Leave no room for debate in your writing

Leave no room for debate in your writing

Debate season is in full swing. And with at least one debate per month through February, there’s going to be a lot more to watch. These debates will showcase some of the best — and worst — techniques in argument and persuasion. For the persuasive writer, there’s a lot to be learned.

Here are a few tips writers can watch out for:

1. Be confident
There are few things more cringe-worthy than a debater who lacks confidence and authority. Confident delivery is an essential element of a debate. No one will believe you if you don’t sound decisive and authoritative.

The same is true of persuasive writing. Avoid hedging your language. Present your best argument and refrain from taking shots at your own logic — your opponents will do that enough for the both of you.

2. Focus on the issues
These days, debates can descend into glorified name-calling and ad-hominem attacks. But if you look at the people who do well, they’re usually the ones who focus on the issues — not the personal attacks. Attacking your opponent’s character does little to win an audience over — and even less to win an argument.

This is especially true in writing. The goal of persuasive prose is to get people who don’t agree with you to change their minds. Those people will be the first to disengage once you start openly insulting the people or ideas they support.

3. Be short and to the point
There’s a reason that debaters are given limited time to speak. No one wants to hear a 5 minute answer to a simple yes or no question.

In the same way, no one wants to read a 20-page treatise when a single sentence or paragraph would suffice. Instead, keep it brief. Make your point, support it, and restate it.

As a persuasive writer, you should strive to make your point in as few words as possible.

Spencer Caton