48 Elements of Persuasive Written Content

image of old locked door

You feel your blood pressure rising.

Maybe you’re mad, maybe you’re inspired, or maybe you’re just excited to find someone who really, truly gets you. Regardless, your attention is riveted — you can’t look away.

Bang!

You’ve just been spellbound by content that persuades. It grabs us like nothing else can.

How?

The truth is, words are very powerful things.

They can make us buy things we didn’t think we needed. They can reveal ideas that we’ve been looking for for years. They can make us cry or laugh almost hysterically.

Professional writers know how to use the right words to communicate their intent, they become masters of telling stories over time.

But they don’t just write random content. They write persuasive content.

And if you want to master this craft, you need to start with the basics.

There are many more available for your your content toolbox, but here are 48 essential elements from A to Z (well, almost) to get you started …

1. Anxiety

The written word should provoke a response, but truly persuasive content contains multiple responses. Chief among these is anxiety. Readers should feel like they need to move forward now – RIGHT now. Don’t be afraid to make ‘em sweat.

2. Authenticity

Content delivered over time gives you more room to persuade than a one-shot sales page. So put those words to good use by making your writing ring true. Trustworthiness is persuasive.

3. Authority

If you’re going to convince someone with your words they need to ring true. Write with authority and be sure to use the sort of examples that resonate with readers. If you’re writing to moms, they are going to know if you can truly talk “mom,” for example.

4. Boxes

Break up your text by including boxes and side bars with extra details including graphs, charts, bulleted lists and engaging quotations.

5. Breaks

There is nothing worse than giant blocks of text. Break it up, people! Format your content to be readily scannable. Break your lines every two to three sentences. White space is your friend.

6. Bullet Points

Lists are the most commonly read thing on a page of content. Bullet points are particularly effective — they’re fast and easy to skim. Spend some time writing them well.

7. Buttons

Let me know periodically what I can do next. Have a button to help me “Buy Now” or to “Click Here to Sign Up.” Buttons get a better response than random links on a page.

8. Catch Phrases

Put those boxes to good use with quick snippets of text. Write with the intent of creating catch phrases — things others can Tweet or remember about what they are reading. Be clever, but subtle. You want to guide the reader through content — not force feed them slogans.

9. Catchy Headlines

If you read Copyblogger regularly, you know the importance of headlines. How else are you going to get readers to pay attention to you? “10 Things You’ll Never Know about Beans” is much more compelling than “Beans: Facts and Information”

10. Color

Use color to your advantage when writing killer content. You don’t have to make your words different colors necessarily, but think about the page itself and how to showcase the text you’re creating.

11. Commas

Commas are great — but use them sparingly and only when necessary. If you often find yourself putting in more than one comma in a sentence, it may be a sign that your sentences are too long. Long-winded sentences bore and confuse readers.

12. Common Language

We know you’re smart and you know all sorts of big, fancy words. But unless you’re trying to be irritating, don’t talk down to the reader. Give us something conversational with a common language that we can understand.

13. Contractions

Formal English can be tough to use if you’re trying to make things approachable and trustworthy. Rather than “cannot”, use “can’t.” Instead of “does not”, use “doesn’t.” It’s quick, fast and instantly comfortable for readers.

14. Dashes

Commas definitely have their place, but also consider the mighty dash. Dashes are great for visually breaking up text, and they tend to make content feel less formal. Because they’re such a strong visual element, they can also help with clarity — it’s easy to see the break in the sentence.

15. Depth

Just because you’re avoiding overly fancy words doesn’t mean you’re going to insult your reader’s intelligence. Your content needs depth. Leave readers as satisfied as if they’d just eaten a good meal.

16. Email Addresses

If you want to make your content authentic, especially on a landing page, don’t make the customer search for your contact information. Make your email address or a contact form easy to find. If your business has a physical address, include that as well.

17. Emotional Response

Engaging content is powerful business. If you can evoke an emotional response from the reader — make her laugh, cry, fume with anger — she’ll be more engaged and likely to read and act on what’s she’s reading.

