Rule 1: Hit Them With The Hook
A-hem alright. Here it goes…
Good copywriting is essential for a successful marketing campaign. But what, exactly, makes good copy persuasive? And how can you use those techniques to achieve your goals?
Don’t you wish everyone would just think what you want and agree with you?
Do you ever feel like persuasion is an art form that’s impossible to master?
Before we begin, you should know the two hard truths about the art of persuasion:
- Some people are inherently more persuasive.
- Mastery comes from practice and experience.
Some say the pen is mightier than the sword, and there’s a lot of truth to that. So, we’re sharing the persuasive writing techniques we use at SpacebarCollective with you. Here, you’ll learn how to write copy that influences action and blog content that drives conversions.
What Is Persuasive Writing?
Unlike styles of writing meant to share information, entertain or describe a subject, persuasive writing is a form of argumentative writing that delivers logical arguments with emotional appeal and influences the audience to agree with a particular point of view. In persuasive writing, the language and tone tend to be conversational—a strategic tactic intended to build a more personal relationship between the author and reader.
Persuasive writing techniques focus on experiences that appeal to emotions. From beauty magazines raving about the latest and greatest anti-aging regimes to fitness publications pushing 14-day diets, persuasive writing is omnipresent.
Modes Of Persuasion
There are three modes of persuasion, according to Aristotle’s Rhetoric: ethos, logos, and pathos.
Ethos (ἦθος) is the persuasive appeal to the character or credibility of the speaker.
Logos (λόγος) is the persuasive appeal to reason or logic.
Pathos (πάθος) is the persuasive appeal to emotion
Ethos is one of the three main modes of persuasion, pathos, and logos. In rhetoric, ethos is the persuasive quality of a speaker or narrator that makes them trustworthy or credible to an audience.
Anyone can write something persuasive, but not everyone can exude ethos. Simply put, ethos is the credibility of the writer. To have ethos as a writer, you must first build credibility with your audience by proving that you’re an expert on the subject matter at hand. Once you have established yourself as an authority, your readers will be more likely to trust your opinion and be persuaded by your argument.
An author or speaker’s use of ethos can involve emphasizing their own good character (e.g., saying that they are honest, ethical, etc.), expertise on the topic at hand, or good intentions (e.g., saying that they only want to help the audience). When used well, ethos can be a potent tool for persuasion; it can decrease an audience’s trust in a speaker or writer when used poorly.
There are many different ways to think about logos in persuasive writing. On a basic level, logos uses logic and reason to make your case. This approach could involve referencing facts, data, statistics, expert opinions, etc., to support your argument.
Logos can also be thought of as the internal consistency of your argument. In other words, all the various components of your proclamation need to fit together logically for it to be effective. If there are weak links or contradictory statements, your argument will likely fall apart.
Logos also has to do with the clarity and structure of your writing. Of course, sometimes people aren’t open to persuasion, no matter how logical your argument is. There’s not much you can do in those cases but stand your ground.
Pathos is a rhetorical device that relies on emotional draws to persuade an audience and create an emotional connection to them to get them to agree with your point of view.
Pathos can be used in several ways, but some common strategies include evoking intense emotions (fear, love, anger, sadness), using personal stories or anecdotes, and playing on people’s sympathies. When used correctly, pathos can be a powerful tool for persuading an audience.
Let’s Talk About Tone
Tone in persuasive writing is essential when trying to express a point of view. It allows the writer to connect with the reader and create a shared understanding. Tone in persuasive writing is key to getting your readers on your side. You want to sound like you understand and relate to their point of view because you share the same concerns.
The tone of a piece of writing is typically determined by diction or choice of words. Diction can be formal, informal, objective, or subjective. The level of formality is usually decided based on the audience for whom it’s intended. ie: A letter to a friend would have a different tone than a letter to a boss.
The tone can also be affected by its purpose. Writing meant to inform will have a different style than a piece planned to entertain. Tone can also be affected by the author’s point of view. For example, an author trying to persuade readers to take action on an issue will likely use a different tone than an author providing clear-cut information.
The tone should be appropriate for the audience and the purpose of the writing.
Tone can mean the difference between your words being interpreted as an order rather than a plea for help. So it’s crucial to find the right balance.
For example, a persuasive essay about human rights violations might use a tone of distress and urgency, while a notice about recycling might use a more conversational, laid-back projection. It’s essential to match the tone of your words to the topic at hand and be consistent throughout the entire piece.
Persuasive Writing Practices: The Basics
Persuasive writing will make a point and persuade readers to take action. These timeless writing methods can help you create compelling copy that elicits a response by appealing to the human senses.
A hook is a sentence in your introduction that captures your reader’s attention and makes them want to keep reading. The persuasive writer should present their opinion with a declarative statement that clearly expresses the point of view. Start with facts, research findings, or other evidence to support your thesis.
