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Persuasive writing in essays. Effective Learning Service. ‘To be persuasive, we must be believable. To be believable, we must be credible. To be credible, we must be truthful.’ ( Hellmut Walters) (Persuasion) ‘… a ‘process in which the communicator seeks to elicit a desired response.’

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persuasive writing in essays

Persuasive writing in essays

Effective Learning Service

‘To be persuasive, we must be believable. To be believable, we must be credible. To be credible, we must be truthful.’

(Hellmut Walters)

  • (Persuasion) ‘… a ‘process in which the communicator seeks to elicit a desired response.’

(Anderson 1971)


The persuasive power of words was discussed by Aristotle around 350 BC.

He presented an analysis of rhetorical strategies, which included three elements: logos, pathos and ethos:


An attempt to persuade the audience (or reader) through sound reasoning.

Reliable evidence, e.g. facts, definitions, statistics and other data that appeals to the logic and intelligence of the audience.


Appeal of the speaker or writer in terms of his / her credibility and experience

Presents, directly or indirectly, a profile that sets a stamp of authority on the words used to persuade.


An appeal to the emotions of the reader or audience.

Attempt to induce a particular state of mind in e.g. anger, understanding, sympathy, tolerance

Taps into the sentiment or feelings of the audience or readership.

emotion and academic writing
Emotion and academic writing
  • ‘Emotion’ not a word usually associated with essay.
  • What words do you associate with ‘essay’?
conventional essay style
Conventional essay style
  • Description and analysis
  • Carefully referenced evidence
  • Substantiated argument
  • Presents writer as ‘serious thinker’
  • Respects the reader’s intelligence
  • Measured style
  • Objective voice e.g. ‘It can be argued that …’
  • Yet paradoxically present, even champion, a particular view
rationalist style potential problems
Rationalist style – potential problems

Garfinkel argues that the relationship between the act of representation and represented object is dialectical not unidirectional. The character of the representation changes in the attempt to explain the perceived nature of underlying reality while the object ‘changes’, in turn, to accommodate the language employed to represent it. Representation, in other words, is a dynamic, interactive process in which the ‘actor’, and the form of representation, that is language, ‘constructs’ some at least of the reality under investigation (Garfinkel 1967).

avoid emotive language
Avoid emotive language
  • It is important to pay attention to the logical (logos) and credibility (pathos) elements
  • You can also write in a way that connects with the experiences, senses and emotions of the essay reader.
  • But avoid emotive language
avoiding emotive manipulative language
Avoiding emotive (manipulative) language
  • Identify the emotive language used in

Examples 1 & 2 (page 6)

Not appealing to …

…popular sentiment

… pity

… fear

… authority

a place for emotional connection in academic writing
A place for emotional connectionin academic writing ?
  • ‘New and valuable lines of argumentation, prompting critical questioning and steers the argument in a constructive direction.’

(Walton 1992)

Make ideas more …

… accessible

… understandable

… relevant to the reader

Especially by appealing to the senses (see page 11)

effective pathos techniques in essay writing p 13
Effective pathos techniquesin essay writing(p 13)
  • Quotations
  • VAK words connecting with the senses
  • Rhetorical questions ?
  • Variety in style
  • Active form
suggested reading on this topic
Suggested reading on this topic

Walton, D. (1992). The Place of Emotion in Argument. USA: Pennsylvania State University Press.


Ahmad, R. and McMahon, K. (2006). The Benefits of Good Writing: Or Why does it matter that Students Write Well? In Writing Matters. Royal Literary Fund. Available at [Accessed 5 Feb. 2007].

Andersen, K. (1971). Persuasion Theory and Practice.

Boston: Allyn and Bacon.