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The use of appeals to reasons, values, beliefs, and emotions to convince a listener or reader to think or act in a particular way. Adjective: persuasive.

Aristotle defined rhetoric as the "ability to discover the available means of persuasion" in each of the three kinds of oratory: deliberative, judicial, and epideictic.

See also:


From the Latin, "to persuade"

Examples and Observations:

  • "Character [ethos] may almost be called the most effective means of persuasion."
    (Aristotle, Rhetoric)

  • "Oral delivery aims at persuasion and making the listener believe he has been converted. Few persons are capable of being convinced; the majority allow themselves to be persuaded."
    (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

  • "When we try to persuade, we use the arguments, images, and emotions most likely to appeal to the particular audience in front of us. Rhetoricians who teach the art of persuasion have always instructed their students to treat different audiences differently, to study their distinctive and peculiar commitments, sentiments, and beliefs."
    (Bryan Garsten, Saving Persuasion: A Defense of Rhetoric and Judgment. Harvard Univ. Press, 2006)

  • "[F]or the purposes of persuasion the art of speaking relies wholly on three things: the proof of our allegations, the winning of our hearers' favors, and the rousing of their feelings to whatever impulse our case may require."
    (Cicero, De Oratore)

  • "[I]n a republican nation, whose citizens are to be led by reason and persuasion, and not by force, the art of reasoning becomes of first importance."
    (Thomas Jefferson, 1824. Quoted by James L. Golden and Alan L. Golden in Thomas Jefferson and the Rhetoric of Virtue. Rowman & Littlefield, 2002)

  • "There is nothing in the world like a persuasive speech to fuddle the mental apparatus and upset the convictions and debauch the emotions of an audience not practiced in the tricks and delusions of oratory."
    (Mark Twain, "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg." Harper's Monthly, Dec. 1899)

  • "Men are not governed by justice, but by law or persuasion. When they refuse to be governed by law or persuasion, they have to be governed by force or fraud, or both."
    (Lord Summerhays in Misalliance by George Bernard Shaw, 1910)

  • "He who wants to persuade should put his trust not in the right argument, but in the right word. The power of sound has always been greater than the power of sense."
    (Joseph Conrad, "A Familiar Preface." The Collected Works of Joseph Conrad)

  • "The real persuaders are our appetites, our fears and above all our vanity. The skillful propagandist stirs and coaches these internal persuaders."
    (attributed to Eric Hoffer)

  • "If you're trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think. We try to write in the vernacular."
    (David Ogilvy, Confessions of an Advertising Man, 1963)

  • "The best way to persuade people is with your ears--by listening to them."
    (attributed to Dean Rusk)
Pronunciation: pur-ZWAY-shun
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