Persuasive Writing

TOPIC OVERVIEW 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 Types of Persuasive Writing Persuasive Strategies The Reasoning Process Direct and Indirect Patterns of Organisation 7.5 Voice and Credibility Summary Glossary Test 1 Test 2 References

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Persuasive writing is writing that sets out to influence or change an audience’s thoughts or actions. It is also known as the argument essay, as it utilises logic and reason to show that one idea is more legitimate than another idea. It attempts to persuade a reader to adopt a certain point of view or to take a particular action. The argument must always use sound reasoning and solid evidence by stating facts, giving logical reasons, using examples and quoting experts.

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LEARNING OUTCOMES
By the end of this topic, you should be able to: 1. 2. 3. 4. comprehend the nature of persuasive writing; identify different types of persuasive writing; identify the reasons for and purposes of persuasive writing; and comprehend how to plan persuasive strategies

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MIND MAP
Types of Persuasive Writing Reasons for and Purposes of Persuasive Writing Types of Reasoning Processes Source of Information, Relating to Arguments and Evidence

The Reasoning Process

Direct and Indirect Patterns of Organisation

PERSUASIVE WRITING

Persuasive Strategies Planning Persuasive Strategies Emphasising Readers' Benefits Addressing Readers' Concerns Showing Sound Reasoning Presenting Reliable Evidence

Voice and Credibility

7.1

TYPES OF PERSUASIVE WRITING

There are three types of persuasive writing as shown in Figure 7.1.

Types of Persuasive Writing

Assertion

Concession/Rebuttal
Figure 7.1: Types of persuasive writing

Proof

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ACTIVITY
(a) Assertion An assertion is when the writer asserts a certain opinion to the reader. The assertion may state the problem or controversy and may appear clearly and succinctly. After stating the controversy, the writer should clearly present the assertion, which will be expressed in the thesis statement. By going through the text, the reader should know what side of the argument or issue the writer is on. What do you think is persuasive writing?

(b)

Concession/Rebuttal The next important type is concession/rebuttal. The writer should remember that there are other views that differ from the writer ’s views. Failure to include them may indicate to the readers that the writer is either ignorant or dishonest. It is also important that the writer does not exaggerate or distort the opponent’s view. The writer does not have to defend the opposing side but fairly and reasonably state what these views are. Proof The third type is proof. It is similar to the body of the expository essay, which presents the thesis statement’s support. A persuasive essay presents the evidence for the assertion. A generalisation or assertion using a series of facts, examples, instances and observations can support the argument. In all persuasive essays the contents should contain a brief but compelling restatement of the assertion.

(c)

ACTIVITY
What are the differences between the three types of persuasive writing? In your opinion, what are the contexts which call for these types of writing?

7.1.1

Reasons for and Purposes of Persuasive Writing

There are, in fact, many reasons and purposes for persuasive writing. The first reason is to influence or change an audience’s thoughts or actions. Through our writing, we want people to believe us, remember what we have written and will take the necessary action based on our written work. How convincingly we put our words in order will determine whether our document will work or otherwise. To do this, we need to appeal to their reason, emotions and their good character.

7.1.2

Types of Reasoning Processes

The reasoning process works in two modes, namely induction and deduction. Deduction begins with a general principle or premise and draws a specific conclusion from it. For example: All people who drink liquor endanger their health. (Major premise) My good friend, John, drinks. (Minor premise) Therefore, my friend is endangering his health. (Conclusion) Is this a strong argument?

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• •

You need to offer evidence to support your claims. It may be impossible to prove the cause-effect link between my friend, John’s drinking habit and declining health.

ACTIVITY 7

. 1

Other issues you may bring in to support your argument. • • Impact on drinking on other members of the family. A large number of people who died from drunkenness.

Create a number of different scenarios to give to small groups of students. The following are two examples: (a) A group of students are putting forward the argument with teachers and the principal that they should get a week away from regular classes and carry out fund-raising activities for local charities.

