Writing Skills

Persuasive Writing Skills: 29 Ways To Write To Persuade



1. The Rhetorical Triangle: Derived from Aristotle's three appeals. Most persuasive writing techniques use an effective combination of all three appeals.

Logos (idea, message) - Pathos (force, emotion) - Ethos (form, manner)


- Rational Appeals (logos): Appeal to logical reasoning ability of readers

Facts, case studies, statistics, experiments, logical reasoning, analogies, anecdotes, authority voices

Emotional appeals (pathos): Appeal to beliefs and feelings

Higher emotions, belief in fairness - love, pity etc.

Lower emotions - greed, lust, revenge, avarice etc.

Ethical Appeals (ethos): Coming off as being competent/fair/authority

Trustworthiness, credibility, reliability, expert testimony, reliable sources, fairness


2. How persuasive writing is classically structured

These do not have to be followed exactly or in this order.


- Exordium, or introduction: Establish your argument, and clarify the importance of the issue.

- Narration, or background statement of the facts: Tell story behind the argument, offering background information.

- Proposition Statement (Propositio) : Carefully state central proposition, as a thesis statement would be given.

- Conformation, or the confirmation of the piece: The body of the text. - develop your case, using examples, facts, statistics (logos).

- Refutation, or discussion of alternatives: Refute opposition arguments, exposing faulty reasoning.

- Digression (Digressio) : Appealing anecdote or description, offering ethos or pathos.

- Peroration, or a conclusion: Tie the conclusion back to the introduction in order to strengthen your claim. - finish with strong conviction; review main points, or suggest call to action introduction, statement of case, refutation, confirmation, conclusion, may be altered to suit your needs.


3. Five ways you can organize your points


- Pro & cons: Present the reasons against your opinion, then give reasons in favor of your opinion. Explain why your reasoning is superior.

- Cause and effect: Connect ideas logically by showing their cause and effect relationship. For example, if you wants to get people to stop using their cars often, present adverse effects of frequent car usage.

- Comparison and contrast: Show similarities and differences between your opinion and others. Give facts that prove why your opinion is better.

- Main idea and detail: Provide key point or main ideas and then the facts to support it.

- Order of importance: Present your arguments, moving from the least important detail to the most important or vice versa.


(Source: Wikipedia)


4. Use the right words

Use words that will resonate with the audience.


Use Power Words


Charisma words (mostly positive, hope-inducing words)

Safety-oriented words: guaranteed, safe, secure, sound, healthy, strong.

Greed-oriented words: cash, deserve, money, more, free.

Control-oriented words: easy, quick, discover, proven, best, grab.

Belonging/Identity-oriented words: you, love, good, approved, favorite, new.

Trust-oriented words: certain, good, proven, real, right, scientific, sure, truth.

Anxiety words (use with care): E.g. 'Only two days left!'


David Ogilvy's ad copy power words list: Suddenly, now, announcing, introducing, improvement, amazing, sensational, remarkable, revolutionary, startling, miracle, magic offer, quick, easy, wanted, challenge, compare, bargain, hurry


The Yale list (1963): Easy, Results, Save, Discover, Guarantee, Safety, Health, Love, Money, Need, Proven, You


Wells' most effective words for children (1965): Free, Remarkable, Offer, Hurry, New, Revolutionary, Quick, Advice to, Suddenly, Startling, Easy, The truth about, Now, Miracle, Wanted ,Last chance, Announcing, Magic, Challenge, It's here, Introducing, Improvement, Compare, Just arrived, Sensational, Amazing bargain, Important development


Tip: Don’t overload your sentences with power words. Excess of anything is bad.


Avoid annoying phrases: These phrases that have now lost their meaning from overuse.

A list of 10 most annoying words: At the end of the day- At this moment in time- Like, (as punctuation) - With all due respect - To be honest - Let’s touch bone- Going forward - Absolutely (Source: Plain English campaign)


Avoid using 'management speak' and silly metaphors: Blue sky thinking - on steroids - think outside the box - the long and short of it is - the fact (of the matter) is - reinvent the wheel - open a can of worms - talk off line - same sheet of music - on a weekly basis - touch base - building bridges - teach how to fish - run it up the flag pole - sooner rather than later - lessons learned - synergy (the most evil word there is) - zero tolerance - not ready for prime time - showstopper - barking up the wrong tree - holding feet to the fire - the cart before the horse - ground truth - devil is in the details - break down barriers - food fight - bear fruit - sense of urgency - dog in the fight - utilize (prefer use) - low hanging fruit - slippery slope - straw man - work in a vacuum - grease the skids - let a thousand flowers bloom - red herring - leaning forward in the saddle - ahead of the curve - crawl, walk, run - cookie cutter



5. Have a powerful opening that blows them away.


6. Give a personal appeal: Establish common ground that your audience can relate to. This is also as empathy.


7. Mind your tone: You want the reader to like you/be sympathetic you. Don't be too harsh or sarcastic.


8. Be precise: Avoid lazy language, cliches, trends and jargon.


9. Concede and advance: Acknowledge opposing points of view and then offer your rebuttal. Also, know what opposing arguments others might give.