18. Extras

If your content is leading up to a big promotion, be sure to throw in some extras. Include a valuable bonus, or perhaps link to extra resources as part of your content to build additional trust with your reader. Deliver plenty of value.

19. Eyes

A simple trick of persuasive content — include a picture with eyes. If you have a picture of a woman looking to the left, the reader’s eyes will look to the left, too. They want to see what she’s looking at. So if you need attention on something on the page, let the eyes lead the way.

20. Facts

Good content is based on facts. Including true facts and statistics makes your material memorable and reliable as well.

21. Fluency

Persuasive content must be smooth and easy to follow. Move through subheadings with logical transitions and avoid obvious repetition. Make it flow into the eyes and mind of the reader.

22. Guarantee

If you’re housing your persuasive content on a landing page or sales letter, you’ll want to encourage your readers to make the right choice. Offer them an iron-clad guarantee. Be sure it’s something you can actually honor — “We guarantee you’ll have the time of your life with these new tips!” isn’t particularly iron-clad. (But if you’re feeling very confident, you can offer a money-back guarantee if the customer is not entranced, delighted, and positively starry-eyed.)

23. Images

Images break up the text of your persuasive content nicely. Images can guide the eyes of the reader around the page, and can also help the reader get additional meaning from the content. For persuasive content, captions are an excellent addition.

24. Instructions

Content leading up to something — a sign-up, a petition, a purchase — must include explicit instructions. Sure, you can leave your reader alone to figure it out, or you can help him out with simple instructions to simply fill in his email address below to get new coupons and specials!

25. Locality

Nothing beats going local. Make your content appeal to local markets with clever references to landmarks, events, or local slang. It builds confidence with readers, as well as authenticity.

26. Logic

Persuasive content must be logically arranged on the page. Jumping from voter registration to a particular candidate’s politics and back to polling statistics and ending with the importance of civic duty is going to give your readers visual whiplash. Plan ahead and don’t be afraid to move things around once they are written.

27. Meat

We all like something that makes us think. Give readers something to really bite into and mentally chew on.

28. Opinions

While facts are a great foundation to persuasive content, opinions are what make it fun to read. Interview experts, insert your own opinion, or dig around for previous commentary on the topic to liven things up a bit.

29. Paragraphs

You absolutely, positively must use short paragraphs when you’re writing persuasive content. If you want to get it read, break it up.

30. Periods

Please include periods in your persuasive content, and use them frequently. Shorter sentences create balance. When you use a short sentence next to a longer one, it makes the material more lyrical and enjoyable. (Remember to make it swing.)

31. Phone Numbers

Readers interested in following up on your content or looking for additional information should be able to reach you. While we’re all a big fan of instant messages and email, consider a real phone number. It builds trust with readers.

32. Phrasing

Watch your phrasing in your persuasive content. Your sentences should be personable and easy to read, and they should say something meaningful. Avoid ambiguous words like “one” and “the individual” and try to stay in the active voice as much as possible. Don’t sound like a corporate robot.

33. Polish

Typos happen to the best of us, but we should make a good faith effort to avoid them. Give your persuasive content a bit of spit and polish before you make it live and then go back and read it again periodically in an effort to continuously improve.

34. Post Scripts

Ever wonder why there are so many postscripts in sales letters? It’s because they’re one of the most-read elements of a page. You can use a P.S. in your persuasive content, too. You might use them to to work in some humor, re-state the guarantee, or drive a key benefit home.

35. Presence

There is a place for mindless drivel online, but not in the form of persuasive content. Your content should have presence online and on your site. It should stand alone.

36. Questions

What better way to make people think while reading your material than to ask questions? Rhetorical questions are a highly effective way to engage a reader and transition through text.

37. Quotes

Want truly persuasive content? Ask an expert what she thinks and quote her response in your content. You can also respond to a thought-provoking post in your topic, quoting liberally (with links and attribution, of course). Or come up with some clever elements that can work beautifully in quote boxes on the sides of your text.

