You can make use of persuasive language to advance at work. Persuasive devices are everywhere in the workplace—whether you’re just talking to colleagues, emailing your boss, or presenting to the board of directors. It’s no wonder that learning more about it can help you boost your career.
What is Persuasive Language?
Persuasive language aims to convince people to do something or believe in an idea or opinion. It can be in the form of writing, or you may verbally deliver it like in a speech. The main agenda behind this type of language is to influence the person who is reading or listening to it.
A couple of specific examples of persuasive language in action are the following:
- Reaction Papers
- Product or Performance Reviews
- Advertisements or Brochures
- Business Proposals
- Project Proposals
- Business Presentations
- Sales Copy
- Sales Pitch
- Marketing Copy
- Marketing Spiels
- Political Speeches
- Rally Speeches
Persuasive techniques used in speech and writing
There are several persuasive techniques you may encounter in writing as well as in spoken language (such as in speeches). You might recognize some or all of these whenever you read a piece of literature or listen to a broadcast, especially if the material you are reading or listening to tackles an issue or an argument.
Short personal “true” stories are a great way to persuade or convince a person of almost anything. Whether you are trying to persuade them to try a product, attend a seminar, or meet a particular person, it is always more compelling for them to try if they hear a story of someone who has done the same and experienced positive things.
Logically, anecdotes are prone to being isolated and subjective. However, it seems that something about listening or learning from the experiences of others makes us believe more easily.
Cliches have always had a bad reputation (in writing and in speech), but this is only if they are overused and in poor taste. In truth, cliches do hold some power if used correctly since they are expressions that are most likely known to almost everyone. If you are speaking to a large crowd or are publishing something with a wide readership, injecting a well-timed cliche that everyone recognizes could help you bring your point across.
A few examples of cliches are:
- “Be careful what you wish for.”
- “The apple does not fall far from the tree.”
- “All’s well that ends well.”
- “Like a kid in a candy store.”
- “Lose track of time.”
- “Read between the lines.”
Almost all words have individual connotations. That is why, as a speaker or writer, you have to be careful of the words you choose. For example, the term “fat” may sound good when describing someone’s hefty paycheck but offensive when describing someone’s body.
When constructing a sentence, especially when making descriptions, a speaker or writer has to be extra conscious and cautious about the connotations of certain words through social context and emotional appeal. That is why it is essential to always get to know your audience.
Adjectives and adverbs
Adjectives are descriptive words that aim to evoke a feeling, emotion, or idea for a listener or reader. Adverbs, on the other hand, modify adjectives or verbs to create the same effect. Adjectives and adverbs are helpful if you want to steer an argument in a specific direction.
Some words can be vague or neutral. Adding an adjective or adverb will give you that extra push towards persuading them towards a point. Take the difference between red, bright red, and dark red as an example. The three shades allow audiences to visualize them differently in their minds with the help of the extra adjective.
Another way you can persuade an audience is by using and injecting expert opinion in your speech or writing. Including views from field experts on a particular subject matter can give your substance more credibility and authority since it is backed up by expert insights.
When conveying persuasive language, it is not uncommon to appeal to people’s senses -justice, fairness, values, modesty, dignity, truth. There are so many senses you may appeal to as it is common for people to hold their own set of principles and intrinsic values that stem from their upbringing and personal preferences.
People usually find it easier to trust people who are much like them. You have so many ways and opportunities to use this tactic when speaking or to write persuasively. The key is to get to know your audience beforehand so that you can prepare. Learn about their everyday language and expressions, how to use them properly, and when it is appropriate.
Using everyday language will make you seem like “one of the masses” and therefore gain you the trust of your listeners, although they may not immediately realize it.
An issue may not seem an issue at all without the help of a bit of exaggeration. Exaggeration, provided that it is done ethically and with due prudence, can bring important matters to light. For example, the idea that the world may come to an end if littering does not stop is an exaggerated (but still truthful) description of how harmful pollution is.
Exaggeration is a valid persuasive tool because it enlarges a subject enough so that the audience actually sees it the way you would want them to.
Just as colloquial language makes you “one with everybody,” so does inclusive language. The use of “we,” “us,” and “our” puts you on the side of the audience, metaphorically, and allows you to persuade them into taking action with less resistance.
Think about the difference in thought and feel when you say, “We should work together to clean up our oceans” versus “You should clean up your oceans.” The first statement is more inclusive, and thus, more inviting. The second statement is just downright bossy and annoying.
