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Top 5 Persuasive Writing Techniques for Students

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“The purpose of a persuasive text is to convince , motivate , or move the reader towards a certain opinion or course of action.”

The Innovative Guide to Teaching Nonfiction Writing (2021)

Writing persuasively is an important skill for our students to develop. These skills will be helpful when writing a wide range of different persuasive text types, including these. Click the links for a detailed guide on each section.

●      Persuasive essays

●      Debate speeches

●      Advertisements

●      Editorials

●      Reviews

●      Letters

Though the structures of the text types listed above may differ, many of the persuasive strategies and skills used in them are common.

This article will examine the top five persuasive writing skills our students will need to convince their readers to do or believe something.

The Top 5 Persuasive Writing Techniques

1. understand the audience/build rapport.


One of the most important aspects of persuasive writing begins long before the student even puts their pen to paper.

Before students begin writing, they will need to determine who it is they are writing for. This is true regardless of the text type involved, but it’s especially imperative when persuasion is the name of the game.

When students respond to a writing prompt, they can often mine details of the intended audience from the prompt itself, either through a close analysis of the wording or by inferring an audience from the topic of the prompt itself.

Where a specific audience isn’t stated explicitly or implicitly, it is still good practice for the student writer to create an audience ‘avatar’ in their mind.

Having a clear picture of who they are writing to, helps students:

●      build a rapport with their audience that they can later leverage as a persuasive strategy.

●      create an intimate tone that builds trust with the reader.

●      choose an appropriate language level.

●      select the most relevant information to share.

●      decide on which persuasive tools to employ and what tone to adopt.

As the student writes their persuasive text, they should keep a clear picture of their intended reader in their mind at all times. This will help them make decisions on tone and choose an appropriate language register. It will also help the student decide on which specific persuasive strategies to use and when to use them.

Each audience is different, with their own preferences and biases. A persuasive writer needs to understand this and use the knowledge to maximize the persuasive effect of their writing.

Persuasive Writing Practice Task: Create a Reader Profile

One effective way to help student writers keep their target audience in mind is to have them create a profile of their target reader. Though this profile will be essentially fictional, it will serve to help the student develop a more vivid picture of their intended audience in their mind’s eye.

To create a reader profile, students should consider a number of details, including:

  • The reader’s age
  • The reader’s sex
  • Their level of education
  • Their economic status
  • Their values
  • Their beliefs
  • Their interests
  • Their location

Students can add other categories according to the specific needs of the text they are writing. Students should keep their reader profile close to hand and refer to it constantly throughout the writing process.


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2. Adopt a Strong Writing Structure

As we’ve mentioned, there are many different types of persuasive texts. Each of these has its own distinctive underlying structure. Over time, students will get to know the particular features of each of these many different persuasive text types, including persuasive essays, advertisements, letters, leaflets, and reviews. With experience, students will learn to select the appropriate structure for their specific text.

In the first instance, it is helpful for students to see these structures in action. To do this, gather together a selection of persuasive texts structured similarly to the one your students will write. In groups, have your students go through each text to identify and list the various structural features used.

Students can share their findings as a whole class at the end as you list the various elements and structural features on the whiteboard. They can then use this list as a guide when they come to produce their own persuasive text.

Persuasive Writing Practice Task: Use a Graphic Organizer

The chances are that your students will be familiar with graphic organizers and have used them in the past. For this activity, however, they’ll be challenged to design their own.

Designing their own graphic organizers forces students to pay attention to the various structural elements of the text type itself. They will also have to consider the relative position of each element as they lay out their template in a visual form. Finally, their graphic organizer will serve as an excellent planning tool and, best of all, it’s reusable!

This activity often works most effectively when completed as a group activity, as students will be able to share and discuss the merits of different ways of laying out their graphic organizer. While students can design their organizer freehand on paper, there are many excellent tools online that students can use to design professional-looking templates. One of the best of these graphic design tools is Canva. [2]

3. Support with Evidence


We live in a cynical age. In days gone by, even the most outlandish of claims could work if delivered with a smile and some confidence. But times are getting harder and harder for the snake-oil salesmen among us. For a persuasive text to convince an educated reader to do or believe something, the writer better brings some proof along with their claims.

There are several types of evidence which students can use to support their persuasive efforts. The most common of these are:

●      Facts

●      Statistics

●      Quotes

●      Anecdotes

Let’s take a look at each of these in turn.

Facts: As facts are indisputable by nature, they are perhaps the most powerful form of evidence available to our students. Facts are usually gathered during the planning and research stage of the writing process, though if the student is well-informed on the subject already they may already retain some relevant facts to support their assertions. It’s important that students do not confuse opinions and facts , especially as opinions are often presented as if they were facts.

Example Fact: All dogs are mammals.

Statistics: Numbers are concrete – or at least have the appearance of solidity. Though most of us are familiar with the phrase ‘There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics’, most of us still find numbers to be highly persuasive. Although the careful selection of statistics can be used to prove almost anything, sourcing statistics from reliable and respected sources can go a long way to persuading even the most sceptical of readers. Often, the writer will also cite the source of any statistics to be used as evidence.

Example Statistic: Mandarin Chinese is the language with the largest number of native speakers in the world. Source: Ethnologue (2019, 22nd edition)

Quotes: Using quotes from experts in the field, or similar authorities, can lend weight to students’ arguments. However, as with statistics, students need to choose their sources carefully. A poorly selected source can do more harm than good. For a quote to carry its full weight, the reader will often need to know who that source is and why they should be listened to on that topic. Therefore, if the reader cannot be reasonably expected to know who the source is, then the writer must identify them adequately in the text.

Example Quote: However, not everyone believes the Olympic Games offer good value for money. Paula Radcliffe, a six-time world champion runner, argues that “the money could be thrown at other areas such as grass-roots sports.”

Anecdotes: Anecdotes are a form of evidence usually based on personal observations or experiences. Unlike statistics, this form of evidence is collected in a casual, non-systematic manner. Given their informal nature, anecdotes are sometimes looked down on as a form of evidence. However, they can be very effective, as the widespread use of testimonials in advertising reveals.

Example Anecdote: It is time that zoos are banned. A recent visit to my local zoo revealed cramped, inhumane conditions for the majority of animals who all appeared miserable and poorly cared for.

Persuasive Writing Practice Task: Put the Tools to the Test

For this activity, provide students with or allow students to choose a debate topic. For example:

●      All zoos should be banned.

●      Physical education is as important as academic education.

●      The Olympic Games are a waste of money.

Students should choose a side on the issue and then provide an example of each of the four different evidence types supporting their position.

4. Employ Powerfully Persuasive Writing Strategies


As with any text type, persuasive writing has its own tools and tricks specific to its purpose. Your students won’t be able to produce truly compelling persuasive writing without a firm grasp of at least some of these strategies.

There are many possible persuasive strategies for students to choose from, and it will take time to familiarize your students with them all, but here are five of the most effective.

i. Directly Addressing the Reader: This persuasive strategy works by connecting directly with the reader using second-person pronouns such as you and your . While a very effective technique, readers don’t like to be ordered around, so it’s essential to first build rapport with the reader. Which very smoothly brings us to our next strategy!

ii. Build Rapport and Trust with the Reader: Persuasion is an art, and we are much more likely to be persuaded by someone we like and trust. One way to create a sense of intimacy in writing is to adopt a conversational style. This will be much easier to do if the writer has already clearly defined their reader persona. To help create trust in the reader, students might establish their credibility at the outset by relating why they are qualified to speak on this topic.

iii. Humor: Using humor in a text also helps build that all-important rapport with the reader, but it also makes the idea expressed more memorable. For this reason, it is a common strategy employed in advertising and debates especially. Of course, students will need to consider whether or not it is appropriate in each instance. For some more serious topics, humor is more likely to offend than persuade.

iv. Flattery: Praising the reader can help convince them to give up one idea for another. Sometimes our student writers make the mistake of thinking that if they aggressively attack the current beliefs of the reader, this will help convince them of the error of their ways. The reverse is often true. When we feel attacked, we often shut down and refuse to accept any of the arguments made by the person doing the attacking.

v. Presumption: This technique works by shutting down space for the reader to disagree with the writer’s position. It subtly implies that the matter has already been decided and that any opposition to it is foolish. It can be easily be identified by the use of phrases such as ‘As everybody knows,’ ‘Everyone agrees,’ or  ‘Of course, we all know that…’

Persuasive Writing Practice Task: Offer the students a range of persuasive writing topics to choose from, some topics are listed in the previous activity. Challenge your students to write a single paragraph using each of the persuasive strategies above for their chosen topic.

5. Use Persuasive Images


While not every persuasive genre requires the use of images, text types such as advertisements and persuasive leaflets often use images to great effect.

Images and their accompanying captions can help catch and hold a reader’s attention. They can come in many forms, e.g. photos, pictures, infographics, diagrams, logos, etc. Visuals can help lead the reader’s eye into the text as well as support the text’s overall persuasiveness.

Persuasive Writing Practice Task: Create a Persuasive Image

Nowadays, many free stock photo websites such as Pixabay and Unsplash and online graphic design tools such as Canva and Gravit can help students create their visual masterpieces.

Challenge students to play with the above tools to create their own persuasive image to accompany one of the paragraphs they wrote in the previous activity. Can they write a suitable caption to accompany their image too?

As with any writing, when students have completed their persuasive text, it’s time to edit and proofread.

The main focus in these final stages of writing will be to establish whether or not the text succeeds in convincing the reader to do or believe something. This is the primary measure of success for any persuasive text and with mastery of the skills outlined above, the answer should be a resounding “Yes!”


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40 Strong Persuasive Writing Examples (Essays, Speeches, Ads, and More)

Learn from the experts.

The American Crisis historical article, as an instance of persuasive essay examples

The more we read, the better writers we become. Teaching students to write strong persuasive essays should always start with reading some top-notch models. This round-up of persuasive writing examples includes famous speeches, influential ad campaigns, contemporary reviews of famous books, and more. Use them to inspire your students to write their own essays. (Need persuasive essay topics? Check out our list of interesting persuasive essay ideas here! )

  • Persuasive Essays
  • Persuasive Speeches
  • Advertising Campaigns

Persuasive Essay Writing Examples

First paragraph of Thomas Paine's The American Crisis

From the earliest days of print, authors have used persuasive essays to try to sway others to their own point of view. Check out these top persuasive essay writing examples.

Professions for Women by Virginia Woolf

Sample lines: “Outwardly, what is simpler than to write books? Outwardly, what obstacles are there for a woman rather than for a man? Inwardly, I think, the case is very different; she has still many ghosts to fight, many prejudices to overcome. Indeed it will be a long time still, I think, before a woman can sit down to write a book without finding a phantom to be slain, a rock to be dashed against. And if this is so in literature, the freest of all professions for women, how is it in the new professions which you are now for the first time entering?”

The Crisis by Thomas Paine

Sample lines: “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.”

Politics and the English Language by George Orwell

Sample lines: “As I have tried to show, modern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug.”

Letter From a Birmingham Jail by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Sample lines: “We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct action campaign that was ‘well timed’ in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word ‘Wait!’ It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This ‘Wait’ has almost always meant ‘Never.’ We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that ‘justice too long delayed is justice denied.'”

Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau

Sample lines: “Even voting for the right is doing nothing for it. It is only expressing to men feebly your desire that it should prevail. A wise man will not leave the right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of the majority. There is but little virtue in the action of masses of men.”

Go Gentle Into That Good Night by Roger Ebert

Sample lines: “‘Kindness’ covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end of it all, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime.”

The Way to Wealth by Benjamin Franklin

Sample lines: “Methinks I hear some of you say, must a man afford himself no leisure? I will tell thee, my friend, what Poor Richard says, employ thy time well if thou meanest to gain leisure; and, since thou art not sure of a minute, throw not away an hour. Leisure is time for doing something useful; this leisure the diligent man will obtain, but the lazy man never; so that, as Poor Richard says, a life of leisure and a life of laziness are two things.”

The Crack-Up by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Sample lines: “Of course all life is a process of breaking down, but the blows that do the dramatic side of the work—the big sudden blows that come, or seem to come, from outside—the ones you remember and blame things on and, in moments of weakness, tell your friends about, don’t show their effect all at once.”

Open Letter to the Kansas School Board by Bobby Henderson

Sample lines: “I am writing you with much concern after having read of your hearing to decide whether the alternative theory of Intelligent Design should be taught along with the theory of Evolution. … Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. … We feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him. It is for this reason that I’m writing you today, to formally request that this alternative theory be taught in your schools, along with the other two theories.”

Open Letter to the United Nations by Niels Bohr

Sample lines: “Humanity will, therefore, be confronted with dangers of unprecedented character unless, in due time, measures can be taken to forestall a disastrous competition in such formidable armaments and to establish an international control of the manufacture and use of the powerful materials.”

