Persuasion and the Written Word

There are many tactics used by writers to persuade their audiences. Known as rhetorical devices, these techniques subtly show the reader that the writer's point of view should be theirs, too. Here are six of the most common such devices, with definitions and examples.

1. Rhetorical question: implies that the answer is so obvious that there is no answer required. It persuades without making an argument. Example: Can we really expect our teachers to maintain a high standard of professionalism when we won't pay them a fair wage?

2. The Rule of Three: based on the theory that people remember things when they are listed in threes, it can be used to repeat the same thing exactly, the same idea said three different ways, or three items that belong together. Examples: "Stop, look, and listen"; "The most important factor in selling real estate is location, location, location"; "Is your car old? rusting? ready to be replaced?"

3. Emotional language: uses adjectives to get the reader to feel a certain way.

Example: Management won't stop these cutbacks until all our children go hungry. Then they will close the plant and leave us unemployed and out on the street.

4. Hyperbole: the use of exaggeration for extravagant effect; often humorous

Example: The lines in my bank are so

and government was looking over every

slow. Only the tellers who fail their train

one's shoulder. Let's not let that happen.

ing get jobs there.

Why turn back the clock when we can

5. Sound patterns: meant to get the reader's


attention and cause him or her to remember

move forward into a brighter future?"

content better; some of a number of different

patterns are: rhyming, alliteration (repeating


the same sound at the beginning of words),

1. "a vote for a perfect world"—hyperbole

consonance (repeating the same consonant

2. "smart, savvy, and successful" —Rule of Three

sound), and assonance (the repetition of vowel

3. "jobs were scarce, people were scared ..."


—emotional language

Examples: sweet smell of success; dime a

4. "why turn back the clock ..."—rhetorical

dozen; "Don't just book it—Thomas


Cook it"

6. Comparisons: show a relationship between

two unlike items in one of three ways:

► Implementing Persuasion

metaphor (uses verb "to be"), simile (uses


"like" or "as"), or personification (uses an ani-

mal compared to a non-animal).

The art of persuasion isn't all about cleverly getting

Examples: the foreman is tough as nails;

someone to change their course of action or way of

she eats like a pig; he's an ostrich—he

thinking. You can use it in positive ways to get results

won't face his problems

you desire in many areas of your life. For instance, in

a job interview it is your task to persuade the inter-


viewer to hire you. You are not using tactics such as

List the rhetorical devices used in the following

preying on fears, employing logical appeals, or elicit-


ing pity. But you are using your word choice (spoken

and written—through your resume), your appearance,

"In closing, let me state that a vote for

your manners, and body language to get the interviewer

Sheuh Ling is a vote for a perfect world.

to offer you a job.


In addition to appearance and attention to

She is smart, savvy, and successful. She

details, what else can you do to improve your chances


of persuading someone to do or think something? Fol

knows how to get things done. The other

lowing is a list of other techniques. Not all of them will

candidates want to return us to a time

work in every situation, so you must use your critical

when jobs were scarce, people were scared,

thinking skills to evaluate the situation and choose



- i ^n

1. Get their attention. You should act in a way that will get someone to listen to you. That means being respectful, diplomatic (no yelling, belittling), modest but confident, and reasonable.

2. Be sincere. It is critical not only to sound convincing, but also to show that what you are saying is believable. Use evidence and examples to show why your claims and appeals are true and correct.

3. Be personal. Understand who you are trying to persuade and use your knowledge of them in your appeal. Explain exactly what they will gain, or what their benefits will be, if they see things your way. Answer their question "what's in it for me?" before they have a chance to ask it.

4. Show concern. What is your audience worried about? What are they afraid of? Tell these things back to them ("I can see that you are worried about global warming and it is a real concern of mine, too"), so that they see you share their concerns (even if your view is different).

5. Ask for what you want. In order to get your audience to act as you wish them to you should ask directly for the result you want. For example, "Now you can see why it is important for you to brush your teeth twice a day, beginning tonight."

Friendly Persuasion

Friendly Persuasion

To do this successfully you need to build a clear path of action by using tools if necessary. These tools would be facts, evidence and stories which you know they can relate to. Plus you always want to have their best interests at heart, in other words, you know what is good for them

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