Persuasive Techniques to use in Debates


Have you ever wondered how easy it would be to win any debate or dispute if you could get your message across perfectly? Or how much more powerful you would be if you could change anyone's mind? Well, if you didn't, you probably wouldn't be here right now.

The purpose of this article is to compile different strategies and techniques to increase your persuasion factor in debates, in order make your arguments more compelling and cogent. Many expert debaters have already mastered most [if not all] the skills presented in this feature, but if you're still relatively new on the Vine, or just want to know the secret to kicking anyone's ass in a debate, then read on!


This article will include the following sections-

  1. Colloquialism
  2. Vocabulary
  3. Presentation/Delivery
  4. Enthusiasm & Manners
  5. Summary

There will also be sub-categories, and a few tips here and there.

1. Colloquialism

We all know changing someone's mind isn't the easiest thing to do. Successfully articulating a message to influence someone's thoughts and opinions requires true artistry, eloquence, and insight. And achieving so is most effectively accomplished through communication that is imbued with familiarity in speech, AKA, colloquialism.

Not to be confused with slang, colloquialism is the use of informal speech in dialogue that, when performed correctly in debates, can convey warmth, friendless, and build emotional appeal with your audience.

For instance, which argument makes the speaker sound more expressive and approachable?

1. "So your secret strategy was to blitz my character? Well, even if you do, you have no way to hurt me at all; whereas my attacks carry enough DC to one-shot you, and possess greater AOE than you can dodge or avoid."

2. "So the cat's out of the bag huh? It seems your secret strategy was to blitz my character. Well, I'm here to tell you that, even if you blitz me, you have no real way to hurt me at all; whereas my attacks carry enough DC to one-shot you, and possess greater AOE than you can possibly hope to dodge or avoid."

The second one right? That is a typical example of how to intertwine colloquial phrases (namely aphorisms, idioms and loaded words) into your text in order to increase the persuasion of that argument.

However, overuse of colloquialism can interfere with the objectivity of your arguments, and getting too familiar takes away from the impact of your statements. So tread carefully.

Examples of phrases:

-"All that glitters is not gold"- A great statement to make when debunking a feat that's pivotal to your opponents argument. It means things that are attractive when presented only appear that way, and when you get to the meat of things, usually aren't as impressive as they're made out to be.

-"Spill the beans"- A phrase that can be used when revealing your Ace in the Hole during a debate. Can also be used when cornering your opponent and asking them a question, since the definition is revealing undisclosed information.

-"Take it with a grain of salt"- When having a discussion with someone, this can be used to debunk statements that aren't likely to be true, due to the possibility that they're exaggerations. It means to not take things literally.

-"Bite the bullet"- This means to take a risk, so it can be used to describe anytime a character pulls off a daunting feat while under physical odds (whether it be injury, fatigue, or pain) that could lead to backlash.

Now those are just a couple common ones in American English, but colloquial terms drastically differ from region to region. But now you understand that they're just sayings unique to an area that display culture and amiability.

I warn again that the abuse of them, or use of overly obscure ones, can tend to undermine the gravity of your more steely, colder arguments and rebuttals. But when implemented strategically, and in light doses, colloquial terms invariably construct cordial bonds during interpersonal speech.

Now, delving deeper in the art of the silver tongue, we have several branches of colloquial statements, each one similar to each other in nature but complete with their own unique purpose and effects.

1.1 Witticism

Witticism is the use of witty remarks and humorous joke that, when executed properly, can disarm the possible hostility of your opponents as well as evoke amusement from your audience. This also let's both spectators and opponents perceive you in a more ebullient light, and raise the spirits of the debating atmosphere you're in.

Long story short, these are colloquial informalities that boost the appeal of your arguments which aids your persuasion factor.