Persuasive Speech Writing Examples

Many persuasive speeches are political in nature, often addressing subjects like human rights. Here are some of history’s most well-known persuasive writing examples in the form of speeches.

I Have a Dream by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Sample lines: “And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

Woodrow Wilson’s War Message to Congress, 1917

Sample lines: “There are, it may be, many months of fiery trial and sacrifice ahead of us. It is a fearful thing to lead this great peaceful people into war, into the most terrible and disastrous of all wars, civilization itself seeming to be in the balance. But the right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts—for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own governments, for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free.”

Chief Seattle’s 1854 Oration

Sample lines: “I here and now make this condition that we will not be denied the privilege without molestation of visiting at any time the tombs of our ancestors, friends, and children. Every part of this soil is sacred in the estimation of my people. Every hillside, every valley, every plain and grove, has been hallowed by some sad or happy event in days long vanished. Even the rocks, which seem to be dumb and dead as they swelter in the sun along the silent shore, thrill with memories of stirring events connected with the lives of my people, and the very dust upon which you now stand responds more lovingly to their footsteps than yours, because it is rich with the blood of our ancestors, and our bare feet are conscious of the sympathetic touch.”

Women’s Rights Are Human Rights, Hillary Rodham Clinton

Sample lines: “What we are learning around the world is that if women are healthy and educated, their families will flourish. If women are free from violence, their families will flourish. If women have a chance to work and earn as full and equal partners in society, their families will flourish. And when families flourish, communities and nations do as well. … If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights once and for all.”

I Am Prepared to Die, Nelson Mandela

Sample lines: “Above all, My Lord, we want equal political rights, because without them our disabilities will be permanent. I know this sounds revolutionary to the whites in this country, because the majority of voters will be Africans. This makes the white man fear democracy. But this fear cannot be allowed to stand in the way of the only solution which will guarantee racial harmony and freedom for all. It is not true that the enfranchisement of all will result in racial domination. Political division, based on color, is entirely artificial and, when it disappears, so will the domination of one color group by another. … This then is what the ANC is fighting. Our struggle is a truly national one. It is a struggle of the African people, inspired by our own suffering and our own experience. It is a struggle for the right to live.”

The Struggle for Human Rights by Eleanor Roosevelt

Sample lines: “It is my belief, and I am sure it is also yours, that the struggle for democracy and freedom is a critical struggle, for their preservation is essential to the great objective of the United Nations to maintain international peace and security. Among free men the end cannot justify the means. We know the patterns of totalitarianism—the single political party, the control of schools, press, radio, the arts, the sciences, and the church to support autocratic authority; these are the age-old patterns against which men have struggled for 3,000 years. These are the signs of reaction, retreat, and retrogression. The United Nations must hold fast to the heritage of freedom won by the struggle of its people; it must help us to pass it on to generations to come.”

Freedom From Fear by Aung San Suu Kyi

Sample lines: “Saints, it has been said, are the sinners who go on trying. So free men are the oppressed who go on trying and who in the process make themselves fit to bear the responsibilities and to uphold the disciplines which will maintain a free society. Among the basic freedoms to which men aspire that their lives might be full and uncramped, freedom from fear stands out as both a means and an end. A people who would build a nation in which strong, democratic institutions are firmly established as a guarantee against state-induced power must first learn to liberate their own minds from apathy and fear.”

Harvey Milk’s “The Hope” Speech

Sample lines: “Some people are satisfied. And some people are not. You see there is a major difference—and it remains a vital difference—between a friend and a gay person, a friend in office and a gay person in office. Gay people have been slandered nationwide. We’ve been tarred and we’ve been brushed with the picture of pornography. In Dade County, we were accused of child molestation. It is not enough anymore just to have friends represent us, no matter how good that friend may be.”

The Union and the Strike, Cesar Chavez

Sample lines: “We are showing our unity in our strike. Our strike is stopping the work in the fields; our strike is stopping ships that would carry grapes; our strike is stopping the trucks that would carry the grapes. Our strike will stop every way the grower makes money until we have a union contract that guarantees us a fair share of the money he makes from our work! We are a union and we are strong and we are striking to force the growers to respect our strength!”

Nobel Lecture by Malala Yousafzai

Sample lines: “The world can no longer accept that basic education is enough. Why do leaders accept that for children in developing countries, only basic literacy is sufficient, when their own children do homework in algebra, mathematics, science, and physics? Leaders must seize this opportunity to guarantee a free, quality, primary and secondary education for every child. Some will say this is impractical, or too expensive, or too hard. Or maybe even impossible. But it is time the world thinks bigger.”   

Persuasive Writing Examples in Advertising Campaigns

Ads are prime persuasive writing examples. You can flip open any magazine or watch TV for an hour or two to see sample after sample of persuasive language. Here are some of the most popular ad campaigns of all time, with links to articles explaining why they were so successful.

Nike: Just Do It


The iconic swoosh with the simple tagline has persuaded millions to buy their kicks from Nike and Nike alone. Teamed with pro sports-star endorsements, this campaign is one for the ages. Blinkist offers an opinion on what made it work.

Dove: Real Beauty

Beauty brand Dove changed the game by choosing “real” women to tell their stories instead of models. They used relatable images and language to make connections, and inspired other brands to try the same concept. Learn why Global Brands considers this one a true success story.

Wendy’s: Where’s the Beef?

Today’s kids are too young to remember the cranky old woman demanding to know where the beef was on her fast-food hamburger. But in the 1980s, it was a catchphrase that sold millions of Wendy’s burgers. Learn from Better Marketing how this ad campaign even found its way into the 1984 presidential debate.

De Beers: A Diamond Is Forever

Diamond engagement ring on black velvet. Text reads "How do you make two months' salary last forever? The Diamond Engagement Ring."

A diamond engagement ring has become a standard these days, but the tradition isn’t as old as you might think. In fact, it was De Beers jewelry company’s 1948 campaign that created the modern engagement ring trend. The Drum has the whole story of this sparkling campaign.

Volkswagen: Think Small

Americans have always loved big cars. So in the 1960s, when Volkswagen wanted to introduce their small cars to a bigger market, they had a problem. The clever “Think Small” campaign gave buyers clever reasons to consider these models, like “If you run out of gas, it’s easy to push.” Learn how advertisers interested American buyers in little cars at Visual Rhetoric.

American Express: Don’t Leave Home Without It

AmEx was once better known for traveler’s checks than credit cards, and the original slogan was “Don’t leave home without them.” A simple word change convinced travelers that American Express was the credit card they needed when they headed out on adventures. Discover more about this persuasive campaign from Medium.

Skittles: Taste the Rainbow

Bag of Skittles candy against a blue background. Text reads

These candy ads are weird and intriguing and probably not for everyone. But they definitely get you thinking, and that often leads to buying. Learn more about why these wacky ads are successful from The Drum.

Maybelline: Maybe She’s Born With It

Smart wordplay made this ad campaign slogan an instant hit. The ads teased, “Maybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s Maybelline.” (So many literary devices all in one phrase!) Fashionista has more on this beauty campaign.

Coca-Cola: Share a Coke

Seeing their own name on a bottle made teens more likely to want to buy a Coke. What can that teach us about persuasive writing in general? It’s an interesting question to consider. Learn more about the “Share a Coke” campaign from Digital Vidya.

Always: #LikeaGirl

Always ad showing a young girl holding a softball. Text reads

Talk about the power of words! This Always campaign turned the derogatory phrase “like a girl” on its head, and the world embraced it. Storytelling is an important part of persuasive writing, and these ads really do it well. Medium has more on this stereotype-bashing campaign.   

Editorial Persuasive Writing Examples

Original newspaper editorial

Newspaper editors or publishers use editorials to share their personal opinions. Noted politicians, experts, or pundits may also offer their opinions on behalf of the editors or publishers. Here are a couple of older well-known editorials, along with a selection from current newspapers.

Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus (1897)

Sample lines: “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias.”

What’s the Matter With Kansas? (1896)

Sample lines: “Oh, this IS a state to be proud of! We are a people who can hold up our heads! What we need is not more money, but less capital, fewer white shirts and brains, fewer men with business judgment, and more of those fellows who boast that they are ‘just ordinary clodhoppers, but they know more in a minute about finance than John Sherman,’ we need more men … who hate prosperity, and who think, because a man believes in national honor, he is a tool of Wall Street.”

America Can Have Democracy or Political Violence. Not Both. (The New York Times)

Sample lines: “The nation is not powerless to stop a slide toward deadly chaos. If institutions and individuals do more to make it unacceptable in American public life, organized violence in the service of political objectives can still be pushed to the fringes. When a faction of one of the country’s two main political parties embraces extremism, that makes thwarting it both more difficult and more necessary. A well-functioning democracy demands it.”

The Booster Isn’t Perfect, But Still Can Help Against COVID (The Washington Post)

Sample lines: “The booster shots are still free, readily available and work better than the previous boosters even as the virus evolves. Much still needs to be done to build better vaccines that protect longer and against more variants, including those that might emerge in the future. But it is worth grabbing the booster that exists today, the jab being a small price for any measure that can help keep COVID at bay.”

If We Want Wildlife To Thrive in L.A., We Have To Share Our Neighborhoods With Them (Los Angeles Times)

Sample lines: “If there are no corridors for wildlife movement and if excessive excavation of dirt to build bigger, taller houses erodes the slope of a hillside, then we are slowly destroying wildlife habitat. For those people fretting about what this will do to their property values—isn’t open space, trees, and wildlife an amenity in these communities?”   

Persuasive Review Writing Examples

Image of first published New York Times Book Review

Book or movie reviews are more great persuasive writing examples. Look for those written by professionals for the strongest arguments and writing styles. Here are reviews of some popular books and movies by well-known critics to use as samples.

The Great Gatsby (The Chicago Tribune, 1925)

Sample lines: “What ails it, fundamentally, is the plain fact that it is simply a story—that Fitzgerald seems to be far more interested in maintaining its suspense than in getting under the skins of its people. It is not that they are false: It is that they are taken too much for granted. Only Gatsby himself genuinely lives and breathes. The rest are mere marionettes—often astonishingly lifelike, but nevertheless not quite alive.”

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (The Washington Post, 1999)

Sample lines: “Obviously, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone should make any modern 11-year-old a very happy reader. The novel moves quickly, packs in everything from a boa constrictor that winks to a melancholy Zen-spouting centaur to an owl postal system, and ends with a scary surprise. Yet it is, essentially, a light-hearted thriller, interrupted by occasional seriousness (the implications of Harry’s miserable childhood, a moral about the power of love).”

Twilight (The Telegraph, 2009)

Sample lines: “No secret, of course, at whom this book is aimed, and no doubt, either, that it has hit its mark. The four Twilight novels are not so much enjoyed, as devoured, by legions of young female fans worldwide. That’s not to say boys can’t enjoy these books; it’s just that the pages of heart-searching dialogue between Edward and Bella may prove too long on chat and too short on action for the average male reader.”

To Kill a Mockingbird (Time, 1960)

Sample lines: “Author Lee, 34, an Alabaman, has written her first novel with all of the tactile brilliance and none of the preciosity generally supposed to be standard swamp-warfare issue for Southern writers. The novel is an account of an awakening to good and evil, and a faint catechistic flavor may have been inevitable. But it is faint indeed; novelist Lee’s prose has an edge that cuts through cant, and she teaches the reader an astonishing number of useful truths about little girls and about Southern life.”

The Diary of Anne Frank (The New York Times, 1952)

Sample lines: “And this quality brings it home to any family in the world today. Just as the Franks lived in momentary fear of the Gestapo’s knock on their hidden door, so every family today lives in fear of the knock of war. Anne’s diary is a great affirmative answer to the life-question of today, for she shows how ordinary people, within this ordeal, consistently hold to the greater human values.”   

What are your favorite persuasive writing examples to use with students? Come share your ideas in the WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook .

Plus, the big list of essay topics for high school (120+ ideas) ..

Find strong persuasive writing examples to use for inspiration, including essays, speeches, advertisements, reviews, and more.

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10 Steps to Teach Persuasive Writing

Teaching Opinion Writing in Upper Elementary

Kids are natural-born persuaders. They do it all the time. The trick as a teacher is to take their set of skills and help them use their power for good. And by good, I mean to channel these skills into writing effective persuasive pieces.

So, what exactly do we need to do to teach persuasive writing? I won’t lie to you…it’s not an easy task, but I’ll try to break it down here and simplify the steps to hopefully make this something that you can use in your classroom.

1. Teach Paragraph Writing FIRST

Before I even begin to think about teaching students to create an opinion piece, I make sure that my class has learned the basics of writing a good paragraph. We spend a lot of time with each component, and after they’ve mastered one paragraph, we move on to the five-paragraph essay.

