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How to Write a Persuasive Letter: Planning & Format

How to Write a Persuasive Letter: Planning & Format
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  • 0:03 Persuasive Letter
  • 0:40 Planning
  • 1:46 Support
  • 3:20 Introduction & Conclusion
  • 3:44 Format
  • 5:14 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

How do you go about writing a persuasive letter? Where do you even begin in terms of persuading others? Dive into this lesson to learn about two important aspects of writing a persuasive letter: planning and formatting.

Persuasive Letter

Think of the last time you were in an argument. Think of how you tried to convince another person that you were right. Were you successful? No? What worked? What didn't?

At one time or another, we're all in the same position: We're trying to convince someone else to do something or agree with us. This is called persuasion.

One way to use persuasion is via writing a letter. However, you'll only be convincing if you learn how to carefully craft persuasive letters. This lesson discusses the basic guidelines of planning and formatting a persuasive letter.

Planning

Before you can begin writing your letter, you must first plan. Without proper preparation, you run the risk of sounding like a complainer. Avoid this at all costs!

With that in mind, consider the tone of your letter, which is the general attitude you project in a piece of writing. Your goal is to get the reader to agree with you or to take a specific action, so your tone must be mature and logical.

Consider the following example. Imagine you were trying to persuade your mom that you can't clean your room. Look at these two possible attitudes you can take:

  • Mom, I can't clean my room because it's so boring.

  • Mom, I have a huge science exam tomorrow morning that is worth half my grade. I have to spend all night studying. My room is not the highest priority right now.

Which one sounds more mature and logical? The second one of course! The first one is not convincing because the tone is immature. It is merely a complaint and does not use logic.

Support

After considering your tone, plan the support, which is the evidence or proof that your opinion is correct. Think of reasons that support your opinion. To make a strong argument, you should have at least two to three separate ideas to back up your opinion.

Once you have these reasons, think of examples to prove each idea. Then ask yourself which idea has better examples. This is the one you should plan on writing first in your letter. Then move on to your second strongest support, and finally end with your weakest.

Another strategy to make a strong argument is to include the counterarguments which are the reasons why your opinion is wrong. That might seem illogical, but if you address these concerns, you are more likely to persuade your reader. Acknowledging the side you don't agree with shows you are reasonable and rational. Then all you have to do is state why the counterarguments are still erroneous.

Let's look at an example to see how this works. Imagine your argument is that students should only go to school 4 days per week. One counterargument is that parents might be unable to provide child care for their children on Fridays if there is no school.

In your letter, you should openly acknowledge this concern and give a solution. One idea could be to keep school open with a limited number of teachers, but not have class. Students who have nowhere else to go can come in and do physical activities, puzzles, or mental games.

Introduction and Conclusion

Lastly, plan your beginning and ending. You need an introduction that shows your purpose clearly and sets up the rest of your letter. You want to grab your reader's attention. You also want to keep the introduction concise and to the point.

At the end of your letter, plan a conclusion that summarizes your main ideas and reiterates your purpose. Be sure to thank the reader for his or her time.

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