Now, the type of witticism you use depends entirely on you and the situation, so I won't bombard examples. But in order for your jokes to succeed, they must be-

a) well-timed

b) well-conducted

c) in good taste

d) relevant to the topic

Meeting all of these requirements will increase the likelihood of your wit to be well received. Do NOT do the following-

  • Make inappropriate jokes. You know what this means; nothing NSFW or dirty or violent. Even a basic "that's what she said" has no place whatsoever in an organized debate. It just makes you look playful and immature which are two things that kill credibility.
  • Don't make any jokes personal. You shouldn't be discussing your opponents at all in debates, but rather their arguments. Doing otherwise can lead to Ad Hominem, and making jest of your opponent while you're debating them lacks character. The onlyexception is if you've known that person for a long time and know they'd be cool with it. Otherwise, these are out of the question.
  • Don't make more than like, 5-10 jokes in an entire debate. It doesn't really matter how long the debate is; too much wise-cracking isn't very wise.

It may seem like there are a lot of downsides to this technique, but in reality, the aforementioned tips of things to avoid are just common sense. And through practice and experience, witticism profoundly increases rhetoric, especially when used in conjunction with other colloquial phrases.

And speaking of other colloquial phrases, there are 3 more I'd like to quickly run over-

1.2 Adages & Aphorisms

The definitions of adage and aphorism are interchangeable depending on the context, but normally mean old sayings or proverbs. I find the Google's secondary definition of "aphorism" to be the most descriptive of it's purpose:

No Caption Provided

Much like witticism and colloquial idioms/phrases, adages and aphorisms are techniques that improve rhetorical speech which can help win you debates. However, all three must be used in moderation. While colloquial terms build amity and witticism demonstrates your affability, the use of adages and aphorisms communicate you as wise. These terms help you appear authoritative, clever, intelligent, and knowledgeable.

Once again, the exact aphorism/adage that you choose to employ during a debate is entirely up to you and subject to your situation. But here is a vast library of the more popular ones to choose from, courtesy of the Poor Richard's Almanack and

Aphorism Examples:

  • A barking dog never bites.
  • A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
  • Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
  • Actions speak louder than words.
  • All for one and one for all.
  • All that glitters is not gold.
  • All the world's a stage.
  • All things come to he who waits.
  • All we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.
  • A penny saved is a penny earned.
  • Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes.
  • Don't foul your own nest.
  • Don't give up the ship.
  • Don't hide your light under a bushel.
  • Don't judge a book by its cover.
  • Doubt is the beginning, not the end, of wisdom.
  • Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.
  • Easier said than done.
  • East or West, home is best.
  • Easy come, easy go.
  • Eat to live, don't live to eat.
  • Forgive and forget.
  • Forgive them, for they know not what they do.
  • From the sublime to the ridiculous is but a step.
  • Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.
  • Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration.
  • Give a man a fish and he eats for one night. Teach him how and he eats for life.
  • Give him an inch and he'll take a mile.
  • Give him enough rope and he'll hang himself.
  • He that is not with me is against me.
  • He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day.
  • He who hesitates is lost.
  • Here today, gone tomorrow.
  • History repeats itself.
  • If you do what you've always done you'll get what you've always got.
  • If you lie down with dogs, you wake up with fleas.
  • If you snooze, you lose.
  • Ignorance is bliss.
  • Ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it.
  • Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
  • Keep your head above water.
  • Keep your nose to the grindstone.
  • Keep your powder dry.
  • Know which side your bread is buttered on.
  • Knowledge is power.
  • Laugh, and the world laughs with you; weep, and you weep alone.
  • Life is short, art is long.
  • Lightning never strikes twice in the same place.
  • Little strokes fell great oaks.
  • Live and learn.
  • Nothing succeeds like success.
  • Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
  • Oil and water don't mix.
  • Old habits die hard.
  • Once bitten, twice shy.
  • Opportunity never knocks twice.
  • Opposites attract.
  • Out of sight, out of mind.
  • People who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.
  • Politics makes strange bedfellows.
  • Possession is nine-tenths of the law.
  • The more things change, the more they stay the same.
  • The pen is mightier than sword.
  • The quality of mercy is not strained.
  • The proof of the pudding is in the eating.
  • The race isn't always to the swift, nor the fight to the strong, but that's the way to bet.
  • While there's life, there's hope.
  • Who pays the piper calls the tune.
  • Winners never quit and quitters never win.
  • You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
  • You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.
  • You can kill a man but you can't kill an idea.
  • You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.
  • You can take the boy out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the boy.
  • You get what you pay for.
  • You have to take the bitter with the sweet.
  • You have to take the good with the bad.
  • You made your bed, now lie in it.
  • You need to stop to smell the roses.
  • You need to take a bull by the horns, and a man by his word.
  • You're never too old to learn.