To write a persuasive hook, you’ll need to think about what interests your particular audience and find a way to make that enjoyable to them. You might highlight an unusual or surprising statistic, share an emotional story, or pose a provocative question. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s relevant to your topic and catches your readers’ attention.
Directly Address The Reader
When you’re trying to persuade someone of something, it’s best to speak directly to them. After all, you want your argument to resonate with your audience and convince them of your point of view. By addressing the reader directly, you make them feel like you’re speaking specifically to them, which can help increase the effectiveness of your argument.
When you address the reader as “you,” it also creates a sense of connection and shared experience. You’re no longer some anonymous person on the other side of the screen – you’re a real human being with thoughts, feelings, and experiences relevant to this particular issue. And that makes your argument feel more important and worth paying attention to.
The words we choose can significantly impact whether or not we can persuade others to see things our way.
Think about it this way: if you’re trying to convince someone to vote for a particular candidate in an election, you will want to use language that evokes positive feelings and paints a picture of a bright future.
It’s usually a good idea to use positive language when trying to persuade someone of something because it makes the argument sound more optimistic and less confrontational. For example, suppose we want to argue that something is good for us. In that case, it’s more persuasive to highlight what’s “healthy” or “beneficial” instead of focusing on negative aspects with words like “unhealthy” or “detrimental.”
Similarly, using concrete and specific details instead of abstract generalizations or absolutes will help make your argument more believable. You want to use clear, concise, and direct language in persuasive writing. That means avoiding jargon, clichés, and flowery language. Jargon is a specialized language that a particular group of people only understands. Clichés are phrases that are used so often that they have lost their impact.
Active Vs. Passive Voice
Writing in an active voice is usually more persuasive than in a passive voice.
Here’s an easy example:
Active voice: “I am writing an article on persuasive writing.”
Passive voice: “The article on persuasive writing is being written by me.”
Frequently, passive voice can make your writing sound vague and confusing. Using an active voice is direct and clear; readers can easily follow what you say.
An active voice can help create a sense of urgency or excitement around the topic of discussion. Often, this technique can compel people to take action. There are times when using passive voice is appropriate. When you want to soft-pedal the subject of the sentence, or when the person or thing doing the action isn’t known.
Aim To Show An Understanding (of both sides!)
Showing you understand both sides of an argument shows that you’ve done your homework and are committed to finding the best solution. It also makes your argument more believable. This should go without saying, but, whatever your position is on a particular topic, research both sides of the debate before forming an opinion. It’ll make your writing dynamic and, in turn, more compelling. It’s necessary the audience feels more like you’re offering credible information and assistance than trying to push an agenda.
When taking a position on a controversial issue, be respectful of different viewpoints. You don’t have to agree with other people’s opinions necessarily, but you should be courteous in how you express your own beliefs. Asserting your opinion while insulting those who disagree will alienate potential readers and make your argument less effective.
If you can find common ground with the other side, your argument will have a more meaningful influence. For example, if you’re debating the merits of a new law, you could discuss how it would benefit the people in favor while also acknowledging the concerns of those who don’t support the legislation. This balance shows an equitable interest, making your argument sound (way more) credible.
Persuasive Writing Techniques: Sales Tips
Persuasive writing for sales is all about having a conversation with your readers that guides them to see the value in what you’re selling, then persuades them to take action and buy it (or hire you, etc). Not sure if your writing skills are pitch-perfect? Stick around, this section is for you.
Resonating With Emotional Problems
Everyone has problems they are trying to solve. Your goal as a salesperson is to assist people in overcoming one or more of those difficulties. After all., “there has to be a better way !”
Remember pathos? The most effective persuasion strategy is to start by connecting with your audience emotionally about their difficulties. When a writer empathetically describes a challenge the reader is going through, it pulls them in and prompts them to buy into the solution. People want to feel like you sympathize with their troubles.
For instance, let’s say you’re trying to sell a car to someone who doesn’t have a car. Hypothetically, you could tap into the reader’s emotions by highlighting and relating to the inconvenience of taking public transportation or walking in the rain. Then you state your solution, in this case, a car. Reminding readers of the difficulties they face without your product will likely influence someone to pay attention to your pitch.
When you’re trying to persuade someone, giving them social proof can be a powerful way to increase the chances that they’ll listen to you. In other words, citing examples of how your idea has worked for other people can make it more believable to your reader. This simply means citing external sources or examples to back up your argument.
For example, imagine you’re trying to sell a product on Amazon. You might include customer reviews on your page to show potential buyers that other people have been satisfied with the product. This is an effective form of social proof.
