My thanks to Martine Brumwell for allowing us to reproduce the excellent work she has undertaken with regard to persuasive language.
Martine offered to unpick “apt word choices” for persuasive writing. Many thanks! The full text is below.
Persuasive Nouns: enticement exhortation seduction persuasion influence point of view advice opinion argument power pressure authority viewpoint attitude position approach judgement recommendation suggestion guidance information belief outlook disagreement
authority ability stance perspective feelings thoughts views proposal plan idea proposal proposition leadership direction assistance skill facility gift contribution award way course trend
Persuasive Verbs: Accelerate Achieve Adopt Anticipate Apply Assess Avoid Boost Build Capture Change Choose Clarify Command Comprehend Confront Connect Conquer Convert Create Cross Decide Define Deliver Demand Deploy Design Develop Diagnose Discover Drive Eliminate Ensure Entice Establish Evaluate Exploit Explore Finalize Find Focus Foresee Gain Gather Generate Grasp Identify Ignite Illuminate Implement Improve Increase Induce Influence Innovate Inspire Intensify Lead Learn Manage Manipulate Master Maximize Measure Motivate Overcome Persuade Plan Position Prepare Prevent Profit Raise Realize Reconsider Reduce Refresh Replace Resist Respond Retain Save Simplify Solve Stimulate Succeed Transform Understand Unleash Win
Persuasive Adjectives: alluring adorable attractive beautiful colourful distinct elegant glamorous gorgeous handsome magnificent precious sparkling unusual important outstanding different super inexpensive cheap agreeable charming cheerful comfortable courageous delightful determined eager enchanting encouraging energetic enthusiastic successful lovely excited exuberant fair faithful fantastic fine friendly funny gentle glorious good
Persuasive Adverbs: clearly totally importantly significantly always carefully clearly correctly easily elegantly enormously enthusiastically equally exactly fast fortunately gladly honestly justly more nearly neatly often only perfectly politely powerfully promptly punctually quickly rapidly rarely really regularly rightfully safely seldom seriously soon speedily successfully swiftly thoughtfully truthfully unexpectedly very well
Connectives used in persuasion:
Sequencing connectives:- next, then, first, second, third…finally, after, before meanwhile, eventually
Emphasising connectives:- above all, especially in particular, significantly
Comparing connectives: – in the same way, likewise, like equally, similarly
Cause and effect connectives:- consequently because , so, therefore
Qualifying connectives:- however, although unless, except, if, as long as
Illustrating connectives:- for instance, in the case of for example, such as
Contrasting connectives:- whereas, alternatively, otherwise instead of, the other hand on
Some Classical Concepts of Persuasion (Pathos)
Simile – A Qualified Comparison using “as”, “as if”, or “like”; softer in its implications.
“Hand cream for skin as soft as silk .”
Metaphor – An Absolute Comparison with no qualifiers. “She is a Dove.”
Allegory – A figurative treatment of one subject under the guise of another in order to persuade; a parable.
Metonymy – Borrowing a word out of its usual usage to enhance and persuade”Ruby Lips.”
Irony – A Polite Wounding; an incongruity of speech in which the words express a meaning that is usually opposite of the intended meaning.
Sarcasm – A form of Irony that is deliberately intended to hurt or offend; always intentional.
Hyperbole – An intentional exaggeration not intended to be taken literally; usually descriptive in nature.
Catachresis – Related to Metaphor, but more direct; name-calling. “He’s a dork.” “What a doll.”
Onomatopoeia – Use in adverts and jingles
Interrogatio – Asking a question or series of questions in order to trap someone into a specific response or to make a point. A leading question.
Rhetorical Questions – A technique demands a response from the audience. A question is asked and the viewer or listener is supposed to answer in such a way as to affirm a product’s value.
Dissimulation – Use of humor to emphasize the differences between two items
Ecphonesis – A showing of strong or vehement passion.
Aporia – The art of creating doubt.
Personification – Giving human attributes to inanimate objects in a passive form.
Aposiopesis – Denial through pretending to conceal or omit what one really intends to declare. “We won’t mention the fact that …..
Anacoenosis – Appealing to the audience for documentation or approval.
Anastrophe – Inversion; holding the point to the end to increase the listener’s expectations or to thwart a hostile audience.
Erotesis – A show of strong emotion in order to infuse energy or passion
Prolepsis – Enumerate our opponent’s objections in our discourse, then answer them in order to emasculate them.
