STEP FOUR IN THE FIVE STEPS OF PERSUASIVE WRITING

Writing persuasive articles or speeches can be a challenge for the best of writers. This is because some basic knowledge of psychology and how readers are motivated is required to present a successful persuasion. Most of us have good instincts about how to convince others on a particular subject. We learned this before the age of two. As children, we studied our parents’ and caregivers’ reactions to our behaviors. We quickly discovered which behaviors brought about desired results. By the time we reached our teen years, we were old pros at figuring out how to elicit certain responses. We found that our rudimentary persuasive techniques worked on teachers, friends, clergy, law enforcement, and a host of others. What we did not always know was how to organize our persuasive techniques for formal situations like article and business writing.

The Five Steps in Persuasive Article Writing presented in this series are designed to tutor writers through a reliable and well-recognized method for ensuring success with any given topic. The methodology, used in secondary and higher education to prepare students for standardized assessments or writing intensive courses, is based on the findings of Aristotle. In ancient Greece, the ability to influence or motivate others toward action was considered a laudable talent that was well-studied among the philosophers and leaders of society. The great thinker, Aristotle, based the power of persuasion on the use of three human appeals. In the previous articles, the Second Step utilized the Pathos appeal and the Third Step was based on the Logos appeal. The Fourth Step rests upon the Ethos appeal, which will be covered in this segment of the series. Bear in mind that there are Five Steps altogether, however, only the middle three steps revolve around specific appeals.

To begin, the final appeal (Step Four in the process), which is called Ethos or ethics, pertains to the use of credibility in persuasive article writing or speaking. Aristotle and his peers recognized the power of persuasion and its potential to influence the masses. They also recognized the possibility of misusing that power. It was determined that every formal public persuasion should strive to assert ethical appeals to establish believability on the part of the speaker and to avoid the misuse of the power of persuasion. Evidence of unethical persuasion can be seen abundantly today in the media. Consumers of information can easily believe that four out of five dentists recommend a certain toothpaste when the source of the information looks and sounds credible. The need to act and think like the majority of consumers may drive some to switch their toothpaste.

Appeals of ethos or ethics are less complicated than they sound. Writers enhance their persuasive writing and further secure their persuasive goal by convincing readers that they are credible, honest, and astute, regarding the topic. We readers and listeners have spent a life time building our belief systems. When a writer or speaker says, “believe as I do,” or “think and do as I believe,” the savvy consumer of information will undoubtedly ask why. Readers will ask themselves, “how do I know the writer is honest, fair and well-informed?” How does the writer convince readers that the argument and the source are credible?

Firstly, the writer must be well-informed. Being well-informed goes a step beyond supplying the reader with information based on the writer’s persuasion. When a writer understands and can address all sides of the argument, he or she is well-informed. A writer must respect the knowledge and intellect of the readers. In doing so, it becomes critical to address the inevitable opposition. Unless a reader is in complete agreement with the argument (thereby making the argument a moot point), the writer will need to assure the reader that he has considered the counter-arguments, weighed out the counter-arguments in light of the persuasion, and cares about the reader’s possible objections.

A sample appeal to Ethos or appeal to the opposition, as it is sometimes referred, might be:

“I am certain that many people who currently smoke do not want to read another article about the dangers of smoking. Many of you find that quitting can bring on a whole new set of problems like weight gain and anxiety. In some cases I have read, individuals gained 10 pounds or more in the first two months of quitting. They needed something to fill the void and snacking took the place of smoking. Fighting the sudden emptiness and accompanying anxiety is never easy. I won’t lie to you and say quitting smoking will be the end of your issues. For many, new issues will arrive as a result. However, there are ways to have your cake and eat it to.”

When a reader comprehends that the writer has thought about the counter-side to an argument (and there is always a counter-side), has taken the time to explain how the counter-side impacts the persuasive argument, and cares that the reader has concerns, the reader will be less resistant. Readers will be less resistant because they have considered the source to be honest, fair, and well-informed. This is a necessary step to ensure the persuasive success of an article or speech. It is not overly complicated but it is critical. The strength and specificity of the appeals will depend upon the argument. Determining what the opposition might be could take some thought. Credibility depends upon taking the time to be thorough and knowledgeable in arguments. The writer may need to use the specific facts, statistics, or other data pertaining to the counter-argument to present a well-informed, well-thought out refute. In all cases, the goal is to confront the opposition and discuss it in the context of the situation.

To recap, when writing the persuasive article, use Step Four to establish an understanding of the argument in its entirety, rather than presenting one side – – your side. A positive outcome rests upon creating credibility and knowledgeability. The business of persuasive article writing or persuasive speaking is serious. The more time that is taken with understanding the audience and addressing them accordingly with these age-old, effective steps, the greater the potential rewards will be for both the writer and reader.

Stay tuned for the fifth and final step in the Five Steps of Persuasive Article Writing. Meanwhile, keep expressing yourself. Happy Writing!

Dr. Jocelyn A. Brown, President/CEO of Brown and Sons Publishing.com, http://brownandsonspublishing.com
Public Speaking Expert. Email: writingprofessional@doctor.com

Thank you for your interest in writing.

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