Persuasive Writing

In checking out blogs of a politcal nature I usually assume that the writer is intending to sway the minds of his readers, either to convert the misguided to his point of view or to buttress the views of those who already agree with him. A political piece that is not aimed at convincing the unconvinced would serve very little purpose except to assemble a self congratulatory group of insiders without an aim, political self stimulation.

So presuming that the goal is to change minds, I find it astounding that so many people commit what I view as writing blunders, things that would alienate their intended audience before they even chance to begin swaying them. In short, I might have the best argument in the world, the cure for cancer, or the most life changing story ever but if I have caused the reader to click away before the end of the first paragraph I have harmed my own cause. For persuasive writing, I try to keep the following points in mind:

1. Do NOT begin with a conclusion! Starting your work with “George Bush sucks because” or “Hillary drinks childrens’ blood” might get attention but you’re going to lose half of your opponents right off the bat. If I find that I disagree with an essay in the first sentence, or worse yet in the title, the chances of me reading until the end are VERY slim because I only have about 2 seconds invested in the work so far. Hit me with the brick two thirds of the way down and I’ll be more likely to finish because by then I’m in for the whole ride.

2. FACTS FACTS FACTS!: Rather than begin with editorial comment, it’s good to instead begin by stating facts. The reader does not necessarily have to know where you’re going with it yet but when he sees you start bringing and arranging facts, he knows something is coming. In a perfect situation your opponent might sit there and acknowledge the veracity of each of your facts as you bring them. I buy that. Yeah I buy that. That makes sense too. Then at the end you stand back and spring the syllogism and and say “checkmate” leaving your opponent stunned and backtracking through your article.

3. Examples go in threes. Citing one ‘for instance’ as an example does nothing. That just sounds like an isolated instance. Two is better but they still sound like exceptions. Adding a third example breaks the psychological barrier. While it might not seal the case entirely, it makes a point which is not easily ignored except by the willfully ignorant.

4. Humor both highlights your opponent’s absurdities and it keeps the reader entertained. You want to make your point and keep the reader on board until the end.

5. State, Refute, and Recapitulate! There is nothing like stating your opponent’s case for him and then ripping it to shreds in your initial essay. It shows that you understand the subject matter so well that you can anticipate the other side’s entire argument. And don’t construct an easy to destroy straw man argument for your opponent either. Devise a very good argument for him and then smash it like King Kong! People get impressed when they see you wreck a worthy opponent, even if that opponent was an argument of your own making.

Last but not least if you get a good lead in a debate, keep jabbing and use some rope-a-dope! The crowd likes to see a good show. I know I do!

28 Responses to “Persuasive Writing”

  1. rae says:

    Thanks prof-do you have a specific homework assignment for all of us? Or at least a topic?

  2. Mexigogue says:

    I KNEW IT! I KNEW that post would be taken as pompous and condescending!!! that’s why I had to try it!!!

  3. Mexigogue says:

    And at any rate I wasn’t writing that in response to anyone’s blog from here. It was mostly a critique of the Libertarian Girl Blog.

  4. rae says:

    Figures- you don’t have to make excuses for your writing you know. Besides I think you’re pompous and condescending anyway-so does it matter?

  5. Mexigogue says:

    Hey Rae. Librarian Girl live in D.C. You should go beat her up!

  6. rae says:

    I’m a lover not a fighter. Does she put out?

  7. MiAn says:

    >>A political piece that is not aimed at convincing the unconvinced would serve very little purpose except to assemble a self congratulatory group of insiders without an aim, political self stimulation.

    Anything sounds pointless if you say it like that.

  8. Hillary Clinton says:

    That whole drinking children’s blood thing was just experimentation during the late ’60s. Everybody was doing it

  9. guy in the UNLV jacket says:

    I think most of the people writing political blogs have a very infantile understanding of their topics and just regurgitating some talking head’s opnion they saw on TV. Very few bloggers actually research their topics and offer fact based opnions rather they view their cause in a vacum as it alone will save the world….

  10. Mexigogue says:

    YOU BETTER NOT BE TALKING ABOUT ME OR YOU WILL BE WALKING AROUND WITH A #2 PENCIL STICKING OUT OF YOUR NECK!!!

  11. guy in the UNLV jacket says:

    I thought you didn’t watch TV

  12. guy in the UNLV jacket says:

    I just bought a 1gb memory stick for my camers. With that I’ll be able to hold an ass load of pictures or 48 minutes of vides…..

  13. Mexigogue says:

    That reminds me. . . at the last staff meeting they asked us for relatively inexpensive ideas that would help improve staff morale. I said bum fights! It would cost about ten bucks per participant and it would be wildly entertaining. They dismissed my idea OUT OF HAND without even PUTTING IT UP FOR A VOTE???? wHAT kind of Draconian shit is THAT????

    Anyway, use your camera to videotape bum fights!

  14. Mexigogue says:

    I don’t watch TV. what are you talking about?

  15. guy in the UNLV jacket says:

    I gotta find me some bums to fight..

  16. Mexigogue says:

    Do they have bag ladies carry the round cards between rounds?

  17. guy in the UNLV jacket says:

    Did you ever download the official bim fights video?

  18. Mexigogue says:

    No. I could probably get it from Imesh.

  19. guy in the UNLV jacket says:

    Fucking hilarious….The best is the “bum hunter” he dresses up like the corcodile hunter guy and goes out and wrestles and captures bums in the “wild” classic stuff there

  20. Phelps says:

    Bumfights II wasn’t bad either.

    My favorite part of the first one was when Rufus broke the other guy’s leg and then kept calling him a pussy for whining over his fake broke leg.

  21. Mexigogue says:

    See? That would be the perfect entertainment for a Division of HIV/AIDS-STD staff meeting!

  22. Citizen Publius says:

    I see Hillary posted a comment. I am just wondering if, when she was doing the blood drinking thing way back when, if she just swirled it around in her mouth and then spit it out or if she actually swallowed it. How about it, Hillary? Did/do you swallow?

  23. Hillary Clinton says:

    Of course I drank it down, Hell I even chugged a couple of steins. I’m not a little bitch like my husband…..

  24. Well, I don’t have much of an opinion on bum fights–I can usually watch one outside my window here in DC around 8:30 or so. Sometimes I’ll even throw a half empty beer can out to instigate things–study how individuals define property rights in unclaimed resources.

    But more importantly, your post is excellent.

  25. R says:

    God, I hate motherfuckers like you slinging phrases like “casus belli” and “expo facto” and “et al” all over your posts and thinking you’re the shit just because you can use “logic” and “structured reasoning” to tear down a belligerantly – but poorly – written political post, like you’re William fucking Safire.

    You know what I’d like to see? A girl-on-girl mud wrestling match between Maureen Dowd and Arianna Huffington. That’d be mad expo facto casus belli, you know what I’m saying?

  26. Phelps says:

    You’d like to see that? Hell, I think that showing tapes of that to POWs would violate the Geneva Convention.

    And its ex post facto. I like a priori and nunc pro tunc too. Nunc pro tunc is my favorite.

  27. R says:

    You don’t think Maureen Dowd is somewhat attractive for her age?

    Okay, Dowd against Coulter. Oh, man, that would be nunc pro tunc-ing all over the place.