Since I teach 4th/5th, this is one of the standards we need to reach. Once I know that students can write a reasonably good essay, then they can learn an opinion essay a little more easily.

Mentor texts for teaching persuasive writing

2. Use Mentor Texts to Introduce Opinion Writing

I am a big fan of mentor texts. I just love how picture books easily capture the attention of my “big” kids, while quickly teaching them so many lessons.

When I teach opinion writing, I like to gather several of these persuasive mentor texts and share them with my class. We talk about how the character used persuasive techniques well, or how he/she didn’t.

Mentor texts for teaching persuasive writing

3. Start With the Big Picture

Before we start to officially write, we talk about what an opinion essay is and isn’t. I like to give students three choices with similar topics and ask them which one is the opinion essay. For example, they might choose between these titles: The Magical Elephant, Elephants and Their Families, and How to Save the Elephants. Next, I have a handout that shows the structure of an opinion essay. Since we’ve written five-paragraph essays before, they have a good handle on the basic essay structure. Then I guide them step by step through each component. We absolutely do not write a single opinion essay until we’ve had the opportunity to have lots of mini-lessons, see many examples, and practice all parts of the essay in a very low-stakes environment.

4. The Introduction Paragraph is First

A. introduce hooks.

Now we spend some time focusing on how to start the essay. We start by using a hook (also called a lead).

I like to describe a writing “hook” using a fishing analogy. The fisherman puts a nice pink, juicy worm on the hook, hoping to attract the attention of the fish. If the fish bites, the fisherman’s happy. If the fish doesn’t bite, that means that it wasn’t interested in the hook, and there won’t be any fish caught.

Our goal as a writer is to get the reader interested by “hooking” them into reading our essay, from the very first sentence.

We go over six different types of hooks and practice these. I also love using opinion writing posters as I introduce each new opinion essay concept. They’re a great reference for students on the wall or printed in miniature for writing notebooks.

B. Review Topic Sentences 

For an opinion essay, the topic sentence is the opinion sentence. It is the author’s viewpoint. We do a lesson reviewing the five types of topic sentences we use for paragraph and essay writing, and I show students how to tweak these into opinion statements.

C. Time to Add the Three Reasons 

The last part of the introduction lists the three reasons for our opinion. I teach students that these can be listed as a single sentence with commas between them, or we can write three separate sentences, one for each reason.

For the first lesson on reasons, I give students a topic (cell phones or vending machines at school or which season is the best, etc.) and then ask students to write three bullet points on their whiteboards. Next to each one, they write a word to describe a reason they like/dislike this idea.

For example, if the topic was school uniforms, the child might write lack of individuality, gets boring, uncomfortable… I can quickly glance at their lists while we discuss a few of them, and then we’re ready to practice with the next topic.

Without writing a whole essay, this is teaching students to think about organization and how reasons help support their opinions. I think this kind of practice is great!

When we transition this activity to a full essay, these reasons would turn into the topic sentences for each body paragraph of a five-paragraph opinion essay! 

Btw.. if you don’t have whiteboards for your class, this is something you’ll really want to consider. They’re great for writing practice and so many things. I actually purchased shower boards at Home Depot for about $15 to make into whiteboards. They cut them into 12 x 12-inch squares for me for free!

5. Review, Review, Review

After we spend some time on each main section of the opinion essay (the introduction, the body paragraphs, and the conclusion), I like to give my students activities to really reinforce what they’ve learned. Besides review worksheets, we do games (like Stump the Expert), sorts, and color coding.

persuasive writing techniques for students

I really like to have students color code already-made paragraphs so they can see examples of quality writing, and they can master the structure of the paragraph . Once we’ve reviewed the introduction, it’s time to move on to the body paragraphs.

6. The Three Body Paragraphs are Next

There are three parts of each body paragraph, and I teach each part separately, one by one. The parts include a topic sentence that starts with a transition, three to five details to describe and explain the author’s reason for his/her viewpoint, and a conclusion sentence.

These three paragraphs are the meat of the essay. This is where students explain why they support or don’t support something.

We spend time doing activities like looking at three sentences and identifying which one is the topic sentence, which one is a detail, and which one is a conclusion sentence.

We look at pre-made topic sentences and related conclusion sentences and rate them as part of a great class discussion and then in pairs or independently. Then, we review with more color coding, games, and sorts.

persuasive writing techniques for students

7. Focus on the Conclusion Paragraph

Conclusions can be a little intimidating for some students. Maybe it’s because they’re tired from the heavy lifting of the other four paragraphs, but with practice, you can help take away some of their apprehension and replace it with confidence!

The conclusion paragraph is a shorter paragraph (in 3rd – 5th grade) than a body paragraph. It has three distinct parts, an opinion sentence that starts with a transition, the three reasons, and a final thought or call to action.

A. The Opinion Sentence Starting with a Transition

The opinion sentence is really a topic sentence. It reinforces the same idea presented in the introduction paragraph but uses synonyms and usually a different type of topic sentence than the introduction to add variety.

We go over specific transitions that can be used for conclusions. While students may not always use a transition for their conclusion later on, I think it gives students structure and helps them break the ice of crafting a strong conclusion paragraph.

B. The Three Reasons (again!)

Just like the introduction paragraph, the conclusion paragraph lists the three reasons, usually in a single sentence with commas. Like always, you’ll want students to reword the sentence using synonyms to add variety.

C. The Conclusion, The Ending, The VERY LAST SENTENCE!

This last sentence is another place students may feel apprehensive to write at first. We go over the difference between a final thought and a call to action and practice by seeing lots of exemplars and then creating our own.

By the time we’re finished, most students understand how to gracefully and effectively add the conclusion sentence to finish the opinion essay.

Just like we usually do, once we finish a section, we review that section carefully using handouts, sorts, color coding, games, and reviews.

8. Share an Opinion Essay Example

It’s one thing to talk about an opinion essay’s components and to even practice them. It’s another thing to see a really good example of an essay and to get to go through it and discuss what makes it work and why.

I have several great examples I’ve saved over the years (and I have two that I wrote and included in my opinion essay unit). We take time to color code the essay and then create a reverse outline for it. They save this essay as an example.

9. Make an Outline and an Essay as a Whole Class (Eeek!)

Okay, here’s where your perseverance has to kick in.

Trying to complete an essay as a whole class will drive even the most saintly of teachers to want to pull their hair out at times, but this hard part is crucial. There, I said it. It is that important that this is a step you shouldn’t miss.

Here’s how I do it. I break it down into two to four days. On the first day, we created an outline together. I have students write this outline in their Writer’s Notebooks as a model to refer to when they need to make their own outline later.

We always do school uniforms, because I find it to be a great topic and one that my students feel strongly about.

persuasive writing techniques for students

I tell them for the sake of continuity, we need to take a stand as a class for the essay, whether they really agree with that stand or not. We take a class vote and then stick with it, whether it’s for or against the uniform idea.

On the second day, when we have the outline in place, I make a deal with the kids…I tell them if they stick with me, stay on task, and participate…I’ll do the writing (this time), and they can just tell me what to write.

If they don’t stay focused, then they’ll have to write it themselves. This works like magic. I’ve never had a class that lost out on this “deal.”

So, using yesterday’s outline, we go step by step and write each paragraph together. Students feed me sentences (I write these on the SmartBoard), which I try to use or gently guide them a bit where needed.

Usually, we do about 2  paragraphs in one day. The attention spans of 8 – 11-year-olds can be a killer, so I find that breaking it into several days helps.

10. Before Students Write – Go over Expectations Using a Rubric

I really like to use rubrics for lots of assignments. It breaks down the activity into its components, and it also serves as a road map for students to know what is expected of them. I think the more we can explain to students exactly what we’re looking for, the more they can meet and sometimes exceed (hallelujah) our expectations.

There’s never a reason to hide what we want from students, in my opinion. So, we go over the rubric together, and it’s a kind of review for all the lessons leading up to this. You can three-hole punch it so they can store it in their binders, or you can print it in a smaller size to fit their Writer’s Notebooks if you wish.

BONUS #11. Practice Writing Opinion Essays…Over and Over and…

Once your students have practiced each part of the opinion essay and are very familiar with its structure, it’s their turn to write independently. I choose several different topics for them over the next few weeks, and we do about an essay a week in class. The students get better as time goes by, and usually, I let them choose a topic for the last essay or two. It’s interesting to see what they come up with.

Whew…such a huge unit and so many skills to fit in, but in my mind, it is an awesome unit. I love teaching it because of the great number of discussions it provides and because I see it as an important set of tools for them to have in their writing toolboxes.

Opinion Writing Essay Bundle for 3rd - 5th Grades

If you’d like some resources for opinion writing , I love this unit I created. It’s a bundle with over 100 printable pages and includes a digital format too. It will take you through the entire process with teaching pages, and detailed teaching notes, student practice pages, activities, and posters for 3rd – 5th grade.

Sarah is a 4th Grade Teacher and uses this unit and process in her classroom. This is what she had to say. 

persuasive writing techniques for students


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8.7: Tips for Writing Academic Persuasive Essays

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The previous chapters in this section offer an overview of what it means to formulate an argument in an academic situation. The purpose of this chapter is to offer more concrete, actionable tips for drafting an academic persuasive essay. Keep in mind that preparing to draft a persuasive essay relies on the strategies for any other thesis-driven essay, covered by the section in this textbook, The Writing Process. The following chapters can be read in concert with this one:

  • Critical Reading and other research strategies helps writers identify the exigence (issue) that demands a response, as well as what kinds of research to use.
  • Generate Ideas covers prewriting models (such as brainstorming techniques) that allow students to make interesting connections and develop comprehensive thesis statements. These connections and main points will allow a writer to outline their core argument.
  • Organizing is important for understanding why an argument essay needs a detailed plan, before the drafting stage. For an argument essay, start with a basic outline that identifies the claim, reasoning, and evidence, but be prepared to develop more detailed outlines that include counterarguments and rebuttals, warrants, additional backing, etc., as needed.
  • Drafting introduces students to basic compositional strategies that they must be familiar with before beginning an argument essay. This current chapter offers more details about what kinds of paragraphs to practice in an argument essay, but it assumes the writer is familiar with basic strategies such as coherence and cohesion.

Classical structure of an argument essay

Academic persuasive essays tend to follow what’s known as the “classical” structure, based on techniques that derive from ancient Roman and Medieval rhetoricians. John D. Ramage, et. al outline this structure in Writing Arguments :

This very detailed table can be simplified. Most academic persuasive essays include the following basic elements:

  • Introduction that explains why the situation is important and presents your argument (aka the claim or thesis).
  • Reasons the thesis is correct or at least reasonable.
  • Evidence that supports each reason, often occurring right after the reason the evidence supports.
  • Acknowledgement of objections.
  • Response to objections.

Keep in mind that the structure above is just a conventional starting point. The previous chapters of this section suggest how different kinds of arguments (Classical/Aristotelian, Toulmin, Rogerian) involve slightly different approaches, and your course, instructor, and specific assignment prompt may include its own specific instructions on how to complete the assignment. There are many different variations. At the same time, however, most academic argumentative/persuasive essays expect you to practice the techniques mentioned below. These tips overlap with the elements of argumentation, covered in that chapter, but they offer more explicit examples for how they might look in paragraph form, beginning with the introduction to your essay.

Persuasive introductions should move from context to thesis

Since one of the main goals of a persuasive essay introduction is to forecast the broader argument, it’s important to keep in mind that the legibility of the argument depends on the ability of the writer to provide sufficient information to the reader. If a basic high school essay moves from general topic to specific argument (the funnel technique), a more sophisticated academic persuasive essay is more likely to move from context to thesis.

The great stylist of clear writing, Joseph W. Williams, suggests that one of the key rhetorical moves a writer can make in a persuasive introduction is to not only provide enough background information (the context), but to frame that information in terms of a problem or issue, what the section on Reading and Writing Rhetorically terms the exigence . The ability to present a clearly defined problem and then the thesis as a solution creates a motivating introduction. The reader is more likely to be gripped by it, because we naturally want to see problems solved.

