stuff, you’d be more willing to believe that the solutions they’re proposing work and give them a try.
If you’re writing about something outside the area of your expertise, cite the work of other experts in your writing.
What do leading institutions, academic journals, professors, thought leaders, successful entrepreneurs, have to say about this topic?
How quantitative – backed up by statistics and tangible proof – is your evidence?
Can you demonstrate the evidence – in percentages or other measurable metrics?
If I said, “Pat Wyman has been a learning specialist for over 30 years” and “Pat Wyman has been teaching for a long time” – which sounds more reliable?
After all, “a long time” is subjective – it could be 12 months, 5 years, 10 years, etc.
Use facts and figures to back up your selling points and refer to the experts where you do.
By doing so, you’re adding credibility to your writing, and your readers will find it easier to trust what you are saying.
4. Use Psychological Triggers in Your Writing
And by knowing how to draw out specific psychological reactions in your readers through your writing, you’re able to create that personal, persuasive relationship.
One of the most effective means of doing this is by communicating empathy with your readers.
Earlier in this article, I listed out a variety of scenarios where you might need to use persuasive writing – cover letters, work proposals, marketing copy, etc.
You or someone you know might be experiencing one of those situations or situations similar to them.
By highlighting to your reader the existence of a “pain point” – a problem that your reader might be experiencing – you activate a psychological trigger whereby your reader feels you know what they’re going through and empathize with them.
Rather than saying “lots of children are having a hard time in school,” it’s far more empathetic, personal and effective if you say, “I know your kids might be having a hard time in school.”
Again, you’re directly addressing your audience, but also exhibiting that you know how they must be feeling, the frustration, anxiety, confusion, inconvenience etc., that they’re experiencing because of the existence of this problem.
By doing this, your reader is engaged and immersed in your writing and more willing to give you the chance to present them with a solution – which you can also do with other psychological triggers.
For instance, success stories are a great, persuasive psychological trigger.
Instead of assuring your reader something works, you can show it to them – you can cite testimonials of happy customers, share stories of how lives have changed because of what you’re recommending, etc.
This incorporates a human element into your writing – your readers grow aware first-hand of what the results of following your advice looks like, what difference it makes.
They can visualize themselves as one of these success stories if they follow your advice, and that can motivate them to give your recommendation a try.
Another effective psychological trigger is the use of surprise.
What is an astonishing fact or mind-blowing detail you can present your reader with that can not only pique their interest but also convince them of how beneficial what you’re recommending is?
For example, say you frame the problem as “I know your kids might be having a hard time in school.”
Then you present your reader with this astonishing fact in the form of a rhetorical question – “But what if I told you that, with the right strategies, your child can learn anything in half the time? Sound too good to be true? I’m going to show you exactly how your child can learn how to learn anything faster.”
Now don’t you think that’s a persuasive hook to keep your reader continuing through your piece?
5. Use Metaphors
Metaphors add flare and color to your writing – they make it more interesting and importantly, easier to understand.
When you use a metaphor, you’re essentially comparing two things without using the words “like” or “as.”
You can’t literally “add flare and color” to your writing – unless you start animating a bunch of images and change the font color, which would probably only distract your readers more than aid them.
But expressions like this give your readers a grasp of the concept – “flare and color” sound interesting and fun, rather than simply saying “metaphors make your writing interesting and fun.”
One of the wonderful ways metaphors work their magic is by helping you visualize what you’re reading.
You turn what you’re reading into mental movies in your head.
See? That’s another metaphor – the images you create and see in your mind’s eye are like a movie, of which you are the director.
Using these metaphors helps readers grasp complex ideas easily, by associating a new concept to something they already know.
So, when I tell you that metaphors help you create mental movies in your head, you are better able to understand the concept of visualizing what you are learning.
The brain recalls images many thousand times faster than it remembers text.
Images also spark stronger emotional reactions than texts – they communicate a lot more meaning in milliseconds than when you have to string letters together, process and decode them for their meaning.
When you use metaphors in your writing, you’re helping your readers visualize the ideas you’re sharing with them, making them easier to understand and remember.
You’re also drawing out an emotional response with effective metaphors, and this works in your favor in persuasive writing!
With these 5 ways to write persuasively like a pro, I hope I’ve equipped you with all the tools you need to write spectacular, compelling pieces.
So, have I persuaded you to try these tips out in your own writing?
This isn’t a rhetorical question – do let me know in the comments below!
Pat Wyman is the CEO of HowtoLearn.com and an internationally noted brain coach known as America’s Most Trusted Learning Expert. She has helped over half a million people in schools and corporations such as Microsoft, Intel and Google improve their lives with her learning strategies, learning styles inventory and courses, such as Total Recall Learning™.
Her superpower is helping people learn, read and remember everything faster. Pat is the best-selling author of more than 15 books and is also a university instructor, mom and golden retriever lover!