What is Persuasive Writing?

Persuasive writing can take the form of

  • essays
  • letters to the editor
  • grant proposals
  • cover letters
  • lab reports
  • proposals
  • memos
  • complaint letters
  • OpEd pieces
  • job postings
  • resumes
  • book reviews
  • briefing papers
  • requests
  • invitations
  • ads
  • reports
  • loan applications
  • position papers
  • thesis papers
  • articles for the Christian Science Sentinel, The Christian Science Journal, and the Herald of Christian Science

Persuasive writing intends to influence how someone thinks, feels, acts, and makes decisions in relation to a particular issue, idea, or proposal.  The writer is making a case and using language in a deliberative manner.  Persuasive writing can lead to decisions, clarification of issues or positions, and consensus.  It is an essential skill and consistent practice in political activism, community action, participation in organizations and democracy, and in families, as well as credible academic discourse.

Persuasive writing is more dialogical than monological.  Your sense of your audience and of who you are in relation to the topic and to your audience is critical and should shape your argument and your writing. 

To persuade effectively you must:

  • take an informed position
  • know your audience and your purpose and choose your strategy appropriately
  • consider differing viewpoint(s) and anticipate counter arguments
  • use information accurately
  • avoid over-generalizing
  • avoid drawing conclusions that are unsupported by data, evidence
  • choose your words and organize your ideas and your data in a way that will build and assert a meaningful case to your audience

 To get started:

  • clarify your beliefs and assumptions about your topic;
  • frame several leading, centering questions and a working thesis (hypothesis);
  • gather data and actively test your assumptions and beliefs;
  • modify and add to your questions and working thesis;
  • write exploratorily throughout the process of researching (What are you thinking as a result of what you have read?  What did this piece add to your consideration?  How does a particular source relate to your previous knowledge, reading?  What questions do you have?  What assumptions are you making?. . .).