3 Ancient Techniques of Persuasive Writing That Empower Writers

All the strategies writers use to persuade come back to three techniques of persuasive writing.  They might have a different spin or details put behind them, but when you examine them closely you will be able to fit them into one of these three categories: ethos, pathos, and logos.

Who is Convinced by the Techniques of Persuasive Writing?

As I was researching and preparing to write this I was trying to think of a great story to tell you about a time when I was convinced to buy something I might not need because of these techniques.  But I was having trouble so I asked my husband if he could tell me about a time he was convinced to buy something he didn’t need.  His response was, “That’s my personality.”  

He meant that if an advertiser uses the right technique they will rope him in.  I on the other hand tend to tell him that my old computer, phone, and watch work just fine.  He asks if I need a new one and my response is about if he is getting it for free.  The point is that we can all be convinced if the right technique is used.  If the right technique isn’t used the reader/viewer can resist.  

What Techniques of Persuasive Writing Have Worked on You?

I was just talking about advertisements and purchases, but persuasion comes in many formats such as friends, letters, blogs, social media, news, leaders, and so many more places.  I’d love to hear about a time you were persuaded in some way. Drop a comment to share.

What are Techniques of Persuasive Writing

Persuasive writing essays are when the writer is trying to convince the reader to agree with them.  The writer wants to be right and to prove that they are, they blend facts and opinions. After the writer has convinced the reader they are right, the writer is trying to get the reader to do something like stop using plastic straws or buy them a puppy.  How they manage to convince the reader to adopt new ways of thinking depends on the technique or combination of techniques the writer decides to use.  There are a lot of tips, methods, and ideas out there, but they all come back to three techniques.

Techniques of persuasive writing are the methods a writer uses to convince the reader to agree with them and do what they want.  Remember there is a slight difference between opinion, persuasive, and argumentative writing.  If you want to read about the differences you can look at my article Discover this Powerful 3 Part Detailed and Simple Guide to Persuasive Writing Essays.

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Persuasive Techniques

Going Greek With Techniques of Persuasive Writing

The techniques for persuasive writing were first identified by Aristotle when he wrote “The Three Modes of Persuasion” as part of his book Rhetoric in 4 B.C.E.  Amazingly, the techniques of persuasive writing have been identified for centuries.  

The three techniques for persuasive writing are ethos, logos, and pathos. Sometimes kairos is added included as a fourth mode. We will be taking a close look at each of these techniques to help you be able to understand and identify each yourself before you teach them to your students.  Then we will take a look at some modern ideas, methods, and tips.

Ethos Techniques of Persuasive Writing

Ethos is a Greek word and it translates to something like “moral character.”  Ethos focuses on who the writer is.  Aristotle explained that ethos is made of three components Phronesis, Arete, and Eunoia.  In modern times most writers say ethos can be broken into two components character and credibility.  As we talk about the Greek components you will understand why this has been simplified.

  1. Phronesis

Phronesis refers to the wisdom and intelligence of the writer.  When people know that you are an expert on a topic they trust what you say.  When you write using examples and research this helps people trust you.  Building trust with your audience is key to persuading them.

  1. Arete 

Arete refers to how your position on the topic is moral and just.  Since every person has different life experiences and beliefs they think different things are moral and just.  This means the writer must explain what they believe and why.

  1. Eunoia

Eunoia is the connection you establish with your audience.  Connecting with an audience requires that you extend goodwill and build rapport.  Explaining your background helps your audience trust and connect with you.  If your idea or position is too far-fetched you will lose your audience.

In modern times most writers have simplified these words to credibility and character.  Let’s take a look at these two so you can understand why this may have happened.

  1. Credibility

Is the author credible?  The reader needs to know the writer’s authority or expertise on the topic.  The writer thinks his idea or position deserves the attention of the reader, and now the writer must prove why.

  1. Character

Character is about who the writer is including their personal history or background and their personality traits.  What’s the writer’s history?  Does the writer make good choices?  Is the writer well-liked by friends, neighbors, and colleagues?

Can you see how the 3 parts of ethos that Aristotle identified were shortened into two?  They are closely related and work together.

Way to Build Ethos and Trust

Similitude is when the reader and the author share an identity such as patriotism, traditions, justice, dignity, social, religious, or philosophy.  The writer can show the reader this by discussing values, using familiar language, and grouping themselves with the reader with words like we and us.  

The writer can also talk about their experience and background in the topic by adding an anecdote.  Any time the writer can weave in details about their experience or expertise it helps gain the reader’s trust

Deference is a big word that means humility.  The writer admits they do not know everything in the universe and respect others’ work and opinions on the topic.  The writer can even disagree respectfully.  The writer also uses statements such as “In my opinion,” to show that this is their position and leave some space for the reader to think.

Finally, the writer can talk about their own character more.  Weaving in stories where the writer has chosen to do the right thing can help gain the reader’s trust.

Logos Techniques of Persuasive Writing

Logos is, you guessed it, logic. Logos focuses on the rationality, clarity, and logical integrity of the argument.  The whole idea must work together so the evidence connects to the conclusion.  If there are mistakes in the logic of the writer (logical fallacies) then the reader will stop reading. The position the writer is trying to persuade the reader to agree to must make sense. 

The writer can make sure the reader can follow the writing.  Dropping hints or transition words so the reader knows what’s first, second, and last can help the reader say on track with the argument.  The type of logic the writer uses can help the reader understand the logos too.  These are reminiscent of the types of expository writing.

