CM220M1-1: Articulate what constitutes effective persuasive communication in personal, professional and academic contexts


CM220 – Developing Effective Persuasive
Communication Skills

The goal of CM220 is to develop the skills to use persuasive
communication strategies in a variety of contexts. In this course, you will focus on
developing persuasive skills in scholarly writing contexts by developing a clear
thesis, seeking research to understand and prove an issue, and presenting a
clear argument for change.

In this week’s readings, you will learn about academic writing standards
and how writing can be used to enhance understanding a topic of exploration.
This week’s readings will introduce you to the basics of the persuasive model
you will be using in College Composition II. These concepts will form a
foundation for the rest of your learning this term and help you prepare for this
week’s discussion.

Part 1: Really? Writing? Again? Yes. Writing. Again.

In the age of email and smartphones, you might already be writing more
often than speaking. However, when it comes to writing, there is no such thing as
too much practice. In fact, research shows that deliberate practice makes a
difference in how one performs. Practicing your ability to write effectively in
personal, professional, and academic contexts can strengthen your
communication skills and save you time and hassle in your studies, advance your
career, and promote better relationships and a higher quality of life. Honing your
writing is a good use of your scarce time.

A recent survey of employers conducted by the Association of American
Colleges and Universities found that 89 percent of employers say that colleges
and universities should place more emphasis on “the ability to effectively
communicate orally and in writing” (Hart Research Associates, 2010, p. 9). It was
the single-most favored skill in this survey. In addition, several of the other
valued skills are grounded in written communication: “Critical thinking and
analytical reasoning skills” (81%); “The ability to analyze and solve complex
problems” (75%); and “The ability to locate, organize, and evaluate information
from multiple sources” (68%). Employers seek out professionals who interact
frequently with others, can anticipate and solve complex problems, and
coordinate their work with others (Hart Research Associates, 2013, p. 2).

Formal written work is a critical part of online education. Creating and
sharing knowledge depends on writing. The assumption behind college
instruction is that students are the engine of learning and that most of the
significant learning happens while students are working on their own. Most online
college classes meet only once a week for seminar and do the bulk of their
collaboration in the discussion boards. Consequently, college instructors think of
class meetings as an opportunity to prepare you for the heavy lifting that you’ll be

doing on your own. Sometimes, that involves direct instruction (how to solve a
particular kind of problem or analyze a particular kind of text). More often,
professors want to provide you with material not contained in the reading or
facilitate active learning experiences based on what you read.

Professors assign papers because they want you to think rigorously and
deeply about important questions. To your instructors, writing is for working out
complex ideas, not just explaining them. They expect you to look deep into the
evidence, consider alternative explanations, and work out an original, insightful
argument that you care about. W riting a paper isn’t about getting the “right
answer” and adhering to basic conventions; it’s about joining an academic
conversation with something original and borne of rigorous thought. Virtually all
instructors shape their expectations for a final project around the idea that you’re
writing to learn, writing to develop, writing to think—not just writing to express.

So what do professors want?
When professors create writing assignments, they craft them to be

challenging to write and to advance your skills and knowledge.
Professors want to see that you’ve thought through a problem and taken

the time and effort to explain your thinking in precise language. These skills will
help you in college and in your everyday lives. Communication isn’t just about
expressing yourself; it’s about connecting with others. And it’s other people—in
families, couples, communities, and workplaces—that shape the most important
experiences of your life.

Hart Research Associates. (2010). Raising the bar: Employers’ views on college

learning in the wake of the economic downturn. The Association of
American Colleges and Universities.

Hart Research Associates. (2013). It takes more than a major: Employer
priorities for college learning and student success: Overview and key
findings. The Association of American Colleges and Universities.

(Reading from Guptill, A. (2016). Really? W riting? Again? Yes. W riting. Again.
Writing in college: From competence to excellence. (pp. 1-8). Open
SUNY Textbooks.)

Don’t get discouraged! On my first college paper, I got a very low grade. It felt like
a slap in the face because I was a straight-A student in high school. It’s just a fact
of life. Talk to your professor about what you could have done differently.
This will help you be better prepared for future papers.

