Table of Contents

Collaboration, information literacy, writing process, using pathos in persuasive writing.

  • CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 by Angela Eward-Mangione - Hillsborough Community College

Incorporating appeals to pathos into persuasive writing increases a writer’s chances of achieving his or her purpose. Read “ Pathos ” to define and understand pathos and methods for appealing to it. The following brief article discusses examples of these appeals in persuasive writing.

An important key to incorporating pathos into your persuasive writing effectively is appealing to your audience’s commonly held emotions. To do this, one must be able to identify common emotions, as well as understand what situations typically evoke such emotions. The blog post “ The 10 Most Common Feelings Worldwide, We Feel Fine ,” offers an interview with Seth Kamvar, co-author of We Feel Fine. According to the post, the 10 most commonly held emotions in 2006-2009 were: better, bad, good, guilty, sorry, sick, well, comfortable, great, and happy (qtd. in Whelan).

Let’s take a look at some potential essay topics, what emotions they might evoke, and what methods can be used to appeal to those emotions.

Example: Animal Cruelty

Related Emotions:

Method Narrative

In “To Kill a Chicken,” Nicholas Kristof describes footage taken by an undercover investigator for Mercy with Animals at a North Carolina poultry slaughterhouse: “some chickens aren’t completely knocked out by the electric current and can be seen struggling frantically. Others avoid the circular saw somehow. A backup worker is supposed to cut the throat of those missed by the saw, but any that get by him are scalded alive, the investigator said” (Kristof).

This narrative account, which creates a cruel picture in readers’ minds, will evoke anger, horror, sadness, and sympathy.

Example: Human Trafficking

  • Sadness (sorry)
  • Sympathy 

Method: Direct Quote

“From Victim to Impassioned Voice” provides the perspective of Asia Graves, a victim of a vicious child prostitution ring who attributes her survival to a group of women: “If I didn’t have those strong women, I’d be nowhere” (McKin).

A quote from a victim of human trafficking humanizes the topic, eliciting sadness and sympathy for the victim(s).

Example: Cyberbullying

Method: empathy for an opposing view.

The concerns of some people who oppose the criminalization of cyberbullying are understandable. For example, Justin W. Patchin, coauthor of Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard: Preventing and Responding to Cyberbullying , opposes making cyberbullying a crime because he views the federal and state governments’ role as one to educate local school districts and provide resources for them (“Cyberbullying”). Patchin does not oppose cyberbullying itself; rather, he takes issue with the government responding to it through criminalization.

Identifying and articulating the opposing view as well as the concerns that underpin it helps the audience experience a full range of sympathy, a commonly held emotion, as a consequence of sincerely investigating and acknowledging another view.

The method a writer uses to persuade emotionally his or her audience will depend on the situation. However, any writer who uses at least one approach will be more persuasive than a writer who ignores opportunities to entreat one of the most powerful aspects of the human experience—emotions.

Works Cited

“Cyberbullying.” Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection . Detroit: Gale, 2015. Opposing Viewpoints in Context . Web. 21 July 2016.

Kristof, Nicholas. “To Kill a Chicken.” The New York Times . The New York Times, 3 May 2015. Web. 20 July 2016.

McKin, Jenifer. “From victim to impassioned voice: Women exploited as a teen fights sexual trafficking of children.” The Boston Globe . Boston Globe Media Partners, 27 Nov. 2012. Web. 20 July 2016.

Whelan, Christine. “The 10 Most Common Feelings Worldwide: We Feel Fine.” The Huffington Post . The Huffington Post, 18 March 2012. Web. 21 July 2016.

Brevity – Say More with Less

Brevity – Say More with Less

Clarity (in Speech and Writing)

Clarity (in Speech and Writing)

Coherence – How to Achieve Coherence in Writing

Coherence – How to Achieve Coherence in Writing

Diction

Flow – How to Create Flow in Writing

Inclusivity – Inclusive Language

Inclusivity – Inclusive Language

Simplicity

The Elements of Style – The DNA of Powerful Writing

Unity

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Pathos Definition

What is pathos? Here’s a quick and simple definition:

Pathos , along with logos and ethos , is one of the three "modes of persuasion" in rhetoric (the art of effective speaking or writing). Pathos is an argument that appeals to an audience's emotions. When a speaker tells a personal story, presents an audience with a powerful visual image, or appeals to an audience's sense of duty or purpose in order to influence listeners' emotions in favor of adopting the speaker's point of view, he or she is using pathos .

