Persuasion. When people hear that word, they frequently think of something negative. Maybe their experience with an aggressive salesperson. However, persuasion is also what we are doing when asking the boss for a day off work. 

In this course, we will refer to using persuasion in writing, but many of the principles still apply to the spoken word. I will also use “letter” a lot but this term may refer to emails, ads, etc.

We have all experienced the situation where we send an email to a co-worker asking for some information and the email just gets ignored. This isn’t your fault. People are exposed to so many messages each day that whatever you write, you need to stand out.

Let me offer a quick disclaimer because I know that persuasion is something that some people are uncomfortable with. Dave Lakhani in his excellent book, Persuasion: The Art of Getting What You Want gives the best explanation of the difference between persuasion and manipulation that I have ever read. The only difference between persuasion and manipulation is the intention of the person doing it.

So as long as you know that what you are offering is of value to the reader, you are doing them a service. The doctor convincing his patient to lose weight to improve his health is using persuasion.

Another important point is that even if you don’t work in sales or marketing, there is a lot of value to learning at least the basics of copywriting. Anytime you need to convince someone to take action whether in a Craigslist ad or an email asking a friend to help you move, these skills will benefit you.