–Kaethe Leonard


Part 2: Writing as self-exploration and self-enrichment
Often, when people think about writing, they think about the need to

communicate a message. Common communication models present a sender
(e.g., a writer) and a receiver (e.g., a reader) and different concepts of what
happens as information is shared. Sometimes, the purpose for writing isn’t about
sending information to some other receiver or reader. Sometimes, your purpose
for writing might simply be to explore an idea or even just to figure out what you
think. The author Flannery O’Connor summed up this need by saying, “I write
because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” If you take some time to
think about it, this probably doesn’t come as a big surprise. Just like students,
many people write all kinds of things solely for themselves: lists, goals, notes,
journals, and more.

The act of writing has the power to help you make connections between
yourself and the world. W riting can help you establish your own experiences and
ideas in relation to the experiences and ideas of others. In short, it can help you
figure out what you think about things and help you to situate those thoughts in
relation the world and among the multitude of opinions and ideas that exist within
it. That’s a powerful tool!


“Sand Butterfly” by Garry Knight is licensed under CC BY 2.0


You might already be sensing that the process of self-exploration
described above is a creative one. W riting your observations and thoughts and
how they relate to other observations and thoughts can ignite your imagination
and expand the possibilities of what you can accomplish—personally,
academically, professionally, and creatively. It can also help you develop and
shape those ideas in a way that makes them useful, entertaining, and thought-
provoking for others.

Comprehension and Academic Performance
The previous paragraphs have already discussed the potential for writing

to help you think, so it also should come as no surprise that it’s a wonderful tool
to help you learn. At some point in your experience as a student, you may have
noticed that you understand a concept better once you’ve used it or worked with
it. W e learn more about how to build a birdhouse by actually building one than
we do by reading a book about how to build one. The book is helpful, but we
need to work with the materials and the tools to help us understand the process.

One of the reasons that experiencing or working with a concept helps you
understand and remember it is that experience requires action. Have you ever
read a chapter or two in a textbook only to ask yourself a few hours later (or even
a few minutes later), “W hat did I just read?” The consumption of media and
information can be a passive experience. W e read. W e watch. W e listen. It takes
effort to keep our brains engaged in a passive experience. Moreover, educational
materials usually lack the level of excitement of our favorite action movie
franchise or the allure of cute animal videos on YouTube. It’s easy for our
entertainment-hungry brains to check out and stop absorbing the meaning of
what we’re reading. If we can experience a subject in multiple ways, with
increasing levels of engagement, we are more likely to remember what we’re
trying to learn. More importantly, beyond simply remembering it, it will allow you
to understand its relevance to our own lives.

Writing about what you’re learning can expand your understanding of a
topic by helping you make connections between that topic and other things that
you already understand or to other things that you’re learning about. You can use
writing to help you organize complex topics, to pick out main ideas, and to help
you remember important concepts. If you can say it in your own words, you can
move beyond merely knowing something to comprehending it. Part of this
process of understanding involves extending our usual thoughts and reactions to
a topic to gain new thoughts and new perspectives. Part of the process of
academic writing (or even personal writing) involves wrestling with new or
contradictory ideas. And even if right now you’re mostly writing for your teachers,
as your academic and professional experience broadens, through writing, you
can participate effectively in your academic or professional community.

Effective Communication and Persuasion
Whether for the benefit of your academic or professional life or even for

your personal life, writing is an effective tool to help you to be understood and to
influence others. Much of what we’ve talked about so far regarding the value of
writing has been about its ability to help you understand yourself and to help you


understand the world. But writing also has the power to help others to understand
your message.

As we’ve already stated in discussing its creative potential, writing gives
you a voice. W riting can help you to state your position and support it in a way
that might persuade others not only to understand your perspective, values, and
beliefs but also to adopt them. And when you’re unsure about something, you
can even use writing as a method for self-persuasion, to help you make up your
mind about an important topic.

From resumes to term papers to work-related documents to journaling and
self-exploration, writing is an important and powerful tool to have at the ready.
This text can help you sharpen that tool and to use it to the best of your ability.

(Reading from Babin, M., Burnell, C., Pesznecker, N.R., & W ood, J. (2017). The
word on college reading and writing.

Reading – Part 3 – The Rhetorical Situation in College Composition II

In this class, you will explore persuasion through the theoretical lens of
rhetoric, which is the art of persuasion. Rhetoric helps us to advocate for the
things that we need and value. It also influences how we think and see the world.
W e engage in a persuasive interaction any time we read a billboard, watch a
commercial, or participate in an election cycle. In those circumstances, we are
members of the audience, receiving and digesting a message. At other times, we
are the speakers and we are actively seeking to influence an audience.

