A few questions to keep in mind when writing to persuade.
Who are your readers?
Are they likely to be skeptical or critical?
How familiar are they with the topic?
Will they understand technical language?
How informal can you be?
Always think about your readers. When you write in your journal or diary, it is personal and just for you. Most writing, however, is for others – an audience of some kind. Obviously, if you are writing to persuade, you are trying to sway others to your way of thinking. Knowing who your audience is can help you direct your message more specifically and effectively.
If you know that your audience will be skeptical or critical of your position on a topic, you will need to keep that in mind. Your goal will be to predict the counterarguments that audience members might have to your claims and conclusions. In this way, you can counter any opposition that might come up with well thought out explanations. Prove that counterpoints don’t stand up to scrutiny.
Also, learning to be skeptical of your own work is a marvelous learning tool. You haven’t fully explored your topic if you have not entertained the counterarguments that could be leveled at it.
If you know the audience won’t be too familiar with your topic, you should find a way to explain in basic terms the most important tenets. Try to imagine yourself before you learned about this particular subject. What would you need to know? To be persuasive, you first need your audience to understand you!
If your audience is likely to be familiar with the main themes of your subject, you can jump into the argument without a lot of explanation or preamble. It all depends on who is reading your article. You don’t want to talk down to them, but you do want to ensure they have a grasp of the main ideas.
Related to familiarity is the use of technical language. Depending upon your topic, there could be technical terms that are specific to that subject. Unless you are writing for a specific audience or publication, you should write in a way that helps readers comprehend your meaning. If your intent is to appeal to a wider audience, you will need to provide some context for subject-specific words.
When trying to decide on the formality of your writing, again the audience will determine the level of formality required. Generally for business purposes, taking a more formal approach is best. Still, the level can vary depending on the business and the situation. Also, when I say “formal,” I don’t mean old-fashioned, stilted, or indecipherable. Formal writing simply means reducing colloquialisms and slang. (I say reducing because many words or phrases that were once considered slang are now accepted usage. The English language changes and adapts over time.) In any situation, you want to relate to your reader.
One more bit of food for thought. Think about times when you have been persuaded. Ask yourself what worked best to persuade you. Think about people who you have found persuasive in your past and examine their methods. Listening to excellent speakers who have the gift of persuasion can develop your skills.
Never forget that the more you practise, the better you will become!