38. Rationale

Copy is written to convince. Copywriting takes an “either/or” approach … you buy or you don’t. But content leaves plenty of room for debate. Rather than forcing an opinion on a reader, use content to build a case for or against something with resounding rationale. No holes in this argument!

39. Seals and Stamps

If your content is explaining or outlining a product or service, go ahead and throw around a few names. Put your stamp or seal of approval at the bottom of the content to make it credible.

40. Short Introduction

Catch the reader’s interest with a short introduction, then get into the meat of the matter.

41. Short Sentences

Long sentences can be effective. But that long sentence had better have at least three shorter friends hanging around. Short sentences are powerful. Use them.

42. Signature

If your content is part of a sales letter, be sure to add a signature. If your content is more formal, consider adding a signature or bio box, even if it’s on your own website. What a great place to learn more about the author, an expert on the subject!

43. Social Connections

What’s the point of content that can’t be Liked or Tweeted? Include all the important buttons to make sharing easier.

44. Spacing

Text isn’t just about words, it’s about positioning as well. Paragraphs, punctuation and short sentences help to position words on the page. Think about website spacing as well. White space frames words for maximum power.

45. Testimonials

If you’re selling something — even especially an idea — you’ll need testimonials. Get the opinions of others to include in your content and you’ll be presenting a balanced, honest opinion. Balanced content can work surprisingly well at reassuring readers.

46. Texture

Texture is the “feel” of your written piece. Does it look good on the page? Does it flow easily? Are the sections sized correctly and balanced? Are images placed appropriately? Layers of images, text, and balance create an outstanding texture for persuasive content.

47. Tone

Consider the tone of your piece, and stay in character as you’re writing. Are you joking with friends? Warning off potential victims? Creating a sense of emergency? Tone is created through sentence construction, phrasing, and word choice. Short, excited sentences sound urgent! Longer, more fluid sentences help the reader create a feeling of peacefulness and contentment.

48. Voice

Hand in hand with tone is the sound of your voice coming through content. Persuasive content isn’t technical writing, and your unique voice should be present as you’re writing. A strong voice is entertaining, engaging, and enjoyable to read.

Persuasive content is still on the throne …

We know how valuable copywriting is.

But highly persuasive content — dripped out over time — does 90% of the work that single-shot copywriting used to do. That’s why content marketing is this year’s hot topic — and it will be for years to come.

With content you have more chances to present your case, more opportunity to build trusted relationships. You can play with tone, approach, and bias. But the only content worth actually reading is of the fierce variety — persuasive content is most certainly still king.

About the Author: Uttoran Sen is a content marketer and a social media expert. He is the CEO and Founder of Guest Crew. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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Comments

  1. This is an incredible list. I feel like this is the kind of comprehensive list that you can reference again and again while writing persuasive content to get *just a lil’ bit more* of an edge.

    Along with the links to more information on a number of the bullet points, this is an incredible resource for anyone looking to write more persuasively! Thanks, Uttoran Sen, for putting this all together!

    -Brock

  2. “Content delivered over time gives you more room to persuade than a one-shot sales page.”
    I definitely agree with that one. The more times you can interact with someone the more valuable your content becomes. Most people aren’t going to buy after reading a few sentences, but a few sentences might be all it takes to get your brand in their mind.

  3. Anneliz Hannan :

    Fantastic list and appreciate the links. Especially liked the short and succinct bullet points. Nice job

    • thanks Anneliz,
      glad you liked the list,

      Yes, bullets are always my favorite, perhaps the reason why most of my articles are list based,

  4. Great list. Although you sorted A-Z , I think Anxiety deserves the #1 spot in terms of importance. A desperate person will put up with bad design and writing to get what they want.

    • thanks Johnn, for your comments,
      Yes, i guess so, when someone wants to buy something, they will go to any lengths to buy it. However, the only problem is that a competitor with better content, presentation and design might just be more lucky in getting that sale compared to you.

      Now, if the Anxiety is created by your content, rather than a pre-anxious desperate person, you will have a better chance to sell to him or make him act in a desired way.