Sometimes the stakes for an argument are low, like the daily arguments
with our children about doing their homework or trying to convince a spouse to

W e live in a world filled with language. Language imparts identity, meaning,
and perspective to our human community. W riters are either polluters or part
of the cleanup team. Just as the language of power and greed has the
potential to destroy us, the language of reason and empathy has the power
to save us.
Writers can inspire a kinder, fairer, more beautiful world, or incite

selfishness, stereotyping, and violence. W riters can unite people or divide

Change writers hope that readers will join them in what Charles Johnson calls
‘an invitation to struggle.’ W hereas writers of propaganda encourage readers
to accept certain answers, writers who want to transform their readers
encourage the asking of questions. Propaganda invites passive agreement;
change writing invites original thought, open heartedness, and engagement.
Change writers trust that readers can handle multiple points of view,
contradictions, unresolved questions, and nuance. If, as André Gide wrote,


load the dishwasher. At other times, the stakes can be high. W e may need to
convince a judge that we should have primary custody of our children or
convince a school to provide disability accommodations for our child. W e may
need to convince an aging parent to move closer so that we can support them
better or prove that we are the best candidate for a job.

This term, you will use persuasive writing to practice presenting ethical,
carefully considered, logical arguments that advocate for a change in your
community. You will identify a community problem, critically examine that
problem, and then propose the best possible solution to address that problem.
Students who have recently moved, are deployed, or feel disconnected from the
town they live in sometimes worry about how they will write about a community
issue. W ith that in mind, we will define community loosely. W hile we often think of
our physical community first, like the town, county, state, and country that we live
in, a community can also be understood as a group of people with shared values,
beliefs, priorities, or even interests. In a work community, everybody collaborates
to advance the mission of the company. In a sporting community, the shared
value can be the success of a team. In a spiritual community, members connect
around shared beliefs. In our learning community, we share the goal of
advancing understanding, regardless of what discipline we want to get a degree

Shared values are often what help to define a community; however, within
any community, one can expect to find both common ground and areas of
disagreement. Take this class as an example of a specific community. In the
CM220 learning community, most students and the instructor can agree that
writing has value. Students share the common goal of working toward a degree.
However, some students may feel like writing is going to be minimal in their
career whereas other students believe writing will be essential. The points of
disagreement give rise to a persuasive opportunity–the opportunity to prove why
students should care about persuasive writing.

When a writer needs to enter a persuasive conversation, she can start by
considering the rhetorical situation, which has five key elements: the text, writer,
audience, purpose, and context. Let’s look at your first reading of the term,
“Really? W riting? Again? Yes. W riting. Again.” by Guptill (2016) through the lens
of the rhetorical situation. Guptill’s (2016) chapter is attempting to convince
students that persuasive writing is important in a variety of contexts.

Guptill is the writer or the one who has to convince students that the work
is valuable and relevant. Students are the audience. To effectively engage
students, Guptill has to understand their priorities and provide information that
feels practical and relevant to the student both now and in their future roles as
engaged citizens, family members, and professionals. She does this by citing a
survey that indicates that 89% of employers want to see “more” emphasis on
effective communication (Association of American College and Universities as
cited in Guptill, 2016), talking about the pay-off students will experience from
developing writing skills, and explaining how writing can help students
demonstrate their knowledge in college courses. The text is a book chapter. The
purpose is to motivate students to take the course seriously and empower


students by giving them information that will help them strengthen their writing
skills. Finally, the context is the classroom.

What we just reviewed gives us a surface understanding of the rhetorical
situation. Let’s drill down into this more and focus on audience. W hen we
consider audiences, we can examine them at a group or individual level.
Sometimes we have a lot of knowledge about the priorities of our audience and
sometimes, especially in academic exercises, we have to rely on our

Each audience member shows up with a wealth of experience that is
influenced by his background, culture, choices, and priorities. W e refer to each
individual’s unique story and the perspectives that arise from that story as
situated knowledge. You carry situated knowledge too and your situated
knowledge can be explored by seeking the story-behind-the-story in any given
situation. W hen we bring each individual perspective together, we have a rich
variety of experiences and perspectives that can be used to create a shared
understanding of an issue. This range of situated knowledge on a topic can be
used to gain a complex understanding of the issue, possible solutions, and the
implications of those solutions.

