Writing to Persuade
Persuasive writing must offer the reader reasons for them to buy that reflect their point of view, not say why you want something. Such writing demands empathy and must exhibit a particular style. So, some do’s and don’ts:
• Avoid an introspective tone, if every sentence, paragraph or thought begins with the word “I” – I will … I can … or worse: I want. It creates a “catalogue” approach, listing things from your own point of view, seems tedious and is not likely to prompt interest. Starting with the word “You” creates a difference. Thus: I would like to give you … perhaps becomes: Your will find …; with the latter continuing by explaining why readers will find something interesting.
• Avoid circumspection. A persuasive letter is no place for I think – I hope – probably – maybe or perhaps. Have the courage of your convictions. Ideas and suggestions must reflect your confidence in them. So phrases like this will give you …are better. Similarly avoid bland description. Your idea is never just very good. A suggested feature never quite interesting. Use words that add drama and certitude.
• Stress the benefits. Remember: features are factual things – tangible or intangible – about something. This article is c.700 words long and deals with persuasive writing: all features. Whereas benefits do something for or mean something to people. Benefits should predominate, be sufficient to persuade, well expressed and, if necessary, backed up by proof (something other than you saying so).
• Make it readable. You will need a clear beginning, middle and end, and you must allow your writing to project something of yourself. Make sure it is not formulaic or like a textbook. If you want to sound friendly, efficient, or professional – whatever, make sure such characteristics show.
Writing persuasively needs some preparation. Consider what you want to say. Ask yourself: why should anyone agree to your proposal? List the reasons - all of them. Then organise them, highlighting the most important. How does one link to another to make a logical argument? Command attention early on and get the reader reading, and write to maintain interest throughout. A powerful start that then tails away will persuade no one. Lead with the benefits. Features follow to explain. This article will allow you to experiment with a more persuasive style (benefit), because it is written reflecting proven, practical approaches (feature).
So, next time you set out to make a case in writing perhaps you might consider checking …. Oops! Sorry: next time you write to sell something, make checking that it is not just well described, but persuasively described, a priority.
By Patrick Forsyth of Touchstone Training & Consultancy. Patrick is the author of numerous books on subjects such speech writing, public speaking and making presentations.