1.3 Other Rhetorical Devices

I'm going to assume that you've been educated on generic rhetorical devices, so I won't spend time describing and discussing each one. Nevertheless, using any of the following falls in line with the colloquial phrases we've been talking about. Basic rhetorical devices include-

  • Metaphors
  • Similes
  • Allusion
  • Analogies
  • Anaphora (repetition)
  • Oxymoron
  • Parallelism

Exploiting these in rhetoric definitely builds your charisma, so there's no reason to hold back in using them while debating. Later in this article, I'll expand on more than just increasing persuasion, but some structures for good arguments in general. Though most of those tips and advice have already been covered by better debaters, like in this thread.

2. Vocabulary

Vocabulary is absolutely crucial to The Art of Persuasion and Debate. In fact, a good vocabulary is absolutely crucial to any type of writing, whether it be persuasive, expository, narrative or descriptive. But in rhetoric, the type of vocabulary we're going to focus on isn't just "big words" per se, but loaded words (also known as loaded language/emotive language/loaded terms).

These are words and terms that are specifically designed to trigger emotional responses in your audience or opponent, and are pivotal to persuasive speech and rhetoric. They can be used positively or negatively, and by negatively I don't mean insulting.

Unlike colloquialism in which you have to use sparingly, loaded words is something you have to use abundantly.

Like, nearly every single sentence you type (whether you're describing your character's abilities or countering an opponents post) needs to possess an amplitude of loaded words.

2.1 Word Choice

I'd like to kick off this word choice section with an example. Which phrase sounds more persuasive to you?


A. "Superman is very fast. He can move faster than light."

B. "Clark can operate at blistering speeds, evident by showings of him surpassing the speed of light."

Despite the fact that both examples are stating the exact same message, example B should obviously be the more persuasive one; since it uses loaded words to add exaggeration and emphasis to the statement.

Now, don't get it twisted; using exaggerating words isn't the same as actually exaggerating. If you decide to highball feats by overreaching then that's on you.

In addition, loaded words can not only emphasize bland statements to make arguments and descriptions more appealing, but they can also make you look more passionate and invested in your debate. The amount of raw energy you can communicate from utilizing exuberant vocabulary terms is astonishing. To corroborate my point, let's take a peek at a few more instances.

Which statement sounds more persuasive to you?


A. "Naruto has everything he needs to beat Saitama. While he isn't stronger, he has every other advantage over him."

B. "Naruto is more than equipped with all the necessary tools required to defeat Saitama. He may not surpass him in raw strength, but considering he dwarfs him in all other combat related categories, it doesn't matter anyway."

As you can see, loaded words make ALL the difference in a discussion. But please please PLEASE be careful not to make excessive exaggerations when employing this technique, unless you can support your notions with concrete evidence.

The main difference in this set of examples aren't just the words used to describe Naruto, but the implant of words used to reduce Saitama. In example B, the speaker preceded Saitama's name with "someone like" which has a negative connotation in the context it's being used, since the speaker is arguing in favor of Naruto. That only adds to the impact of the conviction of Naruto's [supposed] superiority over him in this instance.

