Writing Well

Tug the Heartstrings: Appeal to Emotion

Writer's Block

Chief Joseph (1840?-1904), leader of the Nez Perce tribe originally from Oregon, was one of the finest Native American generals. After the government broke their treaties, the Nez Perce, led by Chief Joseph, mounted a resistance that aroused even the respect of their enemies. The tribe was hopelessly outnumbered, however, and forced to retreat. On October 5, 1877, after being defeated in a battle in the Bear Paw Mountains of Montana, Chief Joseph surrendered. The tribe moved first to a reservation in Oklahoma and then to Washington.

I Will Fight No More Forever

Chief Joseph uses emotion to persuade his audience that he will never again fight a battle. The stately sentences, simple diction, and poignant details combine to create a tragic tone that convinces readers of his sincerity—and his heartbreak.

An effective essay can draw its strength from facts and reasoning, but logic can carry you just so far with certain readers. Depending on your audience and topic, you're going to want to pour on some feeling. You do this by appealing to your reader's needs:

Writer's Block

Don't use appeals to emotion in place of solid arguments or to stir up feelings that are dangerous or harmful.

Following is an example of a persuasive appeal that relies on emotion. It's from Thomas Paine's The Crisis. Paine's essay was so effective that it propelled the colonies into the Revolutionary War.

Write Angles

When you're addressing an audience that doesn't agree with your argument, search for common ground, or areas of agreement. If you can get readers to agree with you on one point, they're more likely to be persuaded by your other points.

The Moment of Truth

Which persuasive strategy do you use? Use reason, emotion, and ethics (or some combination of these) based on the following considerations:

book cover

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Writing Well © 2000 by Laurie Rozakis, Ph.D.. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book direct from the publisher, visit the Penguin USA website or call 1-800-253-6476. You can also purchase this book at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

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