Persuasive writing is always clear writing. Here are some tips to improve the clarity of your writing:
- Use the first sentence of each paragraph to introduce the main point of the paragraph.
- Make clear transitions between points. Linking words and phrases shows the logic between one point and another.
- Write concisely, eliminating unnecessary words and phrases. The inclusion of words which do not serve a specific purpose ultimately detracts from your argument. Using subordinate clauses allows you to emphasize certain ideas more than others, thus making clear the hierarchical relationships between information in your sentences.
Compare these two examples:
- ‘Dickens frequently uses humour in his portrayal of politicians and the court, but this serves the larger purpose of a serious critique of social institutions in nineteenth-century England.’
- ‘Although Dickens frequently uses humour in his portrayal of politicians and the court, this serves the larger purpose of a serious critique of social institutions in nineteenth-century England.’
The use of a subordinate clause in (b), rather than the two equally weighted clauses of (a), makes the point clearer, by mirroring the hierarchy of the points made in the structure of the sentence itself.
Using style and rhetoric to persuade
- The use of rhythmic variety in your sentences suggests that you are fully in control of your material. For example: think about varying the length of your sentences. A series of short sentences gives the impression of undeveloped thought; a series of long sentences suggests pomposity or longwindedness. Try to mix up long and short sentences in order to add variety, interest and impact to your writing style.
- An authoritative voice can also be established through a manipulation of syntax. Try to put information which is more ‘basic’ in a subordinate clause, as it suggests that you know that this information is only your starting-point, and certainly shared by your reader.
Compare these two examples:
- ‘Dickens is a humorous writer, but the major theme of his work was one of great seriousness: the terrible poverty experienced by the underclasses in Victorian Britain.’
- ‘Although Dickens is certainly a humorous writer, the major theme of his work was one of great seriousness: the terrible poverty experienced by the underclasses in Victorian Britain.’
The use of the subordinate clause in (b), and the addition of the word ‘certainly’, suggest that the writer knows s/he does not need to spend time elaborating this point because it is an obvious one.
- Careful referencing and polished presentation always help to establish scholarliness and academic credibility.
Re-read an essay you have written recently. Identify:
- one or more techniques of persuasive writing which you are already using
- one or more techniques of persuasive writing which you would like to develop further
Evaluate persuasive writing
What do you find convincing about this example (pdf) of academic writing (written by a final-year student of English under examination conditions)?
‘Anarchic passions / accepted restraints.’ Does this adequately characterise the novels of the Brontës?