Whether you’re writing a sales proposal, an academic treatise, or even just a humble email, your writing is persuasive; that is, even if you’re not trying to get someone to change their mind, you are trying to persuade them that you’re intelligent, professional, and that your document is worth reading. So, persuasiveness is vital. If the reader doesn’t agree with or resists your central thesis, your writing may not achieve its goal, even if your goal is to educate or inform, and won’t ever land with maximum potential impact.
Writing persuasively can be incredibly challenging, however, especially for those who don’t normally write with an explicit aim to convince readers or compel action. Thankfully, a few simple tips can make a big difference.
1: Use evidence
This first tip is a no-brainer if you're trying to persuade a reader: give them reasons to be persuaded. Making strong claims without
any kind of support, justification, facts, data, or other evidence risks your arguments falling flat. If you don’t have direct evidence for your argument, try “social proofs” such as testimonials and supporting quotes, case studies, credentials, awards, or other forms of trust factors that may not directly support your argument but give the reader more reason to regard you as credible.
2: Use verbs
An analysis of admission letters submitted to Harvard found
that letters that placed more emphasis on action, and less on description through adjectives, were more persuasive. Overuse of adjectives and adverbs can make copy feel more generic, bloated and, if everyone’s using the same adjectives to describe themselves, clichéd. Copyblogger
cites a great example comparing verb-driven to adjective-driven writing
I know this guy Brian who is intelligent, hard-working, and really insightful.
Brian founded a successful company, he created a popular blog, and he leads a talented team.
3: Tell a story
Most people can sniff out a sales pitch from a mile away, and dry technical or academic information will put all but the most invested readers to sleep. But convert that pitch or information into a story, and you’ll have your readers’ rapt attention. Remember that stories must incorporate characters, conflict, action, and detailed imagery. Similarly, they must be told in a coherent flow with a beginning, middle, and end.
4: Use the Ransberger Pivot
The Ransberger Pivot
is a specific argumentation technique designed to overcome objections. Change the framework of the argument so that you’re not arguing with or lecturing at your reader; instead, get on the same side. Start the conversation with known points of agreement and only branch into the areas where you need to persuade once those are established.
5: Give the reader a “because”
In fact, just using the word “because” (even if the actual reasoning isn’t very compelling) can increase compliance with requests 34%, when compared to making a request without offering a reason why, according to research from Harvard
. Add a compelling reason, and your arguments and writing will instantly become more persuasive.
6: Write more effectively
Even minute differences in writing quality can have big impacts. Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University looked at how content affects conversions
(or persuading readers to take some kind of action) and found, for one thing, that more descriptive language can be impactful. For example, changing “a $5 fee” to “a small $5 fee” increased conversions by as much as 20%. Similarly, other research has found that adding clear, pointed calls-to-action can increase conversions 25%. Simply writing more skillfully can help make documents more persuasive.
If you have further questions or would like some help strengthening your team’s writing skills, please reach out for more information.