Let’s use an imagined audience to get a sense of how situated knowledge
and priorities can influence the way students think and what the instructor must
consider when trying to persuade students of the value of persuasive writing.
John, Eric, and Alice are members of the CM220 writing community. Each brings
their own situated knowledge to the work and ideas in the class. Their situated
knowledge influences how they think about the course, what their priorities are,
and what they will value most as they complete the course.

John is here to study business because he wants to open a restaurant
when he graduates. John believes that he will have to write to finish his degree,
but his requirements for writing will be limited once he becomes a restaurant
owner. He’s not looking forward to the course.

Eric is studying nursing and wants to work as a nurse and help patients
with heart disease. He believes that he will have to do a lot of writing because he
will have to document information about each patient and communicate that
information clearly. He thinks most of his writing will be informative, so he is a bit
skeptical about the relevance of persuasive writing to his career.

Alice wants to become a crime scene investigator when she graduates.
She believes that she will have to use writing extensively to illustrate critical
elements of a crime scene. She has heard that her reports could be used in court
and she could be asked to testify to defend her conclusions, so she is especially
interested in learning how to write effectively and convincingly.

To persuade John, Eric, and Alice that College Composition II will be
beneficial in the long run, the instructor needs to figure out the story-behind-the-
story that influences how they think about writing. The story-behind-the-story can
help us tap into that person’s situated knowledge. One of the best ways to find
out the story-behind-the-story is to start with key questions. W hat does the
teacher need to learn to understand each community stakeholder’s perspective
on the issue of writing? W hat is their background in writing? How have those


experiences shaped how they think about writing? Once she has that
information, she can think about how persuasive communication is relevant to
each student.

What would create a need for persuasive communication for John? Say
John opens a taco restaurant. He may want to create a commercial that
motivates people to try it. John can apply the rhetorical situation to make sure the
money he spends on advertising is well spent. His rhetorical text will be a
commercial, which means he can use music, actors, and written words to convey
his message. Next, he has to think about his role as the writer. This is a brand
new restaurant, so he can’t rely on reviews and word-of-mouth. He has to find
some way to entice people to his restaurant based on novelty and what his
restaurant adds to the community. His purpose will be to showcase the
restaurant and get new patrons. As he thinks about purpose, he needs to
consider his audience. Does this audience want something new or exotic?
These considerations will influence what he chooses to showcase in his
commercial. Finally, he thinks about the context. W hat does the community
already have and what does it want? How can his commercial demonstrate that
this restaurant fits well with the community it is situated in?

Let’s turn to Eric. He has to convince a patient to follow a doctor’s
recommendation. Eric works in a cardiac ward at a hospital and has been
counseling Elsa, who recently had a heart attack. Elsa eats a lot of highly
processed foods and doesn’t exercise. She feels overwhelmed about the idea of
completely changing her diet and starting an exercise regimen. Eric somehow
has to motivate her to make these necessary changes. Eric is the writer and his
text is a conversation. Elsa is the audience. Eric’s purpose is to convince her
that the difficulty of making these changes and going through the transition to a
new lifestyle is in Elsa’s best interest. To convince Elsa, Eric needs to find the
story behind Elsa’s resistance to change. He can ask her questions to better
understand her relationship with food. Knowing this will empower Eric to provide
her information that addresses that backstory. If he discovers that food is a major
source of comfort for her, he may need to recommend non-food based comfort
tools to replace food. Alternatively, he may offer resources and recipe sites that
follow the dietary guidelines while still maintaining some of the comfort food
features, like replacing the deep fryer with an air-fryer. Eric needs to get to know
his patient and understand the resistance that this patient is going to raise before
he can advocate for a solution. The context may be to Eric’s benefit because he
is talking with her in a hospital ward, which demonstrates the urgency of her
health condition.

Finally, let’s consider Alice, who has become a Crime Scene Investigator
and has to appear in court to provide evidence in a trial for a crime that she
helped to investigate. Her conclusions are being used in the prosecution of a
crime. The text is her testimony and the documents she wrote in the initial
investigation. Alice is the writer. Her audience is the judge and jury, but she will
be questioned by a defense attorney and a prosecutor who may prove to be one
of the toughest audiences. The defense attorney’s job is to undermine her
investigative conclusions, so she has to present herself as credible, careful, and


accurate. Her purpose is to provide evidence that convinces the jury that her
conclusions were accurate and valid. The context will largely be established by
the attorneys and the information they present before and after her testimony.

