Whether you asked your boss for more resources in an email or tried to convince your significant other via text message that sushi is the best choice for dinner, at some point, you have written something intended to persuade another party to do something.
After you hit the “send” button, you discovered what we all inevitably discover: persuading someone to do something through writing is a difficult art to master. However, by practicing helpful tips like the three below, it doesn’t have to be.
Tip #1: Clichés Are Corny and Ineffective
You know those sales pitches that use phrases like: “go the extra mile” and “one-stop shop”? Those phrases have been used so frequently that they’re now devoid of meaning, making those pitches ineffective. They’ve become clichés.
When you use clichés in the message you’re sending, it doesn’t hold direct meaning or relevance to your recipients. A clichéd message isn’t merely corny, it comes across as lazily written, insincere, and dishonest. And you can’t persuade someone to do something if that person doesn’t trust you. Your audience will also receive the impression that you either don’t know what they specifically care about, or even worse, that you don’t want to learn about what they care about.
Clichés have their place in the world of writing, but it’s not within persuasive content.
Tip #2: Paint a Picture to Trigger Emotional Reactions. Don’t Be Pushy.
The best way to persuade your audience is by telling them a story that is relevant to what they care about. Don’t try to beat your audience over the head with a call to action or statistics before you paint a picture of how or why something is valuable to them specifically.
Let’s pretend you are trying to persuade someone to use a new project management software product. Before stating the features of the software and how much time it saves its users on average, you should first have your readers envision themselves enjoying a longer lunch break, or playing with their kids on a now work-free weekend. Painting pictures like this for your audience will trigger emotional reactions from them, encouraging them to read on for more details about the software.
Painting a picture of why something will benefit your audience, before you encourage them to do something, allows them to become emotionally involved with what you are offering in a non-abrasive way; they will feel as if you “get” them. This is a rhetorical strategy that gets results and isn’t disingenuous if you’re sincerely responding to what matters to your audience.
If you are only telling your readers what to do by inserting imperatives such as “Buy this!” or “Call this number!” you are neglecting their emotional triggers and permitting them to lose sight of why they should complete your call to action.
Tip #3: Use Simple Language and Correct Grammar to Maintain Authenticity
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that what you already know isn’t good enough to persuade your audience. Writers often extrapolate information and get so verbose and flamboyant in their writing when they are trying to persuade their audience, that the essential meaning of their call to action is lost in a sea of adverbs and flashy syntax.
Throw out the thesaurus when you are trying to persuade an audience. If you type “large” instead of “gargantuan,” so what? It’s easier for someone to follow your message and it’s more believable when your message is written with direct and clear language that’s an example of your authentic voice.
You should also avoid using too many adverbs, such as “actually,” “clearly,” and “extremely”; they often exaggerate the meaning of a statement, making it less believable and authentic.
Perhaps the most important thing to remember when writing something persuasive is to use correct sentence and paragraph structures. This way your readers can follow the picture you are painting for them, and complete your call to action.