Establishing a Goal in Persuasive Writing


If you are writing an effective persuasive document that is getting someone to agree that smoking causes lung cancer, then your goal is, "To convince the audience that there is a direct link between lung cancer and cigarettes."

The goals we place in life and in persuasive arguments are our guideposts. One saying goes, "You can't know where you are going, until you know where you have been." With persuasive arguments, it is the other way around. Instead of knowing where we have been, we are looking at where we are going. We have an end conclusion in sight and we have a goal for that conclusion. By knowing our goal, we can begin to formulate the entire persuasive argument around that end goal. Without the goal of the persuasive essay, there is no persuasion.

Your thesis says, "I want to convince you of this," and your goal is essentially to convince the audience of this. They are one and the same; and since the thesis is your beginning statement, the goal you choose dictates everything from the start to the finish of the persuasive argument.

The goal of your paper needs to be a firm goal that you never waver from. If you were to waver from the goal, there is the risk that you could end up failing in your mission to convince someone else of your position. However, there may be exceptions, for example your goal can change or need tweaking depending on what type of situation you are in. For example, a persuasive paper works best when there is a disagreement of some sort. Typically this means that there is a situation that needs to be fixed. If there is no disagreement in a persuasive essay, then there usually is no reason to write the argument.

However, if you are writing to get a raise, causing an argument is the absolute wrong thing to do. Instead of creating an argument, you want to create a consensus with your employer. With the essay, your goal is to prove that the other person is wrong based on your persuasion. In the letter to your boss, you are trying to prove your worth to someone who may not realize it, yet there is no reason to feel that they disagree with you off the bat.

The best thing you can do when you are trying to create a goal is to ask yourself some questions to best determine where your goal lies. Some effective questions are:

  • What do I want to accomplish with this persuasive argument?
  • Why is this persuasive argument important?
  • Will certain problems be eliminated with this persuasive argument?
  • How will my persuasive argument affect other people?
  • Will there be obstacles I need to overcome?

In the example of trying to get a raise, you can ask those questions and the answers you get will typically be the following:

  • I want to gain a raise from my employer so that I can better afford the things in my life, and possibly increase my standard of living, as well.
  • This is important because I feel that I deserve a raise for all the work I have been doing and I want to feel appreciated by my employer by getting a raise.
  • My feeling of a lack of satisfaction in what I am doing will be eliminated with this persuasive argument.
  • This will affect other people because more money will be needed by the company to pay me more if I get the raise.
  • I need to convince my boss that I am the right person for the raise and that I need to eliminate any misconceptions they may have about me and my work ethic with the company.

Now, looking at these answers you will be able to better create a goal in mind for your persuasive letter to your boss to convince them of your worth for a raise.

Your goal will now be something like this:

"I want to convince my employer, who may see things differently, that I deserve a raise because I have felt dissatisfaction with my job and I feel that a raise will help me be more satisfied with my work, while raising my standard of living."

Interested in learning more? Why not take an online Writing Effective Persuasion course?

Many people will also define the goal in persuasive writing as effectiveness. This essentially means that you want to be effective in your persuasion. If you are effective in your persuasion to get the raise that you want, then your goal will be met. Hence, your goal is to be effective.

The last point that you should remember about your goals is that you need to make your goals realistic. Typically you only have a few minutes of someone's attention to change their mind about an issue, idea, or product. You may be able to change part of their mind and get them closer to what you want, but there is just as much risk that you won't change their mind at all. In the raise example, you could have a boss who is notorious for not giving raises; therefore your goal of getting a raise could be unrealistic. Therefore, you should adjust your goal to at least putting the idea of a raise in their head and helping the boss notice you more.

If you go into a persuasive bit of writing with the intent to convince the Ku Klux Klan that everyone is equal, you may not be setting yourself a logical and realistic goal. Sometimes it is important to start small with your goal and build from that once you have their attention.

Convincing the Opposition

In this article, we are going to look at how you can convince the opposition that your point is right, and that it is what they should follow. We have extensively gone over the ways this can be done, and now we will go further by giving real examples of how those concepts can work in your favor to convince the opposition.

Once you convince the opposition, you achieve your goal. Once you achieve your goal, your persuasion has successfully helped further your cause, whatever that may be. After each point, we will give an example using the asking for a raise persuasive letter.

First, you want to use examples that are local to your audience. The reason you want to do this is because it will be more relative to them and therefore you will have a better chance of convincing your audience.

  • Wrong: "Several people in my position elsewhere in the country are making 30 percent more than I am."
  • Right: "Our competitor in this city is currently paying those in my position 30 percent more than what I am making."

