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A Guide to Persuasive Writing

Wednesday 14th, September 2022

Jess Laven

Persuasive writing is something that most students have to do every year at school. What’s more, it usually takes the form of a speech that you have to present in front of your classmates, armed with PowerPoint slides and palm cards.

So, how do you write persuasively? In this article, I’ll take you through the features you can include in your persuasive writing, along with tips for how to write an introduction, argument paragraph and conclusion. I have written examples based on the argument that artificial intelligence is harmful.

Features of Persuasive Writing

Ethos, Pathos and Logos

Ethos is the writer or speaker’s character or image. It is connected to the idea of ethics. If your audience thinks you are trustworthy, they are more likely to believe your arguments. Since you likely aren’t an expert on your persuasive speech topic, a good strategy is to mention credible people and their evidence to support your contention.

If your audience thinks you are trustworthy, they are more likely to believe your arguments.

Pathos involves appealing to the emotions of the audience. Emotions like anger, pity and fear influence people’s decisions and therefore can make you more persuasive.

Logos is the use of logic to support an argument. This could be in the form of facts or statistics and serves as proof that what you are claiming is true.

Ethos Example:

  • According to the founder and CEO of Tesla Motors, Elon Musk, “The risk of something seriously dangerous happening is in the five-year time frame.”

Pathos Example:

  • Innocent people have been thrown behind bars because AI has got it wrong. Machines are trained by humans, and they replicate the appalling discrimination entrenched in our society.

Logos Example:

  • The Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions is an algorithm used in US courts to predict the likelihood that a defendant would offend again in future. Known as COMPAS, this model is racially biased against black people, with 45% of black offenders having false positive recidivism predictions, compared to 23% for white offenders.

Rhetorical Questions

Rhetorical questions are questions that are asked to make a point or achieve a dramatic effect rather than to get an answer. They establish a stronger connection between the speaker and their listeners.

Rhetorical Question Examples:

  • Who is watching you? What is watching you?

Modality

Modality is about the level of certainty you express through your words. Low modality words can be used to express uncertainty, but these words are generally avoided in persuasive writing because they suggest that you are not confident about what you’re saying. High modality words, like “must,” “definitely” and “undoubtedly,” suggest that what you’re saying is factual, which makes you more reliable and persuasive.

High Modality Examples:

  • …an undeniable invasion of privacy…

  • We must…

Repetition and Restatement

Repetition involves repeating the same words more than once. It can emphasise your ideas and make readers more engaged. Meanwhile, restatement involves expressing the same idea in different words. It is used to get people thinking and to persuade them to consider other perspectives.

It is used to get people thinking and to persuade them to consider other perspectives.

How to Write a Persuasive Introduction

To write an introduction, you need to introduce your topic and your position on the topic. Make sure it is clear who your audience is. You should also signpost the three arguments that will make up your body paragraphs. In my assignment, I used a quote as my opening sentence to set the scene.

Artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race. AI doesn’t even have to be evil to destroy us. It has the power to do good, but without regulation, AI will threaten and harm our society, and we will be powerless to stop it. My name is Jess Laven, and my presentation for today’s TedxYouth conference will open your eyes to the chilling reality of artificial intelligence and the harm it poses to all of us. A reality where AI spreads the legal discrimination we must strive to eradicate. A reality where AI is a weapon that robs us of our digital and physical safety. A reality where terrorism is the norm in every country. A dystopia ruled by machines.

How to Write a Persuasive Argument

Usually, persuasive speeches will include three body paragraphs, with each covering a different argument. If you feel that one argument is stronger than the others, consider putting this argument first after your introduction. Equally, if one argument is weaker than the others, consider putting this last before your conclusion. Make sure you include a topic sentence in each paragraph. You also need a concluding sentence, followed by a linking sentence that flows into the following argument.

Topic Sentence:

The use of artificial intelligence in our legal systems leads to discrimination and false imprisonment because machines replicate the biases strewn throughout our society.

Concluding and Linking Sentences:

Artificial intelligence is not a solution to stopping criminal activity, but a rabbit hole of discrimination that deprives marginalised groups from receiving justice. In fact, AI is giving criminals new points of attack, with terrorism now a threat to us all.

How to Write a Persuasive Conclusion

Your conclusion should link back to your arguments and include a call to action. In my conclusion, I offered several solutions to show the audience what they could do to help. I then used a famous quote from a well-known individual and finished with a call to action.

What must we do to end this crisis? We must pressure governments across the globe to introduce international AI regulations. We must introduce a bill of rights. We must address the discrimination in our society so it doesn’t spread to technology. You may believe you are distanced from this crisis, but what you fail to realise is this: AI is everywhere and AI impacts everyone. As future leaders, we cannot turn a blind eye to our impending doom. As the late physicist Stephen Hawking said, “Unless we learn how to prepare for, and avoid, the potential risks, AI could be the worst event in the history of our civilization.” With these words of wisdom in mind, let us unite in our stance, let us take action, and let us say no to artificial intelligence.

 

If you have the opportunity to choose a topic, choose wisely. Choosing a topic that you can speak passionately about goes a long way to making you more persuasive.

 

Good luck!

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