Ways to Help the Reader See the Logos

  1. Comparisons

If the writer makes a comparison between their current topic and position and connects it to something very similar it can help the reader agree.  For example, lawyers often refer to old cases that already have a ruling to gather precedence.  They are proving the logic.

  1. Cause & Effect

The writer may be trying to prove that one thing caused another.  Sometimes writers are trying to provide that one thing might cause another unless changes are made (just think of the environment).  With evidence and support, these claims are logical. The reader can follow the idea that one thing caused another

  1. Deductive Reasoning

Deductive reasoning is when the writer starts with a broad big idea, something more general, and then focuses on a specific point.  Detectives do this often.  They get a case and they know big broad facts.  They slowly narrow in on smaller details until they can prove who committed the crime.

  1. Inductive Reasoning

Inductive reasoning is almost the reverse.  The writer will start with several small and specific examples and use them to support a bigger idea.  Weight loss commercials love to do this.  They show you several people who have done the program successfully.  These successful people are several examples and they support the bigger idea of the product.

  1. Exemplification 

Writers will often use many examples and lots of kinds of evidence to support a claim.  This method involves more variety in the types of evidence that are discussed because the bigger idea has multiple parts, causes, or results.

  1. Elaboration 

We tell our students to elaborate and this is similar.  The writer explains the facts and evidence.  The writer is more involved with the interpretation of the evidence for the reader because they are explaining and telling more.

  1. Coherent Thought

Coherence is when something makes sense and coherent thoughts are the same.  The writer uses well-organized reasoning throughout their writing and doesn’t need to repeat themselves.

Pathos Techniques of Persuasive Writing

Pathos means suffering or experience in Greek.  When we talk about it in persuasive writing we are talking about stirring up the readers’ emotions.  If a writer can stir up people’s emotions then they might be able to sway them to agree with the writer.

Pathos is used in many forms of writing.  One of the great parts of writing is when we feel what the characters feel.  However, tapping into people’s emotions to persuade them is a whole different game.  Aristotle’s student Plato thought that Pathos could be misused to manipulate the reader.

Tips for Including Pathos in Your Writing 

  1.  The focus should be on the reader and what they could feel while reading.
  2. The writer should be trying to trigger a specific emotion in the reader.
  3. The reader should feel the argument is worth their time because it has a strong introduction and hook.
  4. Use an enticing title.
  5. Powerful terms like duty, justice, service, and freedom usually spark emotion and interest from the reader.
  6. Help the reader stay emotionally open to the message and engaged.
  7. Help the reader make emotional connections.

What are Aspects of Writing that Evoke Emotion?

  1. Expressive or emotional descriptions of people places and events.
  2. Vivid imagery helps the reader feel like they are there.
  3. Sharing personal stories helps the reader connect.
  4. Using an emotion-driven vocabulary.
  5. Use information that will spark emotion, either positive or negative.

Since students use emotions in other types of writing I think this is one of the easier aspects of persuasive writing for students to implement.  However, helping them get more specific with their strategies and methods could make this one of the more effective techniques of persuasive writing they use.

Bonus: Kairos Techniques of Persuasive Writing

Kairos means time or creating the perfect time to deliver a message or convince someone.  Kairos is last on my list because our students can’t always apply this.  We have to give due dates and they have to finish their assignments, but it’s important to note, that some students may be able to accomplish this.  

A better way to understand kairos is to think about a sale at a store.  They probably start showing some seasonal items you will want soon.  Then before a holiday, stores send a flyer to let you know the sale is coming.  Then you see commercials that say these will be the lowest prices of the season.  Finally, it’s sale time and you get an email or flyer with a coupon.  The stores have created the perfect time to persuade you to come to spend money.  Before all of their persuasion when you saw seasonal items the first time you probably thought, it’s okay we don’t need that.

Modern Techniques of Persuasive Writing

There are so many methods and tips for how to make a persuasive paper convince the audience.  None of these methods are bad, but try to notice how they all come back to one of our four techniques.  See if you can name which Mode of Persuasion these are.

Modern Methods of Persuasive Writing

  1. Everyone is doing it and you don’t want to feel left out.
  2. Use your big brains to understand this idea.
  3. You or a family member will benefit from this product or idea.
  4. Once you have or know this you will be happy.
  5. Common sense helps reasonable people agree.
  6. This is your legal right.
  7. The expert said.
  8. This is your responsibility.

Short and Simple Persuasive Writing Tips

If you are looking for a quick way to get your students on persuasive writing use this list to help.  Short and simple tips to get the process started.

  1. Pick a topic you are passionate about so you can persuade about something you believe in.
  2. Know your audience.  You want to know who you are trying to convince to agree with you.
  3. Hook the reader with the title or first sentence so they know what the paper will be about and help the reader decide if they will keep reading.
  4. Research both sides so you are prepared to convince the reader about any objections they have.
  5. Be empathic so the reader can relate and believe you.
  6. Ask rhetorical questions because the reader should be able to answer them after reading the research and information.
  7. Exaggeration can help you emphasize a point, idea, or overall position on the topic.
  8. Repeat yourself because it can slowly encourage the reader to agree with you.

Using a Combination of Techniques of Persuasive Writing

Ethos, Logos, and Pathos (and Kairos) work together to create persuasive writing.  It’s possible to use only one of these techniques, but chances are your students’ writing will be stronger if they use them all at some point in their writing.  Using all of these techniques of persuasive writing will also help your students reach and persuade a bigger audience because different techniques appeal to different people.

Here is Your FREE Prompt for Writing Poetry

I know that you needed a prompt to help kickstart your students’ writing.  Here is an entire lesson for FREE.  My Our School Poem guides students through using sensory language to describe their school. The step-by-step

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