The best part about loaded words is that they can be used in all areas of a debate, thread and CaV alike. It can be used during all of the following-

- Exposition. As the name implies, this is the beginning of the debate, where both debaters tend to express their initial opinions of the match before proceeding to explain their stance by showing evidence. In CaVs and tourney's however, the exposition would be your opener, where you introduce your character and explain their feats before proceeding to visualize how the battle will go down and highlight your advantages.

In both instances, heavy doses of descriptive/loaded words will greatly contribute to stimulating the intended response from your audience and opponent.

- Escalation. The second stage of the debate, this is where you get deeply rooted in the conversation and start to counter each other's post. It is ideal to use fewer loaded words in the escalation part of the debate as opposed to the exposition and the conclusion, due to the fact this is where you want to appear more logical, tactical, cogent and convincing. Exaggeration here makes your judgement seem clouded, and that's one of the major things you want to avoid.

- Endgame. This refers to the final stretch of the debate before the conclusion, though it includes the conclusion itself. Since this mostly refers to your last post or last 2 posts in a CaV/thread debate, it's wise to use an even mix of both loaded words and logical thinking in this section.

And these are my three E's ;)

Once you learn to incorporate advanced vocabulary and loaded words into your discussion, you'll quickly realize how effectively people will listen.

3. Presentation/Delivery

In this current day and age, presentation itself can be a deciding factor in persuasive debates. As far as formatting goes, it was already expertly covered in a link shared earlier (re-posting for convenience)

Debating Tips.

However persuasive presentation isn't the formatting of your posts, it's the formatting of your arguments. This means the structure of your argument, and goes hand in hand with your delivery.

The three E's I created earlier (Exposition, Escalation, Endgame) are my own personal outline for how I think debates are structured. But there's a lot more to it than that, or a lot more information that fits squarely within those broad categories.

View this short, 1 minute video from Howcast on how to win arguments:

The exact advice given there doesn't factor into persuasion techniques directly (mostly due to the fact that video is in reference to verbal arguments, not online debates) but the structure and each step is 100% true. Persuasive Presentation must include, but is not limited to-

  • A specific arrangement of arguments that involves rhetorical devices. And some devices are repetition/anaphora and parallelism. Repetition is repeating the same key words over again, and parallelism (or parallel structure) is reusing the same grammatical form.
  • Different responses to your opponents rebuttals, especially if they're similar. This makes them seem static, constant and boring, but it makes you appear varied and dynamic. And I don't mean use different arguments to counter your opponent (especially if they're just restating bad rebuttals) but different word choice and grammatical structure.

The use of this format and structure can significantly change the outlook of your debate, since anyone who reads it will be subjected to your literal style of argumentation. Presentation also includes etiquette, but more on that in the Manners & Enthusiasm section.

3.1 Delivery

While Persuasion Presentation is mainly formatting and progressive steps, delivery chiefly focuses on the tone of your debate. Being persuasive during interpersonal communication is championed when a speaker shows respect for the opposition and keeps and open-mind. But there is more to delivery than just that.

[A few more tips include getting your opponent to say "yes" in a debate (tapping into their ego) and using their point against them. This endeavor can be recognized by identifying acute flaws in their logic, and that basically means calling them out on fallacies.]

Though being polite is most commonly looked upon as the mood and tone you're supposed to harness when debating, I'm here to tell you that being aggressive is just as important.

Now obviously too much aggression is a bad thing, and you should know when you're crossing a line. Insults of any kind are NOT ok when debating, though I'm pretty guilty of them as well. But after reaching a certain level of maturity, dealing with trolls without devolving into name-calling contests in actuality isn't as hard as it seems.

  • Language should be kept to a minimum. Healthy aggression doesn't include anything more vile than "damn" and "hell".
  • Aggression itself isn't persuasive, but going attack mode when trying to sell a crucial point helps win you over more opinions.
  • Stubbornness can be useful, but be very careful when using it. Being unrelenting when arguing a debate is just as important as admitting when you're wrong and conceding point. Maintaining an equilibrium of both is God tier debating, honestly.

