Can You Write Persuasively?

I’ve been thinking about writing persuasively this week. There are many times in life when you want to write persuasively, and it pays to know how do it. Sometimes, nothing more than a refund is at stake, but at other times, something much more important may be riding on your ability to persuade someone else to see your point of view.

Persuasive writing has been on my mind lately as I’ve read about the case of Melissa Busekros, a 15-year-old German girl, who has been taken from her family, primarily because the family has chosen to homeschool their six children. People around the world are writing to the German government in protest, as this act seems to violate Germany’s own determination, via ratification of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (article 26/3, passed May 1948), that it is a primary right and responsibility of parents to determine the education of their children. You can read more about the story at Netzwerk Bildungfreiheit and at the website of the International Human Rights Group.

The following letter, written to the Minister of Bavaria, about the case was forwarded to me, and I’d like to point out a few elements that the writer has included in an effort to make the letter more relevant and compelling to the reader.

  • Identification of the issue.
  • Frank expression of personal reaction.
  • Demonstration of knowledge about and appreciation for Germany.
  • Explanation of his concern, both for the young lady and for the German state, about the issue.
  • Historical references that lend credence to his concern.
  • Comparison of American/German policies toward homeschooling, with brief reference to the fruit of those policies.
  • Courteous but firm tone throughout.

Excerpt begins:

I was shocked and angered when I learned of the unjust and inhumane treatment of Melissa Busekros and her family.

I was homeschooled through high school, started college at 16 and graduated at 20 with a BA in History. As a historian, I am very familiar with German history. I have always tended to favor Germany, as I like her people, her culture and her language. German is the foreign language that I took in college, and almost half of my ancestry is German.

I admire the German people for their efficiency and organizational ability. These characteristics have done much to make Germany the greatest economic power in Europe and one of the pillars of capitalism in the world today. However I firmly believe that all systems must serve the people. An institution that denies human rights and refuses to allow for some degree of freedom of choice is a bad system.

Unfortunately, this incident has reminded me of the “educational reforms” instigated by the NSDAP during the 1930’s. Though it is interesting to note that even the Nazi’s did not forcibly enroll “good Germans” into their systems until relatively late. I also am unpleasantly reminded that Munich was the birthplace of and the earliest stronghold of the NSDAP.

After hearing of the most recent developments in the Busekros case, I am even more outraged. To move this young girl to an undisclosed location is very similar to the way governments treat spies and terrorists. How ironic that Germany is among those who criticize the US for secret CIA detention facilities, as it is all the while treating innocent children is such a way.

America has issues of its own to address, but in the area of homeschooling, it has remained true to principles of liberty and self-determination. Even though many states are not fans of homeschooling, the law and constitution protect our rights as citizens and allows us the choice. Repeated testing has shown that homeschooling works, and is a viable, legitimate choice for education.

In Germany, however, it seems that the response of the government to the homeschooling movement does much to justify why the movement exists. If a government cannot be trusted to provide for the needs of and protect the rights of citizens; that government is not fulfilling its duty. It is an indictment of the German government that it does not allow its citizens an alternative method of education, especially one so effective.

The rest of the world has had enough of arbitrary authoritarian rule. If Germany wishes to remain respected in the world community, her leaders need to heed the cry of wisdom and stop this trend toward authoritarian government.

I hope and pray for a favorable outcome to this situation, including the speedy release of Miss Busekros to her family, and an immediate stop to the persecution of homeschool families. I sincerely desire that cordial relations between my country and your country can be maintained and strengthened.


[Excerpt ends.]

If I had written the letter, I may have included other elements, and perhaps left out a few things. The basic ingredients of a persuasive letter are in place, though. If you’d like to read more samples of persuasive writing, you may do so here (though some of these are in German). You’ll notice that there many ways of expressing a similar idea, usually reflecting the writer’s personalilty and background, but many of the basic elements are the same across the board.

It’s important to know how to write persuasively, as there are times when “An event has happened, upon which it is difficult to speak, and impossible to be silent” (Edmund Burke).

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice,

but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

(Elie Wiesel)

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