Writing to Persuade: Proven Techniques That Convince Others To Listen To You, Take You Seriously, And Change Their Minds
Writing To Persuade is a straightforward guide covering the basics you need to know to create a winning argument. Rather than overload the writer with information, this book provides the distillation of more than twenty years of Dr. Gunn’s teaching of English, rhetoric, and composition. The goal is to make classical argumentation simple, accessible, and effective. More
I wrote this book for anyone who wants a simple guidebook on how to write an effective argument. I don’t know if you’ve looked into it, but most books on argumentation are over 200 pages, and, while they’re usually great for the serious student, the person who wants to write a letter to the editor, or a speech, or merely a blog post, doesn’t necessarily have the time, interest, or desire, to get into a lot of extra reading.
Writing to Persuade: Proven Techniques That Convince Others To Listen To You, Take You Seriously, And Change Their Minds is intended to bridge the gap between academic tomes that weigh a ton, and winging it. In fact, you know, it makes an excellent resource for students in college or high school, as well as anyone who like to write to their newspaper. In each case, the writer needs to be taken seriously as they craft their argument.
These days, argumentation can include anything from writing political blogs, to letters to the editor of your local newspaper, to convincing your partner to buy something they don’t want to spend money on, to convincing a wide audience that their perspective is limited by a lack of information. What connects all of these writing situations is the need to persuade the listener or reader of your way of seeing something.
The goal with persuasion is not, in and of itself, to be proven ‘right.’ Being right is often attained at the expense of furthering the conversation, and will also usually lose your audience. Your audience isn’t as concerned with who is right or wrong as they are with results. Effective argumentation shows you how to see an issue comprehensively, holistically, so that instead of focusing on ‘right’ or ‘wrong,’ you become aware of the issues at stake.
An effective argument is usually an impassioned argument that contains enough believability and factual evidence, that it impresses your listener with the power of your position. To persuade is not to cajole, manipulate, or ‘sell’ someone on an idea. Instead, a truly persuasive argument educates. You broaden your audience’s awareness of a subject, with the goal of helping them understand the subject, and see it from your perspective.
To argue effectively is to gain the respect of your listener, no matter how opposed s/he is to your position. Anything less is not oratory or rhetoric in the traditional sense; it’s mud-slinging and manipulation, neither of which I believe in. If the goal of argumentation is to educate and enlighten, nothing comes of ad hominem attacks, or any of the many tactics used against one’s opponent.
That’s why I wrote this book: to provide an easy-to-read, quick, and accessible view of argumentation, and to show that it’s actually quite simple to persuade others when you have the goal of understanding each other in mind, rather than ‘winning’. This book is not about winning an argument, being right, or appearing smarter than your opponent; it’s about approaching the person you disagree with, with respect, realising that they have a right to their position.
And yet you will show them how your position is ultimately the better, more reasonable, sensible approach. That’s the essence of effective argumentation, just as it is in creative writing: show, don’t tell.