Changing someone’s mind is easier said than done. You need to take out every tool in your persuasive kit to ensnare the reader in the net of your rhetoric. We are already familiar with the requisite ingredients of persuasive writing: rhetorical questions, facts, statistics, anecdotes, inclusive language, emotive language etc. But how many of these do we actually use? Time and again, we come across students picking some at the heavy expense of others. On the other hand, students who ace their creative writing exams give equal emphasis to all the persuasive tools. They know that variety flavours the art of persuasion. Where one technique might fail to impress the audience, the others will surely have them nodding along.
Today’s post is a discussion of such five persuasive techniques that often find themselves on the margins of student writing. Without further ado, let’s begin with the first one on our list.
1. Topic Statement
No, it is not the title of your essay. And no, it is not the summary of your essay. A topic statement is like (key word) a sub-heading for a paragraph, but unlike a heading or sub-heading, it is written in complete Standard English sentences. What is its purpose? To give the reader an idea of what to expect in the paragraph. Typically the first sentence in a paragraph, the topic statement is then elaborated and explained in the subsequent lines.
We know the golden rule for writing: one paragraph for one idea. Often in the mad rush of meeting deadlines, we forget this commandment. The result is a potpourri of ideas: scattered and scrambled. A topic statement gives shape and unity to the paragraph. As a constant reminder, it prevents the writer from going off the track.
Here are some examples:
There are several ways in which plastic bags contribute to the degradation of our environment. (Topic statement)
First and foremost, plastics release harmful chemicals into the soil and water. (Elaboration)
Taking calculated risks is the secret of a successful venture. (Topic statement)
But a natural fear of the unknown makes people averse to taking risks. (Elaboration)
Exaggeration for effect in persuasive writing shows the urgency of an issue: it refuses to be ignored anymore. Hyperbole infuses humour or a breather in what can otherwise turn out to be a sombre-like-a-funeral writing. It is almost always a highlight of A+ writing and has the audience saying, ‘I know what you mean!’
Check out the following examples:
Bullies can sniff out a vulnerable person from a mile away.
Politicians live on another planet; they are clueless about what ails the people.
Ban homework: Let no child be stooped by stacks of books.
When the shape of your body begins to imitate that of a hamburger, it signals the right time to make a move.
How annoying is it to listen to Mr/Ms "I know it all"? A persuasive essay which does not take its opposition into consideration is a lost case. After all you are writing not to flaunt your skills, but to bring the other side to yours. It is reasonable then to anticipate the queries of a sceptical reader. Counter-arguments make your writing powerful and trustworthy. They show that you have done a thorough groundwork and know what you are talking about.
For an effective rebuttal, first acknowledge the counter argument briefly and fairly. Then offer evidence and reasons to the contrary. Remember to change tracks again using a contracting conjunction or phrase (such as but, however, on the other hand etc.)
Below are some phrases to introduce counter-arguments:
Indeed it can be argued ... But ....
It can be easily proven ... However ...
Of course it cannot be denied ...On the other hand...
But what about ... Surely ...
You may wonder ... It is understandable ...
Our detractors are quick to point out ... Let’s pause and think ...
Say it not once, not twice, but thrice if needed. Not all repetition is unnecessary. Drilling and droning are good medicines for wandering minds. However, this must be accomplished in subtle and sophisticated ways. Repetition makes your readers convinced about your sincerity as a writer as well as makes them pause for a moment to ponder upon the topic at hand. The significance of the matter under discussion goes several notches high. You can foreground your cause right away and keep accenting it with a resounding echo.
There can be a number of nifty approaches for repetition. Take a look at these examples for better comprehension:
Triples: A call to action may be repeated thrice in different terms.
Act, contribute, save lives. (Topic: A charity event)
Topic: Good Manners are More Important than Good Grades
Grades, grades, grades! Parents seem to want only that and neglect everything else to achieve those golden figures.
Topic: The Fast Food Industry is Responsible for Obesity
Foods made faster. Foods which make you fatter. Foods that satisfy. But, foods which load you with pounds.
5. Emotive Appeal
An appeal to the sentiments always works wonders. The audience understands the earnestness of a drive and in most cases comes to concede with your arguments. It keeps their motivation high to listen about your cause with a patient ear.
Now, your emotional plea can be made using a number of tactics: clichés, statistics, quotes, personal observations, reasoning and many more.
The examples below will help shed more clarity:
Topic: Importance of donation
Charity is a noble calling. (Truism)
“Charity does not like arithmetic; selfishness worships it.” -- Mason Cooley (Quote)
Topic: Should graffiti be legalized?
Art knoweth no bounds. (Personal observation)
Topic: Homework ruining childhood
Do not nip childhood in the bud. Let it blossom, flourish and show its true colours. (Appeal)
Hope this post helps. Surprise your reader or examiner next time with these five, often overlooked, persuasive techniques.