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This document may help undergraduate writers (especially freshman) discover their own unique approach to assignments by avoiding common mistakes and cliche analytical techniques. However, any writer should benefit from these reflections about persuasion and rhetoric.
Some Important Do’s and Don’ts of Persuasive Writing
REMEMBER: Your paper NEED to clearly demonstrate
● The words you choose, the amount of detail you provide, and how you
assemble paragraphs and use evidence will serve to SHOW why your
paper matters, why you are writing, and for whom
Kairos: Is now the best time to make this argument? Why is this issue you are
raising a pressing concern within the cultural context you are writing?
○ No one wants yesterday’s news today. If a recent study
came out about cosmetic surgery procedures, you can
draw oncurrent events as a way of articulating your
Ethos: Why should my audience believe me?
○ Making a point to do research shows that you are trying to
increase your credibility as a writer. Although research
may seem tedious and time consuming, it will show your
reader that you are not thinking in a vacuum and you are
trying to connect yourself and them to communit(ies)
Pathos: Why should my audience care?
● MAKE RELATABLE, MEMORABLE, and PLEASING TO READ.
○ Personal Experience, Narrative Voice, Anecdotes,
Testimony, Vivid details: facts, statistics, or drawing on
external sources can create an emotional reaction from the
reader, while demonstrating your credibility and appeals
to logic at the same time!
○ Remember, certain words and phrases will make the
reader concerned, angry, sympathetic, calm, inspired,
proud, and so on. Read Aristotle's Book II of the Rhetoric
for more information.
Logos: Will my audience believe my argument makes sense? What assumptions
do I make that need to be explained to them?
● A strong claim, sound reasons, and use of compelling evidence to
support both reasons and your claim will appeal to the reader’s logic.
○ Facts, statistics, surveys, personal testimony, and CLAIM
TYPES evoke a particular response in readers that gets
them thinking about whether or not your argument is
plausible/valid/likely to be true
Avoid logical fallacies
● Don’t make sweeping generalities or non-sequiter claims.
○ Don’t say “our culture” when you mean American
mainstream culture. Don’t say “every girl” is pressured to
tan when you mean that Caucasian/fair-skinned girls are
pressured to tan. Don’t say all women want a guy to sweep
them off their feet, when in fact, you mean some
heterosexual or bisexual women.
Work on Your Style: Do’s and Don’ts
● Do: use qualifiers and transitions (see qualifiers and transitions sheet)
● Do: be considerate and respectful. Coming across as polite isn’t being
passive or weak, it’s rhetorically saavy. Attempting to persuade a
reader does not conflict with being polite or mean that you need to be
rude about it.
● Do: Use active verbs and concrete details to convey your expertise
instead of brow beating your audience with preachy general messages
about “the truth” or “seeing the light”
● Do: Write your paper in a way that you would want to be written to
(follow the golden rule)
● Do: Defy your reader’s expectations of the typical. Make the familiar
unfamiliar and vice versa. Engaging a reader usually depends on the
fact that you are doing something a bit different or getting them to see
things in a more complex way. It also increases your ethos because it
shows that you are familiar with typical ways in which arguments
about your subject are being framed
● Don’t assume that your audience knows less about reality than
you—you both bring knowledge to the table, activate theirs don’t push
ideas down their throat by overly appealing to morality or ignorance
● Don’t assume that your audience comes from the exact same cultural
background as you do.