As you can see, each persuasive situation starts with a need to
communicate. Once the need to persuade is established, you can use the
rhetorical situation to figure out how to proceed. The participants (both writer and
audience), the environment (context), the purpose of the communication, and the
best method of communication (text) work together to ensure a successful

In this class, you will practice using the rhetorical model to advocate for a
change in your community. You will be the agent for a positive change. In the
process, you will deepen your understanding of a community issue and hopefully
gain new insights. As you can see from the scenarios above, the solution is often
not the first one that we thought of. John may have wanted to start by opening a
sushi restaurant, but when he surveyed community members and looked at what
already existed in the community, he realized there was no demand, so he
adjusted his ideas and decided to open a taco restaurant. Eric wanted Elsa to
shift to a Mediterranean diet, but after he talked with her, he realized that her
dietary changes would have to be more gradual, and she may need a nutritionist
to work with her directly as she makes the changes. By considering her story-
behind-the-story, he was able to come up with a solution that was feasible for
both of them. This highlights the negotiation involved in effective persuasion. In
Alice’s case, negotiation may be detrimental. She has to appear certain and
clear. Alice may have a lot of highly specialized knowledge and terms to explain
her ideas, but she needs the information to be meaningful to a jury that has little
understanding of her work. As a result, she has to figure out how to explain it in
layman’s terms. By doing so, she deepens her understanding of the scientific
process that she uses and the limitations that she needs to consider when
drawing conclusions.

As you can see, persuasive communication is less about winning than it is
about discovery. W hile we may have a very clear goal in mind, we have to be
open to learning new information and seeing things in a new light. We have to
ask critical questions to get to the story-behind-the-story and to expose the areas
of disagreement. W e need to seek out perspectives that challenge our own so
that we can round out our understanding of an issue and increase the
effectiveness of our argument.

Guptill, A. (2016). Really? W riting? Again? Yes. W riting. Again. Writing in college:

From competence to excellence. (pp. 1-8). Open SUNY Textbooks.

Pipher, M. (2006). Writing to change the world. Riverhead Press.


The Ethics of Persuasive Writing

This week’s readings introduce you to the rhetorical lens that we will use
to explore persuasive communication this term. In the first reading, you will read
about the concepts of community literacy and intercultural rhetoric through Linda
Flower’s “Rhetoric of Community Engagement.” The second and third readings
focus on the expectations for college writing and critical reading skills. These will
help you to interpret the expectations of any assignment that you receive and
start critically analyzing information that you encounter in this class, other
classes, at work, and in the community.

Linda Flower’s Rhetoric of Community Engagement

Persuasive communication often takes place in the context of a specific
community rather than just in face-to-face interactions between two people.
When advocating for a community-level change, we must establish an
understanding of the community. To do this, we must consider the many different
stakeholders and how the issue affects each of them in unique ways. Situated
knowledge is the treasure trove of experience and the meaning made from
those experiences. It shapes how each community member thinks about an
issue and their hopes and fears in relation to the issue.

The effort to understand and address an issue across community
differences has given rise to a specific persuasive framework created by Linda
Flower (2003) and referred to as intercultural rhetoric. The goal of intercultural
rhetoric is to bring forth all voices in the community, regardless of education or
training in persuasive communication, so that each has a place at the table in the
effort to solve a problem. This means that intercultural rhetors are not easily

Community literacy is a form of literate action that allows:
Everyday people within the urban community to take agency in their lives

and for their community;
Everyday people from places of privilege to participate in this struggle for

understanding social justice.
Community literacy depends on the social ethic and strategic practice of
intercultural rhetoric to:

Draw out the voices of the silenced and the expertise of marginalized

Draw people normally separated by difference into new roles as partners
in inquiry;

Recognize and use difference in the service of discovery and change,
transforming rather than erasing its conflicts and contradictions.

Community literacy is, in short, a working hypothesis about how we might
construct a community that supports dialogue across difference.

–Linda Flower (2008).


satisfied with the surface understanding of an issue. Instead, they are actively
engaged in uncovering the …

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