Induction, on the other hand, supports a general conclusion by examining specific facts or cases. For example, I can cite examples on the effect of drinking on John. He becomes violent, angry and always loses his temper. He quarrels and fights with his wife, breaks things in the house and spends lots of money on liquor. he process itself appeals to reason, emotion and our good personality and character. (a) Appeal to Reason Remember that an argument is an appeal to a person’s sense of reason; it is not a violent fight, dispute or disagreement. It is a measured, logical way of trying to persuade others to agree with you. One thing to remember is that there are at least two sides to every issue. If you take the attitude that there is only one side — ‘your side’ you are likely to alienate your reader.

(b)

A group of part-time employees at a local fast food restaurant is arguing with the employer that a union would be beneficial. Give each small group a different scenario. Have the group imagine at least three counter arguments to its position and then decide how to deal with these.

You then need to choose one side of an issue clearly in an effort to persuade others. If you are unsure of your own stance, how can you expect other people to assess, understand and be convinced by your position? For example: Should my father stop smoking? Position: Yes Ask yourself the following question:
• • • •

Do I have enough evidence? (Is it sufficient?) Will my audience believe in me? (Is it trustworthy?) What are the assumptions built into my argument and are those assumptions fair? Does my conclusion follow logically from the claims I make?

(b)

Appeal to Emotion We can also appeal to emotion. This logical appeal is an extremely persuasive tool. However, our human nature also lets us be influenced by our emotions. One way of evoking emotion in our reader is to use vivid images. For example: (appealing to my father who smokes).

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ACTIVITY
“I remember when grandmother died of lung cancer. It was the first time I had ever seen you cry, daddy. I remember that you also made mummy a promise not to start smoking again.” However, we must always be on the alert. We need to be careful whenever we use emotional appeal with others, even our close friends/relatives. We have to use it in a “real sense”, “where it happens and when it takes place”. We should not use it as a substitute for logical and/or ethical appeal. However, we should never use emotional appeals to draw on stereotypes, manipulate our emotional fears or to get an automatic reaction from someone. We will upset or hurt our audience if we were to use emotionally charged language or examples which have tendencies to create ill- feeling or hatred in readers. (c) Appeal to Good Personality/Character The last example is appeal to our good personality. The appeal to our good behaviour or our ethics can occur at one or more of the following levels in any argument:
• • • • •

It is also good to know the available characters or personalities, or temperaments, of people to communicate persuasively. Dr. Florence Littauer suggests that people can be categorized as being Sanguines, Cholerics, Melancholy and Phlegmatic. Use Google to research on Littauer’s temperaments (type Personality Plus) and see into which temperament you fall into. For a start, you can visit http://lynn_meade.tripod.co m/id139.htm

Are you a reasonable person? (Are you willing to listen, compromise and concede points?) Can someone reason with you? (Are you ready to listen?)

Are you authoritative? (Do you have the mandate or power to stand by your decisions?) Are you an ethical/moral person? Are you concerned for the well-being of your audience? (Do you have them at heart?)

The moral/ethical appeal is based on the audience’s perception of the speaker. Therefore, the audience must trust the speaker in order to accept the argument. If we were to look at the three reasons, we are tempted to say that the last one is the most appealing. Further elaboration and examples are provided in 7.3: “The Reasoning Process”.

7.1.3

Source of Information, Relating to Arguments and Evidence

Remember that the purpose of persuasive writing is to assert an opinion which you are going to defend and to offer supporting evidence (data) in order to convince the reader to agree with you. You must ensure that your evidence is convincing. Convincing evidence will satisfy the following questions:
• • •

Do you have enough evidence to present your case? Is the evidence trustworthy? Does it come from reliable, informed, valid sources? Is the evidence verifiable? (Can you corroborate it through other sources than your own?

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Convincing evidence is the first element of a good argument. The preceding statements pertaining to this show the necessity to have evidence which is valid, reliable, sufficient, trustworthy and can be verified. The next element is appeal to authority. If we want to clear the air of uneasiness that something is authoritative, we must consider the following elements. They are:
• • • •

ACTIVITY 7

. 2

Do people question your authority on a particular subject? Is your expert opinion current or up to date? Do your peers accept and respect your opinion? Is your expert advice free of bias?