Consider these two persuasive introductions, both of which end with an argumentative thesis statement:

A. In America we often hold to the belief that our country is steadily progressing. topic This is a place where dreams come true. With enough hard work, we tell ourselves (and our children), we can do anything. I argue that, when progress is more carefully defined, our current period is actually one of decline. claim

B . Two years ago my dad developed Type 2 diabetes, and the doctors explained to him that it was due in large part to his heavy consumption of sugar. For him, the primary form of sugar consumption was soda. hook His experience is echoed by millions of Americans today. According to the most recent research, “Sugary drink portion sizes have risen dramatically over the past forty years, and children and adults are drinking more soft drinks than ever,” while two out of three adults in the United States are now considered either overweight or obese. This statistic correlates with reduced life expectancy by many years. Studies have shown that those who are overweight in this generation will live a lot fewer years than those who are already elderly. And those consumers who don’t become overweight remain at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes (like my dad), known as one of the most serious global health concerns (“Sugary Drinks and Obesity Fact Sheet”). problem In response to this problem, some political journalists, such as Alexandra Le Tellier, argue that sodas should be banned. On the opposite end of the political spectrum, politically conservative journalists such as Ernest Istook argue that absolutely nothing should be done because that would interfere with consumer freedom. debate I suggest something in between: a “soda tax,” which would balance concerns over the public welfare with concerns over consumer freedom. claim

Example B feels richer, more dramatic, and much more targeted not only because it’s longer, but because it’s structured in a “motivating” way. Here’s an outline of that structure:

  • Hook: It opens with a brief hook that illustrates an emerging issue. This concrete, personal anecdote grips the reader’s attention.
  • Problem: The anecdote is connected with the emerging issue, phrased as a problem that needs to be addressed.
  • Debate: The writer briefly alludes to a debate over how to respond to the problem.
  • Claim: The introduction ends by hinting at how the writer intends to address the problem, and it’s phrased conversationally, as part of an ongoing dialogue.

Not every persuasive introduction needs all of these elements. Not all introductions will have an obvious problem. Sometimes a “problem,” or the exigence, will be as subtle as an ambiguity in a text that needs to be cleared up (as in literary analysis essays). Other times it will indeed be an obvious problem, such as in a problem-solution argument essay.

In most cases, however, a clear introduction will proceed from context to thesis . The most attention-grabbing and motivating introductions will also include things like hooks and problem-oriented issues.

Here’s a very simple and streamlined template that can serve as rudimentary scaffolding for a persuasive introduction, inspired by the excellent book, They Say / I Say: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing : Definition: Term

In discussions of __________, an emerging issue is _____________________. issue When addressing this issue, some experts suggest ________________. debate In my view, however, _______________________________. claim

Each aspect of the template will need to be developed, but it can serve as training wheels for how to craft a nicely structured context-to-thesis introduction, including things like an issue, debate, and claim. You can try filling in the blanks below, and then export your attempt as a document.

Define key terms, as needed

Much of an academic persuasive essay is dedicated to supporting the claim. A traditional thesis-driven essay has an introduction, body, and conclusion, and the support constitutes much of the body. In a persuasive essay, most of the support is dedicated to reasoning and evidence (more on that below). However, depending on what your claim does, a careful writer may dedicate the beginning (or other parts of the essay body) to defining key terms.

Suppose I wish to construct an argument that enters the debate over euthanasia. When researching the issue, I notice that much of the debate circles around the notion of rights, specifically what a “legal right” actually means. Clearly defining that term will help reduce some of the confusion and clarify my own argument. In Vancouver Island University’s resource “ Defining key terms ,” Ian Johnston offers this example for how to define “legal right” for an academic reader:

Before discussing the notion of a right to die, we need to clarify precisely what the term legal right means. In common language, the term “right” tends often to mean something good, something people ought to have (e.g., a right to a good home, a right to a meaningful job, and so on). In law, however, the term has a much more specific meaning. It refers to something to which people are legally entitled. Thus, a “legal” right also confers a legal obligation on someone or some institution to make sure the right is conferred. For instance, in Canada, children of a certain age have a right to a free public education. This right confers on society the obligation to provide that education, and society cannot refuse without breaking the law. Hence, when we use the term right to die in a legal sense, we are describing something to which a citizen is legally entitled, and we are insisting that someone in society has an obligation to provide the services which will confer that right on anyone who wants it.

As the example above shows, academics often dedicate space to providing nuanced and technical definitions that correct common misconceptions. Johnston’s definition relies on research, but it’s not always necessary to use research to define your terms. Here are some tips for crafting definitions in persuasive essays, from “Defining key terms”:

  • Fit the descriptive detail in the definition to the knowledge of the intended audience. The definition of, say, AIDS for a general readership will be different from the definition for a group of doctors (the latter will be much more technical). It often helps to distinguish between common sense or popular definitions and more technical ones.
  • Make sure definitions are full and complete; do not rush them unduly. And do not assume that just because the term is quite common that everyone knows just what it means (e.g., alcoholism ). If you are using the term in a very specific sense, then let the reader know what that is. The amount of detail you include in a definition should cover what is essential for the reader to know, in order to follow the argument. By the same token, do not overload the definition, providing too much detail or using far too technical a language for those who will be reading the essay.
  • It’s unhelpful to simply quote the google or definition of a word. Dictionaries contain a few or several definitions for important terms, and the correct definition is informed by the context in which it’s being employed. It’s up to the writer to explain that context and how the word is usually understood within it.
  • You do not always need to research a definition. Depending on the writing situation and audience, you may be able to develop your own understanding of certain terms.

Use P-E-A-S or M-E-A-L to support your claim

The heart of a persuasive essay is a claim supported by reasoning and evidence. Thus, much of the essay body is often devoted to the supporting reasons, which in turn are proved by evidence. One of the formulas commonly taught in K-12 and even college writing programs is known as PEAS, which overlaps strongly with the MEAL formula introduced by the chapter, “ Basic Integration “:

Point : State the reasoning as a single point: “One reason why a soda tax would be effective is that…” or “One way an individual can control their happiness is by…”

Evidence : After stating the supporting reason, prove that reason with related evidence. There can be more than one piece of evidence. “According to …” or “In the article, ‘…,’ the author shows that …”

Analysis : There a different levels of analysis. At the most basic level, a writer should clearly explain how the evidence proves the point, in their own words: “In other words…,” “What this data shows is that…” Sometimes the “A” part of PEAS becomes simple paraphrasing. Higher-level analysis will use more sophisticated techniques such as Toulmin’s warrants to explore deeper terrain. For more tips on how to discuss and analyze, refer to the previous chapter’s section, “ Analyze and discuss the evidence .”

Summary/So what? : Tie together all of the components (PEA) succinctly, before transitioning to the next idea. If necessary, remind the reader how the evidence and reasoning relates to the broader claim (the thesis argument).

PEAS and MEAL are very similar; in fact they are identical except for how they refer to the first and last part. In theory, it shouldn’t matter which acronym you choose. Both versions are effective because they translate the basic structure of a supporting reason (reasoning and evidence) into paragraph form.

Here’s an example of a PEAS paragraph in an academic persuasive essay that argues for a soda tax:

A soda tax would also provide more revenue for the federal government, thereby reducing its debt. point Despite Ernest Istook’s concerns about eroding American freedom, the United States has long supported the ability of government to leverage taxes in order to both curb unhealthy lifestyles and add revenue. According to Peter Ubel’s “Would the Founding Fathers Approve of a Sugar Tax?”, in 1791 the US government was heavily in debt and needed stable revenue. In response, the federal government taxed what most people viewed as a “sin” at that time: alcohol. This single tax increased government revenue by at least 20% on average, and in some years more than 40% . The effect was that only the people who really wanted alcohol purchased it, and those who could no longer afford it were getting rid of what they already viewed as a bad habit (Ubel). evidence Just as alcohol (and later, cigarettes) was viewed as a superfluous “sin” in the Early Republic, so today do many health experts and an increasing amount of Americans view sugar as extremely unhealthy, even addictive. If our society accepts taxes on other consumer sins as a way to improve government revenue, a tax on sugar is entirely consistent. analysis We could apply this to the soda tax and try to do something like this to help knock out two problems at once: help people lose their addiction towards soda and help reduce our government’s debt. summary/so what?

The paragraph above was written by a student who was taught the PEAS formula. However, we can see versions of this formula in professional writing. Here’s a more sophisticated example of PEAS, this time from a non-academic article. In Nicholas Carr’s extremely popular article, “ Is Google Making Us Stupid? “, he argues that Google is altering how we think. To prove that broader claim, Carr offers a variety of reasons and evidence. Here’s part of his reasoning:

Thanks to the ubiquity of text on the Internet, not to mention the popularity of text-messaging on cell phones, we may well be reading more today than we did in the 1970s or 1980s, when television was our medium of choice. But it’s a different kind of reading, and behind it lies a different kind of thinking—perhaps even a new sense of the self. point “We are not only what we read,” says Maryanne Wolf, a developmental psychologist at Tufts University and the author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain . “We are how we read.” Wolf worries that the style of reading promoted by the Net, a style that puts “efficiency” and “immediacy” above all else, may be weakening our capacity for the kind of deep reading that emerged when an earlier technology, the printing press, made long and complex works of prose commonplace. When we read online, she says, we tend to become “mere decoders of information.” evidence Our ability to interpret text, to make the rich mental connections that form when we read deeply and without distraction, remains largely disengaged. analysis

This excerpt only contains the first three elements, PEA, and the analysis part is very brief (it’s more like paraphrase), but it shows how professional writers often employ some version of the formula. It tends to appear in persuasive texts written by experienced writers because it reinforces writing techniques mentioned elsewhere in this textbook. A block of text structured according to PEA will practice coherence, because opening with a point (P) forecasts the main idea of that section. Embedding the evidence (E) within a topic sentence and follow-up commentary or analysis (A) is part of the “quote sandwich” strategy we cover in the section on “Writing With Sources.”

Use “they say / i say” strategies for Counterarguments and rebuttals

Another element that’s unique to persuasive essays is embedding a counterargument. Sometimes called naysayers or opposing positions, counterarguments are points of view that challenge our own.

Why embed a naysayer?

Recall above how a helpful strategy for beginning a persuasive essay (the introduction) is to briefly mention a debate—what some writing textbooks call “joining the conversation.” Gerald Graff and Cathy Birkenstein’s They Say / I Say explains why engaging other points of view is so crucial:

Not long ago we attended a talk at an academic conference where the speaker’s central claim seemed to be that a certain sociologist—call him Dr. X—had done very good work in a number of areas of the discipline. The speaker proceeded to illustrate his thesis by referring extensively and in great detail to various books and articles by Dr. X and by quoting long pas-sages from them. The speaker was obviously both learned and impassioned, but as we listened to his talk we found ourselves somewhat puzzled: the argument—that Dr. X’s work was very important—was clear enough, but why did the speaker need to make it in the first place? Did anyone dispute it? Were there commentators in the field who had argued against X’s work or challenged its value? Was the speaker’s interpretation of what X had done somehow novel or revolutionary? Since the speaker gave no hint of an answer to any of these questions, we could only wonder why he was going on and on about X. It was only after the speaker finished and took questions from the audience that we got a clue: in response to one questioner, he referred to several critics who had vigorously questioned Dr. X’s ideas and convinced many sociologists that Dr. X’s work was unsound.

When writing for an academic audience, one of the most important moves a writer can make is to demonstrate how their ideas compare to others. It serves as part of the context. Your essay might be offering a highly original solution to a certain problem you’ve researched the entire semester, but the reader will only understand that if existing arguments are presented in your draft. Or, on the other hand, you might be synthesizing or connecting a variety of opinions in order to arrive at a more comprehensive solution. That’s also fine, but the creativity of your synthesis and its unique contribution to existing research will only be known if those other voices are included.

Aristotelian argumentation embeds counterarguments in order to refute them. Rogerian arguments present oppositional stances in order to synthesize and integrate them. No matter what your strategy is, the essay should be conversational.

Notice how Ana Mari Cauce opens her essay on free speech in higher education, “ Messy but Essential “:

Over the past year or two, issues surrounding the exercise of free speech and expression have come to the forefront at colleges around the country. The common narrative about free speech issues that we so often read goes something like this: today’s college students — overprotected and coddled by parents, poorly educated in high school and exposed to primarily left-leaning faculty — have become soft “snowflakes” who are easily offended by mere words and the slightest of insults, unable or unwilling to tolerate opinions that veer away from some politically correct orthodoxy and unable to engage in hard-hitting debate. counterargument

This is false in so many ways, and even insulting when you consider the reality of students’ experiences today. claim

The introduction to her article is essentially a counteragument (which serves as her introductory context) followed by a response. Embedding naysayers like this can appear anywhere in an essay, not just the introduction. Notice, furthermore, how Cauce’s naysayer isn’t gleaned from any research she did. It’s just a general, trendy naysayer, something one might hear nowadays, in the ether. It shows she’s attuned to an ongoing conversation, but it doesn’t require her to cite anything specific. As the previous chapter on using rhetorical appeals in arguments explained, this kind of attunement with an emerging problem (or exigence) is known as the appeal to kairos . A compelling, engaging introduction will demonstrate that the argument “kairotically” addresses a pressing concern.

