Persuasive language

Every day and everywhere, we are confronted with language designed to persuade us to accept information, ideas or to purchase products.

It is crucial for everyone living in the 21st century to be able to critically evaluate all of this information to that we can make informed choices.

In this unit we will be looking at using language to persuade, and giving you skills to be able to critically analyse information.

We will be looking at the following persuasive techniques in detail – a review of year 7 and year 8 techniques.

  1. Alliteration – Repeating and playing upon the same letter: dirty deeds done dirt cheap
  2. Anecdote –  a short personal story to emphasise a point.  For example: a piece about unemployment might begin with a story about someone losing their job.
  3. Colloquial language – Informal, casual or slang terms used in everyday speech, that you would not use in a formal essay
  4. Emotive language – Words that are heightened, vivid, lively, full of interest, designed to play on your “feelings”.
  5. Expert opinion – Writers often quote or refer to experts who agree with their point of view. This use of expert opinion can help to make arguments more persuasive and credible. The use of expert opinion can be a powerful way to persuade, convincing the audience that the writer’s contention must be true because notable people agree with them.
  6. Humour – makes us laugh
  7. Hyperbole – Hyperbole is exaggeration. Writers use exaggeration to heighten the implications of an issue, making the situation appear far worse and mobilising the reader to agree with their point of view.
  8. Inclusive language – Inclusive language is the use of words such as ‘we’ or ‘our’ to create the impression that the writer  and the reader are on the same side of the issue.
  9. Repetition – Words, phrases, sentence patters or ideas repeated in close succession
  10. Rhetorical questions – Questions that have the answer embedded within them
  11. Testimonial – a well known person supports an idea or product

Here are some examples of persuasive techniques used in advertising.

Can you figure out the purpose, audience and persuasive technique for each?



What persuasive techniques are being used in these sentences:


  1.  According to a recent survey, 67% of Australians agree.
  2.  Professor Andrew Horner once described the proposal as a ‘disgrace’.
  3. Surely, we all agree that this is the right course of action.
  4. The money is a drop in the bucket compared to what the government spends on other services.
  5. It’s a more humane, more sensible option.
  6. Can’t you do anything right?
  7. The government’s decision is nothing short of disgraceful and will cause untold trauma and anguish for those involved.
  8. It will be the end of civilisation as we know it.
  9. There’s a million reasons the proposal won’t work.
  10. The decision was a kick in the guts for workers everywhere.
  11. He was as fit as a fiddle.
  12. The slaughter of sheep in overseas abattoirs is hideously brutal.
  13. It’s a problem that we can’t turn away from.
  14. The government has been working like dogs to achieve this change.
  15. Why should I have to put up with foul-mouthed language on public transport?
  16. Experts agree that treating drug addiction like a disease is the right thing to do.



When you’re thinking about the use of persuasive language in an article, it’s also useful to consider the tone.

The word ‘tone’ refers to the overall feeling of a piece of writing – what language choices the author has made in order to create a feeling for the audience.

Here are some common words that you could use to describe tone:

• ANGRY Aggrieved, bitter, exasperated, incensed, hostile.
• CONCERNED Worried, troubled, bothered, upset.
• DISAPPOINTED Despondent, discouraged, disenchanted, disheartened, disillusioned, dismayed, dispirited, downcast, downhearted, saddened, upset.
• EMOTIONAL Emotive, heart-breaking, impassioned, moving, poignant, touching.
• EXCITED Exhilarated, exuberant, enthusiastic, lively.HOPEFUL Buoyant, cheerful, optimistic, positive.
• NEUTRAL Impartial, balanced, objective, unbiased.
• HUMOROUS Amusing, funny, entertaining, comical, witty, light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek, wry, droll.
• LOGICAL Reasoned, well-reasoned, rational, cogent.
• NEGATIVE Bleak, cynical, dejected, demoralized, depressed, despairing, despondent, gloomy, hopeless, melancholic, negative.
• SARCASTIC Sharp, sardonic, satirical, scathing, cutting, razor-edged, caustic, harsh, severe, devastating, abrasive, vitriolic, spiteful, vicious, malicious.
• SYMPATHETIC Compassionate, caring, concerned, solicitous, empathetic, kind-hearted, warm-hearted, understanding, sensitive.


Can you identify the TONE of each of these situations?

  • Our public parks and waterways are thriving, thanks largely to highly effective environmental protection laws and the hard work of enthusiastic volunteers around Australia. It’s terrific to see that we really care about our environmental legacy.
  • The Prime Minister should hang his head in shame. The treatment of asylum seekers is nothing short of a disgraceful blight on Australia’s international reputation. To the rest of the world, we’re selfish and cruel and insular.
  • We should feel sorry for the friends and families. They’re the real victims of road accidents. Imagine the grief and sorrow that tears through a community in the aftermath of a tragic accident like this.
  • Thanks to the government’s broadband policy, we’re looking at a period of great promise where Australians will have access to new, exciting employment opportunities and business will experience incredible new growth. • You should feel ripped off. After all it’s your tax dollars that have paid for this terrible idea.
  • Seeing people whose lives have been affected by gambling in this way is a harrowing experience. You begin to understand the way that it tears apart families and harms the most vulnerable people in our society.
  • There are numerous reasons why we should start treating drug addiction like a disease. First, punitive measures simply aren’t working. Second, it has been demonstrated time and time again – in countries like Sweden – that this type of approach simply works.




Purpose: the reason for communicating with someone.

Define the purpose by answering questions such as the following:

• What does the author want to accomplish?

• What is the reader supposed to do next?

• What does the author want to happen as a result of your text?

The purpose for communication will fit into one of the following general categories:

• to inform

• to entertain

• to persuade

Audience: the person/people being communicated with.

To learn more about an audience, answer questions such as the following:

• What do you know about audiences’ age, gender, geographical location, education, professional position, and so forth?

• What does the audience already know about the issue or idea?

• What is the audiences’ current point of view on the issue or idea?

• What background does the audience need on the issue or idea?

• What will the audience want to know about the issue or idea and why?

• What information will interest the audience?

• What personal information about the audience might influence their position or feelings on the issue?



Modality is the way we express how certain we are about something.

It extends from:

LOW MODALITY ______________________________HIGH MODALITY

might go _______________________________will definately go

Low modality: Moderate: Strong

may could possibly










would/should probably often

ought to


tends t0






mustought tohave tocertainly






simply impossible




Conceivably…It is possible that…It may be the case….


It appears probable…It is usually the case that…In the majority of cases…

The results suggest that…

It is likely that…

It is certain that…It seems clear that……is definitely…..

It is simply impossible….


Writing strategies:

In a persuasive piece consider:

Purpose – your purpose is to persuade

Audience – who are the people you need to influence?

Tone – what tone words can you include

Have you included the following:

  • alliteration
  • facts/statistics
  • your contention – stated clearly
  • repetition/rhetorical questions and other persuasive techniques
  • emotive language, descriptive adjectives
  • call to action – what do you want them to do?
  • triples – the magic of 3


Here are other resources to assist you:

Watch the speeches on the Library Catalogue:

How to begin your speech

Documents to assist you:

Persuasive speech scaffold