Persuasive writing means show me, don’t tell me.

Persuasive people tell stories about other people. They don’t lecture you. They let you decide for yourself.

Consider these openings.

  1. Sally was profoundly sad.
  2. Sally cried in her car for a half an hour before blowing her nose. She looked into her rearview mirror, using the same fast-food napkin she used on her nose, she wiped away the mascara encrusted into the corner of her eyes.

Which narrative has more power?

Persuasive writers engage with the subject on a human level so that readers see what that person is feeling. Rather than clobbering readers with opinions, they rely on observation.

When we share stories of real people, we gain impact and power over the issues we care about.

So how does this tactical writing work in the real world? We respond to pictures first. More than 95 percent of all communication is done visually first. Pictures have more power than words. When you write, paint pictures.

Let’s look at my dogs. My dog Brinx is a German Shepherd rescue from working lines. My dog Mut (pronounced “moot” – it’s German for “courage”) was purchased from a breeder. Originally, I intended to show him in obedience.

Both dogs are working dogs. Both have had extensive obedience training. Each dog differs in temperament and drive. Brinx is a working dog. Mut is a family dog. Rather than say it, I’m going to show you.

BrinxBrinx is a slim, brown-sable German Shepherd with a big head and fierce eyes. I decided to keep him at 18 months after housing him as foster dog because he was so brilliant to watch in action. He is athletic with high drive and loves to swim. If I chuck a rubber ball into the whitecaps of Cannon Beach, Brinx will bound into the ocean head first to retrieve the ball at least 50 times. We’ve counted his retrieves on the beach. He gets anxious at feeding time and wolfs down his food and requires a special dish to slow down his feeding. He paces the house if he has not had at least a one-hour walk. He follows me around the house and lays where I sit or stand. He jumps off my bed and goes to his dog bed when he hears my husband’s footsteps coming toward the bedroom. He respects his place in the pack inside the house. Outside the house, he fence-fights and barks at the neighbor dog. The hair on his back is raised when he does it. He whines when the cat runs down the hall because he knows he’s forbidden to chase her when she does it. It kills him to just have to watch. He quietly lays where you are and waits to be invited onto the bed or couch. He never assumes it’s his furniture. When you take Brinx for a walk, he will be in the lead, struggling to get there faster. I’ve been told by other people that Brinx is scary looking. People have stopped me on the street to ask me if he is a wolf or wolf-hybrid. People also often ask me if he’s a police dog. Brinx is not that interested in other people and more interested in playing hard with other dogs. I don’t go to dog parks because Brinx is too rough and dominant when he plays with other dogs. The other dogs don’t like Brinx. Brinx loves the pool in the backyard and plants his front feet in the pool after a long walk or a hot day. He would spend the day fetching rubber duckies out of the backyard pool if you asked him. He never turns down a chance to retrieve a stick, a ball, a bone or a toy. He’s always ready to go.

MutMut is a beefy, black-and-tan German Shepherd. I’ve had him since he was a puppy. He has thick hair and an undercoat like a bear and a big beautiful head with dark black eyes. People stop me on the street every day to tell me how beautiful Mut is. Mut always stops to return the favor, showering strangers with equal love and admiration: “No, you’re beautiful!” he says with his licks and eyes. Mut has followed my son around the house since my son was about five. My son is now 15 and Mut still guards him like a pork chop. If my son wades into the ocean, Mut follows to retrieve him and stands in the shallows where Paul plays. If anybody in the house dares to play the piano, Mut howls along. If you’re on the couch, so is Mut. You might have to kick him off the couch to get the space. If you throw Mut the ball he will retrieve it, but he will likely grab it and tumble over onto his back with his feet in the air in the clover. He’s happy just watching Brinx retrieve. Like Ferdinand the bull, he’s happier laying in a field than running in it. If you are sitting in a chair, Mut will bury his head in your lap with the full force of his body. Mut likes to sprawl in the middle of the kitchen when we’re cooking dinner. When you take Mut for a walk, he’s always right by your side. Mut cuddles like a kitten in bed with me when I’m watching TV. Mut looks for kids to lick on our walks in the park and relishes pats on his head from strangers. Mut is possessive of his toys. Especially his giant stuffed hedgehog. He brings it to bed with him each night like a small child.

Brinx is a loyal working dog. Mut is a loyal family dog. But the bigger question is this, have I persuaded you?