How to Write a Persuasive Letter
Persuasive writing can open many doors. A well-written persuasive letter makes the reader your ally, showing her why giving you that job, internship, acceptance letter or other help is in her interest, too. Make it logical for the reader to say yes, whatever the question may be. Whether you're applying for an academic or professional position, asking a company for a refund or trying to convince a politician to support a piece of legislation, the basic format and structure remain the same, as does the tone: reasonable, objective and so polite that butter would not melt in your mouth.
Take Aim at the Right Target
Make sure you're writing your persuasive letter to the best possible person. If your letter accompanies an application to a program or a job, that person may be specified in the application materials or on the organization's website. If you're not sure who the right person is within an organization, do your best to find out through online research or a phone call.
Format Your Letter Correctly
Persuasive letters should follow a basic business letter format. Use 12-point Times New Roman font. In the upper left-hand corner, type your street address, the recipient's name and address, and the date. Check the recipient's website or correspondence you have received from her, and be sure to use the courtesy title (Ms., Dr., Professor) that she uses herself. Skip another line and type the date. Two lines below that, type your salutation:
123 Willow Court Anytown, New Mexico 54321
Sara Smythe, Human Resources Director Community Compassion Works Santa Fe, New Mexico 54323
July 12, 2016
Dear Director Smythe:
Paragraphs should be left justified and single spaced. Skip a line between them.
Begin Your Persuasive Letter
In your first sentence, introduce yourself. In your second sentence, state the reason for your letter. Then summarize the benefit your reader will experience from doing what you are asking her to do and the reason why she'll get this benefit.
*Dear Director Smythe:
I am a third-year psychology student at New Mexico State University. I saw the Community Compassion Center's advertisement for a summer research assistant in the Santa Fe Courier and would like to be considered for the position. I bring with me a strong work ethic, excellent statistical analysis skills and a keen interest in the work your organization does in Santa Fe.*
Make Your Case
In the next paragraphs of your persuasive letter, build your case point by point. Expand on the claims you made in your introduction and back them up with evidence. Anticipate any objections Director Smythe might have to hiring you and respond to them: "My resume reflects that I was employed very briefly in my last position. This doesn't reflect dissatisfaction on either side; a family emergency forced me to move back to the Las Cruces area, and I have since transferred to NMSU, where I will complete my degree." Use a separate paragraph for each key point you make. Keep your tone confident and courteous.
Conclude Your Persuasive Letter
End your letter with a call to action. In your last paragraph, spell out exactly what you want the reader to do and make it easy for her to comply.
*I look forward to meeting with you to discuss the research project underway at the Community Compassion Center and the contribution I feel I can make. I have attached my resume and a reference from Professor Jason Peabody, assistant director of psychology at NMSU and my academic adviser. I can be reached by phone at xxx-xxx-xxxx or by email at email@example.com.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Leave two lines between "Sincerely" and your typed signature, and sign your letter in blue or black pen. Add your contact information again directly under your name, with each contact method on its own line so that it can be spotted at a glance. If you're enclosing additional documents, as in our example, you will add the following below your closing:
enc: Resume Letter of Reference
- Scholastic.com: Teachers: Persuasive Letter Checklist
- Copyblogger.com: Ten Timeless Persuasive Writing Techniques
- San Jose State University: Faculty: Asha Weinstein Agrawal: Tips for Writing a Persuasive Job Application Letter
- The Tech Museum of Innovation: Exhibits: Persuasive Letter Format
- Purdue Online Writing Lab: Sales Letters: Four Point Action Closing
- Purdue Online Writing Lab: Tone in Business Writing
- Purdue Online Writing Lab: Writing the Basic Business Letter
Anne Pyburn Craig has written for a range of regional and local publications ranging from in-depth local investigative journalism to parenting, business, real estate and green building publications. She frequently writes tourism and lifestyle articles for chamber of commerce publications and is a respected book reviewer.