  5. You get to the heart of the matter (great copywriting) in an easily readable format. Thank you – excellent post!

  6. Yet another keeper from Copyblogger. Thank you!

  7. An excellent list. I especially like #44 and #46, spacing and texture. We can choose all the right words and have them look horribly cramped and effective on the page. That’s why I like to work with web designers while I’m writing copy. There’s always editing to do once I see the words published.

    • hi Carrie,
      thanks for your comments, glad you liked the list,

      Yes, you brought a very good point on the table, always keep designers on your team, they are able to give some very good advice. Most people think about font sizes, but it is the x-height of the font that matters most.

  8. Oh yeah! I’m lovin’ this one.

  9. Great list which is a useful reference source, even for the seasoned copywriter! Thank you..

  10. This was a super post. Worth reading again and again. It’s one of those: “hmm, which parts of this can I apply to my next blog post?”

  11. Brilliant – have added as a link from my guide to help charities write persuasively. http://knowhownonprofit.org/how-to/how-to-be-persuasive-online

  12. “That’s why content marketing is this year’s hot topic — and it will be for years to come.” Absolutely!

    My first freelance writing job was as a blogger for a company in the travel industry. The owners noticed I didn’t use a lot of contractions (Point #13). They asked me to start using them because they don’t sound as formal. It was a challenge at first because I was taught not to use contractions — it wasn’t proper. I no longer hesitate to use contractions.

    I have a request from those who use quotes (Point # 37). Please make sure the period is inside the closing quote mark. As a writer, it drives me nuts when I see a period outside of the ending quote mark. I usually have a Joan Crawford moment and say, “No, period outside the closing quote mark.” :)

  13. Certainly an amazing list Uttoran!

    I didn’t know before about persuasive content but after reading I get the idea of what it is all about and how professional writers are using it. And I am really obliged to read the list which I also can use to create a great content for my blog.

    Thanks for sharing great list :-)!

  14. What a fantastic resource Uttoran. This is a post I’ll come back to again and again.

  15. I used to include contraction to make copy shorter and less formal.

    However…

    I have worked on a few projects recently where English is a second language for the client and some prospects. Contractions make it harder for them to understand.

    As an example, It is easy to imaging getting I’d confused with Id.

    So unless you absolutely know your audience will have English as their first language, I would avoid contractions.

  16. Great list …. never thought one has to go through so much details while creating great content. I thought those guys have in-born quality. But thanks to uttoransen – I can see that methodical approach can go a long way in creating great contents too.

  17. “Make your content appeal to local markets with clever references to landmarks, events, or local slang. It builds confidence with readers, as well as authenticity.” – I could not agree more Uttoran.

    Using local terms and slang is a great way to grab the search traffic – both paid and organic! A large part of creating great, persuasive content comes from doing you research before you actually get to writing. This means understanding who your audience is, demographics and pain points. This would make it easier to produce content that converts….

    You should also add another point – call to action.. get the reader to do something…

  18. I loved this! I am going to print it out and use it as an idea mill for my various copywriting projects. Thank you so much for putting this together!!

  19. Judy Anderson :

    Really nice list of things to remember, and yet it is not so easy, is it? I find that folks tend to write factual statements and documents, rather than thinking about what is the problem, who are the characters, what is the solution, how did X help?
    Thank you.

  20. Great article! One of the most powerful marketing components to a website, in my personal experience has been the testimonials. I find that they build trust among your potential customers, and if you post testimonials on your website, I find that your visitors are more likely to be interested in your product or service. Spacing is another important factor when writing web content or articles. By breaking up your text in smaller, easy to read paragraphs, your reader is more likely to stay interested and read your content. Thank you!

  21. Great post. Writing well is a challenge. In a previous life ;) I was a news reporter and I was consistently stunned by the number of people (even in journalism) who struggled to write effectively and with power. Great article!

  22. I am a seasoned copywriter and still found quite a bit of useful information in this list! Thank you for breaking these fundamental copywriting tips into such a concise, useful, well-organized list. You have inspired me to write a blog on this topic on my own site and link to your blog! Thanks so much!