Persuasive Writing for Activists: The Prewrite

This blog post is part of a series on persuasive writing for activists. Check back weekly for new content.

Too often, when an activist decides to write persuasive material, they sit right down and write it. That’s a mistake. They write something that seems convincing and logical to them. In fact, they write something that would convince them or people in their immediate social circles.

But is that all you want to do? Persuade somebody like you?

Another common mistake is to convince somebody that there is a problem, and stop there. That’s just a downer. It might persuade someone that there’s a problem but give them no tools to solve it and no hope.

So it’s important to do some prewrite planning. Get out a sheet of paper and divide it into thirds. Give it three headings:

  1. Purpose
  2. Audience
  3. Action Item

Then brainstorm as much as possible for each item.

Purpose:

What is the issue you’re concerned about? Why are you writing about it? What do you hope to accomplish? What are your short term and long term goals?

Audience:

Are you writing for one audience or multiple audiences? What gender are you targeting? Age? Religion? Culture? Ethnicity? Gender identity? Are they likely to be easily convinced or is there a sticking point?

How much do you think your audience knows about your topic? You often can’t count on them knowing anything and you might have to start at ground zero.

You’ll be much more successful at reaching your audience if you have already talked to similar people about the same topic and heard what they have to say, both positive and negative, about your issue.

Action Item:

Go back to your purpose and think about your long-term and short-term goals. Then find some simple, quick action that people can take and suggest it. Otherwise, they are going to leave discouraged and, most importantly, do nothing. Then give them a timeframe to do it in.

Go on, get out that paper. Now.

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