Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

5 Persuasive Writing Tricks that Work

Is writing persuasively really worth the effort? Can’t you just inform people and let them make their own decisions?

In a word: No.

I like helping people do and be more than they could on their own. I like to challenge and change things.

And if you do, too, there’s no reason to apologize.

Persuasive Writing

Photo credit: Jessica Garro (Creative Commons)

Some people call this “sales writing,” but I don’t buy that. Sure, sales is another word for persuading someone to buy something, but persuasive copy is a lot more than sales writing.

And you don’t have to wear an ugly tie to do it, either.

What is persuasive writing?

Here’s how Brian Clark, founder of Copyblogger, defines it:

Persuasion is generally an exercise in creating a win-win situation. You present a case that others find beneficial to agree with…

It’s simply a good deal or a position that makes sense to that particular person.

So, do you want to write compelling content that makes a difference?

I thought so. Here’s a road map of sorts for writing persuasively:

Start with a question or quote

Grab your reader’s attention by catching him off-guard. Use a disarming question or quote an authoritative voice on your topic.

Invite your audience into your article with a compelling lead paragraph that raises a question you answer later on.

The idea here is that you speak to a burning desire or curiosity that the reader already had. She just didn’t know it.

Offer evidence

Provide customer testimonials or user experiences to establish credibility. This can be a quote or official endorsement — whatever will convince your reader to act.

It can even be social proof in the form of how many people have used the product/service/whatever.

Nobody likes going first. Let the reader know he’s not.

Provide compelling reasons

Don’t brush over this part. People need a reason to buy into your message.

Provide one for them by doing the following:

  • Use rationale to explain why someone needs what you have.
  • Use bullet points or historical facts.
  • Use logic and deductive reasoning.

It all depends on your audience, but whatever you share, make sure it’s relevant and applicable to the reader.

They want to be convinced.

Tell a story

Stories engage your readers in a way that facts cannot. They provide subjective reasoning for your position.

Stories are subjective. They put the reader in your shoes. They allow him to see and feel things as you would.

And they lead the reader to make the same decision you would if in your place. They engage the emotions and motivate the heart.

Empathize with your reader

Anticipate objections. Be your own Devil’s Advocate.

Write from the perspective of the reader on his most skeptical day. This will disarm the questions before they come. It will let the reader know you are on her side.

And that’s the point of all this: not to convince the reader to “buy” something, but to do what he already wants to do.


What persuasive writing tricks have you used? Share in the comments.

*Photo credit: Jessica Garro (Creative Commons)

By the way, I’m guest posting on Copyblogger today. If you’re visiting from there, check out my About page and find out how you can get free updates to this blog.

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • In the first paragraph, I like to tell my readers that the moment they clicked on whatever link that got them to my post,  a malicious Trojan was automatically installed on their hard drive, and that the only way to have it automatically uninstalled is to pass a quiz at the bottom of the post,  composed of questions related to its content that can only be answered correctly if the entire post was read and understood.

    That way, by convincing my readers right off the bat that it is really in their own best interest to carefully consider all my points, I feel I stand the greatest chance of persuading the majority of them of the validity of my logic. Otherwise, they’d just read a sentence or two and then leave, thus depriving themselves of a wonderful opportunity to expand their intellectual horizon by truly taking in what I have to say on a given subject.

  • Jarod Online

    I rarely comment but this post is perfect Jeff. Good job!

  • Thanks for putting this out there, Jeff. Someone I read mentioned this site as a place to learn to write good (wink) and, between this post and the one about formatting posts – lede, support, support, support, call-to-action – alone, said referral proved immeasurably valuable.


  • Lia London

    I think, in my opinion, it’s also important to avoid using wishy-washy phrases like “I think” and “in my opinion”.  😀 (See how wussy it made me sound?)   

    We need to speak with confidence–not bullying, but not equivocating, too.  Presentation is as key as the message when it comes to persuasion.

    • agreed. writing with authority is so important. i think i need to do a post about that soon… maybe…

  • Jeff,
       This is something I’ve been thinking about all week. I come from the sales side of things and understand how important it is to speak to the benefits for the customer.  I also agree that telling a story that the potential buyer can relate to is effective.  

       What I’ve been troubled by is the increasing efforts of online persuasive writers to press the most emotional parts of a buyers possible motivation. 

      Things like – “don’t you want your children to be happy when….    or making claims they have no way of substantiating.   (things like .. stop struggling and end your problems by…

    I realize you are not advocating this type of tactic, but would sincerely appreciate your feedback.

    There is nothing wrong with selling products or services – nor is there anything wrong with making a compelling offer.  (I teach people how to do that!) 

     What bothers me is making such a strong emotional case that people feel compelled to make a purchase that may not be in their best interest or that the emotional pull is exaggerated to deflect from an inferior product or service – to compel someone to buy something inferior or at an inflated price.  


    • Great question, Phyllis. I think it all depends on your definition of selling. What you’re describing sounds like manipulation, not persuasion. Really good selling, to me, is convincing someone to do what they already wanted to do. And once they make the decision, it’s your job to comfort them and assure them that this was the best choice they could make. That’s the job of a salesperson — to serve the customer. Nothing more.
      Of course, people in sales have quotas and goals and commissions to think about. That’s why integrity must be essential. But I don’t think that means you can’t be emotional. Most people make irrational decisions when it comes to making purchases. I don’t think it’s about facts and data; it’s about what the customer wants and finding a way to give it to him/her. I could go on about this, but I hope I’ve made my point.
      With content marketing, this means finding a particular niche, doing a lot of research and then delivering what the customer wants and is willing to pay for (hint: it should solve a problem or need). The WRONG thing to do is to build a platform or gain an audience somehow, then try to deliver something completely irrelevant to that niche, because the commissions are good. For example, if I started trying to sell vacuum cleaners on this blog, that would be a bad idea (and immoral, in my opinion).

  • This is not something I’m very good at. Still, I’ve used questions, empathizing, and stories off and on in the past to hold the readers hand through my reasoning. They’re good tips, I just need to practice them more.

    • You do a good job with the questions, Joe. I like how you use narrative and plot elements woven throughout your nonfiction stuff. It’s very engaging.

  • Min

    My favourite opener to any persuasive writing/presentation piece is to open with a seemingly irrelevant question, and then weave a story out of that. Gotta work on the other 3 tips you’ve given though.

    Was happy to see your guest post on Copyblogger. Great piece there! 😀

  • Wow. 
    Some of the same techniques that would be used in public speaking can be used in writing. This is so simple, yet it takes someone to spell it out for you.
    Thank you for being that someone as I head more into the realm of the written word

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