Chapter 11: Writing to Persuade



Writing to Persuade

All persuasive messages are sales pitches—whether you’re selling an idea, a product, a service, or a special request. However, even though you may have a great idea, a dynamite product, or a noble cause, your readers won’t necessarily see that. They may be indifferent or even resistant to your message.

So how, exactly, do you persuade readers to accept your point of view? How do you sell the value of your idea, product, service, or request? If you can speak to your readers’ needs and focus on how they will benefit, then your letter, memo, or email may produce the results you want.

You can organize all of your persuasive messages using the simple AIDA formula. This chapter will show you how.

In this chapter


Guidelines Writing to Persuade

When writing persuasive messages, your goal is to convince the reader to do something (buy a product, pay a bill) by showing the value of the action.

  1. Plan: (Ideas and Organization)

    • What motivates your readers and what do they need?

    • What benefits (publicity, contacts, or satisfaction) might the reader gain from supporting your cause?

    Consider your purpose and clarify your cause.

    • What outcome do you want or can you realistically expect?

    • What exactly is your idea, cause, or product?

    • What are the social or economic benefits of your cause?

  2. AIDA
  3. Draft: (Ideas, Organization, and Voice)

    Remember AIDAAttention, Interest and Desire, Action (main point).

    Opening Get your reader’s attention and present your idea, cause, or product.

    Middle Explain its value and show how your reader will benefit.

    • Use facts, quotations, and examples to help the reader understand and appreciate what you’re promoting.

    • Address obstacles and counter any objections if possible.

    Closing Confidently ask for a reasonable action. Supply response cards, email addresses, web sites, or other easy-response options.

  4. Revise: (Ideas, Organization, Voice, Words, and Sentences)

    • Have you provided a complete explanation that speaks to your reader’s motivations?

    • Have you used a sincere tone that avoids pressure tactics, flattery, and exaggeration?

    • Does the message follow a clear, logical pattern?

    • Do you have exact, fresh phrasing and easy-to-read sentences?

  5. Edit: (Conventions and Design)

    • Have you checked grammar, punctuation, spelling, and mechanics?

    • Have you made sure headings, lists, and other format and design issues are consistent and effective?

“The best argument is that which sounds like merely an explanation.”

—Dale Carnegie

Organizing to Persuade

Three Persuasive Appeals

Appealing to Your Reader


Writing Collection Letters (First Notice)

June 3, 2019

Account: 4879003

Mr. Robert Burnside, Controller

Circuit Electronics Company

4900 Gorham Road

Mountain View, CA 94040-1093

Dear Mr. Burnside:

Opening: State the account’s status. This letter is a reminder that your account is past due (presently 60 days).

As of today, we have not yet received your payment of $1,806.00, originally due March 31. Middle: Review the account’s history. Focus on keeping a positive relationship. A copy of the March 2 invoice #QR483928 is enclosed. It refers to your January 8, 2019, order #S95832 for 3,000 mitered flanges that we shipped January 29.

Hanford appreciates your business, Mr. Burnside. Please give this matter your prompt attention so that Hanford Building Supply Company and Circuit Electronics can continue their good relationship. Your check for $1,828.58 (past due amount, plus 1.25 percent interest) will keep your account in good standing and avoid further interest charges and penalties. We have enclosed a postage-paid envelope for your convenience.

Closing: Urge the reader to contact you with any problems. If there are any problems, please call (567-555-1908, ext. 227) or email me ( As always, we look forward to serving you.


Signature Marta Ramones

Marta Ramones

Billing Department

Enclosures 2


Writing Collection Letters (Second Notice)

July 2, 2019

Account: 4879003

Mr. Robert Burnside, Controller

Circuit Electronics Company

4900 Gorham Road

Mountain View, CA 94040-1093

Dear Mr. Burnside:

Opening: Express concern about the account. Despite the reminder we sent on June 3, your account is now 90 days past due.

As of today, your payment of $1,828.58 has not arrived. A copy of your March 2 invoice #QR483928 is enclosed. It refers to your January 8, 2019, order #S95832 for 3,000 mitered flanges that we shipped January 29. Middle: Review the account’s history.

Because of your excellent credit rating, you have enjoyed substantial discounts, convenient payment terms, and positive credit references from us. If you wish to maintain your good credit rating, we need your payment.

Outline benefits of good credit and offer to help.

Circuit Electronics has been one of Hanford’s most valued customers for more than five years. You have always paid your bills promptly. We are concerned about this uncharacteristic tardiness. Is there a problem we can help solve?