Below is a brief overview of what counterarguments are and how you might respond to them in your arguments. This section was developed by Robin Jeffrey, in “ Counterargument and Response “:

Common Types of counterarguments

  • Could someone disagree with your claim? If so, why? Explain this opposing perspective in your own argument, and then respond to it.
  • Could someone draw a different conclusion from any of the facts or examples you present? If so, what is that different conclusion? Explain this different conclusion and then respond to it.
  • Could a reader question any of your assumptions or claims? If so, which ones would they question? Explain and then respond.
  • Could a reader offer a different explanation of an issue? If so, what might their explanation be? Describe this different explanation, and then respond to it.
  • Is there any evidence out there that could weaken your position? If so, what is it? Cite and discuss this evidence and then respond to it.

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, that does not necessarily mean that you have a weak argument. It means, ideally and as long as your argument is logical and valid, that you have a counterargument. Good arguments can and do have counterarguments; it is important to discuss them. But you must also discuss and then respond to those counterarguments.

Responding to counterarguments

You do not need to attempt to do all of these things as a way to respond; instead, choose the response strategy that makes the most sense to you, for the counterargument that you have.

  • If you agree with some of the counterargument perspectives, you can concede some of their points. (“I do agree that ….”, “Some of the points made by ____ are valid…..”) You could then challenge the importance/usefulness of those points. “However, this information does not apply to our topic because…”
  • If the counterargument perspective is one that contains different evidence than you have in your own argument, you can explain why a reader should not accept the evidence that the counterarguer presents.
  • If the counterargument perspective is one that contains a different interpretation of evidence than you have in your own argument, you can explain why a reader should not accept the interpretation of the evidence that that your opponent (counterarguer) presents.
  • If the counterargument is an acknowledgement of evidence that threatens to weaken your argument, you must explain why and how that evidence does not, in fact invalidate your claim.

It is important to use transitional phrases in your paper to alert readers when you’re about to present an counterargument. It’s usually best to put this phrase at the beginning of a paragraph such as:

  • Researchers have challenged these claims with…
  • Critics argue that this view…
  • Some readers may point to…
  • A perspective that challenges the idea that . . .

Transitional phrases will again be useful to highlight your shift from counterargument to response:

  • Indeed, some of those points are valid. However, . . .
  • While I agree that . . . , it is more important to consider . . .
  • These are all compelling points. Still, other information suggests that . .
  • While I understand . . . , I cannot accept the evidence because . . .

Further reading

To read more about the importance of counterarguments in academic writing, read Steven D. Krause’s “ On the Other Hand: The Role of Antithetical Writing in First Year Composition Courses .”

When concluding, address the “so what?” challenge

As Joseph W. Williams mentions in his chapter on concluding persuasive essays in Style ,

a good introduction motivates your readers to keep reading, introduces your key themes, and states your main point … [but] a good conclusion serves a different end: as the last thing your reader reads, it should bring together your point, its significance, and its implications for thinking further about the ideas your explored.

At the very least, a good persuasive conclusion will

  • Summarize the main points
  • Address the So what? or Now what? challenge.

When summarizing the main points of longer essays, Williams suggests it’s fine to use “metadiscourse,” such as, “I have argued that.” If the essay is short enough, however, such metadiscourses may not be necessary, since the reader will already have those ideas fresh in their mind.

After summarizing your essay’s main points, imagine a friendly reader thinking,

“OK, I’m persuaded and entertained by everything you’ve laid out in your essay. But remind me what’s so important about these ideas? What are the implications? What kind of impact do you expect your ideas to have? Do you expect something to change?”

It’s sometimes appropriate to offer brief action points, based on the implications of your essay. When addressing the “So what?” challenge, however, it’s important to first consider whether your essay is primarily targeted towards changing the way people think or act . Do you expect the audience to do something, based on what you’ve argued in your essay? Or, do you expect the audience to think differently? Traditional academic essays tend to propose changes in how the reader thinks more than acts, but your essay may do both.

Finally, Williams suggests that it’s sometimes appropriate to end a persuasive essay with an anecdote, illustrative fact, or key quote that emphasizes the significance of the argument. We can see a good example of this in Carr’s article, “ Is Google Making Us Stupid? ” Here are the introduction and conclusion, side-by-side: Definition: Term

[Introduction] “Dave, stop. Stop, will you? Stop, Dave. Will you stop, Dave?” So the supercomputer HAL pleads with the implacable astronaut Dave Bowman in a famous and weirdly poignant scene toward the end of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey . Bowman, having nearly been sent to a deep-space death by the malfunctioning machine, is calmly, coldly disconnecting the memory circuits that control its artificial “ brain. “Dave, my mind is going,” HAL says, forlornly. “I can feel it. I can feel it.”

I can feel it, too. Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. …

[Conclusion] I’m haunted by that scene in 2001 . What makes it so poignant, and so weird, is the computer’s emotional response to the disassembly of its mind: its despair as one circuit after another goes dark, its childlike pleading with the astronaut—“I can feel it. I can feel it. I’m afraid”—and its final reversion to what can only be called a state of innocence. HAL’s outpouring of feeling contrasts with the emotionlessness that characterizes the human figures in the film, who go about their business with an almost robotic efficiency. Their thoughts and actions feel scripted, as if they’re following the steps of an algorithm. In the world of 2001 , people have become so machinelike that the most human character turns out to be a machine. That’s the essence of Kubrick’s dark prophecy: as we come to rely on computers to mediate our understanding of the world, it is our own intelligence that flattens into artificial intelligence.

Instead of merely rehashing all of the article’s main points, Carr returns to the same movie scene from 2001 that he opened with. The final lines interpret the scene according to the argument he just dedicated the entire essay to presenting.

The entire essay should use rhetorical appeals strategically

The chapter “ Persuasive Appeals ” introduces students to logos, pathos, ethos, and kairos. Becoming familiar with each of those persuasive appeals can add much to an essay. It also reinforces the idea that writing argumentative essays is not a straightforward process of jotting down proofs. It’s not a computer algorithm.

  • Logos (appeals to evidence and reasoning) is the foundational appeal of an argument essay. Clearly identifying the claim, then supporting that claim with reasoning and evidence will appeal to the reader’s logos demands. As the previous chapter on argumentation mentions, however, what constitutes solid evidence will vary depending on the audience. Make sure your evidence is indeed convincing to your intended reader.
  • Pathos (appeals to emotion) are a crucial component and should permeate should every section of the essay. Personal anecdotes are an effective way to illustrate important ideas, and they connect with the reader at an emotional level. Personal examples also cultivate voice .
  • Ethos (appeals to character, image, and values) is essential to gaining the reader’s trust and assent. The tone of your essay (snarky, sincere, ironic, sarcastic, empathetic) is immensely important for its overall effect, and it helps build the reader’s image of you. A careful attention to high-quality research reinforces a sincere and empathetic tone. When supporting certain claims and sub-claims, it’s also important to identify implied beliefs (warrants) that your reader is most likely to agree with, and to undermine beliefs that might seem repugnant.
  • Kairos (appeals to timeliness) impresses the reader with your attunement to the situation. This should be practiced especially in the introduction, but it can appear throughout the essay as you engage with research and other voices that have recently weighed in on the topic.

All of these appeals are already happening, whether or not they’re recognized. If they are missed, the audience will often use them against you, judging your essay as not being personable enough (pathos), or not in touch with commonly accepted values (ethos), or out of touch with what’s going on (kairos). These non-logical appeals aren’t irrational. They are crucial components to writing that matters.

Argument Outline Exercise

To get started on your argument essay, practice adopting from of the outlines from this Persuasive Essay Outline worksheet .

persuasive writing techniques for students

Persuasive Writing: 20 Examples, 10 Analyses and Various Teaching Resources

Persuasive writing has long since played into our everyday lives, influencing our decisions on tasks as minor as selecting a shampoo product and as significant as voting for the president. If we look closely, examples of persuasive writing exist everywhere.

Enlist the help of an Engram's Paraphraser to enhance the clarity and eloquence of your writing, as persuasive writing only works with high-quality writing.

persuasive writing techniques for students

And rightfully so, people view persuasive writing as an important factor in their choices. In a study by Manifest, it was found out that " 50% of a group of people said a company's slogan is the brand element that helps them understand the company's purpose the most, [as opposed to] the company's name (13%). "

So, how can we write persuasively and influence decisions? Let's start with the basics. For one to become a good writer, one should read examples of good writing. Hence, if one wants to be a persuasive writer, one should read more examples of persuasive essays and speeches.

In this blog post, we provide famous examples of persuasive writing, analyze each one, and offer a variety of resources that can help improve your persuasive writing skills or that can be given to students in a persuasive writing class.

Table of content

What is persuasive writing, what are the ten most famous examples of persuasive writing, persuasive speech examples, persuasive essay examples, persuasive writing techniques.

  • How to start a persuasive essay

Grading rubrics

Persuasive writing is a form of writing in which the writer aims to convince the audience to take a certain viewpoint. Persuasive writing employs logical reasoning (logos), evidence (ethos), emotional appeal (pathos), and other specific types of persuasion techniques to influence the audience.

We will divulge a later section on the different techniques of persuasive writing.

persuasive writing techniques for students

The following are the ten most famous examples of persuasive writing throughout history. We show excerpts from these persuasive writing examples and analyze the persuasive writing techniques in each specific excerpt.

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.' I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.” - Martin Luther King Jr.

It is no surprise that the first persuasive writing example is the “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King Jr.

In this particular excerpt, Martin Luther King incorporates pathos and strong imagery to persuade the audience to rise against the wrongs of racial discrimination.

The imagery of “slavery,” “brotherhood,” and “hills” evoke strong visuals of hardship, but also a future in which these unjustified sufferings will soon be replaced with higher ideals of equality and unity.

"Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one: for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries BY A GOVERNMENT, which we might expect in a country WITHOUT GOVERNMENT, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.” - Thomas Pain

The second persuasive writing example is Thomas Paine's pamphlet "Common Sense," which was published in 1776 during the American Revolution.

In this example, Paine uses logos and emotive language to demonstrate that America would be better off without British rule. He uses rational reasoning by saying that the country is no different with a government than without one. When people realize this, they will be overwhelmed with anguish, as they know that they are paying for their suffering.

He uses language such as "calamity" and "evil" to emphasize the uselessness of British rule on the American colonies. This extreme language heightens the feelings of mistrust towards the British government among the American colonists.

"Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.” - Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” speech is the third persuasive writing example.

The speech was delivered during the American Civil War to appeal to the audience's patriotism by honoring the fallen Union soldiers in the Battle of Gettysburg and reaffirming the American ideals of national unity and freedom.

This particular excerpt uses logos with a rhetorical question: "Whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure." This question challenges the audience to think of the war's purpose, the importance of the nation's ideals, and a nation's endurance.

"Along the shores of the sea, there were many blossoms: the leaves of the bayberry shone with a deep glossy green, and the plumes of the goldenrod were bright against the blue water, but the bees that had once hummed among the blossoms were gone. Their hives, hidden under the eaves of deserted buildings or standing in fields grown up in brambles, were silent. The poison had passed on, but the bees had not returned. As for the few survivors, where could they go in search of food? Into what empty fields could they descend, since the flowering grasses no longer grew?" - Rachel Carson

The fourth persuasive writing example is the “Silent Spring” speech by Rachel Carson.

Carson wrote this book to urge for a reevaluation of pesticide use and for governments and people to take proactive and responsible actions to protect the environment. Rachel Carson uses vivid imagery in this speech. She depicts idyllic images of nature to emphasize that nature is fragile, beautiful, and thus worth safeguarding. She wants people to feel a sense of responsibility to not poison but to protect nature’s delicate splendor for future generations.

“Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, landing grounds, in fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.” - Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill’s “We Shall Fight on the Beaches” speech is our fifth persuasive writing example. It was delivered in 1940 during World War 2 to rally the British people to resist Nazi aggression.

Churchill uses anaphora and the pronoun "we" to urge for a unified call to action. Anaphora is a rhetorical device that involves the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of a sentence. He repeatedly says "We shall fight," prompting people into action and to "fight" for what is right.

"The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours." - Jonathan Edwards

Our sixth persuasive writing example is Jonathan Edwards's "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God."

Jonathan uses images of a "spider," a "loathsome insect," and a "pit of hell" to cast the sinners and hell in a repulsive light. He is trying to persuade the audience to always act dutifully towards God, as God will be the one to grant salvation and show kindness.

"Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!"- Patrick Henry

The seventh persuasive writing example is “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!” by Patrick Henry .

This speech starts with a rhetorical question: "Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?" This rhetorical question directly engages the audience, making them ponder whether life is truly sweet if slavery is the price to pay for it. It appeals to our rationality; hence, it employs a technique known as logos.

He also appeals to authority by incorporating "God" into his cry for what is right. By adding a religious figure such as God, he is validating his claims in a moral light.

