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A Step-by-Step Approach to Persuasive Writing

A guest post by David Masters of inkably.

There’s more than one way to win an argument.

Ancient Greek philosopher and polymath Aristotle developed his own philosophy on the best way to beat an opponent using words. He called this rhetoric.

Rhetoric, Aristotle said, is  “the ability, in each particular case, to see the available means of persuasion.”

The three main means of persuasion are:

  • Reason – appealing to your audience’s rationality and logic.  Giving your point of view in an informed and fair manner.
  • Emotion – creating feelings in your audience that lead them to your point of view.
  • Beliefs – using the values and beliefs of your audience to build your argument.

You can use all of these for persuasive writing.

Of course, just because a tool is available to you doesn’t mean you should use it. Different persuasive approaches will be more successful depending on the situation.

Want to show your point of view is the correct one? Use reason. Want to motivate your audience to take action? Use emotion. Trying to get your audience to care? Use beliefs and values.

In this blog post, I outline an step-by-step approach to make your writing persuasive using reason.

So, what’s the best way to make a rational argument?

PEEL: Point, Evidence, Evaluation, Link

You can apply the PEEL technique – originally designed to make academic writing more compelling persuasive, and easy to read – to your blog writing, journalistic writing and nonfiction books.
This technique makes your argument easy to follow and helps the reader see you are giving a fair and balanced point of view.

The ultimate authority must always rest with the individual’s own reason and critical analysis.
~ Dalai Lama

Point

In the opening sentence, make your point. This is also known as the topic sentence, as it introduces the topic you’re about to discuss.

Evidence

In the next one or two sentences, give evidence to expand upon and support the point you made. Evidence can include statistics, research findings, and quoting an authority or a primary text, such as the Bible or classic literature. Depending on the type of writing and the audience you’re writing for, you can also use anecdotes and stories from history and your own experience.

Evaluation

In the following sentences, you evaluate the merits of your point and any evidence against it. This shows you’re willing to engage with other points of view, and rather than undermining your argument, it serves to strengthen it.

Your evaluation can include research findings that contradict the evidence you provided, quoting authorities who disagree with you. Again, it can include anecdotes and stories.

Link

Finally, link your point to the point you’ll make in the next paragraph.

As well as giving a good flow to your writing, this helps you create a good overall structure as paragraphs on similar themes naturally end up together.

(N.B. As paragraphs in blog posts are shorter, the PEEL technique can cover several paragraphs or even a whole blog post. Bloggers can Link to the overall theme of the blog, or give a taster of what they’ll be writing about next).

There is no greater misfortune in the world than the loss of reason.

Mikhail Bulgakov

Over to You

  • Do you use reason as a persuasive tool in your writing?
  • What methods do you use to make a rational argument?
  • Did you notice the PEEL structure in the opening section of this blog post? Go take a look to see how it works.

David Masters is a freelance writer and storyteller helping the world tell powerful stories at inkably.

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16 thoughts on “A Step-by-Step Approach to Persuasive Writing”

  • Hi David, thanks for sharing this detailed and insightful article on persuasive writing.

    I had been reading few writing tips from ‘Elements of Style’ and ‘On Writing Well’, which focus similar points you made in this article. I am starting to get the feel of PEEL structure, and sure I am going to use them in my blog posts. I also love the idea of linking one paragraph with the other. If we could master the PEEL technique over-time, then I think we can really improve ourselves as a writer and a blogger.

    Thanks again! Please keep them coming on.
    I am off to visit your site!

  • This is an interesting, well argued post. That said, I need to put in my vote for EMOTION. In my view, this is a far more valuable tool for persuasive writing and if I were forced to choose just one, that’s the one I’d pick.

    • Thanks Daphne! I put in a vote for emotion too.

      There are some types of persuasive writing (such as academic writing) where using emotion is – rightly or wrongly – frowned upon. That’s where PEEL can be very helpful.

      It’s also a good structure to use alongside emotion.

  • Hey David,

    You really do have to include all 3 things when writing persuasively and I use to really stress emotion, but reason is a big one as well.

    We often make rash purchasing decisions based on our emotions but at some point logic can take over, especially with higher priced items, so if you can help your reader rationalize why the buying decision is a good one you can really turn the odds in your favor.

    Liz

    • Hi Liz,

      Thanks for this. I agree, in most cases, it’s good to use all three – emotion, reason and beliefs. But one will probably be more dominant, depending on what you’re writing.

      And certainly for sales writing, emotion is the most effective.

      David

  • Bill Polm says:

    I like it. Some important considerations when writing. All of them are essential but two stood out for me:

    The “evaluation” point reminds us that the blogworld, when at its best, is an more open and honest place, sort of like a reaction to hype. In other words, what works is being real with our readers, and that includes writing with a conversational style and not some professorial treatise. So an important reminded.

    I like that “link” point too, linking up our paragraphs or ideas so that they make sense and so that our readers can follow our thinking.

    All of this post is applicable to what we write daily.

    Well done.

  • Thanks, David.

    Sometimes writing is intuitive–especially story telling. When creating a more persuasive work, yes I think you need to work with linking and understand what your points are and how to develop them.

    This is all good writing technique, but I must confess sometimes it’s great to just let the words flow and you might discover you have followed something like PEEL without labeling it as you work. I just worry that writing will get stiff and stodgy if outlines are the basis.

    Beth

    • Thanks Beth. I think it depends what kind of writer you are.

      Take novel writing, for example. Some novelists can’t write a novel without plotting out every scene and knowing they have a coherent story. Others prefer to sit down and simply follow the muse, and see what emerges.

      Both are totally valid.

      For me, my creative side works best when I’m working within constraints. When I’m completely free to write anything, my muse becomes paralyzed by infinite possibility. I feel like I want to go everywhere, and I end up going nowhere. Does that make sense?

  • Informative article and great reminder of using the three elements of persuasion. I’ve read The Power of Persuasion by Michael Masterson, but it’s been a while. I need to reread it.

    I agree with Beth that sometimes just writing it, if you have a clear view of what you want to convey, usually takes care of all the elements.

  • Chahal says:

    Great post!!
    Ancient Greek philosopher and polymath Aristotle developed his own philosophy on the best way to beat an opponent using words.
    Rhetoric, Aristotle said, is “the ability, in each particular case, to see the available means of persuasion.”

  • suraj says:

    Best way is Listen to your inhabitant and try to grasp the message they want to convey, once you get the message you will be able to write when someone is speaking. If you are not having the habit of speaking English every day, this can be the better advice to go after. So, watching and listening to what your inhabitant speaking can be useful in practicing conversational.

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