Some additional key details about pathos:

  • You may also hear the word "pathos" used to mean "a quality that invokes sadness or pity," as in the statement, "The actor's performance was full of pathos." However, this guide focuses specifically on the rhetorical technique of pathos used in literature and public speaking to persuade readers and listeners through an appeal to emotion.
  • The three "modes of persuasion"— pathos , logos , and ethos —were originally defined by Aristotle.
  • In contrast to pathos, which appeals to the listener's emotions, logos appeals to the audience's sense of reason, while ethos appeals to the audience based on the speaker's authority.
  • Although Aristotle developed the concept of pathos in the context of oratory and speechmaking, authors, poets, and advertisers also use pathos frequently.

Pathos Pronunciation

Here's how to pronounce pathos : pay -thos

Pathos in Depth

Aristotle (the ancient Greek philosopher and scientist) first defined pathos , along with logos and ethos , in his treatise on rhetoric, Ars Rhetorica. Together, he referred to pathos , logos , and ethos as the three modes of persuasion, or sometimes simply as "the appeals." Aristotle defined pathos as "putting the audience in a certain frame of mind," and argued that to achieve this task a speaker must truly know and understand his or her audience. For instance, in Ars Rhetorica, Aristotle describes the information a speaker needs to rile up a feeling of anger in his or her audience:

Take, for instance, the emotion of anger: here we must discover (1) what the state of mind of angry people is, (2) who the people are with whom they usually get angry, and (3) on what grounds they get angry with them. It is not enough to know one or even two of these points; unless we know all three, we shall be unable to arouse anger in any one.

Here, Aristotle articulates that it's not enough to know the dominant emotions that move one's listeners: you also need to have a deeper understanding of the listeners' values, and how these values motivate their emotional responses to specific individuals and behaviors.

Pathos vs Logos and Ethos

Pathos is often criticized as being the least substantial or legitimate of the three persuasive modest. Arguments using logos appeal to listeners' sense of reason through the presentation of facts and a well-structured argument. Meanwhile, arguments using ethos generally try to achieve credibility by relying on the speaker's credentials and reputation. Therefore, both logos and ethos may seem more concrete—in the sense of being more evidence-based—than pathos, which "merely" appeals to listeners' emotions. But people often forget that facts, statistics, credentials, and personal history can be easily manipulated or fabricated in order to win the confidence of an audience, while people at the same time underestimate the power and importance of being able to expertly direct the emotional current of an audience to win their allegiance or sympathy.

Pathos Examples

Pathos in literature.

Characters in literature often use pathos to convince one another, or themselves, of a certain viewpoint. It's important to remember that pathos , perhaps more than the other modes of persuasion, relies not only on the content of what is said, but also on the tone and expressiveness of the delivery . For that reason, depictions of characters using pathos can be dramatic and revealing of character.

Pathos in Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice

In this example from Chapter 16 of Pride and Prejudice , George Wickham describes the history of his relationship with Mr. Darcy to Elizabeth Bennet—or at least, he describes his version of their shared history. Wickham's goal is to endear himself to Elizabeth, turn her against Mr. Darcy, and cover up the truth. (Wickham actually squanders his inheritance from Mr. Darcy's father and, out of laziness, turns down Darcy Senior's offer help him obtain a "living" as a clergyman.)

"The church ought to have been my profession...had it pleased [Mr. Darcy]... Yes—the late Mr. Darcy bequeathed me the next presentation of the best living in his gift. He was my godfather, and excessively attached to me. I cannot do justice to his kindness. He meant to provide for me amply, and thought he had done it; but when the living fell it was given elsewhere...There was just such an informality in the terms of the bequest as to give me no hope from law. A man of honor could not have doubted the intention, but Mr. Darcy chose to doubt it—or to treat it as a merely conditional recommendation, and to assert that I had forfeited all claim to it by extravagance, imprudence, in short any thing or nothing. Certain it is, that the living became vacant two years ago, exactly as I was of an age to hold it, and that it was given to another man; and no less certain is it, that I cannot accuse myself of having really done anything to deserve to lose it. I have a warm, unguarded temper, and I may perhaps have sometimes spoken my opinion of him, and to him, too freely. I can recall nothing worse. But the fact is, that we are very different sort of men, and that he hates me." "This is quite shocking!—he deserves to be publicly disgraced." "Some time or other he will be—but it shall not be by me. Till I can forget his father, I can never defy or expose him." Elizabeth honored him for such feelings, and thought him handsomer than ever as he expressed them.

