Writing to Persuade, Writing to Inform

These are two separate ideas and require two different skillsets.

The psychologist and author Jonathan Haidt describes the human brain like a rider on top of an elephant. The rider takes information and makes sense of it. The rider is logical and rational.

The elephant, on the other hand, is completely driven by emotion. Primal urges, like hunger, sex, etc control the elephant.

If you picture the rider on the elephant in your mind, you can see how easily the elephant can control your direction.

Writing to inform is what a technical writer does. An engineer writing a very boring spec of some kind of mechanism, for instance. The language is dry but explicit. A person with some content knowledge can use the info to re-create the mechanism. An information writer speaks to the rider.

Writing to persuade, though, is different. Think of a copywriter. A copywriter’s goal is not to inform you about the product; it’s to get you to act (in most cases, buy). The copywriter will create a feeling, an emotional urge inside of you, moving the elephant so fast the rider’s head spins.

When you’re out there doing your thing – are you speaking to the rider or the elephant?