How do you describe things? Imagery paints a clear picture of what you are trying to say. If you want your audience to see things through your perspective, you need to paint them a picture as clear as you can see with your own eyes. This clarity allows them to understand your point, making it a great tool for persuasion.
Aside from imagery and description, most people can be persuaded through simple logic. Simply put, if things make sense, people are most likely to believe it. When stating an argument or proving a point, make sure that you involve logical reasoning and that the things you are saying make sense.
Metaphors allow you to depict a situation through another event, incident, or story that has a similar meaning to what you are trying to point out. While metaphors are a figure of speech, they are a great way to present logic in a creative and stimulating way that your audience will most likely remember.
“Who doesn’t want to be rich” Who wants to die young?”Why should you invest in your health?” On their own, these questions may seem silly. The answers are just too plain and obvious (at least for the majority), but rhetorical questions can be powerful, persuasive tools to bring your point to its destination.
Just like a metaphor, a simile is also a figure of speech that you could use in the persuasive language. Similes compare one thing to another. Some examples are:
“As fast as lightning.”
“As strong as an ox.”
“As brave as a lion.”
“As blind as a bat.”
“As cold as ice.”
A piece of writing or a speech usually has an overall feel to it. That is identified as its “tone.” Tone can be either positive, uplifting, humorous, formal, aggressive, passionate, and many more. The choice of tone for a speech or article will depend significantly on its aim. If it is in commemoration or remembrance, a more formal style may be applicable, but if you want to spur action, some passion could help your cause.
Why do you need to learn persuasive language techniques?
You may not be in the running for America’s next president-elect, but you can still benefit a lot from learning how to use persuasive language. Here are a couple of reasons why you should consider brushing up on this skill.
You need to sell a product.
If you work under a business, or if you are a proud business owner, then you know you need to sell in order to get the company running. If you have a product or service to sell, having good persuasion skills can make all the difference.
Take a few notes from the sly salesman and learn how to woo your clients or customers to avail of what you have to offer. With good persuasion skills, you can close deals faster, more comfortably, and confidently.
You need to sell yourself.
Sometimes, no matter how top-notch your product or service is, you still can’t quite sell. The unfortunate reality is that there are probably hundreds of other businesses that are just like yours. There are probably hundreds of other employees just like you.
That is why you need the power of persuasive language to give you an edge and, therefore, a reason for your customers or employers to choose you above everyone else. You can use compelling language to gain trust and confidence as well.
You need your boss’s approval.
Persuasion is a useful skill if you want to win your boss over. If you have ideas that you want to put into action, you’ll need your boss’s approval, and being persuasive gives you a better chance to get it. The same principle applies to requests and proposals.
You need your colleagues’ support.
In some instances, your boss is not the only person you need to persuade the office. If you have a chance to handle a team, the best way to get everybody on board is through persuasion. Many of the best leaders are natural influencers and have excellent persuasion skills.
If you know how to communicate using persuasive language, you can better gain your workmate’s support and cooperation.
Bonus tips: how to become more persuasive
Knowing persuasive language techniques is one thing, but being a compelling person and learning how to use these techniques appropriately is the key to achieving the right effect—wondering if there are things you could do to become more persuasive as an individual? Below are some tips.
Believe in yourself
The first step to persuade others is to convince yourself. You need that sense of conviction to stand your ground and make people believe in you. You need to genuinely believe in your ideas or your products in order to effectively sell them to others.
Research and back up your arguments
To help you develop a sense of conviction, it is essential to do your research and look into all of the facts and supporting evidence that can back you up. With more supporting data, you will likely feel an increase in confidence as well since you can counter and address any objections, questions, or arguments that you may face while trying to convince someone.
Another critical factor in becoming more persuasive is to genuinely have your audience’s best interest in mind. Your concern for them will translate into your tone and body language, and they will feel that what you are offering them is for their own good. The only way you could do this is by thoroughly introspecting on your intentions. Why are you trying to persuade them? What would they gain from becoming influenced by you? The answer should always be to benefit your audience.
Watch your body language.
Fidgeting, poor eye contact, facing away, and crossing your arms are only a few examples of negative body language that does not scream, “believe me, I know what I’m talking about.” Express the right emotions through your facial expressions, and make sure that your actions reflect what you are trying to say, whether it’s passion, sadness, or happiness.
Watch your tone
You might need some extra coaching for this bit, but it is as essential to use your tone effectively as it is to say the right things. Your tone of voice will have a significant impact on how your audience will feel about the things you’ve just said. The right words, coupled with the right tone, may just be what you need to effectively convince your audience.
Don’t be afraid to discuss the pros and cons.
