Persuasive Speaking

What is Persuasive Speaking?

Our family and friend often persuade us, why? Creative Commons photo from


Persuasive speakers must preserve the “choice” of the audience members, but seek to “change” their thoughts and/or actions. Persuaders make propositions of  “fact,” “value” and “policy.” As critical thinkers, we need to better understand that, most often, no one “made me do it.” We have choices as consumers, students, employees, voters, community members, taxpayers, and even friends, lovers and family members. Persuasive messages are so pervasive, often they go unnoticed until we question, “What!? Why did I do that!?” The Persuasive Unit will explore how reasoning and critical thinking, language and linguistic choice, as well as persuasive form, intersect in our rhetorical choices as public speakers.


Using critical thinking on everyday decisions takes you beyond “just an assignment” when learning logical fallacies. You can shout, “FAKE NEWS!” and know why. Creative Commons photo from

…Applying Critical Thinking to Choices

Chapter 10 asks us to, “understand the power of language to define our world and our relationship to the world” as well as to choose language that positively impacts the ability to inform and persuade; creates a clear and vivid message; is ethical and accurate to enhance your speaker’s credibility (Ramsey, 2012, p. 10-1). Again, as we did in previous units, we see Aristotle’s argument of ethical rhetoric here. You might not have thought as seriously about the choices you make as you use one word and not another. Public speakers must consider the long-term impact of the verbal message. Just like the cliche asks, “would you want your grandmother to read this?” Thinking more clearly about rhetorical choices one can make with language in a speech can unlock the power of words in your own speech. Lately conversations of “civility” center upon the manner of how we interact with one another. Must we respect someone with whom we radically disagree and be willing to allow, even defend, their right to state their opinion? We can see that civil discussion and democracy are inextricably intertwined. Moreover, thinking about “how sticks and stones don’t break our bones, and words can never hurt us” can help us reframe the messages we use — not to be “PC” (politically correct), but to be effective in adapting a message to a specific audience made up of complex individuals.


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The Public Speaking Resource Project Copyright © 2018 by Lori Halverson-Wente and Mark Halverson-Wente is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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