The last element is improper evaluation of statistics. You must always remember that when you use facts, data and statistics of any sort, use them ethically and accurately. Try to be as objective as possible. Have samples which are pool representative and unbiased. Have statistics accurately tabulated and see that the statistics are not taken out of context. Remember that when quoting a source you must quote it in context, never out of context, and never change the content to suit your taste. Use you own judgement. It must always commensurate only to the knowledge that you have at a given time. A celebrity endorsement of a product is not quite the same as an expert opinion (unless that celebrity really uses that product that he/she endorses).

Get students to design a promotional poster to be put up in their school, inviting students to come out and support a fundraising drive for one of their favourite charities. Before constructing the poster, students should prepare an outline which includes their persuasive objectives, strategies, pattern and voice. In their outline, they should also state how they will attempt to establish their credibility.

7.2

PERSUASIVE STRATEGIES

Understanding persuasive strategies can help you in two very important ways:

ACTIVITY
What do you think are persuasive strategies which you can apply in your writing?

Knowing the strategies helps you analyse the strategies other people are using to persuade you. This way, you can protect yourself, for example, when unethical marketers are trying to take advantage of you. Knowing the strategies helps you to choose which is the most effective way to persuade an audience.

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7.2.1

Planning Persuasive Strategies

Persuasive writers must plan the strategies they will use to gain reader support for the actions they recommend and the positions they advocate. Possible persuasive strategies include:
• • • •

emphasising readers’ benefits; addressing readers’ concerns; showing sound reasoning; and presenting reliable evidence.

7.2.2

Emphasising Readers’ Benefits

The writer explains to readers how they will benefit from performing the action, taking the position or purchasing the product recommended. If the targeted readers are members of an organisation, the writer might stress organisational objectives and growth needs.

7.2.3

Addressing Readers’ Concerns

It is always a good strategy for persuasive writers to try to predict what the readers’ responses will be. They should try to counteract any negative thoughts or arguments that may arise in their readers’ minds.

7.2.4

Showing Sound Reasoning

Sound reasoning is the persuasive writer ’s best weapon. In many cases, it is not enough to merely identify the benefits of taking a position or an action. The writer needs to persuade readers that the decisions or actions recommended will actually bring about benefits and explain why (for example, the new computer will reduce costs because …; the book modification recommended will boost sales because…)

7.2.5

Presenting Reliable Evidence

Reliable evidence is the kind of evidence readers are willing to accept. This varies, depending on the field. For example, in many business situations, personal observations and anecdotes by knowledgeable individuals are accepted as reliable evidence. In scientific fields, however, certain experimental procedures are accepted as reliable, whereas common wisdom and ordinary observations are not. A writer needs to use common sense to determine what type of evidence is needed.

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7.3

THE REASONING PROCESS

In order to have confidence in the writer, readers must understand the: (a) (b) Writer’s Claim The claim is the position the writer wants readers to accept. Evidence The evidence consists of observations, facts and other information provided in support of the claim. Line of Reasoning The line of reasoning is the connecting link between the claim and the evidence — the reasons given for believing that the evidence proves the claim.

ACTIVITY
Based on your understanding, why is it important to address readers’ concerns when it comes to persuasive writing?

(c)

There are two basic types or reasoning processes: deduction and induction.
Deduction begins with a general principle or premise and draws a specific conclusion from it.

For example: All people who smoke endanger their health. (Major premise) My father smokes. (Minor premise) Therefore, my father is endangering his health. (Conclusion) Is this a strong argument?
• •

You need to offer evidence in support of your claims. It may be impossible to prove a cause-effect link between my father ’s smoking and his declining health.

Other issues you may bring in to support your argument:
• •

Secondhand smoke/impact on family and friends. The staggering number of people over 60 years old who die from lung cancer.

Induction supports a general conclusion by examining specific facts or cases.

For example: If I were to argue that my father was endangering his health, I might cite specific symptoms:
• • •

His teeth are yellowish and he’s lost a considerable amount of weight. He’s no longer able to cycle 25km every morning. Whenever he exerts himself physically, he ends up coughing extremely hard. Other logical appeals?

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You could cite smoking/cancer statistics, authority in the form of the surgeon’s report, financial costs, etc.