Closing: Request payment or contact; stress cooperation. Please send your payment of $1,851.44 today (includes 1.25 percent interest) or contact me at 567-555-1908, ext. 227 so that we can resolve this matter.


Signature Marta Ramones

Marta Ramones

Billing Department

Enclosure 1


Writing Collection Letters (Final Notice)

August 2, 2019

Account: 4879003

Mr. Robert Burnside, Controller

Circuit Electronics Company

4900 Gorham Road

Mountain View, CA 94040-1093

Dear Mr. Burnside:

Opening: Recap the facts. On January 29, 2019, we shipped you the 3,000 mitered flanges you ordered (#S95832) on January 8, 2019. On March 2, we sent you the invoice for $1,806.00 (#QR483928). Copies of your purchase order and our invoice are enclosed.

Middle: Outline the steps taken. State the next step in clear, neutral terms. Each month since then, Hanford has sent Circuit Electronics a reminder urging payment and asking you to contact us. We have not heard from you, and your account is now 120 days past due with a balance of $1,874.58 (includes 1.25 percent interest per month). Consequently, we must begin collection proceedings.

Closing: Offer one final way to cooperate by a specific date.However, you can still resolve this matter, Mr. Burnside. Either call me now to discuss this problem (ext. 240 at the number above), or send a check by August 14 for the balance owed. By choosing either option, you can prevent this account from being turned over to a collection agency.


Signature Floyd Kovic

Floyd Kovic

Vice President

Finance Division

Enclosures 2


Writing Credit Applications

January 2, 2019

Ms. Salome Nguru, Manager

Cottonwood Hills Greenhouse and Florist Supply

R.R. 2

Macon, GA 31220-2339

Dear Ms. Nguru:

Opening: Stress positive aspects of the current relationship. For the past nine months, Dale’s has been ordering fresh, dried, and silk flowers from Cottonwood Hills. We have been impressed with the quality of your products, most recently with those we sold for the Christmas holidays.

Middle: Explain the need for credit. We are now planning to expand our product offerings, particularly of silk flowers and bedding plants. For this reason, we expect to make larger orders more frequently. However, before we can submit the orders, we need Stress benefits for the reader.Cottonwood Hills to set up an account for us with a $100,000 line of credit.

Establish your credit record. Dale’s Garden Center has been in business for almost a year and is on solid financial footing. The attached references and financial statements show that we are strong and growing.

Closing: Ask for reasonable action and suggest further benefits. By January 22, we hope that you will be able to check our statements and references, send information about your credit terms, and confirm a credit line of $100,000. Dale’s will then submit an order for spring plants.

Thank you for considering our request.

Yours sincerely,

Signature Grant Bostwick

Grant Bostwick


Enclosures 4


Writing Fund-Raising Messages

November 12, 2019

Mr. Cecil Featherstone

Words, Words, Words, Inc.

541 West 34th Street

New York, NY 10001-7352

Dear Mr. Featherstone:

Opening: Use attention-getting facts. More than 20 percent of adults in this country cannot read at a third-grade level. Each year, more than a million students leave high school functionally illiterate (some with diplomas).

Middle: Sell your cause with key details and create a sense of urgency. As you know, the National Campaign for Literacy has spent 14 years helping millions of citizens learn to read. We work with more than 300 schools, neighborhood groups, and government agencies to combat illiteracy. Yet, illiteracy remains an enormous problem. To address this need, we plan to fund 29 new programs this year, as well as to expand existing ones.

Request a donation politely. We appreciate your past generosity and hope we can count on your continued support. In addition, to enable us to help more people, we are asking that you please consider raising your donation level.

List benefits for both giver and receiver. Of course, your gift will bring you recognition, including a personal acknowledgment of your generosity in more than 100,000 promotional brochures. However, the greatest benefit comes as you help millions of people get better jobs and earn personal dignity.

Closing: Make donating simple. Please continue supporting our effort to promote adult reading. You may make out your check to National Campaign for Literacy and return it to me, or you may call me at 431-555-9000, ext. 0786.


Signature Gail Goldstein

Gail Goldstein

Associate Director


Writing Requests for Assistance


Writing Sales Letters (First Contact)

November 19, 2019

Mr. Alexander Bennitez

Nova Advertising

664 Helene Boulevard, Suite 200

Miami, FL 33135-0493

Dear Mr. Bennitez:

Opening: Show that you understand the reader’s situation. Do you have numerous projects on hold because your staff is too busy? Consider getting your important projects back on schedule by outsourcing.

Middle: Create interest by relating your services to the reader’s needs. My areas of expertise include the following:

  • writing, editing, and proofreading documents.

  • processing mailings from start to finish.

