USING EVIDENCE TO PROVE YOUR POINT IN BUSINESS WRITING
Evidence is a term commonly used to describe the supporting material in persuasive writing. Evidence gives an objective foundation to your arguments, and makes your writing more than a mere collection of personal opinions or prejudices. Evidence includes:
All are used to convince readers to accept the arguments and recommendations the writer is presenting.
Because you are asking your readers to take a risk when you attempt to persuade them, audiences will demand support for your assertions. Search for evidence that is relevant and timely and that comes from sources your audience will respect and accept.
A few notes about evidence
Proofs are interpretations drawn from evidence that provide readers with good reasons for changing an attitude or following a course of conduct or action. Good reasons are concerned with showing an audience that something is admirable, desirable, or obligatory.
Most importantly, audiences evaluate good reasons in terms of their:
Proofs that produce good reasons have been studied since the time of Aristotle. He suggested in his book The Rhetoric, written in the fourth century B.C., that there are three types of proof:
More recent scholars have added one other form of proof:
In most ethical and effective persuasive efforts, particularly in a business setting, logos usually predominates. Ethos and pathos can be important supporting players; pathos is the least used in business.
Let's take a brief look at how proof is structuredin this case, using logical evidence.
Another way of describing this logical proof was designed by Stephen Toulmin. (Stephen Toulmin.The Uses of Argument. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1958.) His design is now the most common deductive model.
In everyday life, the first part of the argument to emerge is frequently the claim we wish to make.
Statement/Premise: "Better communication will improve our recruiting record."
When the reader is already on our side, all we have to do is state the claim. But when the reader resists the claim, we must support it with evidence.
Evidence: "We are losing recruits to other schools." (data, data, data)
Just providing evidence may not be enough in difficult situations. The reader has to make a leap of generalization to see the relationship between the evidence and the claim. If the reader doesn't see the relationshipdoesn't know it, agree with it, or happen to think of it at the momenthe or she won't be convinced. Adding more evidence won't help. Instead, we need to spell out the general principle or bridge, which authorizes making the step between the evidence and the claim.
Bridge: "Recruits are more likely to choose schools which communicate with them often during the recruiting process."
Perhaps the audience won't believe the bridge statement. They might say, "Recruits go to the most prestigious school they can." If the audience might disagree with the bridge, we need to provide it. When the proof is made explicit, the statement supporting the bridge is called the foundation.
Foundation: "Research shows that frequency and quality of communication were key factors in influencing recruits to attend a specific school. Communication strengthened recruits' initial interest and helped overcome objections. Our informal surveys of recruits show that they receive more mail and phone calls from other schools than from us." (Provide concrete data.)
Claim/Point of Persuasion: "We should contact all potential recruits by telephone and follow up in writing."
Sometimes the reader may accept the bridge but think of a counterclaim that negates the claim.
Counterclaim: "Our communication style might be poor. Frequent communication might hurt rather than help."
If a counter argument exists, we must provide a rebuttal to it to be convincing.
Rebuttal: "We will offer training sessions to our coaches and hire a consultant to help them write effective letters."
Limiter: "Better communication will help us recruit more effectively."
You can also limit a claim with the words probably and may be able with explicit disclaimers: "These results are accurate with ±5.6 percent." "This projection is based on surveys taken October 28th."
USING TOULMIN LOGIC IN A SAMPLE MEMO TO SUBORDINATES
The following example (A Problem-solving Persuasive Memo) illustrates the use of the Toulmin model in a problem-solving persuasive message. The memo is written to persuade employees not to make personal calls on office phones. The memo makes use of words, phrases, sentences, or paragraphs which:
A PROBLEM-SOLVING PERSUASIVE MEMO
To: All Sales Representatives
From: James Christopher Smith
Subject: Improving Service of Customers' Phone Orders
The recent opening of the Johnson Wholesale House in Decatur has made competition in our field of wholesale drugs even keener. With the addition of this new warehouse, Johnson can service customers in all our sales areas almost as quickly as we can, and for approximately the same price. This new availability makes it even easier for our customers to call Johnson's instead of us. In fact, Glenn and Jack report that Walgreen's has increased its business with Johnson's from a sixth to a third of its total drug business. Sue and Jerry also say that several of the small independent drug stores in central Illinois, such as the ones in Effingham and Tuscola, have switched to Johnson's from us. With competition as fierce as this, we must make ordering from us a quick and easy operation.
Most orders are phoned in between 9:30 and 11:30 in the morning and 1:00 and 2:00 in the afternoon, according to the times indicated on the order forms from last month. The phone operators, however, report that the lines are tied up throughout the day, usually by calls from the sales department. In order to relieve congestion, it is necessary to reduce phone activity in the sales department.
Using the pay phones for personal calls during the peak ordering hours can make more phone lines available to our customers. If possible, calls on company business should be made during non-peak hours. This will enable us to keep more lines open during the peak ordering hours without spending money on costly new lines.
With the lines open to incoming calls, customers will find that they can place their orders quickly and easily. This will encourage them to keep calling us instead of our competitors, which can mean greater sales for you. In addition, good service helps build good will which may enable you to get a bigger share of your customers' business. The easy phone ordering service will also serve you as an additional selling point for new customers.
To improve customer relations and realize greater sales, use the pay phones for personal calls between the peak hours of 9:30 - 11:30 and 1:00 - 2:00, and make outgoing business calls during non-peak hours.
By comparing an argument to the Toulmin model, you can see what kind of statements you need to make an argument convincing. Each of the examples is unconvincing, but the solutions differ.