A Writer’s Diary #10: Aristotle’s Guide to Persuasive Writing

Persuasion is the end goal of all writing. Writers use persuasive arguments to influence the opinions and beliefs of their readers.

In fact, the real goal of good writing is to persuade your readers that your ideas are not only valid, but they are more valid than someone else’s.

The Greek philosopher Aristotle was one ancient thinker who was very particular about the use of persuasive powers in writing.

In fact, Aristotle divided the means of persuasion into three categories. Let’s look at them one by one and how these can be used in writing powerful, persuasive content and copy.

Note that Aristotle first talked about these rules more than 2,300 years ago. But they are still as much valid and powerful as they were then.

Here are the three rules of persuasive writing from Aristotle:

1. Ethos
Ethos means credibility, or ethical appeal, which means convincing by the character of the author.

What Aristotle said here was that having good morals and character isn’t enough for a writer. You have to establish this to your audience. The idea here is that it doesn’t matter how delightful and ethical a person you are if you can’t communicate that to your readers.

You tend to believe people you respect, right? In the same way, you as a writer must make an impression to the reader that you are someone worth listening to.

In other words, this means you need to show yourself as an authority on the subject you are writing, as well as someone who is likable and worthy of respect.

This you can do by being authentic in your writing, sharing your personal experiences (nothing motivates a reader better), and shoeing you reader that you are genuinely interested in helping him.

2. Logos
Logos means logical, which means persuading by the use of reasoning.

This was Aristotle’s favourite technique of persuasion.

You can do this by adding a lot of relevant and powerful proof to your content or copy.

To put it simply, logos means if you want to make a point, you’d better back it up with proof. You can’t just go out there building castles in the air – making empty promises

So, avoid being vague in your writing. Don’t make overt promises that your reader might think as unbelievable. And follow every point you make with a valid and powerful proof.

3. Pathos
Pathos means emotional, which means persuading by appealing to the reader’s emotions.

Aristotle was a staunch supporter for persuading people emotionally, as long as it was based on sound credibility (Ethos), and backed up by proof (Logos).

As a writer, you can trigger emotions by using stories to enhance description. Use stories to describe your reader’s problem and use vivid examples of how your solution is what will change his life for the better.

There’s immense power in emotions. Emotions are what drive us and what drive us astray. You cannot persuade without understanding them well.

One of the first things you must nail as a writer is how to capture the core emotion of the reader – what is he feeling now…what does he want…what makes him fearful?

So these were the three rules of persuasion that Aristotle employed in his writing. Let’s have a fast re-look at them:

  1. Ethos: Writer’s credibility, authority.
  2. Logos: Logic, proof used to support a claim.
  3. Pathos: Emotional or motivational appeals, storytelling, vivid language.

If you want to make your writing powerful and persuasive, try following in Aristotle’s footsteps every time you write something.

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