  • developing spreadsheets or flyers.

Sell your credibility. Outsourcing with me offers the following advantages:

  • no long-term employment commitment.

  • satisfaction guaranteed (most reworking at no charge).

  • confidentiality.

You can put my 10 years of experience in the advertising business to work for you. The enclosed pamphlet describes my services, equipment, and rates. I have also enclosed samples of my work.

Closing: Call for action. Mr. Bennitez, I can help Nova Advertising complete its projects in a timely and professional manner. I would be available for an interview at your convenience.


Juanita Guiverra

Enclosures 4

Postscript: Offer an incentive. P.S. As a new client, your first in-office consultation would be free.


Writing Sales Letters (Following a Contact)

April 29, 2019

Mr. Henry Danburn

Construction Manager

Titan Industrial Construction, Inc.

P.O. Box 2112

Phoenix, AZ 85009-3887

Dear Mr. Danburn:

Opening: Mention previous positive contact. Thank you for meeting with me last week at the national convention in Las Vegas. I want to follow up on our discussion of ways that Rankin Technologies could work with Titan Industrial Construction.

Middle: Provide details the reader needs. Enclosed is the information that you requested: Rankin’s corporate brochure, past and current job lists, recommendation letters, and more. I believe this material demonstrates that Rankin Technologies would be a solid match for your projects in western Illinois.

Build credibility. You mentioned that you will be the construction manager for the Arrow Mills renovation project in California. Rankin did the electrical installation on that project initially, and we would be very interested in working with you on the renovation. Someone who is familiar with our work at Arrow Mills is Mitch Knowlan, Plant Manager. He can be reached at 606-555-6328 or at

Closing: Stress cooperation and the key selling point. Henry, here at Rankin, we’re excited about the possibility of working with you on any future project, and the Arrow Mills project, in particular. Please call me with any questions (507-555-9011).


Signature James Gabriel

James Gabriel

Vice President

Enclosures 5


Writing Sales Letters (Following a Sale)

December 6, 2019

Ms. Taryn Dionne

93 Claremont Crescent

Tuscaloosa, AL 35401-1553

Dear Ms. Dionne:

Opening: Thank the reader for previous business. Thank you for your recent order of a Southern Charm Bouquet. We hope you were pleased with the arrangement.

Middle: Introduce other products without high-pressure tactics. Because this was your first order with Dale’s, we’re sending you the enclosed Occasions Diary as a gift. The diary will help you remember important events in the lives of people you care about. You’ll find room for birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, and more.

Stress value and benefits. Flowers are a thoughtful gift for any occasion. That’s why we’ve listed appropriate arrangements at the back of your diary. On the first page of each month, you’ll also notice our monthly specials at the low price of $29.95 (plus delivery and tax).

Closing: Invite action. So keep your Occasions Diary handy throughout the year. Then just call our toll-free number on the inside front cover (or visit our website), and we’ll gladly make all the arrangements!

Best wishes,

Signature Bryce Calahan

Bryce Calahan

Customer-Service Manager

Postscript: Emphasize a special offer. P.S. I’ve also enclosed a Christmas Floral Selection Guide filled with gift-giving ideas for friends and family.


Checklist Writing to Persuade

When writing persuasive messages, your goal is to convince the reader to do something (buy a product, pay a bill) by showing the value of the action.

My writing . . .

  • Ideas

    • states the main point clearly and convincingly.

    • uses accurate and persuasive details.

    • connects with the reader’s needs and concerns.

  • Organization

    • uses an opening that

      • gains the reader’s attention.

      • identifies a benefit to the reader and supplies the necessary context.

    • offers a strong argument in the middle that

      • establishes a need and shows how to meet it.

      • uses clear, convincing evidence to “sell” the idea or product.

      • anticipates and answers objections.

    • ends with a closing that

      • asks the reader to take a specific, realistic next step.

      • encourages a prompt response with an appropriate incentive.

      • follows the AIDA organizational pattern.

  • Voice

    • uses a polite and personal voice, not hesitant, apologetic, or aggressive.

    • demonstrates sensitivity to the reader’s needs and concerns.

  • Words

    • avoids cliches, jargon, flowery phrases, and “business English.”

    • uses precise nouns, vivid modifiers, and energetic verbs.

  • Sentences

    • uses transitions to tie ideas together and reads well out loud.

  • Correctness

    • is free of errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, and keyboarding.

  • Design

    • uses page layout, white space, and type for accessibility.

    • organizes points and details with headings, lists, and graphics.

“If you would persuade, you must appeal to interest rather than intellect.”

—Benjamin Franklin

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