Knowing how to write a persuasive letter is a skill that can bring many great rewards. A persuasive letter should never involve bullying, and it is not necessary to beg, plead or make unreasonable promises. A mild threat might be effective when writing a letter of complaint, but generally it is best not to put pressure on the recipient. A persuasive letter is much more effective when the writer is polite, convincing and sincere.
When sending a persuasive letter it is important to know how to write positive statements and to avoid anything that is in any way negative. Sarah Wilson, writing about the power of persuasion in the Guardian newspaper, says that use of psychology is the most important skill in being persuasive.
Good writing skills help when composing a persuasive letter. This simply means knowing how to make a point clearly and being as concise as possible.
Addressing the recipient
A persuasive letter is more effective when it begins with the name of the recipient, rather than the impersonal “Dear Sir/Madam”. When writing to a company or large organization it is always a good idea to find out the name of a department head and to begin the letter with a formal Dear Mr… or Ms…
Business letters written to a customer can either be formal or less formal, depending on the circumstance, but using a first name will make the letter appear more friendly and personal to the recipient.
A personal letter will generally require only the first name, as in “Dear Jack” or “Dear Jill”, unless of course it is written to Grandma or to Dad.
The opening paragraph
The first few lines should quickly indicate the reason for writing the letter. Starting with “I am writing to you with reference to…” or “I’m writing to let you know….” should grab the attention and help the recipient to understand exactly why they are receiving the letter.
The body of the letter
A persuasive letter will always place the emphasis on what is of most benefit to the person who is receiving the information contained within the letter.
A business letter will be far more persuasive if it clearly sets out the advantages to the recipient, without too obviously being a sales pitch. Writing positive and compelling content is the best way to convince people that they will have much to benefit from dealing with the company or the individual who is writing.
Cover letters for job applications can be more persuasive when something makes it stand out from all the other applications. A cover letter should never be a summary of what is on the enclosed CV or resume, it should highlight a good reason why the person sending the letter should be considered for the job.
A love letter can be more persuasive when the focus is on what the writer admires most about the lover. Writing with appreciation about shared moments and treasured memories will impress the beloved more than if the letter is all about the writer and how he or she feels.
The closing paragraph should briefly sum up the purpose of writing a persuasive letter, even though this should have been made clear in the previous paragraphs. It is important to reassure the recipient that there is a clear advantage in responding. A request can be made to respond by phone, email or in writing, and it would do no harm to add contact details or the best time to get in touch.
A formal letter can end with “Yours faithfully” or, if the recipient is addressed by name, “Yours sincerely”, “With love”, “Regards” or whatever is most appropriate.
Adding a PS can emphasise the importance of a quick response, for example by offering an extra bonus if the recipient replies within 14 days.
There are many good reasons to write a letter, and it is important to know how to write a letter that is both convincing and persuasive. This is essential for sending college and job applications, and when writing a business letter. It can also be an important part of writing love letters. Any letter will be convincing if it clearly sets out the main points, and simply shows the recipient the importance or advantage of taking the required action in response to the letter.