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Early rhetoric and persuasive writing

Early rhetoricians dealt with persuasive writing and oration. Cicero most notably
defined persuasive writing as the grand style in his work “Orator”

Cicero stated, “This eloquence has power sway man’s mind and move them in
every possible way”.

He also stated, however, that the most effective orator, or in this case, writer, uses
a combination of the plain, middle, and this grand style to suit the context.

Ethos, logos, and pathos in persuasive writing


By appealing to credibility, writers can make their claims more believable. This is
called an appeal to ethos, as defined by Aristotle. The writer builds on his or her
ethos by writing with clarity (an important element of style) and eliminating
contradictions within the text itself. The writer will be more credible to the target
audience if there are no internal errors in syntax and mechanics as well as no
factual errors in the subject matter.

Writers can appeal to logic when writing to persuade using the appeal known as
logos. This appeal is manifested in the supporting statements for the writer’s claim.
In most cases, a successful appeal to logos requires tangible evidence, e.g., a quote
from acknowledged written material. The writer will appeal to the rationality of the
audience.

Possibly the most important appeal for persuasive writers is the appeal to emotions
or pathos. “A successful pathetic appeal will put the audience in a suitable mood by
addressing their knowledge of or feelings about the subject”. This can be a very
effective way to win over an audience.

Most persuasive writing techniques use an effective combination of


all three appeals.

Traditional structure
Here are the traditional parts of persuasive writing that can be used to strengthen
an argument. While these do not have to be followed exactly or in this order, they
are helpful in forming the structure in persuasive writing.

Exordium, or introduction

Narration, or background statement of the facts

Partition, or forecast of the topics to be presented

Conformation, or the confirmation of the piece. In contemporary English classes,


this would be called the body of the text.

Refutation, or discussion of alternatives

Peroration, or a conclusion. It’s often helpful to tie the conclusion back to the
introduction in order to strengthen your claim.
Common techniques

Personal appeal: Human beings are emotional; establish common ground that your
audience can relate to. Also known as empathy.

Tone: The tone of the piece can alienate a reader if too harsh or sarcastic. The
writer wants the reader to like them and to approve of their idea.

Precision: Avoid lazy language, cliches, trends and jargon.

Concession: Acknowledge opposing points of view and offer your rebuttal.

Logic: If A equals B, and B equals C, then A must equal C. If the statements in your
equation are true, then your conclusion must be true as well.

Authority: Speak from personal experience, or if you have none, then provide facts,
figures, and quotes from authorities to support your opinion

Rhetorical questioning: A rhetorical question can be phrased so that the only


answer is in favor of your opinion. Ex: Dog is man's best friend. Who doesn't want a
loyal best friend?

Tips for effective persuasive writing

Develop stance: Clearly explain the argument; include viewpoint(s) you personally
advocate.

Establish credentials: Inform audience of any previous experience(s)/research that


pertains to the argued point.

Anticipate opposing arguments: Be aware of opposing viewpoint(s)

Counter opposing arguments: Address/answer these as introduction to personal


viewpoint(s)

Use reason: Base persuasive argument on evidence

Organizational patterns

Pro and con organization: present the reasons against your opinion, then give
reasons in favor of your opinion. Explain why your reasoning is superior.

Cause and effect organization: connect ideas logically by showing their cause and
effect relationship. For example, if you wanted to persuade people to get a dental
checkup every six months, present effects of frequent dental checkups.

Comparison and contrast organization: show similarities and differences between


your opinion and others. Present factual evidence that shows why your opinion is
best.

Main idea and detail organization: provide key point or main ideas and factual
details to support it.
Order of importance organization: present your argument so you progress from the
least important detail to the most important or vice versa.