10. Use logic/reasoning correctly: If A equals B, and B equals C, then A must equal C. If the statements in your equation are true, then your conclusion must be true as well.


11. Project authority: Establish your credentials. Speak from personal experience, or if you have none, then provide facts, figures, and quotes from authorities to support your opinion


12. Use rhetorical questions: A rhetorical question can be phrased so that the only answer is in favor of your opinion. E.g. 'Silence brings peace of mind. Who doesn't want a little peace in their life?;


13. Develop a stance: Stand for something. and clearly explain the argument.


14. Words like 'because' and 'but'

When used at start can cause the reader to read closely. 'Because' has become a staple of advertising.


15. Use sense words: Words like feel, touch, behold, clear get a better sense of what is being described. 'Behold the magic of 5K ultra bright screens.'


16. Tell mini stories: Weave your point across a true/made up story of a sample person who faced a problem, the things she/he suffered, and how they reached safe shores. Mini stories are the main stay of how startup founders/designers etc make cases for new products.


17. Repetition: Repeating certain words/related words and ideas make a thing memorable. E.g. 'Not just a bigger display. A better display.' (from an Apple ad). Repeat the main theme of your writing often.


18. Inclusive and Exclusive Language: Words such as 'we','our', 'us', etc persuade by including the reader/audience, creating a 'group/tribe'. Find a connection between your target reader and yourself, and use the words to form a 'tribe'. 'You and I are sensible people, hardworking people.'


19. Analogy: Comparing one thing with another in order to make a particular point. 'An open office is like a giant cage, and workers are like supervised/constantly watched upon animals.'


20. Generalizations: Sweeping statements about a whole group, when honky one or two are involved. Or, using one example to paint an entire subject area in a different light. This works best with a close-minded audience. 'Young people are nuisance everywhere.'


21. Hyperbole: Emphasizing points by exaggerating. Used to mock/shock opposing opinions, often appealing to fears. 'One day there will be no jobs, for anyone!'


22. Alliteration and Assonance: The repetition of initial consonant sounds {alliteration) or vowel sounds (assonance) , making your points memorable. Martin Luther King and Barack Obama used them often in their speeches. 'Dark days of dejections' (alliteration), or, 'Make fun and run'. (assonance)


23. lmagery and Figurative Language: Metaphor (A is B), simile (A 'is like' B) or imagery (details of a scene). 'Dark clouds over my shoulders' (metaphor), 'Travelling in crowded trains, packed like rats' (simile), 'there was blood everywhere, on the floor, on the door, on the shoes...' (imagery).


24. Use the right tone: Tone that resonates with the target reader. E.g. Passionate, reasonable, restrained, bitter, cheerful, impersonal, mocking, admiring, insensitive, neutral, endearing, soothing etc.


25. Agitate and solve: This is a staple of sales proposals. In a PAS format (Problem - Agitation - Solution), the reader is told the benefits of the product/service on offer. (Here agitation refers to the consequences of the problem continuing).


26. Social proof: Bring out the names and famous examples who support your case/product.


27. Pyramid Principle (Used at consulting firm McKinsey): Start with the answer first. Group and summarize your supporting arguments. Logically order your supporting ideas.


28. To logically order ideas that belong in the same group: This is also a practice at Mckinsey.


Time order: If there is a sequence of events that form a cause-effect relationship, you should present the ideas in time order.

Structural order: Break a singular thought into its parts, ensuring that you have covered all of the major supporting ideas.

Degree order: Present supporting ideas in rank order of importance, most to least important.


29. The Rule of 3: They say whenever you’re trying to persuade, always present 3 reasons. Not 2, not 4, but exactly 3.


It is possibly because we tend to remember small odd numbers better, I suppose. It sticks. It also makes your thinking more structured, building on a single theme.


'There are 3 reasons why...'

' The company is not doing well. It is overstaffed, over-leveraged, and over-slow.'


'Before...now...tomorrow' formula is popular too.

E.g. 'She was the greatest before, greatest now, and greatest tomorrow too.'


Thank you for reading.
If you found this guide useful, please share this with your friends and family. 
There are 200+ guides to succeeding in business, career and personal life in The Success Manual. Get the pdf ebook for $12 only.