Epanaphora – Graceful repetition; either a word or phrase alone, or a word at the beginning of a series of phrases
Apostrophe – The deliberate interruption of our current train of thought for a specific effect.
Periphrasis – Double-talk. Use of excessive language in order to dodge an issue or question. (Common in politics.)
Synchoresis – Granting or yielding a point in order to win one
Oxymoron – Two juxtaposed concepts which apparently contradict each other, used to lend force to persuasion.
A just war A new classic Abundant poverty Accurate estimate
Active retirement Agree to disagree Almost complete Amicable divorce
Among the first Anti-Missile Missile Approximately equal Authentic replica
Authentic reproduction Awfully good Awfully nice Awfully pretty
Beyond infinity Calculated Error Calculated risk Clean air
Clearly ambiguous Comparatively unique Cautiously Optimistic
Deliberate mistake Easy payments Equally diverse Essential luxury
Essential service Even odds Evolutionary fact Exact estimate
Executive assistant Evolutionary fact Exact estimate Executive assistant
Expect the unexpected Extended Deadline Extremely average
Eyes Wide Shut Fairly Accurate Fairly obvious Final conclusion
Firm estimate Free Credit Free election Free gift
Fresh frozen Geniune imitation Gentle turbulence Guaranteed forecast
Genuine fake Gourmet fast food Half true Harmless lie
Harmless pollution Healthy tan
Enantiosis – The juxtaposition of opposites used to mutually set off or enhance each other.
Climax – Building to a key point.
Hypotyposis – Language that moves very rapidly; using as few words as possible to make a point.
Alliteration – Repetition of consonants
Epiphonema – The Epic Statement; a word or phrase that is intended to be remembered; a slogan or trademark. Often used at the end of a piece of persuasion.
Euphony – A pleasant-sounding title, usually used to describe an unpleasant task or object. “Sanitation Engineer” for “Garbage Collector”. Tool of the Politically Correct.
Cacophony – Describing in loud or harsh terms, or the use of loud sounds or language.
Honorific – Giving people or items an inflated title.
Types of Suggestion
Prestige – Associate a cause or product with prestige, implying that agreement or consumption will impart qualities of prestige to the endorser on the consumer.
Auto-Suggestion – Self-suggestion that originates from without.
Direct Suggestion – Directly suggesting an action. “You must do such-and-such.”
Indirect Suggestion – Suggesting an action by delineating a path and letting the subject arrive at the target suggestion through his or her own interest.
Negative Suggestion – Suggesting a negative attitude by example.
Positive Suggestion – Putting something in a positive light, usually through praise or flattery.
Counter Suggestion – Countering an opponent’s suggestion, usually before it is made.
Atmosphere Effect – Developing an atmosphere or mood complimentary to the message.
Together Device – Fostering Unity; appealing to the harmonious whole, or as a harmonious whole. “We’re in this together.”
Common Ground – Appealing to those individual aspects we all share. “What do we have in common?”
Rationalization – Explaining plausible reasons for needing an idea or item.
Repetition – Repeating an idea for effect. “Tell ’em what you’re gonna tell ’em, tell ’em, then tell ’em you told ’em.”
Scapegoat Technique – Blaming others for unreconcilable problems in which they had no involvement, usually to escape one’s own fault.
The Big Lie – To tell a lie in such a way that it sounds like truth: the bigger the lie, the more credibility it exudes. “I feel your pain”, “The Worst Economy of the last 50 years”. OR To tell the truth in such a way that it sounds like a lie.
Strategy of Terror – Using terror or fear to elicit a response or an action. “They want to take away your medicare.”
Transfer – The concept that, by using a product (or adopting a position) endorsed by a desirable spokesman, some of the qualities of the spokesman – ostensibly gained by him through use of the same product – will transfer to us. Usually used with Prestige (see above).
Plain Folks – Appeal to the basic elements of a population.
Testimonial – Using the testimony of an endorser (either celebrity or average Joe) to promote a product; usually outcome-based (what the product did for him).
Band Wagon – Conscientious attempt through excitement or pressure to get people to support your cause, usually through a degree of coercion. “Get on the Band Wagon.”
The Weasel claim- A weasel word is a modifier that practically negates the claim that follows. The expression “weasel word” is aptly named after the egg-eating habits of weasels. A weasel will suck out the inside of an egg, leaving it appear intact to the casual observer. Upon examination, the egg is discovered to be hollow. Words or claims that appear substantial upon first look but disintegrate into hollow meaninglessness on analysis are weasels. Commonly used weasel words include “helps” (the champion weasel); “like” (used in a comparative sense); “virtual” or “virtually”; “acts” or “works”; “can be”; “up to”; “as much as”; “refreshes”; “comforts”; “tackles”; “fights”; “come on”; “the feel of”; “the look of”; “looks like”; “fortified”; “enriched”; and “strengthened.”