There are many different types of social proof you can use. You can cite experts, customer testimonials, statistics(more on that in a sec), or any other type of evidence that will support your argument.
By using social proof, you can help convince your reader that your argument is valid but it also allows readers to rationalize their behavior by giving them evidence that others have done the same thing. So next time you’re stuck at a key juncture in your writing, consider using social proof as a way to persuade your readers to take the next step.
There’s no denying that statistics can strengthen a statement by providing concrete evidence. When you include statistics in your writing, it makes your argument more convincing by lending credibility to your position. Additionally, statistics can help to illustrate the magnitude of the problem or issue that you are addressing.
However, before you go off and start throwing around compelling-sounding statistics left and right, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.
When using stats to back up your claims make sure that the statistics you’re using are actually accurate. A lot of people try to fudge the numbers or cite sources that aren’t reliable in order to make their declarations sound more convincing. Don’t be that person. And, remember that numbers don’t lie, but people often do. Make sure to check your sources and make sure that the statistics you’re using are backed up by solid evidence.
Beware of using statistics out of context and interpret the data you’re using correctly. Just because a statistic looks good on paper doesn’t mean it actually supports your argument. Be sure to put the numbers into perspective and explain why they matter before using them in your argument. You need to be able to understand what the numbers are actually saying in order to use them effectively.
Focus On Benefits Not Features
When you’re writing to persuade someone, particularly in sales, it’s important to focus on your unique selling proposition (USP). This is the one thing that makes you different from all the other options out there.
For example, maybe you have an unbeatable customer service record, or perhaps you’re the only company in your industry that offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If you’re a food truck, you might highlight how your food is made from fresh, local ingredients. If you’re a consultant, you might talk about your unique approach to problem-solving. Whatever your unique selling proposition may be, make sure to focus on the benefits it offers readers.
Including rhetorical questions in your writing can help to improve the quality and clarity of your argument. When you ask rhetorical questions, you engage your reader’s minds by prompting them to think critically about the suggestion. Asking questions might also help explain vague points and ensure the audience follows.
Including questions in your writing also benefits the development of writing skills by forcing you, the writer, to be more rigorous in your thinking. So,
What questions do you want to answer in your writing?
What conclusions do you want the reader to draw from your statement?
What questions do you need to ask to lead the reader to the intended conclusion?
Answering those questions should help you understand how asking rhetorical questions can improve your writing.
Still with me?
Another way asking questions is used to persuade readers can frequently be seen in advertising. Take the P.A.S (Pain, Agitate, Solve) framework, for example.
The PAS framework suggests that ads should initially focus on the pain points or needs of a customer, agitate those pain points, and then provide a solution in the form of the product or service. Often questions to direct the consumer.
In the infomercial-esqe example below, the questions focus on the fact that a customer isn’t getting enough sleep. Additional questions agitate that stress. Then a solution is provided in the form of a handy dandy nostril separator that promises rest and relaxation to the now agitated, sleep-deprived partner. You know the script:
Does your partner snore?
Does your partner’s snoring prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep?
Do you often find yourself exhausted?
Don’t you wish there was a simple solution? (Of course, you do!)
Try the Snore No More!
… you get the idea. While exaggerated (see “hyperbole” below) examples are pretty cringe, P.A.S is one of the most persuasive frameworks in copywriting, which explains its popularity.
Aside from adding levity to written communication, hyperbole can also be used to emphasize a point or convey emotion. In persuasive writing drawing attention to the magnitude of a problem can help galvanize readers into taking action. Hyperbole can also be useful in communicating the strength of the sentiments; by exaggerating how we feel, we can more effectively communicate the depth and leverage the power of our emotions.
Of course, as with anything, there is a downside to overusing hyperbole; if everything is superlative, then eventually nothing will seem noteworthy. So while exaggeration can be a helpful tool in communication, it’s important not to rely on it too heavily.
Repetition can be a very effective literary device, particularly when trying to make an argument or persuade someone of something. Because repetition adds emphasis and convinces the reader or listener of a particular point, repetition embeds a message in the mind, making it more likely to stick.
Studies have shown that repeating information can help increase short-term and long-term memory recall, especially when information is presented positively. When we hear something multiple times, it starts to feel familiar, and we’re more likely to believe it. This psychology is why advertisers use repetition in their commercials, and politicians often use it in their speeches. So, the next time you need to use the art of persuasion in your writing, don’t be afraid to use repetition to your advantage—it might just be the key to success.
Persuasive writing techniques will influence people to take action, whether you’re looking to drive sales, increase brand awareness, or get more people to sign up for your email list. These timeless methods for persuasive writing will help you make your point and get the response you want from your readers.
If you’re looking for more tips on how to write persuasively or would like some help putting together a winning content strategy, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’d be happy to chat with you about how we can help!