Sunday, April 17, 2011


by Anita Lanning

Member and author Jo Ann Senior spoke at the March 24 meeting on the topic “Understanding Persuasive Strategies”. While persuasion is powerful, Jo Ann stated it may not be valid, and it is incumbent upon writers to seek and convey the truth, reminding us that words have consequences. She emphasized the importance of critical thinking, since the more clearly we think the more we are able to be analytical and discern what is true. Jo Ann pointed out that critical thinking seems to have become lost in the rhetoric and emotions that are prevalent in society today. The goal of critical thinking is to identify the strategies used to persuade us and counter the negative messages by appealing to reason and logic. She talked about how easily people’s emotions are manipulated because by nature we are more emotional than reasonable. It’s essential to consider the sources of the information we receive, and document the sources ourselves. Don’t merely accept things because someone claims to be an accurate source or expert. She cautioned us to avoid stereotypes, not to generalize, and be careful to dig deeper into subjects, especially in our writing. She stated we should understand and evaluate the strategies being used. Always be alert to false information and engage in critical thinking to assess the message.

Jo Ann talked about common fallacies used in discussions with those attempting to persuade us. The fallacies include evading the issues; drawing attention to minor points having nothing to do with the topic under discussion; changing the subject with red herrings; attempts to undermine another person’s character with personal attacks; claiming facts to be true because “everybody knows they are”; begging the question, or perhaps using the straw man approach which focuses on another’s weakest point. Jo Ann said a common persuasive strategy leading to invalid information is oversimplification.

As an example, Jo Ann said persuasive strategies abound in the world of product marketing, because the goal is to get people to buy and use a product often based on half-truths and just plain fallacy, celebrity endorsements and the fact that cognitive dissonance is so prevalent in our society. She encouraged writers to strive for truth and accuracy, even when crafting fictional characters and stories. Our goal is to engage our readers as we inform, entertain and challenge them to be aware of the powers of persuasive strategies that can work for good and ill.

Jo Ann distributed a list of literature, which she said were examples of propaganda. We thank Jo Ann for her excellent, thought-provoking program and look forward to future presentations on the importance of critical thinking.


Thursday, April 28—Featured speaker is author, editor and writing instructor Debra Gwartney whose topic is: “The Four Most Common Pitfalls for Memoir Writing”. Also featured at the meeting are the 2011 Fourth Grade Book Contest winner and runner-up. Caleb Rosen will read his winning entry Mystery Island and runner-up Megan Alldredge will read Popeye and the Pumpkin.

Thursday, May 26—Featured speakers will include winners of the 2011 Oregon Book Awards, who will be announced on Monday, April 25.

Thursday, June 23—Author Wallace Swenson, Morgan’s Pasture

Note: These meetings are located at COCC Redmond Campus, 2030 College Loop SE, Building 3 Room 306

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