A common mistake made by people trying to persuade an audience is to leave out all of the negatives. Filtering out all of the negatives and only saying positive things about your ideas or your product will naturally sound sketchy to any audience. It will quickly feel as if you are trying to hide something.
But always end on a positive note.
Despite having mentioned all the cons in your idea or product, it is important to always end things positively in favor of your vision. The last thing you say about it will be the final impression your audience will have. You want them to remember it ultimately as a good thing. The purpose of mention the cons is simply to make it more realistic and honest.
Examples of persuasive language you can use at work
At work, you can make use of these examples of persuasive language to gain your superior’s approval, your colleague’s support, for your customer’s trust.
A person is less likely to believe you if they don’t really get what you’re trying to say. Repetition is a powerful way to get the point across and imprint it in someone’s mind. Be careful to be tactful and tasteful about repetition, though.
Repetition is not merely saying the same thing over and over again. It is reiterating an idea throughout a speech or letter. For example, you can state your point clearly in the beginning, provide an example of it in the middle of your address, and rephrase it as you conclude.
Nobody really likes being told what to do “just because.” Even children know this much when they defy parents’ orders simply because they don’t understand what it is for. The seemingly innocent word “because” actually has persuasive powers.
There’s a reason why figurative language is so prevalent in creative writing. How else will readers become convinced of the experiences of fictional characters? There is no better way to persuade someone to believe something (regardless of how fictitious) than through metaphors, analogies, and similes.
If you’ve ever read a sales copy that just goes on and on or a salesman with a seemingly-endless spiel, chances are they have simply covered every objection you might think of. If you have a proposal in mind, think it through thoroughly before presenting.
Take note of all the possible objections and come up with solutions to address them. Spot all the potential cracks in your argument and seal them up for good measure.
Everybody loves a good story. Stories teach us many things and often present us with epiphanies when we’re looking for answers. Telling a compelling story that somehow related to what idea you try to sell is an example of persuasive language.
Numbers do not lie. That is why a lot of advertisements make use of them. For example, stating that nine out of ten people who regularly brush their teeth will save an additional $1,000 a year in dental care can convince just about anybody to brush more often.
Who doesn’t want to be rich? Do you want to be a failure for your entire life? Are we a company that values integrity and excellence? These are punchy questions with glaringly apparent answers. It gives your listener an introspective moment. You can use it to close your statement, make your point, and seal the deal.
Sometimes, you just have to cut to the chase and let people know what you want from them. Statements like “let’s give it the best we got” or “come over and join us” are like calls to action and give your listeners a clear idea of what you are trying to accomplish.
Persuasive language in business
Apart from work, another important application of persuasive language is in business. Persuasion is an imperative part of marketing and advertising, such as in copywriting for a blog, social media, or other marketing material.
Persuasion in advertising
Persuasion is a vital ingredient in advertising. In fact, advertising is all about persuasion -persuading customers to buy, try, avail, become loyal clients, and even advocates. If you notice more closely, advertising achieves persuasion by tapping into three things:
- Emotion – You may have come across commercials that tug on your heartstrings and stirs strong emotions. This emotional reaction is an effective trigger for action and can be any emotion, such as happiness (a family enjoying dinner with a specific brand of dinnerware), negative emotions (foot and back problems after prolonged use of the wrong pair of shoes), and even guilt (images of starving children asking for food donations).
- Reason – evidence, statistics, hard facts, and figures are also effective tools for persuasion. That is why bar soaps love saying things like “kills 99% of germs and bacteria”, or fruit juices always include vitamin percentages in their advertisements.
- Reputation – credibility, and character are less in-your-face but still effective tools for persuasion. You may have noticed a lot of advertisements featuring celebrities and famous endorsers swearing by a product. Also, using experts’ endorsements, such as a dentist endorsing a brand of mouthwash, achieves a similar effect.
Common persuasive techniques used in advertising
Using emotion, reason, or reputation, advertisers commonly use the following techniques:
Avante Garde is a French term that denotes something (or someone) that is innovative, experimental, or ahead of the times. In advertising, this technique suggests that the user of their product will be the “first” among others with their “revolutionary” product.
Somewhat in contrast to Avante Garde, the bandwagon invites the audience to join the crowd, hop on to the winning side, buy something because it’s popular and everyone else has it. It appeals to a person’s innate dislike of missing out on trends.
To offer something more like a bargain is a common ploy in advertising. That is why the term “free” or “sale” is so heavily used in advertising. Also, promotions like buy-one-take-two or the likes fall under this same category.
