Persuade Your Readers


—Bite-sized advice for better business writing—

Persuade Your Readers

“It is wise to persuade people to do things and make them think it was their own idea.”

— Nelson Mandela

All business writing is in some ways persuasive. You need to persuade readers to believe what you say and to think it is important.

But some messages require serious persuasion. Your readers are disinterested or even actively hostile to your ideas. Reaching resistant readers is an art.

How can I persuade resistant readers?

Start by thinking about what your readers want. You can’t persuade by showing how your ideas benefit you, but rather how they benefit your readers.

Don’t Say

I want to go to the beach on Tuesday because the weather is going to be perfect and I can’t stand the idea of being cooped up in the warehouse, so could you cover my shift?

Do Say

You were hoping to get more hours this week, and you wanted more experience driving the fork truck, so I wonder if you could cover my shift on Tuesday.

Then, organize your message to persuade readers.

How should I organize persuasive messages?

Use the AIDA formula: Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.

  • Get readers’ Attention by appealing to what they want.
  • You’ve been hoping for a chance for advancement, and that chance might be here.

  • Build Interest by presenting an opportunity that readers would want.

    Ms. Wilson is planning to select four people to head a new-product committee.

  • Create Desire by connecting your idea to the reader’s benefit.

    I have recommended you for the committee based on your excellent product suggestions.

  • Call the reader to take Action.

    Please see Ms. Wilson’s email below and follow the directions to indicate your interest. Good luck!

This formula lets you persuade a resistant reader by showing benefits before you make your call to action: “Please see Ms. Wilson’s email below and follow the directions to indicate your interest.” If you had started with that command, the reader likely would have just said, “No.”

How should I form my call to action?

Create a command sentence, starting with a verb that tells the reader what to do (or “please” plus the verb).

Don’t Say

I want you to fill out this survey about the company picnic.

Do Say

Fill out this survey about the company picnic.


Please fill out this survey about the company picnic.


Try It Out!

Follow these steps to create a persuasive message.

  1. Write down what you want a colleague or client to do.
  2. Write down how the person will benefit from taking this action.
  3. Use the AIDA formula:
    • Write a sentence that gets your reader’s Attention.
    • Write a sentence that catches your reader’s Interest.
    • Write a sentence that builds your reader’s Desire.
    • Write a command that calls your reader to Action.

Get More Support

Check out the Write for Business Guide, Courses, and eTips for more help with persuasive writing.