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Writing to influence

Writing to influenceWriting is one of the key ways you can influence people – and mastering a few essentials can help you to succeed.

What is 'writing to influence'?

'Writing to influence' means that you are writing to try to get something that you want by persuading someone else that they should give it to you. Examples include:

  • A job application, written to convince an employer that they should give you a job interview
  • A UCAS personal statement, written to convince a university that they should offer you a place
  • A letter to your MP asking them to help you with a problem

But in fact, you probably write to influence more often than you think: if you write a post asking people to sponsor you for a charity run, or text your friends to persuade them to come out with you, you're writing to influence – and while your approach will be very different, some of the essentials are the same.

The basics of writing to influence

There are a few essential things you need to think about whenever you are writing to influence:

  • What do you want?: This might sound obvious, but you need to keep in mind exactly what you are trying to achieve. This will help to keep your writing focused and make sure you don't waste words on irrelevant things.
  • What do they want?: Unless they really like you, you won't persuade anyone by telling them what you want. You need to think about what they want, and show them how it matches up with what you want them to do. For example, if you're writing a job application, you should be thinking about what the employer wants out of the person they hire – not about all the reasons you want the job.
  • Back up what you say: For your writing to influence people, they need to believe what you say. For example, if you're writing a personal statement for a history course, just writing 'I am passionate about history' isn't persuasive. You could back it up by writing in more detail about a topic you are especially interested in, or about activities you have been involved with that demonstrate your passion.
  • Anticipate objections: Think about why the reader might not be convinced by what you have written. For example, if you are writing a job application and you don't have much work experience, you will need to tackle this problem by highlighting other relevant experiences you have had. Unlike in a conversation or an interview, you won't have the chance to respond to their objections directly, so it's important to think about them in advance and try to find a way to deal with them.

Sometimes, it's difficult to put these things into action on your own. After all, you already agree with yourself, so it's hard for you to tell if what you have written will convince someone who doesn't. Try to get someone to read through what you have written and give you feedback before you send it.