Use reader POV for persuasive writing

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It’s political campaign season where I live. This week I received leaflets from two rival candidates in the same party. Both leaflets told me about the candidates and were red with glossy photos. That’s where the similarity ended.

The male candidate’s leaflet was written from his point of view. It told me about his career, his character and what he hoped to achieve if elected. The words “I” and “my” were scattered throughout the text.

The female candidate’s leaflet read like the product of a professional copywriter. It  addressed the reader as “you.” It was arranged into sections about things that readers worry about. e.g. education, hospitals and crime. The leaflet was written from the reader’s point of view.

Writing from the reader’s point of view is a way to connect with the reader. People are more interested in themselves than in reading about strangers. That’s why copywriters so frequently use the reader’s pov.

The female candidate’s leaflet was persuasive. The male candidate’s leaflet was a little dull. He clearly cared about helping others but the style of writing put all the focus on him. In persuasive writing the reader should be the centre of attention.

Reader’s point of view checklist

  • Is the reader directly addressed as “you”?
  • Does the content focus on the reader’s interests and concerns?
  • Is the writing style appropriate for who the reader is? i.e. The target reader

You’re not writing from the reader’s pov when you say too much about the insider concerns of yourself or your organisation. You’re not considering the reader when you use language that only organisation insiders understand.

Writer’s point of view checklist

  • Do the words “I”, “me”, “we” or “our” occur frequently in the text?
  • Does the content focus on the interests and concerns of the writer or the organisation?
  • Is the writing style rooted in the writer’s own background or the internal culture of the organisation?

Compare these two passages. Which one is likely to persuade the reader to attend St Olaf’s church?

Reader’s point of view

You’ll find a warm welcome at St Olaf’s this winter. The church’s new central heating system and heated pews guarantee your comfort on Sunday mornings. If you get too warm, you can cool off in the church swimming pool after the service.

Organisation’s point of view

After many years of struggle and significant unpaid hard work, the church council at St Olaf’s successfully raised the money needed to install central heating and heated seats. Our first contractor let us down but we were so pleased with the second one we bought him a football season ticket to say thank you. We had some debate about whether a pool would be appropriate, but our minister said we could use it for baptisms. It took 3 years to raise enough money for the pool.

In the second passage, the benefits offered by St Olaf’s to the reader are almost drowned out by the church council’s own story.  The tale of the council’s tribulations does nothing to convince the reader that Sunday mornings might be fun.

So, to sum up. Copywriters use reader’s pov to connect with readers. By focusing on the reader’s concerns, writers are able to clearly communicate that something is beneficial to the reader.

Benefits to readers are not so clearly outlined when writing focuses on the writer or their organisation.

This blog is aimed at authors who market their own self-published books. Many authors are reluctant to market online because they are private people who dislike talking about themselves.

Writing from the reader’s pov is a way for authors to communicate without drawing attention to themselves.   

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