English 101

Assignment Guide: The Persuasive Letter

Assignment Prompt

For this assignment, you will be writing a letter compelling a friend or family member to change either a behavior or a belief with which you disagree. Choose your own topic, but for example, this letter could petition an enthusiastic neighbor to scale down his blinding Christmas decorations, an immature cousin to take a gap year between high school and college, a grandparent to vote to pass the new school district budget, a friend to stop drinking, or a spouse to reconcile with an estranged sibling. Because the letter will be written to an individual of your choosing, you must tailor your 
language and 
logic to the person to whom you are writing. 

Assignment-Specific Requirements:

Length: This assignment should be at least 750 words. 


Underline your 
thesis statement or the main 
claim of your letter.

Sources Needed: None required. 
Cite if used, following 
MLA guidelines

Page Formatting: Use 
MLA guidelines.  Also add an opening salutation (e.g. Dear Sarah, or Hello, Jon.), and a closing salutation & signature (Best regards, Tom or Sincerely, Liza)


 Requirements: See 
Formatting your Essay: MLA 8th Edition

Rhetorical Mode

The goal of 
persuasive writing is to get a 
reader (your 
audience) to agree with your 
point of view
Persuasive writing blends facts and emotion to convince the 
reader that the writer is right. This 
genre relies on opinion and emotion to a greater extent than argumentative writing, but in moving a 
reader, the successful persuasive letter also deploys logically sound 
argumentation and quite often researched support and fact. 

Rhetorical Considerations


The purpose of 
drafting a persuasive letter is to move your 
reader to agree with your 
point of view
Persuasion is single-minded; it is based on a conviction that a particular way of thinking or acting is the only way to go; all of the energy of the letter works toward this end. As a writer, you will present one side–your side. While an 
opposing point should be mentioned, it is only mentioned to be refuted or dismissed in the service of your position.  


Persuasive writing is almost always written with a particular 
audience in mind.  For this piece of writing, you will direct your persuasive letter to one person. Thus, your 
audience is not imagined, but rather very real, and that person and their characteristics will inform many of the choices you make as a writer. The persuasive letter requires constant negotiation with another person’s mind. At every phase of the writing process, as you prewrite, draft, and 
revise, this assignment will ask you to imagine and anticipate how your 
reader feels, responds, and thinks.   


This piece of writing will be presented using a letter format.  Thus, while you still need an 
style heading to format your work for submission, you will address your letter directly to your 
reader with a formal letter salutation. 

Five Features of a Persuasive Letter

Rhetorical Situation: 
Persuasive Writing vs. Argumentative Writing: 
Persuasive writing, in a way, is a form of argumentative writing; however, the goal of 
persuasive writing is to get a 
reader or group of readers to agree with you/your 
point of view on a particular topic, and the goal of argumentative writing is to get the 
reader to acknowledge that your side is valid and is worth considering. 
Persuasive writing blends facts with emotion in an attempt to convince the 
reader that the writer is “right,” while in argumentative writing, the writer cites relevant reasons, credible facts, and sufficient 
evidence in order to convince the 
reader to consider a particular perspective. The nuances are subtle but important to consider. (Later in this course you will be crafting an argument and will see the differences in these genres of writing with greater clarity. The letter makes balanced use of the three rhetorical appeals to persuade a 
reader to change a behavior or belief.  The three appeals, which come to us from that consequential deceased Greek, Aristotle, are: 




a writer’s or speaker’s credibility. In your letter, therefore, 
ethos is you, sort of. It’s the “you” that your writing transmits to your 
reader, the sum total of your 
tone and 
language choices, and also the values and intelligence that your writing communicates. Therefore, be vigilant with your work because 
ethos is the appeal that’s most immediately harmed by faulty word choices, punctuation mistakes, and lapses in 



the appeal to a 
reader’s emotions and values. Get your 
reader to feel. Play (in a non-evil way) on their emotions–their compassion, their fears, their sense of community.   



the appeal to a 
logic or reason.  Ensure your 
claims are logical, free of fallacies, and backed with specific support.  



Organize using argumentative structure: an 
introduction with a 
claim, body paragraphs that advance points in support of the 
claim, and a 



s: Uses 
transitional phrases to connect your ideas and move the 
reader forward smoothly and logically between sentences. 



: The letter’s appeals are personalized to the 
reader’s characteristics–their professional role and its obligations, as well as their values and emotions. 

Formal or Informal Writing? The 
tone of the letter depends upon the recipient and your relationship and also upon 
subject matter. The 
tone should enhance the letter’s persuasive efforts, not undermine them. Always strive for a respectful approach.

Mini-Lesson on 






Plan to use these appeals heavily throughout your Persuasive Letter.


This is an 
ethical appeal. It relies on your reliability and credibility as the author. 

· Includes 
reliable sources

· Is written from an unbiased perspective

· Shows the writer’s expertise through the presentation of careful insight and research


This is an 
emotional appeal. It relies on the construction of careful connection between the 
claims presented and the emotions of the readers. 

· Includes the writer’s values and beliefs

· Uses stories or examples that convey emotion

· Contains broader appeal and 


This is an appeal to 
logic and reason. It relies on facts and figures that can convince the 
reader of the 

· Relies on fact and opinion

· Focuses on reasonable 
claims and 
organization of ideas

· Only includes relevant material with a