7.4

DIRECT AND INDIRECT PATTERNS OF ORGANISATION

The following paragraphs will look at the direct and indirect patterns of organisation. (a) Organising to Create a Positive Response It is not only the variety and amount of information that is critical in a communication, but also the way in which readers process that information. As a persuasive writer, you must carefully choose the organisational pattern which best suits your purpose. You must also ensure that all the parts of your persuasive piece fit together tightly. Direct Pattern Organisation In a direct pattern of organisation, the writer ’s main point is stated first. Evidence and other related information are given afterwards. For example, if a writer is recommending that a company make a particular purchase, he or she would begin with the recommendation and present the arguments in favour of the purchase. The direct organisational pattern works well when the reader ’s initial response is all important (for example, you have worked out a solution to a problem or you have good news). The direct pattern also works well when you are recommending a course of action or presenting an analysis which you expect your readers to view favourably. (c) Indirect Pattern of Organisation An indirect pattern of organisation postpones the bottom-line statement until all the evidence and related information have been presented. You would first discuss the situation; then make your recommendations after presenting your arguments. By using an indirect pattern, the writer can prepare readers for the recommendations about to be made (for example, by discussing goals and strategies beforehand). The indirect pattern is particularly useful when you are conveying information which your readers might view as threatening. The indirect pattern avoids the risk of inciting the reader ’s initial negative reactions. However, it can frustrate the reader who wants to know the ‘bottom line’ first.

(b)

7.5

VOICE AND CREDIBILITY

Voice, in this context means, “Who am I as a writer? Am I deputising someone else or do I assume another role?” In other words, be yourself when you write. By doing so, you release all the talents that you have in trying to persuade others or to win others to your side. You have to know how good and credible you are as a person. People will certainly accept you for being ‘you’ because they know that you are credible and can be trusted. (a) Consider the Reasoning Process and Types of Reasoning The writer needs to think and consider how he reasons out his writing. That is to say, he has to think deeply on what, when and how to say things. In fact, to reason out is a process by itself.

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This takes time and perseverance. How do you argue or put forward your thoughts to the reader? You can reason them out using the deduction or induction method (refer to 7.2) (b) Choosing an Appropriate Voice The voice you choose is an important element of your persuasive strategy; it represents both the role you assign yourself and the role you assign your readers. For example, if you intend to write for your peers, but you assume the voice of a superior authority, your readers may resent their implied role as inferiors. If your audience responds to your voice in a negative way, they will not receive your message openly. Establishing Credibility Your credibility is the belief your readers have regarding whether you are a good source of information and ideas. When people believe you are credible, they are more likely to accept the things you say. If people do not find you credible, they may refuse to consider your ideas seriously, no matter how soundly you present your case.

(c)

ACTIVITY
Why is establishing credibility essential in persuasive writing?

SUMMARY This topic defines persuasive writing as compared with other forms of writing, presents the dos and don’ts of persuasive writing and provides students with experience in clarifying a position, preparing arguments and organising a persuasive written report or article. It gives opportunities for students to present themselves and to respond to the persuasive writing of others and decide what makes an effective piece of writing. Students will be asked to examine moral and ethical issues related to persuasive techniques.

G L O S S A R Y

Credibility Deduction

— —

If someone or something has credibility, people believe in them and trust them. Deduction is the process of teaching a conclusion that you have reached about something because of other things that you know to be true. Induction is a method of reasoning in which you use individual ideas of facts to give you a general rule or conclusion. Logic is a method of reasoning that involves a series of statements, each of which must be true if the statement before it is true. Someone or something that is persuasive is likely to persuade a person to believe or do a particular thing. Reasoning is a process by which you reach a conclusion after thinking about all the facts.

Induction

Logic

Persuasive Reasoning

— —

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TEST 1 What is persuasive writing? What are the reasons for and purposes of persuasive writing? TEST 2 State the different types of reasoning processes in persuasive writing. How do you establish credibility in your writing? How and when do you choose an appropriate voice? REFERENCES Sebranek, P., Kember, D., & Meyer, V. (2001). Writer’s INC: A student handbook for writing and learning. Wilmington: Houghton Mifflin Company. Stoll, C. (1991). Write to the point and feel better about your writing. NY: Columbia University Press.

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