Here, Wickham claims that Darcy robbed him of his intended profession out of greed, and that he, Wickham, is too virtuous to reveal Mr. Darcy's "true" nature with respect to this issue. By doing so, Wickham successfully uses pathos in the form of a personal story, inspiring Elizabeth to feel sympathy, admiration, and romantic interest towards him. In this example, Wickham's use of pathos indicates a shifty, manipulative character and lack of substance.

Pathos in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

In The Scarlet Letter , Hawthorne tells the story of Hester Prynne, a young woman living in seventeenth-century Boston. As punishment for committing the sin of adultery, she is sentenced to public humiliation on the scaffold, and forced to wear the scarlet letter "A" on her clothing for the rest of her life. Even though Hester's punishment exposes her before the community, she refuses to reveal the identity of the man she slept with. In the following passage from Chapter 3, two reverends—first, Arthur Dimmesdale and then John Wilson—urge her to reveal the name of her partner:

"What can thy silence do for him, except it tempt him—yea, compel him, as it were—to add hypocrisy to sin? Heaven hath granted thee an open ignominy, that thereby thou mayest work out an open triumph over the evil within thee and the sorrow without. Take heed how thou deniest to him—who, perchance, hath not the courage to grasp it for himself—the bitter, but wholesome, cup that is now presented to thy lips!’ The young pastor’s voice was tremulously sweet, rich, deep, and broken. The feeling that it so evidently manifested, rather than the direct purport of the words, caused it to vibrate within all hearts, and brought the listeners into one accord of sympathy. Even the poor baby at Hester’s bosom was affected by the same influence, for it directed its hitherto vacant gaze towards Mr. Dimmesdale, and held up its little arms with a half-pleased, half-plaintive murmur... "Woman, transgress not beyond the limits of Heaven’s mercy!’ cried the Reverend Mr. Wilson, more harshly than before. ‘That little babe hath been gifted with a voice, to second and confirm the counsel which thou hast heard. Speak out the name! That, and thy repentance, may avail to take the scarlet letter off thy breast."

The reverends call upon Hester's love for the father of her child—the same love they are condemning—to convince her to reveal his identity. Their attempts to move her by appealing to her sense of duty, compassion and morality are examples of pathos. Once again, this example of pathos reveals a lack of moral fiber in the reverends who are attempting to manipulate Hester by appealing to her emotions, particularly since (spoiler alert!) Reverend Dimmesdale is in fact the father.

Pathos in Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night"

In " Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night," Thomas urges his dying father to cling to life and his love of it. The poem is a villanelle , a specific form of verse that originated as a ballad or "country song" and is known for its repetition. Thomas' selection of the repetitive villanelle form contributes to the pathos of his insistent message to his father—his appeal to his father's inner strength:

Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Though wise men at their end know dark is right, Because their words had forked no lightning they Do not go gentle into that good night. Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light. Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way, Do not go gentle into that good night. Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

It's worth noting that, in this poem, pathos is not in any way connected to a lack of morals or inner strength. Quite the opposite, the appeal to emotion is connected to a profound love—the poet's own love for his father.

Pathos in Political Speeches

Politicians understand the power of emotion, and successful politicians are adept at harnessing people's emotions to curry favor for themselves, as well as their policies and ideologies.

Pathos in Barack Obama's 2013 Address to the Nation on Syria

In August 2013, the Syrian government, led by Bashar al-Assad, used chemical weapons against Syrians who opposed his regime, causing several countries—including the United States—to consider military intervention in the conflict. Obama's tragic descriptions of civilians who died as a result of the attack are an example of pathos : they provoke an emotional response and help him mobilize American sentiment in favor of U.S. intervention.

Over the past two years, what began as a series of peaceful protests against the oppressive regime of Bashar al-Assad has turned into a brutal civil war. Over 100,000 people have been killed. Millions have fled the country...The situation profoundly changed, though, on August 21st, when Assad’s government gassed to death over 1,000 people, including hundreds of children. The images from this massacre are sickening: men, women, children lying in rows, killed by poison gas, others foaming at the mouth, gasping for breath, a father clutching his dead children, imploring them to get up and walk.

Pathos in Ronald Reagan's 1987 " Tear Down This Wall!" Speech

In 1987, the Berlin Wall divided Communist East Berlin from Democratic West Berlin. The Wall was a symbol of the divide between the communist Soviet Union, or Eastern Bloc, and the Western Bloc which included the United States, NATO and its allies. The wall also split Berlin in two, obstructing one of Berlin's most famous landmarks: the Brandenburg Gate.

