Posted Jan. 10, 2019
In general, professional writers should present careful, well-reasoned, and well-structured arguments if they want to educate and convince the reader. All the pieces of your argument should fit together, add up nicely, and drive toward the conclusion you want the reader to make. Along the way, you present proof points or evidence that further strengthen your message.
However, it is possible to go too far with logic, particularly when the writing needs to speak to the reader's emotion and forge a personal connection. In these circumstances, a purely logical or rational approach can undercut the writing's effectiveness. It is important in these instances to strike a balance in your written content between logical and emotional arguments.
This is true even if you're writing in a professional business environment. Almost any content that needs to persuade or convince the reader – ranging from a humble email, to sales and marketing content, to major proposals and requests – will be more effective if they can evoke an appropriate emotional reaction in the reader.
For one thing, we often overestimate how much information is needed to persuade the reader. One study, described in Psychology Today, exposed visitors to one of two versions of an e-commerce website: those that presented more detail about the products on the main product page, and those that presented only the product image and a few general details. They found that the visitors who consumed the additional technical specification details were "were much less likely to add the product to their cart."
We all like to think of ourselves as rational beings who make rational decisions, but the truth is, we allow major decisions to be guided by instinct and emotion. Overwhelming the reader with your argument can prove counter-productive by triggering psychological resistance.
Another study looked at a wide array of factors affecting magazine advertising. They found that as much as 80% of an ad's memorability is related to its likeability, which they call "the first building block of impact." In other words, readers would be more likely to successfully recall the ad later if the ad triggered the right emotional reaction.
So, if you've found that your writing isn't producing desired results, you might consider tweaking it to incorporate some emotional appeals. Think about your intended audience and the purpose of your writing to determine how much you need to present sensible arguments versus content that's emotionally evocative. Some ways to evoke emotion:
- Tell stories with which the reader can empathize and relate.
- Use humor (although this can be a double-edged sword in a business environment; a little goes a long way, and you need to treat it with a light touch).
- Incorporate emotive visuals.
- Favor straight-forward wording and sentence construction. You want your readers to get your meaning instantly. If they have to decode your argument, it removes them from the emotion of it.
About Hurley Write, Inc.
Hurley Write, Inc., a certified women-owned small business (WBENC and WOSB), Historically Underutilized (HUB), and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE), has been designing and teaching customized onsite and online technical, business, and scientific writing courses for over 25 years. We also develop and teach specialty courses, such as how to write proposals and standard operating procedures (SOPs) and deviation and investigation reports, and how to prepare and give great presentations.