Ask the Editor™
Volume 7, Issue 3

In this issue:

Power of Persuasion

Most of the writing you do at work is a sales pitch. Think about it. Whether you are trying to get a client to accept your proposal or get your boss to give you a raise, your purpose is to get your reader to accept your point of view.

More importantly, you are trying to get them to change behavior and take some specific action, whether it's buying your product, agreeing to meet with you, or making a payment on an account that is past due.

Even writing that seems on the surface to be purely expository often needs to be persuasive. Good proposals do not merely answer questions in the RFP format, but also make a case for why your firm should be awarded the contract.

Reports are informational to be sure, but they usually also try to get management to accept recommendations. Even memos often include requests that the writer is trying to persuade the reader to grant.

Read on to learn more about the art of persuasion.

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“If you would persuade, speak of interest, not of reason.” Benjamin Franklin

Orfield Communications

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How to Write Persuasively

  • Speak to your reader's needs, fears, hopes, desires, ambitions, or concerns.
  • Tell your readers what's in it for them. Stress the benefits of your proposition instead of the proposition itself.
  • Get your readers' attention with attention grabbing headlines and introductions. You can't persuade your readers if they don't finish reading what you've written.
  • Tell the readers something important that they already know to establish credibility and a common ground. Then propose the answer or solution you are offering.
  • Or, give your readers new information about a problem or concern that relates to them but that they are probably unaware of. Then offer a solution.
  • Begin with a provocative statement, such as, "Why hasn't a "paperless" office actually reduced the amount of paper we use?"
  • Begin with a startling statistic, for example, "Spending even just 5 minutes a day clearing spam out of our in boxes reduces our productivity by 2 percent."
  • Awaken the need for your product or service, then offer the solution for that need: "It doesn't seem possible that you can triple productivity while cutting manpower in half. But with ABC's robotic system..."
  • Support your case with facts, statistics, customer testimonials, and authoritative opinions.
  • Counter possible objections.
  • Tell your reader what action to take and give them a reason for taking the action.
  • Offer easy response options, such as phone numbers, e-mail addresses, reply cards, or Web sites.

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“One of the best ways to persuade others is with your ears - by listening to them.” Dean Rusk

Things to Avoid

  • Don't overload your reader with too many facts and statistics; use them selectively.
  • Don't tell your reader everything, just everything they need to know.
  • Avoid using outrageous attention getting devices such as sexual references that have nothing to do with the issue at hand.
  • Avoid using a question that elicits no response, such as: "Have you heard what our design firm has been up to lately?"
  • Avoid pressure tactics, flattery, or exaggeration. Be sincere.

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“I would rather try to persuade a man to go along, because once I persuade him he will stick. If I scare him, he will just stay as long as he is scared, and then he is gone.” Dwight Eisenhower

Ask the Editor™ Question

The Chicago Manual of Style or The Associated Press Stylebook?

Lenny Corbett

Mozart or Beethoven? Monet or Cezanne? Can one really choose? Actually, when I worked in book publishing, The Chicago Manual was the bible. Most journalists, corporate communication professionals, and public-relation specialists tend to favor The AP Stylebook. Today, I write advertising, marketing materials, and corporate communications, so I lean toward AP, but if something is not covered there, I check Chicago. Another great reference for business writers is The Gregg Reference Manual.

“The Editor”

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