Persuasive writing

Can you convince people?

Persuasive writing has a clear message and purpose, and is easy to read. Persuasive writing will get your message to your audience more effectively, whatever you write — from funding proposals and research reports, to training manuals and office memos.

The basics

Hook people! The first things people read — the title and the first sentence — need to be relevant and interesting.

Get to the point. A strong opening paragraph clearly tells the reader what you will say and why you are saying it. Don’t force your readers to guess your main points.

Know your audience. Write to their level of interest and knowledge. If your audience has different knowledge levels, write for the people who know the least.

Plan your writing. Choose your key messages and stick to them. Beautiful writing is pointless if nobody knows what you are trying to say.

Understand what you need to write. If you are writing a funding proposal, for example, read the guidelines carefully and don’t exceed word limits.

Reminders for clear, concise, and convincing writing


Bad example

Good example

Avoid unnecessary or fancy words and phrases.

We utilized the tractor of the farmer.

The local farmers will benefit from the expedient delivery of new seed.

We used the farmer’s tractor.

The local farmers will benefits from the quick delivery of the new seed.

Use active voice, not passive voice. The rice was planted by Sally. Sally planted the rice.
Make positive statements, not negative ones. The rains don’t often come early in the season. It usually rains late in the season.
Don’t use more words than you need. Why say in 1000 words what you could say more effectively in 200? (Active voice and positive statements will help you do this.)

He is now moving back to Australia due to health reasons relating to his wife.

Rice can be a difficult crop when it comes to harvesting.

He is moving back to Australia because his wife is ill.

Rice can be difficult to harvest.

Be bold! Avoid should, could, would, may, might, can, committed to etc, unless you really are unsure.

This technology should help farmers.

We are committed to helping farmers improve their seed.

This technology will help farmers.

We help farmers improve their seed.

Make people feel you are writing for them. Use I, you, your, we, our. If people use fertilizer too late in the season, their crop will suffer. If you fertilize too late in the season, your crop will suffer.
Be specific. Don’t use generic terms when you can use specific ones.

The new technology will help stakeholders improve their livelihoods.

It is believed that all stakeholders will benefit from the new technology.

The new irrigation system will help farmers reduce their
spending and increase yields.

We believe the new technology will help farmers and farm

More tips for persuasive writing

Avoid jargons and technical language. Don’t overuse initials and acronyms. 

Don’t make unrealistic claims or statements. You will lose credibility as well as the reader’s confidence.

Revise, rewrite, edit and proof-read your work! Ask somebody else — ideally somebody from your target audience — to check it. Is the writing easy to understand? Is the message clear?

Use correct grammar and spelling. We all make mistakes, but good spelling and grammar helps the writer seem professional and knowledgeable. Use your word processor spell-check, but be careful: words can have “moor” than “won” spelling, and the spell-check isn’t always “write”.

Note: The suggestions on this fact sheet are guidelines, not rules. There may be times when you need to break them. Read what you have written and ask yourself, “Is this the best way to get my message to the reader?”


Strunk Jr, W and White EB (2000). The Elements of Style, 4th Edition. Allyn & Bacon, USA. Writer’s Handbook (2004). University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA.

Lindsay, JM (1999). University of Iowa, USA.

Prepared with input from AP Barclay