“Helps control dandruff symptoms with regular use.” The weasels include “helps control,” and possibly even “symptoms” and “regular use.” The claim is not “stops dandruff.”
“Leaves dishes virtually spotless.” We have seen so many ad claims that we have learned to tune out weasels. You are supposed to think “spotless,” rather than “virtually” spotless.
“Only half the price of many colour sets.” “Many” is the weasel. The claim is supposed to give the impression that the set is inexpensive.
“Tests confirm one mouthwash best against mouth odor.”
“Hot Nestlés cocoa is the very best.” Remember the “best” and “better” routine.
“Listerine fights bad breath.” “Fights,” not “stops.”
“Lots of things have changed, but Hershey’s goodness hasn’t.” This claim does not say that Hershey’s chocolate hasn’t changed.
“Bacos, the crispy garnish that tastes just like its name.”
The Unfinished Claim – The unfinished claim is one in which the ad claims the product is better, or has more of something, but does not finish the comparison.
Samples of Unfinished Claims
“Magnavox gives you more.” More what?
“Anacin: Twice as much of the pain reliever doctors recommend most.” This claim fits in a number of categories but it does not say twice as much of what pain reliever.
“Supergloss does it with more color, more shine, more sizzle, more!”
“Coffee-mate gives coffee more body, more flavor.” Also note that “body” and “flavor” are weasels.
“You can be sure if it’s Westinghouse.” Sure of what?
“Scott makes it better for you.”
“Ford LTD–700% quieter.”
When the FTC asked Ford to substantiate this claim, Ford revealed that they meant the inside of the Ford was 700% quieter than the outside.
The “We’re different and unique” claim – This kind of claim states that there is nothing else quite like the product being advertised. For example, if Schlitz would add pink food colouring to its beer they could say, “There’s nothing like new pink Schlitz.” The uniqueness claim is supposed to be interpreted by readers as a claim to superiority.
Samples of the “We’re Different and Unique” Claim
“There’s no other mascara like it.”
“Only Doral has this unique filter system.”
“Cougar is like nobody else’s car.”
“Either way, liquid or spray, there’s nothing else like it.”
“If it doesn’t say Goodyear, it can’t be polyglas.” “Polyglas” is a trade name copyrighted by Goodyear. Goodrich or Firestone could make a tire exactly identical to the Goodyear one and yet couldn’t call it “polyglas”–a name for fiberglass belts.
The Water is Wet claim – “Water is wet” claims say something about the product that is true for any brand in that product category, (for example, “Schrank’s water is really wet.”) The claim is usually a statement of fact, but not a real advantage over the competition.
Samples of the “Water is Wet” Claim
“Mobil: the Detergent Gasoline.” Any gasoline acts as a cleaning agent.
“Great Lash greatly increases the diameter of every lash.”
“Rheingold, the natural beer.” Made from grains and water as are other beers.
“SKIN smells differently on everyone.” As do many perfumes.
The “So what” claim – This is the kind of claim to which the careful reader will react by saying “So What?” A claim is made which is true but which gives no real advantage to the product. This is similar to the “water is wet” claim except that it claims an advantage which is not shared by most of the other brands in the product category.
Samples of the “So What” Claim
“Geritol has more than twice the iron of ordinary supplements.” But is twice as much beneficial to the body?
“Campbell’s gives you tasty pieces of chicken and not one but two chicken stocks.” Does the presence of two stocks improve the taste?
“Strong enough for a man but made for a woman.” This deodorant claims says only that the product is aimed at the female market.
The Vague claim – The vague claim is simply not clear. This category often overlaps with others. The key to the vague claim is the use of words that are colorful but meaningless, as well as the use of subjective and emotional opinions that defy verification. Most contain weasels.
Samples of the Vague Claim
“Lips have never looked so luscious.” Can you imagine trying to either prove or disprove such a claim?
“Lipsavers are fun–they taste good, smell good and feel good.”
“Its deep rich lather makes hair feel good again.”
“For skin like peaches and cream.”
“The end of meatloaf boredom.”
“Take a bite and you’ll think you’re eating on the Champs Elysées.”
“Winston tastes good like a cigarette should.”
