Can I Change Your Mind?: The Craft and Art of Persuasive Writing by Lindsay Camp

Can I Change Your Mind?: The Craft and Art of Persuasive WritingRating:

Answer: Not really.

I’ve wanted to brush up on my persuasive writings skills for a while as it’s something I’ve been using quite a bit in recent months and I always failed that part of my English language studies at school. I picked two books: this one (obtained from the library) and Persuasive Writing: How to Harness the Power of Words (which I bought). I’m glad I made this decision.

Can I Change Your Mind? isn’t as useful as I was hoping, whereas quickly flicking through my other choice saw me finding some very clear and immediately handy tips. Of the four sections, the first is the worst. The layout and formatting didn’t help which is notably better in Persuasive Writing. Camp rambles so I skimmed, proving him right that ‘the reader never reads from start to finish’, but helpfully, someone who’d read this book previously had underlined the key points in pencil. Defacing a book is wrong, but in this case, acceptable.

‘Understanding the reader’ is the best chapter of Section One, but although Camp says we shouldn’t assume our reader is an idiot, only lacking knowledge, he appears to treat his readers as such because most of what he advises is exceedingly obvious.

The main points to take away are:

  • Remember (what’s appropriate to) the Reader and the (intended) Result
  • Is this useful / relevant to the reader?
  • Is it interesting?
  • Is it enjoyable?
  • Will it encourage a favourable Response?
  • Is it Rewarding to the reader? Is it worth reading?

Section Two is comprised of a 61-page A-Z of tips which is the most useful part of the book e.g. adjectives, alliterations, (being) boring, etc.

Badly Behaving Author sensitivities

For me, true creative writing – Writing as Art, if you like – comes from a completely different rules apply. Ad the most important of these, I believe, is that genuine artists should be driven by self-expression.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that they don’t care about how people respond to their work. But what it does mean is that they can never let this dictate to them. Artists must always give absolute priority to finding the best possible way of giving shape and substance to their own vision; regardless of whether that makes it more or less ‘accessible’ to the general public; easier or harder to understand. A real creative writer would never change a single comma just to please the reader.

As persuasive writers, on the other hand, we’re perfectly happy to tweak our punctuation – and do much more besides – if it makes our reader more likely to respond in the way we want. [Chapter 1, underlining mine]

What?! Why are authors of fiction exempt from being classified as persuasive writers? They have to convince readers to finish their story by making it interesting and enjoyable, and generally worth reading. If you want a favourable response from your potential readers, you have to cater to their tastes. If you don’t, then you can’t complain when few enjoy your work, as Badly Behaving authors often do, with little respect to their reputations.

Therefore, all BBAs should read Section Three, Chapter 5 for how to handle feedback:

  1. Don’t panic
  2. Don’t take it personally
  3. Don’t get pissed off
  4. Be positive – because some feedback helps


Something that really good persuasive writers never stop doing. [Section Two]

Again, authors of fiction are persuasive writers. Also, this book could’ve been better edited based on the grammar and syntax. What a coincidence.

So while Camp is chatty, and therefore the opposite of concise, there are some helpful tips to be had, but I wouldn’t buy this; borrow it, like I did.

Favourite quote:

Think of wit as verbal viagra: a little something that can spice up the relationship between reader and writer.

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