This technique is commonly used in food products, supplements, and medicines, although you may also spot it in items. This technique implies that there is something “special” about the product that makes it more effective or efficient than other products similar to it. An example is an allergy pill that claims it is made with a “special ingredient” that makes it less likely to cause drowsiness, unlike other allergy medications.
Love Local, Made in the USA, Locally Produced are also advertising persuasion techniques commonly used by many businesses. It appeals to the emotion by calling on people’s patriotism with the purchase of their products.
Being one with the masses is a useful persuasion tactic for advertisers who want to appeal to the vast majority of average earners. That is why you will often see everyday products or necessities being advertised as used by average-looking endorsers -a regular working-class family or individual.
In contrast to the technique above, the snob appeal makes it feel as if the consumer will be part of an elite class of people if they choose to buy a certain product. You will often see this in premium or luxury goods such as perfumes or cars, where they feature models in elegant gowns and attending high-end events.
Simply transferring positivity is possible in an advertisement with the help of words, images, and ideas. For example, a commercial for coffee will show a model waking up and having a burst of energy and positivity while having a cup of the said coffee during the scene. Apart from that, it will also be set on a bright sunny day, further elevating the positive experience. Audiences will not be able to help it but feel positive energy towards the product.
Suggestive words without actual guarantee are what this technique is all about. This is especially useful if your product does not have a lot of studies or certifications to back it up. Words lie “can help whiten teeth” or “kills almost all bacteria” are a few examples.
The world’s most persuasive words
There are certain special words that have an extra persuasive appeal to them compared to others. You will recognize many (maybe all) of these words from advertisements you have encountered in the past, either in print, audio, TV, or social media. Here are some examples of the world’s most persuasive words.
Who doesn’t like free stuff? There is actually science behind this word and why it is such an effective term for persuasion, especially in business and advertising. If you notice a little more closely around you, there are so many free offerings out there that aim to bring you closer to a business and persuade you to try other products of theirs -free subscription, free samples, free e-book, free item, the list goes on.
While they often say that nothing worth having comes easy, the word “easy” itself has a certain appeal to it. The world is full of obstacles, and life is filled with difficulties. Easy is like a comfortable resting place from the struggles of every day. Easy installment, easy check-out, and easy-to-make are some of the most popular uses of the term easy in persuasive language.
“People need to take better care of their health” versus “You need to take better care of your health” -which statement do you think hits the right spot? While the first one makes sense, the second one seems more compelling. That is because the person reading or listening to that statement feels that that speaker or writer is directly connecting with them at a personal level. People prefer being talked to rather than being talked at.
Why would you have just any variant of one thing if you can have the best one? The word best connotes premium, superior quality, and worth the money. Think about it, would you rather read an article that says “How to lose weight” or one that says “The best way to lose weight”?
The term “limited” creates a sense of urgency. People are more likely to go after something if they know that it is in limited supply. “While supplies last” is also a phrase that connotes limited supply.
Just as the term “limited,” the word “now” also creates a sense of urgency. Just think about all those product advertisements and their final line of “If you order NOW,” and how it makes the audience feel that there is an incentive for acting immediately, placing a call, making a reservation, or making a purchase.
People have the inherent impression that something new usually means something better, improved, exciting, fresh, and different. While you cannot bank on novelty for a sustained period of time, it is a useful initial “hook” to lure in clients and persuade them to try out your “new” product.
Everybody wants to save. Personal finance is one thing most people want to sort out, and saving is one known way to keep finances in check. When you mention the word “save” in an advertisement, the instant thought that comes to mind is that it is a good deal, a bargain. It’s paying less than what you normally would for an item. That is why “save” is such a persuasive word.
To guarantee something is to provide someone with safety and security. Especially when buying or shopping online, there is a bit of skepticism in the client’s mind. Attaching guarantees such as “money-back guarantee” or “satisfaction guarantee” gives them some peace of mind and enables them to more freely trust the business enough to make a purchase or try out a product.
Nobody likes being told what to do “because I said so.” Even children recognize the need for reason, logic, and rationale when being requested to do something. The same principle applies in marketing and advertising. You have a better chance of persuading your audience if you tell them the reason why they need to try out your product or service.
Immediate gratification is an attractive attribute to any product or service. Why do you think fast food is such a big hit? Similarly, achieving instant results (losing weight instantly, getting your tiles cleaned in an instant, etc.) also has the same effect for audiences. People are more likely to read an article that says “How to achieve an hourglass figure instantly” than “How to achieve an hourglass figure.”
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