Persuasion is using words to win over your reader and make them act.
To do it, first understand them. Consider their fears and desires, their motivations and frustrations.
Have purpose with your words. Be short, clear and relevant and have great visual impact.
Then craft intriguing headlines, captivating slogans and inspiring phrases. You can draw on a tempestuous troupe of ten techniques to tickle your reader with your utterances.
Ten linguistic lures
Rhetoric is “the art of persuasive speaking or writing, especially the exploitation of figures of speech and other compositional techniques”. So exploit the following:
Write with your ears by repeating consonants for dramatic and memorable effect.
Brands use it:
Find it in headlines:
From forth the fatal loins of these two foes; a pair of star-cross’d lovers take their life. —William Shakespeare, Romeo & Juliet
2. Anaphora and Epiphora
Intentional repetition of the first sounds in a phrase is anaphora, Greek for “carrying back” or “offering”. Writers of the most memorable and impassioned speeches have used it, from Churchill (We Shall Fight Them on the Beaches) to Martin Luther King (I Have a Dream) to Walter White:
I am not in danger, Skyler. I am the danger. A guy opens his door and gets shot and you think that of me? No. I am the one who knocks! —Walter White, Breaking Bad
As have advertisers:
Repeat the last sound for epiphora, which is Greek for “return”:
This is raising a question then answering it, and comes from the Greek for “carrying under” or “putting under”.
Winston Churchill’s first speech as Prime Minister was Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat on 13 May 1940. France was being attacked and things were not looking good for the Allies in Europe.
You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory. Victory at all costs—Victory in spite of all terror—Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival.
And of course loads of ads use it:
4. Asyndeton and Polysyndeton
Removing ands, buts and other conjunction (linking) words for effect is asyndeton, which means “unconnected”.
I came, I saw, I conquered. —Julius Caesar
Add extra ands, buts and other conjunctions for polysyndeton. It means “many bound together”:
If there be cords, or knives, or poison, or fire, or suffocating streams, I’ll not endure it. —Shakespeare’s Othello
This year we’ve sold more, and we’ve expanded, and we’ve won new contracts, and we’ve seen off a potential merger.
When you flip a phrase. Chiasmus is Greek for “crossing”.
Champagne for my real friends and real pain for my sham friends. —Francis Bacon
Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate. —John F Kennedy
Be fearful when others are greedy and be greedy when others are fearful. —Warren Buffett
Use the last part of a phrase as the first part of the next one. Means “double” or “fold”.
Our doubt is our passion, and our passion is our task. —Henry James, The Middle Years
Correct yourself, “change one’s mind”.
The project went well. Actually, no it didn’t, it went brilliantly.
8. Sour Candy
Starts off sour then turns sweet:
Use metaphors that mix up the five senses. “Sensations together”:
I smell trouble.
You could cut the atmosphere with a knife.
Back to the region where the sun is silent. —Dante, The Divine Comedy
Balance opposites, or “set against something put forth”.
To err is human; to forgive, divine. —Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism, Part II
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. —Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
Keep an eye out for rhetoric and think about how you can apply it to your work.