The majority of my work could be classified (in some form or another) as “persuasive non-fiction.” Most of my clients are leaders with messages that make a positive spiritual, relational, financial or professional impact on the lives of their readers.
I spent the first ten years of my professional life in public relations and marketing. I worked in education for the next ten and began my adventures in writing by moving south to leave teaching behind. But one of the unique gifts I received during the decade I labored in the trenches of Ohio’s education system was learning the importance of tailoring my “instruction” (my message) to the specific needs of my “audience.”
In the classroom, you either find a way to influence your students, or you don’t survive! While people may have one elevated way of learning or being influenced – they are ultimately multifaceted. They process information and are motivated in different ways. Learners are best served when you present information to them in a variety of ways.
For ten years those Cincinnati students were my “clients.” My background in educational psychology has heavily influenced the approach I’ve used as a collaborative writer – because understanding the multi-faceted learning styles and motivations of the reader is essential to effective persuasive writing.
As writers, the “client” is our reader.
Part of becoming a better writer is to understand how to present your argument in a way that will move your reader to action. The best non-fiction writers and bloggers are great at this! (Think Malcolm Gladwell, Tim Ferris, Stephen Pressfield, or Seth Godin.) They understand how to appeal to their audience on different levels simultaneously by expertly weaving the three “building blocks” of persuasion into their work.
It is important to attend to all three of these rules in your writing:
- Give the reader a reason to trust you.
- Provide compelling evidence to support your position.
- Understand how to appeal to the emotions of your reader.
As a writer, you either find a way to influence your reader, or you don’t survive!
I came across a brilliant blog that goes in-depth about the three forms of persuasion written by Shaun Coyne (who has some great resources for writers) at one of my favorite writing sites several weeks ago:
“Let’s go all the way back to Aristotle for the answer. Because his was a very good one. Aristotle suggested that there are three forms of persuasion: ethos, logos and pathos. And I think these are the three building blocks for Nonfiction Scenes.
Ethos is all about the bona fides of the arguer. Does the writer have the character and background to be someone worthy of trust? Is he principled? Does he have experience in the arena in which he writes? Is he an expert?
Logos is all about the evidence/the data/the backup material that the arguer/writer uses to support his conclusions. Because of the following data/examples/case studies, logically we can conclude…
Pathos is the writer appealing to the emotions of his audience to get them on his side, arousing readers’ anger or appealing to their self-interest or sense of identity. As you’ll surmise, employing a fiction writer’s Story technique is crucial for this form of persuasion. New Journalism’s pantheon (Wolfe, Talese, Didion, etc.) knows how to create Pathos as do the Erik Larsons and Malcolm Gladwells of the world.”
Go read the rest of the great blog by Shaun at Stephen Pressfield’s site here: http://www.stevenpressfield.com/2017/04/ethos-logos-pathos/
One thought on “How to Influence Your Reader”
Matt. I have written a manuscript. It is my first and only attempt to publish. My manuscript is an autobiography. My book is the true story of a boy growing up in a small cliquish, religious community who experienced rejection and hardships. This is a true account and it is my personal story of the events and hardships my family faced. This unusual account explains the loss of trust in those I should have been able to trust. It tells of physical and mental abuse my family endured. It describes the events that led to our fear of losing our lives because of my father and actual situations where I had to stop my father from killing my mother and sister. And all of this happening in a Mennonite family living in a Mennonite community. I am inquiring if you would be interested in working with me since I have not published before.
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