3.2 Ethos, Logos, Pathos

Ethos, Logos and Pathos are the Three Rhetorical Appeals (also known as Modes of Persuasion). It is nearly [if not absolutely] impossible to complete persuasive writing without the use of at least one of them. Debating, on the other hand, is best done performed with the use of at least two.

Ethos - Ethical Appeal. This is usually an appeal to credibility/credentials. While this is perfectly fine in normal persuasive writing, it is NOT ok to use in debates, since it is in fact an Appeal to Authority, which is a known logical fallacy. Don't use it.

Logos - Logical Appeal. This is convincing the audience of your opinion through the use of logic, facts, and reasoning. This is the core of debate, and what it revolves around. Logical Appeal typically involves numbers and dates, and in online debating, scans and proof. Though that is not always the case. Reasoning can be based on your personal beliefs, but hey, if it's logical, it works.

Pathos - Emotional Appeal. Almost self-explanatory, this is appealing to your audiences moral values and sense of judgement. Most examples of it seem pretty off-hand, but it is extremely compelling when written.


Example of Ethos:

"I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. I will rebuild our military to meet future conflicts. But I will also renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and curb Russian aggression. I will build new partnerships to defeat the threats of the 21st century: terrorism and nuclear proliferation; poverty and genocide; climate change and disease. And I will restore our moral standing, so that America is once again that last, best hope for all who are called to the cause of freedom, who long for lives of peace, and who yearn for a better future."

Democratic Presidential Candidate Acceptance Speech by Barack Obama. August 28th, 2008.

Example of Pathos:

"I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed."

I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King Jr. August 28th, 1963.

Example of Logos:

"However, although private final demand, output, and employment have indeed been growing for more than a year, the pace of that growth recently appears somewhat less vigorous than we expected. Notably, since stabilizing in mid-2009, real household spending in the United States has grown in the range of 1 to 2 percent at annual rates, a relatively modest pace. Households' caution is understandable. Importantly, the painfully slow recovery in the labor market has restrained growth in labor income, raised uncertainty about job security and prospects, and damped confidence. Also, although consumer credit shows some signs of thawing, responses to our Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey on Bank Lending Practices suggest that lending standards to households generally remain tight."

The Economic Outlook and Monetary Policy by Ben Bernanke. August 27th, 2010.

Courtesy of

4. Enthusiasm & Manners

How do you expect to win a debate with no effort or enthusiasm? Lethargic responses are extremely unconvincing, due to the lack of passion and energy being the debate. Manners and Enthusiasm are two traits and factors I've seen in debaters that make their arguments more persuasive based on it alone (like my friend @darthjhawk, s/o to him).

If you don't believe me, take a look at these few examples.


A. "World War Hulk has several continental+ to planetary feats."

B. "World War Hulk has several continental+ to planetary feats, and they're all amazing!"

Simple things like italicizing words and using exclamation marks can make the differences in your arguments as clear as night and day; and there are a multitude of other examples.

4.1 Manners

Manners and basic etiquette are just common sense. Never be condescending in tone towards your opponent, and always be polite.

There really isn't much in this section that I can tell you to increase persuasion that you shouldn't already know. I mean, manners are manners.

5. Summary

It isn't necessary to use each and every single one of these tips in a debate, but they're always here for you to reference to. I also want to reiterate that simply being persuasive won't help you win debates, but accurate exploitation of these tools can significantly increase your chances depending on how they're used.

No matter how persuasive you are, you can never win a debate if your argument is simply bad. And you don't have to only accept debates or argue when you know you're going to win (imo that's weak) but always be ready to admit fault and don't argue anything you're not deeply rooted in.

This article will also be updated periodically if I get new ideas or people tell me things to add. I'll reorganize accordingly.

6. Sources

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