"That on the first day of January, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State or designated part of a State, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free..."- Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln's "Emancipation Proclamation" is an executive order rather than a piece of persuasive writing, but the order uses a lot of persuasive writing techniques to promote the abolition of slavery.

Lincoln used logos to legally justify his decision as the Commander-in-Chief of the United States to abolish slavery. He also purposefully states the number "one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three" to make his writing appear precise. This precision provides more impact as the writing seems clear and direct.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." - Elizabeth Cady Stanton

"Declaration of Sentiments" by Elizabeth Cady Stanton is our ninth persuasive writing example.This speech persuades the audience to support the virtues of the women's rights movement.

In this particular excerpt, Stanton shows her authority by quoting from the Declaration of Independence. She uses the quote "all men and women are created equal" to emphasize that women are also deserving of rights because they are equal to men. This logical progression substantiates her claim both logically and legally.

“Yesterday, December 7th, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific.” - Franklin D. Roosevelt

“Day of Infamy” by Franklin D. Roosevelt is the last example of persuasive writing. In this speech, Roosevelt wanted to rile up the public to gain approval of his political response to the Pearl Harbor attack.

Roosevelt uses emotive language, such as "suddenly" and "deliberately attacked," to contrast the peaceful nature of the United States. This contrast highlights the inhumanity of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States' innocence; the United States had been blindsided by Japan.

More persuasive writing examples

Here are ten other examples of persuasive writing. Now it's your turn. Use our infographics to analyze why these techniques have been noted in history as successful examples of persuasive writing.

"There are many people in the world who really don't understand, or say they don't, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin. There are some who say that Communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin. And there are some who say, in Europe and elsewhere, we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin. And there are even a few who say that it is true that Communism is an evil system, but it permits us to make economic progress. Lass' sie nach Berlin kommen. Let them come to Berlin." - John F. Kennedy
"We welcome change and openness; for we believe that freedom and security go together, that the advance of human liberty can only strengthen the cause of world peace. There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" - Ronald Reagan
"I have done whatever I did, both as an individual and as a leader of my people, because of my experience in South Africa and my own proudly felt African background, and not because of what any outsider might have said. In my youth in the Transkei, I listened to the elders of my tribe telling stories of the old days. Amongst the tales they related to me were those of wars fought by our ancestors in defence of the fatherland. The names of Dingane and Bambatha, Hintsa and Makana, Squngthi and Dalasile, Moshoeshoe and Sekhukhuni, were praised as the glory of the entire African nation. I hoped then that life might offer me the opportunity to serve my people and make my own humble contribution to their freedom struggle. This is what has motivated me in all that I have done in relation to the charges made against me in this case." - Nelson Mandela
"It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union. And we formed it, not to give the blessings of liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people—women as well as men. And it is downright mockery to talk to women of their enjoyment of the blessings of liberty while they are denied the use of the only means of securing them provided by this democratic-republican government—the ballot." - Susan B. Anthony
"Indifference is not a response. Indifference is not a beginning; it is an end. And, therefore, indifference is always the friend of the enemy, for it benefits the aggressor — never his victim, whose pain is magnified when he or she feels forgotten. The political prisoner in his cell, the hungry children, the homeless refugees — not to respond to their plight, not to relieve their solitude by offering them a spark of hope is to exile them from human memory. And in denying their humanity, we betray our own." - Elie Wiesel
"By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community." - James Madison
"Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about? That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man—when I could get it—and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?" - Sojourner Truth
"What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer; a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour." - Frederick Douglass
"The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies 'something not desirable.' The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice, have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another. In the case of a word like democracy, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using the word if it were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different." - George Orwell
"The problem lay buried, unspoken, for many years in the minds of American women. It was a strange stirring, a sense of dissatisfaction, a yearning that women suffered in the middle of the twentieth century in the United States. Each suburban wife struggled with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night—she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question—'Is this all?'" - Betty Friedan

Here are some of the most effective persuasive writing techniques. Feel free to use the information and infographics in the classroom or for your own use.

Another resource is Engram's Grammar Checker and Paraphraser. Engram's AI tools are optimized to elevate your English to its full potential. Click the button below and write away, worry-free and with ease.

persuasive writing techniques for students

How to start a persuasive speech and essay

Below is a step-by-step infographic on how to write a persuasive speech and essay. Feel free to use the information and infographic in the classroom or for your own use.

persuasive writing techniques for students

Feel free to use these worksheets in the classroom or for your own use.

Persuasive speech

Persuasive essay.

Below, we have provided example rubrics to grade persuasive speeches and essays. Feel free to use or modify these rubrics in the classroom or for your own use.

Writing a persuasive essay requires careful planning, strong evidence, and compelling arguments to sway your audience to your viewpoint.

By following the strategies outlined in this blog post, you can craft compelling essays that effectively persuade your readers to embrace any viewpoint. So, whether you're advocating for a political stance, promoting a social cause, or arguing for a particular policy, use these techniques to make your or your student's voice heard and influence change.

persuasive writing techniques for students

Check out Engram's Grammar Checker to level up your English and ensure that grammatical and punctuation errors do not get in the way of your persuasion skills. Write away with confidence!


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How To Teach Persuasive Writing (With Examples!)

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Writing is an important skill for a multitude of reasons. Not only is writing essential for academic success, but it’s also a basic requirement for most jobs. However, studies have shown that more than two thirds of 8th and 12th graders are below grade level in writing.

One reason students may be struggling in writing is because teachers don't feel comfortable teaching the subject of writing. In fact, only 55% enjoy teaching writing . For teachers who lack confidence teaching writing or who didn't receive training in writing, it can be hard to know what works in the teaching of writing and what doesn't.

What Is Persuasive Writing?

Persuasive writing is writing that attempts to convince the reader of the writer's position. Persuasive writing is important because it helps students to analyze different positions and counterarguments, research their own position, and critically think through flaws in their argument. Practicing persuasive writing can help students to develop critical thinking skills, understand diverse perspectives, and present information in a way that's compelling and concise. It also forces students to reflect on their own experiences and access a variety of emotions.

Persuasive writing is different from argumentative writing because it doesn't just focus on facts, it appeals to the reader's emotions. As such, persuasive writing is conversational and relational.

Key Aspects of Persuasive Writing 

There are three key aspects of any persuasive writing:

  • Ethos is the authority of the author. The author should establish their authority over the topic as early as possible. Sometimes this is the student themselves, but sometimes this involves research from others who hold some type of authority within the topic. For example, if a student is writing a persuasive essay relating to education, then quoting an educator would enhance the ethos of the essay. 
  • Logos is the logical way the argument is presented. This includes research, facts, and a powerful conclusion that leads the reader to take action.
  • Pathos is the necessary appeal to emotion present in all persuasive writing. Through personal stories and an understanding of the character of the reader, writers can tug at the heartstrings of readers to convince them of their point.

What are the 5 elements of persuasion? There are five standard elements of persuasion to consider when teaching and writing persuasive pieces. 

  • Source – First is the person or organization presenting the argument. This is important because the source should be both credible and reliable. Often, the source presenting the argument will include other sources within their work to add to the credibility of the message.
  • Message – The message is the argument itself where the ethos, pathos, and logos appear in a well-crafted presentation.
  • Medium – The “how” of persuasion is the medium. Persuasive pieces often come in the form of visuals like commercials, written words as in essays, and speeches such as courts or debates.
  • Public – This is the audience or receivers of the message. When it comes to writing, especially in persuasive writing, it is crucial to know your audience. Different means of persuasion are more effective with different audiences.
  • Effect – The final element is the effect, or result, of the persuasion. Most persuasive pieces have some type of call to action in the end, whether explicitly stated or implied. A candy bar commercial may have the desired effect of you picking up that candy bar next time you are in the checkout line. A closing argument in a court case may have the desired effect of a jury deciding a certain verdict.

Why Is Persuasive Writing Important?

Persuasive writing is important because it equips students in their critical thinking skills and research abilities. This form of writing requires learners to consider the viewpoints of others while also engaging in self reflection. A combination of all these things not only produces academic achievement, but creates a more well-rounded member of society overall. 

Additionally, persuasive writing is everywhere in our society—from advertisements to politics to media coverage of key issues. By learning to recognize it, students will learn to form their own opinions without being unduly swayed by persuasion. Students will also be able to recognize where, when, and how they are being influenced to think or feel a certain way. 

How To Teach Persuasive Writing

Teaching writing in general is both highly important and often challenging. There are different ideas and strategies for what works in the teaching of writing , and the same things are true for persuasive writing. 

One of the best ways to teach persuasive writing is to engage students' passion. Depending on the grade level, you can have students brainstorm as a class or individually. Letting students choose topics that are interesting and relevant is the best place to start, but there are more tips and methods for teaching persuasive writing as well. 

  • Prepare for persuasive writing lessons by reading persuasive writing. Letting students analyze advertisements on TV or in magazines can be good starting points to let students interact with examples of persuasion before writing their own. 
  • Have students brainstorm an issue that gets them excited, like choosing the next sport in gym, the next class field trip, or the next book to read as a class. 
  • You may let students have a small in-class debate over a topic as a way to model academic thinking. Let students engage in dialogue with each other over a topic or two before they move on to their own topic. 
  • Once students have selected their topic, each student should choose a position. This will be their thesis statement, or the position around which the entire persuasive argument is based.
  • Have students list out their emotional reasons for why they believe in their position. This is the pathos of their argument. 
  • Next, students should list at least three facts that further their position. These are the logos of their argument. 
  • Additionally, you could have students find a quote from a reliable source that supports their position. This adds to the ethos of their argument. 
  • Finally, students should conclude their writing by restating their position.

Examples of Persuasive Writing 

  • Historical Founding Documents – Some of the most famous documents from our country’s founding are actually examples of persuasive writing. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense or Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” are just a few that many students will study in an English or history classroom.
  • Civil Rights Documents – Major movements, like the Civil Rights Movement, are filled with examples of persuasive writing. Martin Luther King Jr. is a great persuasive writer who sparked action and change with his words. Many students will study pieces like his essay “Letter from Birmingham Jail” or his speech “I Have A Dream” as great examples of persuasive writing. 
  • Famous Speeches  – One way you can vary your examples of persuasive writing is to actually watch some persuasive speeches. Most, if not all, of these speeches were likely first written down before they were presented. You can find great, age-appropriate examples from sources like TED Talks, closing arguments of court cases, presidential debates, graduation speeches, and so on. 

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Persuasion Map

Persuasion Map

About this Interactive

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The Persuasion Map is an interactive graphic organizer that enables students to map out their arguments for a persuasive essay or debate. Students begin by determining their goal or thesis. They then identify three reasons to support their argument, and three facts or examples to validate each reason. The map graphic in the upper right-hand corner allows students to move around the map, instead of having to work in a linear fashion. The finished map can be saved, e-mailed, or printed.

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The Essay Map is an interactive graphic organizer that enables students to organize and outline their ideas for an informational, definitional, or descriptive essay.

This Strategy Guide describes the processes involved in composing and producing audio files that are published online as podcasts.

This strategy guide explains the writing process and offers practical methods for applying it in your classroom to help students become proficient writers.

Through a classroom game and resource handouts, students learn about the techniques used in persuasive oral arguments and apply them to independent persuasive writing activities.

Students analyze rhetorical strategies in online editorials, building knowledge of strategies and awareness of local and national issues. This lesson teaches students connections between subject, writer, and audience and how rhetorical strategies are used in everyday writing.

Students examine books, selected from the American Library Association Challenged/Banned Books list, and write persuasive pieces expressing their views about what should be done with the books at their school.

Students will research a local issue, and then write letters to two different audiences, asking readers to take a related action or adopt a specific position on the issue.

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persuasive writing techniques for students

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Teaching Persuasive Writing in High School—Theory and Practice

Teaching different writing skills to high school students is crucial if you want them to develop the soft skills they’ll need in life. When considering the reasons why reading and writing skills are important , it’s a mistake to think only in terms of language conventions and an excellent GPA.

Your students will have to use different writing skills and strategies in life. For example, they will need to write personal statements to get into the college of their choice. When they are enrolled, they will do college essays and write motivational letters to get internships . Adolescents enjoy coming up with creative ways to express themselves in their personal lives too. Research shows high school students enjoy writing — 93% of them do it for pleasure. 

Your students will benefit from learning persuasive writing strategies in a variety of ways. Not only will they need to master persuasion for everyday exchanges, but also for their personal statement essays and college applications. To that end, let’s see what persuasive writing encompasses and how you can teach it to your students effectively.

Take the Right Approach to Teaching Persuasive Writing

Persuasive writing is used in any text that aims to nudge readers to form an opinion or take action. While it’s a given that most persuasive writing belongs to the non-fiction genre, fiction writers can use persuasion to influence their readers’ worldviews too.