“The perfect little portable for all around viewing with all the features of higher priced sets.”
“Fleishman’s makes sensible eating delicious.”
The Endorsement or Testimonial – A celebrity or authority appears in an ad to lend his or her stellar qualities to the product. Sometimes the people will actually claim to use the product, but very often they don’t. There are agencies surviving on providing products with testimonials.
Samples of Endorsements or Testimonials
“Joan Fontaine throws a shot-in-the-dark party and her friends learn a thing or two.”
“Darling, have you discovered Masterpiece? The most exciting men I know are smoking it.” (Eva Gabor)
“Vega is the best handling car in the U.S.” This claim was challenged by the FTC, but GM answered that the claim is only a direct quote from Road and Track magazine.
The Scientific or Statistical claim – This kind of ad uses some sort of scientific proof or experiment, very specific numbers, or an impressive sounding mystery ingredient.
Samples of Scientific or Statistical Claims
“Wonder Break helps build strong bodies 12 ways.” Even the weasel “helps” did not prevent the FTC from demanding this ad be withdrawn. But note that the use of the number 12 makes the claim far more believable than if it were taken out.
“Easy-Off has 33% more cleaning power than another popular brand.” “Another popular brand” often translates as some other kind of oven cleaner sold somewhere. Also the claim does not say Easy-Off works 33% better.
“Special Morning–33% more nutrition.” Also an unfinished claim. “ESSO with HTA.”
“Sinarest. Created by a research scientist who actually gets sinus headaches.”
The “Compliment the consumer” claim – This kind of claim butters up the consumer by some form of flattery.
Samples of the “Compliment the Consumer” Claim
“We think a cigar smoker is someone special.”
“If what you do is right for you, no matter what others do, then RC Cola is right for you.”
“You pride yourself on your good home cooking….”
“The lady has taste.”
“You’ve come a long way, baby.”
Quotes – Famous thoughts on persuasion
He who wants to persuade should put his trust not in the right argument, but in the right word. The power of sound has always been greater than the power of sense. (Joseph Conrad )
For your own good is a persuasive argument that will eventually make a man agree to his own destruction. (Janet Frame)
That which proves too much, proves nothing! (Chinese Proverb)
I have a theory that the best ads come from personal experience. Some of the good ones I have done have really come out of the real experience of my life, and somehow this has come over as true and valid and persuasive. (David Ogilvy)
The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie, deliberate, contrived and dishonest, but the myth, persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. (John F. Kennedy )
The more informative your advertising, the more persuasive it will be. (David Ogilvy)
Thaw with her gentle persuasion is more powerful than Thor with his hammer. The one melts, the other breaks into pieces. (Henry David Thoreau)
People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing-that’s why we recommend it daily. (Zig Ziglar)
Comfort the afflicted, and afflict the comfortable.(Finley Peter Dunne)
The ultimate inspiration is the deadline.(Nolan Bushnell)
There is only one way… to get anybody to do anything. And that is by making the other person want to do it. (Dale Carnegie)
You cannot raise a man up by calling him down. (William Boetcker)
There are two levers for moving men — interest and fear.(Napoleon Bonaparte)
The tongue can paint what the eye can’t see.(Proverb)
He who wants to persuade should put his trust not in the right argument, but in the right word. The power of sound has always been greater than the power of sense.(Proverb)
If you would persuade, you must appeal to interest rather than intellect.( Joseph Conrad)
If you would convince others, seem open to conviction yourself. (Benjamin Franklin)
Nothing is so unbelievable that oratory cannot make it acceptable. (Lord Chesterfield)
You may fool all the people some of the time, you can even fool some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all the time. (Samuel Johnson)
If you wish to win a man over to your ideas, first make him your friend (Abraham Lincoln)
People are usually more convinced by reasons they discovered themselves than by those found out by others. (Blaise Pascal )
The secret is to always let the other man have your way. (Claiborne Pell)
When a heart is on fire, sparks always fly out of the mouth. (Proverb)
If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language. (David Ogilvy)
The real persuaders are our appetites, our fears and above all our vanity. The skillful propagandist stirs and coaches these internal persuaders. (Eric Hoffer)
Secrecy has many advantages, for when you tell someone the purpose of any object right away, they often think there is nothing to it. (Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe)
If you can’t get people to listen to you any other way, tell them it’s confidential.
He makes people pleased with him by making them first pleased with themselves. (Lord Chesterfield)
More flies are caught with honey than with vinegar. (French Proverb)