6 Tricks to write more persuasively
6 years ago I learnt a hard lesson about the role ‘surface level factors’ play in influencing people’s behaviour.
Let me explain….
Back in 2010 I bought my dream apartment. Everything was great, however after 5 years of living in it, I decided to move out and sell it.
Naively listening to my real estate agent, I sold it as is. With photos and inspections done whilst my current tenant was in it. The problem was, her style was really old-fashioned and she had furniture everywhere. This made the apartment seem small and not very appealing.
Well, come auction day, to my horror, my apartment sold for the EXACT same price as I’d bought it for 5 years earlier ……. Egawd!! No ROI for me!!
I didn’t really realise it at the time, however I’m convinced I would have made thousands more if I’d waited until my tenant moved out and I’d put some contemporary furniture in there.
This was a costly lesson for me that *surface level factors* have a BIG influence on people’s perception and thus their behaviour in response to it.
The thing is, this lesson has been reinforced for me time and time again.
In the last few years, I’ve written more than 1000+ Newsletters / Promo Emails / Social Media Posts / Articles. I’ve analysed what’s worked and what hasn’t and why that was the case.
What’s become very clear to me, is that the words you choose and the way you write are incredibly important.
Some words are irresistible and others are just plain boring. Some can make no impact and others can influence and inspire others to rush out and *change their behaviour*!!
So, I’d like to share with you the top 6 things I’ve learnt about how to write more persuasively. So you’re more likely to get the outcomes you’re after when you’re putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard)!
These are relevant whether you’re writing social media posts / articles / blogs (in order to improve your personal brand) or if you regularly write guidance/ training documents or promo newsletters / emails out to customers.
1. Simple Words
One of the first corporate jobs I got was in Internet Sales & Service. I’d respond to people’s email enquiries and I learnt how to write in a professional tone, using corporate jargon and formal words. I thought they sounded great and they were very professional.
However, I’ve since learnt through books and Copy-Writing Courses, that this actually decreases readability!! There’s no point in trying to sound professional if it doesn’t work to your advantage.
Before – Complicated words
Complicated words can come across as a useful tactic, but as a consequence the processing time required by your readers will be elevated beyond the normal range and subsequently the ability for them to comprehend what you are saying will be exceptionally difficult.
After – Simpler words
Complicated words are a trap, as they’re harder for people to process. You really want to make it easy for people to understand what you’re getting at.
2. Short Sentences
One really easy way to improve the readability of your sentences and therefore their punch, is to cut them down! I re-read what I’ve written and if it’s a bit of a mouthful, I’ll separate it into smaller sentences. Such an easy but useful tip!
Before – long sentences
Shorter sentences work better because our short-term memory isn’t that great and we can’t keep a massive amount of information in our brains and process it all at the one time. Hence the need to break things up, so it’s much easier to read and therefore more impactful.
After – shorter sentences
Short sentences work better. Why? Because our short-term memory isn’t that great. We can’t keep a massive amount of information in our brains and process it all at the one time. Hence the need to break things up! It’s much easier to read and therefore more impactful.
3. Basic Formatting
Readability is key in order to write persuasively. Something that’s easier to read will have greater chance of being read and understood in its entirety. We like to think everyone will read each and every word and understand each and every word. However, it’s not a given!!
Before – No Summaries / Space / Lists / Bolding
A lot of people skim-read. For those that don’t, they may start out reading everything and if it doesn’t grab their attention, they may not keep reading. In order to be persuasive, you must make sure it’s easy to read by including headings or include a summary few words before the detail. Break up paragraphs / blocks of text (don’t have large blocks of text). Bold the really important text.
After – With Summaries / Space / Lists / Bolding
A lot of people skim-read. For those of us that don’t, we’re always short on time and attention. So we may start out reading everything, but if it doesn’t grab our attention, we may not keep reading.
In order to be persuasive, you must make sure it’s easy to read by:
- Using Headings – Including headings or a summary few words before detail
- Using Spaces – Break up paragraphs / blocks of text with spaces and even go as far as breaking up paragraphs into separate sentences.
- Using Bold Text – Bold the really important text to focus the eye.
4. A Hook
If you want to entice people to read the whole post / article / blog, you need to have a hook at the start.
A great way to do this is by:
- Story – Sharing a very short but relatable story
- Question – Asking a thought-provoking question
- Fact – Sharing an interesting statistic / fact
- Value – Highlighting the value with power words
If I hadn’t started with a story, I could have used one of these other techniques, as follows:
- Asking a question | E.g. Do you struggle to write in an engaging and persuasive way? Did you know that a lot of the techniques that work in the public speaking world also translate to the written world?
- Sharing a fact | E.g. How you write has a massive impact on whether people will read it in its entirety, or whether they will take action.
- Highlighting the value with power words | E.g. 6 Tricks to write more persuasively.
5. Show, don’t Tell
Like I have in this article, it’s important to Show, not just Tell.
What do I mean here?
Instead of telling people that something is so, you want to show them, to prove to them that it’s so. This leaves no room for people to doubt it afterwards.
Two very effective ways to do this are as follows:
- Before vs Afters
Examples & Before vs Afters
Throughout this article, I’ve included Worked Examples and Before vs Afters. This showcases the tips I’m sharing, rather than just telling you about them.
At the start of this article, I shared a brief story to bring this whole topic to life. Anything you can share that humanises the topic will help people to better relate to it. One idea or tip lends itself better to stories than 6 tips though, hence why I’ve gone for more Worked Examples in this Article, rather than lots of long stories.
6. Clear Call To Action (CTA)
If you want to persuade some action as a result (to change people’s opinion on something, to make people believe what you believe, to go out and do something etc), you must make that particular action very clear, but also compelling.
You don’t want someone unclear or confused about what you’re recommending, when they should be doing this, or why!
Compelling Call To Action = WHEN (Scenario) + WHAT (CTA) + WHY (Benefits)
Also, even if you’ve said this in the body of your post / article / email, it’s always worthwhile summarising it at the end, so it remains in their mind.
Before – Unclear CTA
Writing persuasively is important. Don’t write how you’ve always written and expect the same results!
After – Clear CTA
>> I hope you can see how the words you write make a big impact on how your message is received.
So, next time you’re crafting a social media post or written piece, keep these 6 tips in mind, so you make it interesting, easy to read and highly persuasive!