Even though your students read persuasive texts, they don’t necessarily know how to write an effective persuasive essay themselves. This means that you need to teach them the specific skills that go into composing a persuasive essay one by one.

In your teaching, you cannot miss a lesson on effective opening and closing paragraphs or the importance of outlining. You also have to teach students how to do research effectively and choose the right words to construct their sentences. Only when your students know each of the techniques used in writing persuasive texts can they compose a solid persuasive essay.

Characteristics of Persuasive Writing

persuasive writing techniques for students

Credit: Elijah Macleod

Readers are more likely to believe a professional in the field than someone who has no connection or experience with the subject of a text. Experienced writers know that the first step to writing a persuasive piece is gaining knowledge on the topic.  

To do it, your students have to know how to do research first. When it’s clear from their essays that they know what they are writing about, their texts will be more effective and convincing. Whether they can write persuasively depends on the techniques of persuasive writing that you teach them.

Some of the most common characteristics of persuasive essays are:

  • Current statistics that support the author’s argument
  • Examples from real life
  • Observation of current events and phenomena
  • Acknowledgment and rebuttal of the opposing argument
  • Additional research from reputable institutions

These characteristics contribute to the validity of the statements in an essay and the credibility of the author. Sound, well-researched arguments should sway the reader to take the author’s point of view .

Essential Persuasion Techniques

Whether it’s used in writing or speech, persuasion has three essential elements:

Take a look at the table demonstrating what each of the three is:

You should teach your students about ethos, pathos, and logos to show them why it’s important to use those elements of persuasion. They will not only learn how to use them to their advantage but also be more successful in recognizing when their intellect and emotions are being appealed to.

Teach Your Students Persuasive Writing Skills

persuasive writing techniques for students

Credit: Kelly Sikkema

Ethos, pathos, and logos are the backbone of persuasion. There are many techniques your students can employ to use these three elements effectively.

Teaching your students persuasive writing isn’t much different from teaching them critical or argumentative writing . Some skills—such as an excellent command of vocabulary and critical thinking—are needed for any type of writing.

The next time you are planning a persuasive writing activity, think about how you can teach these techniques to your students:

  • Establishing tone
  • Targeting a specific audience
  • Using the right words
  • Locating evidence
  • Presenting data
  • Telling a story
  • Refuting an argument
  • Appealing to the readers’ emotions 
  • Rephrasing effectively

Outlining is a prewriting activity that your students should employ when creating any type of essay. Your students should learn that a clear outline will help them in each stage of their writing process. Outlining makes it easier for them to organize their ideas into specific parts of the essay and serves as a reference they can use to check whether they are straying off topic.

If time and curricula allow, you should have a lesson dedicated to writing effective outlines only. You can distribute a sample outline of a persuasive essay to all your students to introduce them to the technique. They can see that an outline consists of:

  • The introduction —in which authors determine how they will present the topic, opposing views, and thesis statements
  • Body paragraphs —in which authors decide how they will back up their claims
  • The conclusion —which summarizes the thesis effectively and calls to action

When students have studied the outline structure, give them a sample essay to examine how well the author executed their plan. You can have a class discussion about the usefulness of an effective outline.

An interesting exercise is to allow your students to construct outlines for already written essays before they make outlines for their texts.

When your students compose outlines for their persuasive texts, make sure you give them feedback on their work. Help them see if they are on the right path.  

Establishing Tone

Tone is essential for persuasive writing. The tone your students set in their essays will build trust more than the topic of the assignment. Teach your students what tone they should use to sound confident when defending their arguments in essays.

For example, imagine your students are arguing against the rule of wearing uniforms in high schools. Rather than writing “wearing uniforms in high schools may impact the students’ self-expression negatively,” they should write “wearing uniforms in high schools eliminates the students’ self-expression.” The second sentence is more confident, and the essay assumes a stronger stand and convinces the reader that uniforms aren’t a good idea.

Targeting a Specific Audience

Instead of aiming to appeal to as many people as possible, persuasive writing is more effective if targeted at a specific audience. Depending on the argument that your students want to support or the field for which they are writing, the type of audience will vary.

When your students hand in their persuasive writing essays, you will be their only judge, but they shouldn’t see you as their target audience. Teach your students they should also appeal to a specific audience rather than the masses. You can give them a list of questions they can go over, such as:

  • Who will benefit from what I have to say the most?
  • What problems do people I address experience?
  • Who is this issue important to?
  • What has the best chance to trigger emotions in my target audience?

Using the Right Words

A careful selection of words can influence readers to feel more deeply about the problem students present in their essays, so make sure you work with them on expanding their vocabulary. Having a large number of synonyms and topic-specific vocabulary in their arsenal will help them pick the most efficient word for what they want to express.

You should also equip your students with the words and phrases that are commonly used in persuasive writing. Give them a reference list of phrases they can use and show them how specific vocabulary helps their essay convince the reader that they are knowledgeable on the topic.

An excellent exercise is to have a quick vocabulary brainstorming session with the whole class based on the topic of the essay your students need to write. For example, if they need to write a topic on pollution, your class should brainstorm on the topic-related words and phrases. This gives your students useful vocabulary for the essay, ideas on what to write about, and in turn, how to outline their texts.

Finding Evidence

The best technique to prove a point is to refer to concrete evidence that supports it. Your students may not be familiar with academic research yet, which is why it’s a good idea to teach them how to do research in high school. They will not be overwhelmed when the same is required of them in college.

Make sure your students know these rules of effective research:

  • Knowing which keywords to use to get the results fast online
  • Checking whether the information is relevant and up-to-date
  • Choosing statistics published by reputable institutions
  • Selecting the most relevant type of information for their essays

Same as outlining, research is part of almost all longer writing. If possible, dedicate a lesson to teaching the importance of research to your high school students. Another lesson should be devoted to teaching your students how they can locate data successfully.

You can start with a fun topic that is interesting to your students. For example, if there are rumors about their favorite celebrities, you can tell them to research the validity of those rumors.

Presenting Data

If the research your students do involves data, they need to present it in their essay effectively. Knowing how to present data in a persuasive essay might be more work for your students than finding it in the first place. If they clutter their essays with numbers for the sake of having them, they will probably do their writing a disservice.

The best course of action is to give students a text that presents statistics clearly and effectively. They should also learn the vocabulary that is used to explain data. Your students can then practice presenting data themselves in their essays. 

Telling a Story

Telling a story can be a great way to connect with readers. Your students need to learn how to use narration to their benefit. Make sure they don’t turn their persuasive essays into fiction, though. A story element should appeal to the reader’s emotions and influence them to take the author’s side .

Providing examples from real life can back up your students’ arguments as effectively as presenting a precedent or striking statistics. Relating real-life experience can be a neat way your students can start a speech in a school competition , for example. Teach your students they don’t have to tell stories from their personal lives if they don’t have any they would like to share.

Refuting an Argument

Acknowledging the other side of an argument is essential for successful persuasion. Readers will hardly be convinced to side with a certain opinion if the opposite one isn’t refuted.

You should make it clear to your students that they must not run from opposing viewpoints. When they present them in their persuasive essays and explain why those arguments are not as valid as their own, their essays will be that more compelling.

When you present the topics for the essay to your students, have a class discussion on the opposing views first. Each student can pick one side of the argument and practice how to refute the opposing one with their partner. 

Appealing to Readers’ Emotions 

Your students can appeal to their readers’ emotions by the use of narration or the right word choices—but these aren’t the only techniques. Others include:

  • Creating an effective hook in the introductory sentence
  • Addressing the reader directly
  • Making the reader relate to the author’s experience
  • Using direct questions to make readers think about what they have read

When your students master these nuances of persuasive writing, they should use them to a steady degree. Logic should be the primary focus of their essays rather than emotional manipulation.

You should also engage your students in acknowledging how other writers do it. The best example would be the advertisements that your students are bombarded with on the daily. The ads your students see on their phones or in the newspapers use persuasive language and appeal to their emotions. When your students recognize it, they can get ideas on how to use persuasion in their own essays and be more mindful when they are the target of persuasive writing themselves. 

Rephrasing Effectively

Your students will have to repeat themselves in their persuasive essays. Most notably, their concluding paragraph will have to restate their thesis statement. You should teach them how to paraphrase it effectively.

Teach your students to express the same idea again in other words. When they are invested in the topic of their assignment and have researched it thoroughly, they should have no problem doing that.

When you devote one lesson to closing paragraphs, give your students other authors’ intros to rephrase. They need to connect their conclusions to the hook in the original intro, but they mustn’t introduce new concepts in that final paragraph.

Activities for Teaching Persuasive Writing

persuasive writing techniques for students

Credit: Free-Photos

You can come up with various activities to teach your students persuasive writing, but make sure to have one main goal for each activity.

To practice persuasive writing through class activities, your students can:

  • Watch and learn from other writers
  • Look for relevant sources
  • Outline their essays

Watch and Learn

For this activity, pick a good example of persuasive writing and distribute it to your students. They should single out the specific techniques the author used to influence readers.

Ask your students which persuasive methods are prevalent in the text. You can also tell them to jot down any words and phrases they believe are there for a specific reason—to make readers adopt the author’s viewpoint.

Look for Sources

If your students have little experience with research, prepare an activity that can introduce them to it carefully. You can give them a list of specific questions they can find answers to. Their answers should be backed up by relevant sources. 

Organize Your Ideas

Having your students create an outline for their persuasive essay should be an individual activity. Teach them the main parts of an outline and let them try their hand at writing one.

Here’s an idea of what a persuasive essay outline should cover:

How To Teach Persuasive Writing—Your Ideas

If you have ample experience in teaching, you might be familiar with many of the points mentioned in this article. Perhaps you would like to add your own.

Many believe that high school students don’t learn writing skills effectively. Despite wanting to unleash their creativity, your students often don’t have sufficient tools to do so. If you feel it’s time for that to change, we want to hear what innovations you would bring to American education.

Write to us, and we’ll be glad to share your ideas with our readers. 

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The One Method That Changes Your—and All Students’—Writing

Science-based writing methods can achieve dramatic results..

Posted May 14, 2024 | Reviewed by Abigail Fagan

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  • A focus on writing style might have limited the method's impacts.

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I remember spending hours commenting painstakingly on my students’ papers when I was a graduate student teaching in the Expository Writing Program at New York University. My students loved our classes, and they filled my sections and gave me terrific course evaluations. Yet I could see that their writing failed to change significantly over the course of the semester. I ended up feeling as if I should refund their money, haunted by the blunt instruments we had to teach writing.

As I’ve learned from directing five writing programs at three different universities, methods matter. When I reviewed comments on papers from instructors who taught in my programs, I discovered that the quantity and quality of comments on students’ papers made only a slight impact on writing outcomes. For instance, one notoriously lazy instructor took several weeks to return assignments and only used spelling and grammar checkers to automate comments. But his conscientious colleague made dozens of sharp observations about students’ arguments, paragraphs, and sentences. However, Mr. Conscientious’ students improved perhaps only 10% over Mr. Minimalist’s students. Even then, the differences stemmed from basic guidelines Mr. Conscientious insisted his students write to, which included providing context sentences at the outset of their essay introductions.

Educators have also poured resources into teaching writing, with increasing numbers of hours dedicated to teaching writing across primary, secondary, and higher education . Yet studies continue to find writing skills inadequate . In higher education, most universities require at least a year of writing-intensive courses, with many universities also requiring writing across the curriculum or writing in the disciplines to help preserve students’ writing skills. However, writing outcomes have remained mostly unchanged .

While pursuing my doctorate, I dedicated my research to figuring out how writing worked. As a graduate student also teaching part-time, I was an early convert to process writing. I also taught those ancient principles of logos, ethos, and pathos, as well as grammar and punctuation. Nevertheless, these frameworks only created a canvas for students’ writing. What was missing: how writers should handle words, sentence structure, and relationships between sentences.

Yet researchers published the beginnings of a science-based writing method over 30 years ago. George Gopen, Gregory Colomb, and Joseph Williams created a framework for identifying how to maximize the clarity, coherence, and continuity of writing. In particular, Gopen and Swan (1990) created a methodology for making scientific writing readable . This work should have been a revelation to anyone teaching in or directing a writing program. But, weirdly, comparatively few writing programs or faculty embraced this work, despite Williams, Colomb, and Gopen publishing both research and textbooks outlining the method and process.

