What are Persuasive Techniques?
When an author is writing, they can use a number of persuasive techniques to convince you to feel a certain way, or do something, or buy something. Here are some examples: Glittering generalities are words that sound great, but do not contain much actual meaning. These can be words like “good”, “fair”, “honest”, and “happy”. They sound good. They pull on a reader or listener’s emotions and make you feel a certain way, even if there’s not any evidence or support for there to actually substantiate that feeling.
Those words are buzzwords that make you feel a certain way or have positive connotations. They’re considered glittering generalities. Next, we have logical fallacies. These use common errors in reasoning to persuade. Two different kinds of logical fallacies are the slippery slope and hasty generalization. The slippery slope says if one thing happens, then another thing must follow.
For instance, let’s talk about some shampoo. “If I use a little bit of shampoo and my hair gets clean, I could use a lot of shampoo and my hair would get even cleaner.” Well, we know that’s not true. If I used the whole bottle of shampoo, my hair isn’t going to get any cleaner than if I use the required amount. That is what an example of slippery slope would be. A hasty generalization is just what it sounds like. You come to a conclusion too fast.
“Let me tell you about this new product I got. It is so great. I’ve only had it a day, but I know it’s going to change my life forever.” Well, you made that generalization very quickly. You decided it was going to change your life after one day, but you don’t know how you’re going to feel about it in a week, or a month. It may be something that you stop using after just a couple of days, but that first day you were making a hasty generalization, which was a logical fallacy based on what you do after one day.
Another persuasive technique is the bandwagon appeal, which appeals to a person’s need to belong. This is one where people say, “Everyone’s doing it. You should, too.” They say, “Oh, everyone’s seeing this movie. Everyone’s going to the theater to see this new movie. That means you should, too. Everyone’s shopping at this store. You should too. Everyone’s getting a certain kind of car, you should get that, too, because everyone else is doing it.” It appeals to your need to belong.
The next one is snob appeal, which appeals to a person’s need to feel superior. This one might be, “Get it before your friends do.” It could be the next new phone or tickets to a concert, but you have a need to feel superior. The snob appeal is what an author can use. They can say, “Get it before everyone else. You want to be the best in school? You should have this. If you want to be the coolest, you need to come shop here. You want to be better than your peers.”
That is what snob appeal is. Appeal to fear is going to make a person feel like they’ll be either unsafe or their health is in danger if they don’t do something. An appeal to fear might be with an alarm system. Someone might say, “Get this alarm system, so your family will be safe. No one’s going to break into your house under our watch.” Then, you feel safe. You feel like your family is safe. No one’s going to be able to break into your house.
If they do, the cops will be there in an instant to protect you. While all of that may not be true, that’s what the alarm system is trying to tell you with their advertisement and their appeal to fear. Another example that I see a lot lately is with distracted-driving campaigns. While I think that it’s great to try to discourage distracted driving, they are using an appeal to fear in a lot of the things that I’ve seen.
For instance, when you are driving in a car and you need to make a phone call or someone texts, you have that urge to reach and read it. You shouldn’t do that. It’s very unsafe. So many accidents happen because people are driving distractedly. The distracted driving campaigns that are out right now show very graphic car wrecks. They show the very terrible things that could happen if you are driving and you are distracted.
People get hurt. People die. You could kill your friends or family members that are in the car with you were driving distractedly. That’s appealing to fear. Your safety is in danger. Your family’s safety or your friends’ safety is in danger. Next, we have an appeal to pity. This one will be where you see starving orphans. They’re trying to get you to donate money to Africa, or different charities, or abandoned pets, where people are trying to get you to adopt pets, or donate to the Humane Society.
It’s appealing to people’s sense of pity, their emotional well-being. They’re thinking, “Oh, look at these poor things. It’s tugging on my heartstrings. I need to go and donate money. I need to go adopt one of these pets, because they look so sad.” It’s an appeal to pity. Last, we have either/or fallacies. This tells you there is this choice or that choice, nothing else, nothing in the middle, no middle ground, nothing in the middle there that we could compromise with.
An example would be if I told you, “You can choose to be a doctor or a plumber. Nothing else.” You’ll tell me, “That’s not true. I could be a teacher, or a nurse, or a writer. I don’t have to just be a doctor or a plumber. I can do whatever I want to do.” That’s true, but an either/or fallacy is going to present two options as if those are the only two options. There are lots more persuasive techniques, but these are going to be some of the most common ones you’ll see. If you feel like you’re reading a persuasive text, look and see how many of these techniques you can find.