Reagan's speech, delivered to a crowd in front of the Brandenburg Gate, contains many examples of pathos:

Behind me stands a wall that encircles the free sectors of this city, part of a vast system of barriers that divides the entire continent of Europe...Yet it is here in Berlin where the wall emerges most clearly...Every man is a Berliner, forced to look upon a scar... General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

Reagan moves his listeners to feel outrage at the Wall's existence by calling it a "scar." He assures Germans that the world is invested in the city's problems by telling the crowd that "Every man is a Berliner." Finally, he excites and invigorates the listener by boldly daring Gorbachev, president of the Soviet Union, to "tear down this wall!"

Pathos in Advertising

Few appreciate the complexity of pathos better than advertisers. Consider all the ads you've seen in the past week. Whether you're thinking of billboards, magazine ads, or TV commercials, its almost a guarantee that the ones you remember contained very little specific information about the product, and were instead designed to create an emotional association with the brand. Advertisers spend incredible amounts of money trying to understand exactly what Aristotle describes as the building blocks of pathos: the emotional "who, what, and why" of their target audience. Take a look at this advertisement for the watch company, Rolex, featuring David Beckham:

advertising pathos

Notice that the ad doesn't convey anything specific about the watch itself to make someone think it's a high quality or useful product. Instead, the ad caters to Rolex's target audience of successful male professionals by causing them to associate the Rolex brand with soccer player David Beckham, a celebrity who embodies the values of the advertisement's target audience: physical fitness and attractiveness, style, charisma, and good hair.

Why Do Writers Use Pathos?

The philosopher and psychologist William James once said, “The emotions aren’t always immediately subject to reason, but they are always immediately subject to action.” Pathos is a powerful tool, enabling speakers to galvanize their listeners into action, or persuade them to support a desired cause. Speechwriters, politicians, and advertisers use pathos for precisely this reason: to influence their audience to a desired belief or action.

The use of pathos in literature is often different than in public speeches, since it's less common for authors to try to directly influence their readers in the way politicians might try to influence their audiences. Rather, authors often employ pathos by having a character make use of it in their own speech. In doing so, the author may be giving the reader some insight into a character's values, motives, or their perception of another character.

Consider the above example from The Scarlet Letter. The clergymen in Hester's town punish her by publicly humiliating her in front of the community and holding her up as an example of sin for conceiving a child outside of marriage. The reverends make an effort to get Hester to tell them the name of her child's father by making a dramatic appeal to a sense of shame that Hester plainly does not feel over her sin. As a result, this use of pathos only serves to expose the the manipulative intent of the reverends, offering readers some insight into their moral character as well as that of Puritan society at large. Ultimately, it's a good example of an ineffective use of pathos , since what the reverends lack is the key to eliciting the response they want: a strong grasp of what their listener values.

Other Helpful Pathos Resources

  • The Wikipedia Page on Pathos: A detailed explanation which covers Aristotle's original ideas on pathos and discusses how the term's meaning has changed over time.
  • The Dictionary Definition of Pathos: A definition and etymology of the term, which comes from the Greek pàthos, meaning "suffering or sensation."
  • An excellent video from TED-Ed about the three modes of persuasion.
  • A pathos -laden recording of Dylan Thomas reading his poem "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night"

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Definition of Pathos

Pathos is a literary device that is designed to inspire emotions from readers. Pathos, Greek for “suffering” or “experience,” originated as a conceptual mode of persuasion by the Greek philosopher, Aristotle. Aristotle believed that utilizing pathos as a means of stirring people’s emotions is effective in turning their opinion towards the speaker . This is due in part because emotions and passion can be engulfing and compelling, even going against a sense of logic or reason.

Pathos, as an appeal to an audience ’s emotions, is a valuable device in literature as well as rhetoric and other forms of writing. Like all art, literature is intended to evoke a feeling in a reader and, when done effectively, generate greater meaning and understanding of existence. For example, in his poem “No Man Is an Island,” John Donne appeals to the reader’s emotions of acceptance, belonging, and empathy:

No man is an island, Entire of itself, Every man is a piece of the continent, A part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less. As well as if a promontory were. As well as if a manor of thy friend’s Or of thine own were: Any man’s death diminishes me, Because I am involved in mankind, And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls ; It tolls for thee.

By describing how all men are connected rather than isolated, Donne utilizes pathos as an emotional appeal to readers of his poem. The feelings evoked by the poet are grief and sympathy for all who die, because all death is an individual loss and a loss for mankind as a whole.