Peculiarly, this framework—represented by Williams’ Style series of textbooks and Gopen’s reader expectation approach—failed to become standard in writing courses, likely because of two limitations. First, both Gopen and Williams hewed to a relativistic stance on writing methods, noting that rule-flouting often creates a memorable style. This stance created a raft of often-contradictory principles for writing. For example, Williams demonstrated that beginning sentences with There is or There are openings hijacked the clarity of sentences, then argued writers should use There is or There are to shunt important content into sentence emphasis positions, where readers recall content best. Second, these researchers failed to tie this writing framework to the wealth of data in psycholinguistics, cognitive neuroscience , or cognitive psychology on how our reading brains process written English. For instance, textbooks written by these three principal researchers avoid any mention of why emphasis positions exist at the ends of sentences and paragraphs—despite the concept clearly originating in the recency effect. This limitation may stem from the humanities’ long-held antipathy to the idea that writing is a product, rather than a process. Or even that science-based methods can help teachers and programs measure the effectiveness of writing, one reason why university First-Year Writing programs have failed to improve students’ writing in any measurable way.

Nevertheless, when you teach students how our reading brains work, you create a powerful method for rapidly improving their writing—in any course that requires writing and at all levels of education. Students can grasp how writing works as a system and assess the costs and benefits of decisions writers face, even as they choose their first words. This method also works powerfully to help students immediately understand how, for instance, paragraph heads leverage priming effects to shape readers’ understanding of paragraph content.

Using this method, I and my colleagues have helped students use a single writing assignment to secure hundreds of jobs, win millions in grant funding, and advance through the ranks in academia. However, we’ve also used the same method without modifications in elementary and secondary classrooms to bolster students’ writing by as much as three grade levels in a single year.

Perhaps the time has arrived for this well-kept secret to revolutionizing student writing outcomes to begin making inroads into more writing classrooms.

Gopen, G. D. and J. A. Swan (1990). "The Science of Scientific Writing." American Scientist 78(6): 550-558.

Gopen, George. The Sense of Structure: Writing from the Reader’s Perspective . Pearson, 2004.

Gopen, George. Expectations: Teaching Writing from the Reader’s Perspective . Pearson, 2004.

Williams, Joseph. Style: Toward Clarity and Grace . University of Chicago Press, 1995.

Williams, Joseph. Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace . Harper Collins, 1994.

Williams, Joseph. Style: The Basics of Clarity and Grace . Longman, 2002.

Yellowlees Douglas Ph.D.

Jane Yellowlees Douglas, Ph.D. , is a consultant on writing and organizations. She is also the author, with Maria B. Grant, MD, of The Biomedical Writer: What You Need to Succeed in Academic Medicine .

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Simple Tips for Writing Emails that Resonate and Convert

Simple Tips for Writing Emails that Resonate and Convert

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Dive into the world of email marketing with a focus on crafting emails that effectively engage and convert. Guided by Nels Henderson, an experienced digital marketing professor and consultant, you’ll gain insights from a leader in the field. Explore the art of writing persuasive emails and targeting the right audience. Learn to categorize emails and create compelling subject lines, ensuring higher open rates and customer engagement. Plus, find out how to align your emails with different stages of the sales funnel and use data to refine your strategies. After completing this course, marketers and content creators will be equipped to write impactful emails that resonate with their audience and drive higher conversion rates.

This course was created by Madecraft . We are pleased to host this training in our library.

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3 Persuasion Techniques You Should Know

Phill Agnew

Published: May 09, 2024

Welcome to Creator Columns , where we bring expert HubSpot Creator voices to the Blogs that inspire and help you grow better.

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I’ve spent 200 hours interviewing persuasion experts. In this blog, I share the persuasion tactics that actually work.

You’ll learn why persuasion attempts work better if you ask for action in the future (rather than the present). You’ll learn the tiny tweak that persuaded hotel guests to reuse their towels. And you’ll learn how questions are more powerful than you might expect.

Download Now: The State of U.S. Consumer Trends [Free Report]

3 Scientifically-Proven Rules for Persuasion

Since starting my podcast back in 2019, I’ve spent almost 200 hours interviewing researchers, professors, and experts about persuasion.

I’ve asked them to share the scientifically proven-tactics that actually persuade others. Their findings are eye-opening.

Turns out, persuasion is fairly simple if you follow some scientifically-proven rules. Here are the three persuasion techniques you should use to get someone to act.

1. Ask for future commitment.

All of us experience a bias known as temporal discounting . Put simply, it means, the further something is away, the less salient it seems.

So, if you need to study for an exam, it’s easier to say I’ll do it tomorrow, rather than today. It’s always easier to start the diet next week rather than this week.

This tendency to commit more in the future can help you persuade.

In a 2008 study by Promin , high-performing students were asked by their professors to tutor their below-average peers.

It’s not an easy task. Students have a lot on their plate, tutoring is the last thing they want to do.

Yet, making one tiny change to the request made students twice as likely to agree.

See, when the students were asked to tutor others in the current term, the students only committed to 27 minutes of tutoring per week on average.

However, when the students were asked to tutor in the next term the commitment rose to 85 minutes.

People commit more in the future, than they do in the present. If you need to persuade, you’d be better off asking for a future commitment.

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persuasive writing techniques for students

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This persuasion technique isn’t only relevant for time-sparse professors. Marketers should encourage customers to enroll in an upgrade next quarter. Fitness instructors should ask customers to commit to signing up in the new year. And you should ask your boss to approve your raise at the next performance review.

We’re more likely to commit if the commitment feels far away.

2. Show how the majority act.

That previous tip will help you persuade others to make future commitments. But what if you need to persuade someone to act immediately?

Well, researchers over the years have identified very effective ways to accomplish this. It involves social proof .

Social proof is the idea that we follow the actions of others. If you see a queue outside an art gallery, you’ll want to go in. If you’re told that HubSpot is the best selling CRM, you’ll be more likely to use it.

Robert Cialdini, a professor from Arizona University, proved that persuading with social proof is fairly easy.

His study , in collaboration with a local hotel, aimed to encourage guests to reuse their hotel towels.

The hotel spent a fortune washing towels each day for guests. Encouraging reuse not only helps the environment, but saves the hotel money.

But how do you persuade hotel guests?

Here’s what Cialdini tried. In a random control trial, guests saw one of three messages:

  • The control read: " Please reuse your towels. "
  • The environmental plea read: " Help us save the environment. Reuse your towel. "
  • The social proof variant read: " Most guests in this hotel reuse their towels. "

Here’s what he found:

The control was pretty ineffective, not improving towel reuse at all. The environmental plea worked better, increasing towel reuse by 35%. But incredibly, the social proof variant was far more effective, boosting towel reuse by 45%.

To persuade, share how most others do the action you want to encourage.

If it persuades hotel guests to reuse their towels it’ll almost certainly work for you.

Linens and towels persuasion example

Dozens of hotels have followed Cialdin’s advice.

3. Ask the right question.

In 2009, two researchers hit the streets in California and asked pedestrians to stop and answer a survey. No one likes answering these surveys. We all have things to do, no one wants to change their plans and stop for 10 minutes.

And that’s what the researchers found. Only 29% of Californians agreed to stop.

But then they tested a simple persuasion technique.

They asked a question which was designed to persuade. Before asking if they could answer a survey, they asked " are you a helpful person? "

Now how would you answer this?

My guess is that you would say " yes, I am ." Most of us have positive self-perceptions and this question prompts us to think of them. And because the Californians were prompted to think of themselves as helpful, they became far more likely to stop.

Just asking " are you a helpful person " increased the number of people who answered the survey from 29% to 77.3% — an incredible improvement, more than doubling the amount of respondents.

Affirming positive self-perceptions increases persuasion.

But this effect is even simpler than that.

Simply asking any question seems to boost persuasion.

To explore this, I set up my own test with two Reddit ads. Both ads encouraged people to listen to my podcast Nudge . The ads were shown to people in the UK and US who had interacted with marketing subreddits on Reddit.

The first ad, the control, had no question attached.

It said " Ditch boring business podcasts. Try Nudge ." Next to that text I put a few of my 5-star reviews.

The second ad was identical to the first, except, the copy read:

" Bored of boring business podcasts? Try Nudge. "

Turns out, adding the question boosted clicks. The ad with the question was 17% more effective than the control ad. It drove far more people to my podcast and resulted in many more listeners.

A 17% improvement from changing just two words.

Question boosts clicks persuasion graphic

Now let’s face it. These persuasion tactics won’t turn you into a world leading sales person. They won’t make your offers irresistible.

But, they’re better than nothing. And if you use these tips, rather than attempting to persuade blindly, you’ll almost certainly see greater success.

This blog is part of Phill Agnew’ s Marketing Cheat Sheet series where he reveals the scientifically proven tips to help you improve your marketing. To learn more, listen to his podcast Nudge , a proud member of the HubSpot Podcast Network.

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Aerial view of Madrid at sunset.

UC grad turns humanities degree into entrepreneurial success

Study abroad leads to a&s alum to found company in madrid.

headshot of Anne Bowling

Growing up on Ludlow Avenue in the Cincinnati neighborhood of Clifton, Harrison Fowler had planned to enroll in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) at the University of Cincinnati.

UC was close to home, and ROTC seemed like the right choice. But life had other plans.

At the last minute, Fowler withdrew from ROTC and enrolled to earn his bachelor’s in Spanish, which meant he needed a study-abroad experience to complete his degree. He was apprehensive, but completed his requirement in Madrid, in a move that would change the direction of his life.

Says Fowler of his foreign-language major, and his experience abroad: “Speaking another language opens up a whole other world and relationships for you.”

UC alum Harrison Fowler with his wife in Madrid. Photo/Provided

He speaks from experience. It was in Madrid that he met his wife-to-be, Alejandra Rodríguez, who is from the Canary Islands. It was also there that he found his calling, which led him to begin his company in 2017. RVF International (the acronym stands for Research, Venture, Find) is a business that assists educators in teaching abroad.

Nobody had a streamlined process, or company, to help people teach abroad, specifically in Spain, he says.

Says one member of the program in an online testimonial: “I’ve been having a great time teaching English to little kids in Galicia. I’ve seen so much of Spain, and am excited to see a lot more. There’s no way I’d be here if it weren’t for the helpful people of RVF guiding me through every step of the way.”

As RVF International approaches its seventh year, it has 350 clients, and is forecasting 400 by fall of 2024. His clients are typically recent college grads from English programs which RVF helps with paperwork and job hunting.

Take a leap and lean into what you really want to do. Go have an adventure while you can.

Harrison Fowler, UC College of Arts and Sciences graduate

Undergrad experience proves invaluable

Before he graduated with his bachelor’s in Spanish and a minor in communication in 2015, Fowler took full advantage of the curricular opportunities offered in UC’s College of Arts and Sciences.

Studying with Carlos Gutiérrez, professor of Spanish, Fowler received a lot of one-on-one coaching, he says. His senior project had Fowler translating short stories from Gutiérrez’s collection “La red ciega” from Spanish to English.

The Argument and Contemporary Issues class, taught by professor of communication Suzanne Boys, helped him to develop elevator pitches and persuasive writing, he says. “I never took a business class,” says Fowler, “so the communication courses helped me in the long run.”

To students considering pursuing a foreign language degree, Fowler says: “One-hundred percent do it! You will develop interpersonal skills and have direct access to faculty. I would also advise them to do the study abroad program.

“Take a leap and lean into what you really want to do,” Fowler adds. “Go and have an adventure while you can, and gain those skills that you will use later in life.”

Featured image at top: Madrid, Spain, in the evening. Credit/Jorge Fernandez Salas for Unsplash

  • School of Communication, Film, and Media Studies
  • Alumni Association
  • UC Foundation
  • College of Arts and Sciences
  • Department of Romance Languages and Literatures

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Growing up on Ludlow Ave. in the Cincinnati neighborhood of Clifton, Harrison Fowler had planned to enroll in the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) at the University of Cincinnati. UC was close to home, and ROTC seemed like the right choice. But life had other plans. At the last minute, Fowler withdrew from ROTC and enrolled to earn his bachelor’s in Spanish, which meant he needed a study-abroad experience to complete his degree. He was apprehensive, but completed his requirement in Madrid, in a move that would change the direction of his life. Says Fowler of his foreign-language major, and his experience abroad: “Speaking another language opens up a whole other world and relationships for you.”

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    This writing type uses persuasive techniques to present the reader with logical arguments, supporting evidence and emotional appeals to help convince them. 5 Persuasive Writing Examples for Kids to Share With Students. Examples of persuasive writing from some of their favourite picturebooks can also be helpful when you're launching your writing ...

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    Persuasive Writing Tips for Students. Persuas ve Wr t ng. This in ormation should be help ul to you as we begin our persuasive writing unit. You should print these pages and keep them in your English notebook. Students will use this in ormation this semester and next semester. Persuas ve Wr t ng s S m lar to Argu ng a Court Case.

  23. Welcome to the Purdue Online Writing Lab

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    Their findings are eye-opening. Turns out, persuasion is fairly simple if you follow some scientifically-proven rules. Here are the three persuasion techniques you should use to get someone to act. 1. Ask for future commitment. All of us experience a bias known as temporal discounting.

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