Persuade Me

But not with fluff

Academic journals are near the top of our list of credible sources of information. The work of Retraction Watch (along with Professor Carl Elliot’s snarky Fear and Loathing in Bioethics) have helped me understand that peer-review processes are fallible. Still, the intent of providing transparent work that smart people can discuss seems a solid route to truly reliable knowledge.

Promotional copy is towards the other end of the continuum. As a copywriter, I use reason and logic to engage readers. And I’ll bring in emotion to tell my client’s story. But I want a discussion, not a manipulative parlor trick. Good copy addresses humans with reason, logic, and emotion that honors our humanness without resorting to manipulation. After all, that’s how humans talk with other humans.

A continuum of believability

Further down the continuum of believability is classic sales rhetoric. It’s the kind of stuff we hear from the used car salesman and telemarketers or certain public figures: “best,” “tremendous,” “today only,” “you’ve never seen anything like this.”

These hyperbolic statements suggest active lying or passive disinformation. You can tell by the lack of specificity. The words are in-credible, not believable, and we should turn away from them.

Somewhere in the middle of the continuum of believability are persuasive commentaries and editorials that are biased and meant to convince. Their authors acknowledge their bias straight on and early in their communication. We see their bias and take that into account as we read.

Even nearer the middle of the credibility continuum is instructional words that aim to help the reader accomplish something. These blog posts, articles, white papers, and webinars help readers take action out in the world.

If we aim toward credibility in our communication (a typical goal for sane people), we’ll base our content on well-vetted facts and citations from other credible sources. We’ll also grab from the piles of words that invite further reflection and discussion. The more credible we want to be, the more we’ll direct our typing hands away from broad overstatements to specific, thoughtful, factual writing.

Smart people discuss for credibility

It’s how we sort most everything in life. We hash out credible and truthful statements by discussing a book, movie, social problem, or new idea. Together we create believable, actionable messages.

But to get to that place of belief, we need to think critically about the pop-up slogans and preconceived notions that our ideology or brand preferences place in our brainpans.

 If we resist those clichés and talking points and instead look for words from our own experience, no matter how messy or awkward, we have a chance of getting to the truth.

Credible information withstands questions and discussion by smart people. Credibility is a way forward.


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