Persuasive writing is the art of arguing out your case systemically to your intended audience so that they can adopt a particular stance or course of action. Depending on your profession or line of work, you most likely have utilised persuasive writing at one point or the other. Perhaps as a copywriter banging out copy for a new shaving machine, as a marketer for an insurance company, as a social activist rallying the public to support or reject a proposed piece of legislation, as an entrepreneur doing a grant funding proposal…
So, how is one to go about it? The following pointers are a good place to start.
Basically, a premise is a proposition in which you base your argument for adopting a certain viewpoint or course of action. That said, a good way to hook your audience from the word go is to show, not tell, about your implied premise. An example will suffice:
“Jane, recently a Standard Eight pupil at Jenga Primary School is pregnant. She is 12 years old and has a boyfriend, John, a Form Two student at Jenga High School. She will be joining Jenga Girls School in a months’ time. As a requirement to joining the girls school, all students are required to undergo a pregnancy test (though a parent has taken the school to court, terming this as discriminatory). Her father is a church elder and is a strict disciplinarian, with her family struggling to make ends meet as they educate five children. Her friend, Mary, knows of a clinic that can procure her an abortion. Should Jane consider having an abortion/Should Jane consider keeping the baby?
Argue out your case strongly
Once you have stated your premise, the main body of your writing will be devoted to put up a strong argument in favour of your premise. To argue out your case convincingly;
- Identify your target audience: Who is your main audience? In our case above, the target audience could be parents, the clergy, teachers, parents, students, officials from the education and health ministries, health professionals, the public at large… By identifying your target audience, you are able to dissect them- their opinions, beliefs, possible objections or agreement to your stated position- and thus be in a position to argue successful and convert them to your way of thinking.
- Appeal to your target audience: Once you have dissected your audience, you then build a strong case as to why they should support you. This includes appealing to their logic and also appealing to their emotions. In appealing to their logic using the example above, quote from authoritative sources, including studies and reports, that help cement your position. For instance, draw on the clergy and scientific studies or reports on teenage-pregnancies that favour your position as well as imagine best-case/worst-case scenarios should Jane procure an abortion or keep the baby. Appealing to your audiences’ emotions include the tactful employment of words to elicit the desired emotion that will win them over to your side.
- Build-bridges: Hardly any issue has a cut and dried position or course of action. As such, those opposed to your position or desired course of action might be doing so for different reasons. In our case above, support for or opposition to abortion might stem from religious, ethical or legal considerations. That said, what commonalities do you share with those on the other side of the divide and which you can use to win them over to your side?
Having argued out your case strongly, the conclusion offers you an opportunity to summarise your key points as well as galvanise support for your stance or desired course of action. All things considered, it illustrates why your position or course of action is the best option, hence the need to have a strong and unequivocal closing statement.