The Art of Persuasion in Everyday Writing
Good writing => Good storytelling => Mastering the art of persuasion => Change the way people think This not only applies to fiction and non-fiction writing but also everyday communication such as emails and letters, college essays, grant applications, advertisements, etc.
Do you dread writing emails and letters, colleges essays, applications, and work reports?
You don’t need a degree in literature to be a good writer in everyday communication.
The most important thing you need to know about writing is to focus on telling a good story.
Do you know why some commercials are more interesting than others? Because those 15-second commercials tell an persuasive story. In other words:
Good Writing = Good Storytelling = Change the Way People Think = The Art of Persuasion
I attended the San Francisco Writer’s Conference in Mid February 2020. It was such an enchanting experience to meet brilliant speakers and writers. During a column writing class taught by Suzette Standring, I was struck by the above simple truth.
Instead of torment yourself with the daunting task to write better, focus on telling a good story.
Before you set out to write a good story, focus on the key elements of a good story.
Do I have a clear point? (see below the Stanford Engineering Writing Style Guide for details)
Can you keep your audience’s attention? Will they have difficulty understanding your writing? The words you choose can either enhance or interfere with your meaning and your audience’s comprehension. Follow these guidelines to develop a strategy for choosing the most effective words for your communication task.
Avoid unnecessary “fancy” words; use straightforward words.
Replace vague words with specific ones.
Eliminate unnecessary words.
Replace multiple negatives with affirmatives.
Pay attention to sentence length and emphasis.
Use active voice constructions when appropriate.
What is it about? Who cares?
Think about who your story or ideas will resonate with, and what they’re looking for in your writing. Keeping your target audience in mind helps you figure out the best way to tell your story. For example, if you’re writing a grant proposal, put yourself in the reviewers’ shoes. They want to award the money to the proposal that promises the best return of their money. How do you prove your project potential to the reviewers? From telling them your past success stories!
Is there substance to support my point?
Using the example of writing a grant proposal, can you prove you have the right approach, sufficient experience, and manpower to carry out the plan if you’re awarded the money? What level of impact will your project likely to deliver? Comparing to the other applicants, how will your proposal stand out?
What will my readers learn about me?
Think about if your proposal covers all the key points that the reviewers are looking for. If you lack in certain areas, is there anything else you can provide to show your growth potential? Does your writing show your passion and personality so the reviewers feel confident you can get the job done as promised?
What is the call to action?
Tell the reviewer how much money you’ll need to carry out the entire proposal. Show them how each step of the planning contributes to the success of the entire proposal. The presented dollar amount is the result of careful planning and calculation. If you have told a good story by meeting all previous requirements, your writing will likely stand out in the competition.
Now you’ve learned the art of persuasion. Next time, when you need to compose a piece of writing for personal needs, academic requirements, or work-related communication, take a moment to think through these key points before composing.
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