As you can see, you have used a local example with asking for a raise by citing what others make. In the first example, it is easy for your employer to refuse the raise based on this because it is not relevant. Other communities have higher or lower standards of living than the one you live in. In the second example, you are saying that the competitor in that same city pays their employees more. As a result, you are giving a local example and a veiled threat that you will go to the competition if you don't get a raise.

Second, you want to use the best evidence that you can. You want to research and put facts, quotes, and figures into your persuasive argument. You should not rely too heavily on examples for evidence, but they do help to beef up your persuasive argument and help you achieve your goal.

  • Wrong: "I deserve a 30 percent raise."
  • Right: "The standard of living since my last raise has grown by 17 percent in this community. In addition, I am now working several more hours than I was hired on to do. On top of that, I have a new baby and I am concerned about how my current level of pay will affect him. I have a letter of recommendation from my direct supervisor that attests to my reliability and technical expertise in my position."
In the first example, we are much too vague, because we do not back up what we want with any examples or facts or figures. If you say that you deserve a 30 percent raise, your boss will say, "Why?" and that puts you on the defensive, which is a position you never want to be in with persuasion. In the second example, you are showing that not only has the standard of living grown, but so have the number of hours you work, creating a disparity with what you make. You evoke an emotional response by saying you are a new father and you provide a big piece of evidence with the letter of recommendation. Now it is much harder for your boss to refuse your request.

Third, you want to show the other side of your argument effectively and accurately. You need to accurately represent their motives and their point of view as well. This shows that not only have you researched what the other side feels, but you are also showing that you can agree with them and have a common ground, and you don't think they are wrong, but that your idea is simply a better alternative.

  • Wrong: "I know you have the money in the company so there is no reason for you to refuse me."
  • Right: "I do understand that profits have slipped for the company, but I feel my request is fair and in line with the company's current revenues."

In the wrong example, you are not representing the other side and only using speculation. The company could be near bankruptcy for all you know, and by demanding money in this manner, you only hurt your argument. However, in the second example, you are acknowledging that profits have slipped but that you feel that you are being fair with your request. You can also say that more money will make you more productive and thereby help create more revenue for the company.

Fourth, you need to find some common ground with your audience. You want to show them that even though there are different positions, you have a similar goal in mind. You can also work to show your audience that you can persuade them to move toward your own point of view or argument, and they won't even have to conflict with their own position.

  • Wrong: "I deserve this raise, there is no other alternative."
  • Right: "I care about the financial success of this company and I would not be asking for a raise unless I thought I truly deserved it. With a raise I will be happier in my job and that will increase the productivity in my position, which can only help the company."

In the first example you do not find a common ground and you come off as argumentative. However, in the second example you again acknowledge that you care about the company as your boss does, and that you want the company to be successful, as they do. You feel the best way to make that happen is with you increasing your productivity.

Fifth, you want to put disclaimers into your persuasive argument. A disclaimer is a statement that presents your argument against your own position, while also explaining why that position is not correct. When you use a disclaimer, you have to make sure that you present the opposing view to yours with accuracy and respect. This will help you more than mocking the other side of the argument.

  • Wrong: "I deserve a raise even if the company is having financial trouble."
  • Right: "I know the company is having financial trouble, and that today is not the best time to be spending extra money, but I feel the time is right for me to get a raise. I have spent years in this position, even during high profit times without asking for a raise, and I feel now is the right time for me to ask."
In the first example, you acknowledge the other side of the argument, but you do not cite why you should be deserving of the raise. Instead you demand a raise even though the company is struggling. In the second example, you acknowledge that the company is in financial trouble and now is not the time to be spending money, but you follow that up by saying you have remained loyal and not asked for a raise even when everyone else did.

Sixth, you want to give your audience the ability to take action after reading your persuasive argument. There are many ways to do this, but you should make your action step as easy as possible, because people are often very busy and do not have the time to take everything into their own hands to do.

  • Wrong: Asking your boss to fill out the necessary forms so that you can have a raise.
  • Right: Talking to the accounting department and getting all the forms filled out so that all your boss has to do is sign the raise document and hand it back to you.

In the first example, you are putting too much work on the plate of your boss, who is most likely far too busy to be dealing with giving you a raise. In the second example you have already filled out everything for them, so that all they have to do is sign the document and hand it back to you the next time they see you. This makes it much easier for them to agree to what you want.

Lastly, you need to show the audience and your readers that you care deeply for what you are arguing for. If you do not care, then they will not care and you will lose your argument. You have to show passion because you need your audience to show passion as well.

  • Wrong: "A raise would be really nice."
  • Right: "I think a raise would impact my life for the better and make me a much happier person. I can see myself coming into work with a smile on my face, ready to earn my pay."

In the first example, you are not really showing any enthusiasm for your argument. However, in the second argument you are showing that you care deeply about getting a raise and even think that it will completely change your life. That is a big argument to make and it can prove to be very effective.