Common Examples of Emotions Evoked by Pathos

Pathos has the power to evoke many emotions in a reader or audience of a literary work. Here are some common examples of emotions evoked by pathos in literature:

Examples of Pathos in Advertisement

Advertisers heavily rely on pathos to provoke an emotional reaction in an audience of consumers, thereby persuading them to take action in the form of patronage or other monetary support. Here are some examples of pathos in an advertisement:

  • television commercial showing neglected or mistreated animals
  • political ad utilizing fear tactics
  • holiday commercial showing a family coming together for a meal
  • cologne commercial displaying sexual tension
  • diaper ad featuring a crying baby
  • ad for cleaning product featuring a messy house and frustrated homeowner
  • jewelry commercial showing a marriage proposal
  • insurance ad showing a terrible car accident
  • ad for a line of toys showing children playing together
  • commercial for make-up displaying a woman receiving attention from men

Famous Examples of Pathos in Movie Lines

Many films feature dialogue that generates pathos and emotional reactions in viewers. Here are some famous examples of pathos in well-known movie lines:

  • Love means never having to say you’re sorry. (Love Story )
  • The jail you planned for me is the one you’re gonna rot in. ( The Color Purple )
  • I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore. (Network)
  • The marks humans leave are too often scars. (The Fault in Our Stars)
  • I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. (The Shawshank Redemption)
  • And just like that, she was gone, out of my life again. (Forrest Gump)
  • There are two types of people in the world: The people who naturally excel at life. And the people who  hope all those people die in a big explosion. (The Edge of Being Seventeen)
  • You have to get through your fear to see the beauty on the other side. (The Good Dinosaur)
  •   Hate  never solved nothing, but  calm  did. And thought did. Try it. Try it just for a  change . (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri)
  • Things change, friends leave. And life doesn’t stop for anybody. (The Perks of Being a Wallflower)

Difference Between Pathos, Logos, and Ethos

Aristotle outlined three forms of rhetoric, which is the art of effective speaking and writing. These forms are pathos, logos , and ethos . As a matter of rhetorical persuasion, it is important for these forms (or “appeals”) to be balanced. This is especially true for pathos in that overuse of emotional appeal can lead to a flawed argument without the balance of logic or credibility.

Logos is an appeal to logic. It is considered a methodical and rational approach to rhetoric. In a sense, logos is an appeal that is devoid of pathos. Ethos is an appeal to ethics. As an effective rhetorical form, a writer or speaker must have knowledge and credibility regarding the subject . Ethos, therefore, builds trust with an audience as an ethical and character -driven approach.

Pathos is a common form of rhetoric and persuasive tactic. Emotion and passion can be powerful forces in motivating an audience or readership. However, pathos has minimal effect without the balance of logos and ethos as appeals.

Effect of Pathos on Logos

Aa a logo appeals to logic, and pathos appeals to emotions. It is a well-known fact that not everybody gets convinced by logic and the same is the case of pathos which not everybody gets convinced with pathos only. Therefore, orators and speakers use both in a combination. When a pathos is added to logos, it becomes convincing, persuasive, strong, and touches beliefs and values.

Effect of Pathos on Ethos

Although ethos is itself a strong rhetorical device and works wonders when it comes to persuasion and convincing the audience, when a touch of pathos is added to it, it becomes a lethal weapon. It has happened in I Have a Dream , a powerful rhetorical piece of Martin Luther King and the speech is still a memorable rhetorical piece. The reason is that not only does it enhance the power of argument when added with an ethos, it also increases the trust and credibility of the speaker or orator.

How To Build Arguments Using Pathos  

When using pathos, keep these points in mind.

  • What is the touching event for the audience?
  • Evaluate how the audiences or readers respond to the gravity of the situation?
  • Use pathos with ethos first and then use l0gos to add pathos later.
  • Pathos is always the last weapon after ethos and logos.

Fallacy Of Emotion (Pathos) / Fallacious Pathos

As pathos is also called a fallacy of emotion, the use of only pathos is highly damaging for argumentative writing and speaking. The reason is that audiences if they are not directly concerned with the pathetic event or tragedy , become bored with excessive targetting of their emotions and eventually lose interest. At this point, it becomes a fallacy. Therefore, always avoid fallacious pathos. Add a touch of veracity to your pathos and use it in conjunction with ethos first and add logos later.

Three Characteristics Of Pathos

There are three important characteristics of pathos.

  • It is relevant to the target audience or readers and is couched in simple and strong language.
  • It is intended to achieve a specific purpose.
  • It is not excessive that it should become fallacious pathos.

 Using Pathos in Sentences

  • The Holocaust has done more harm to the entire Jewish nation than any other such event.
  • If you love me, you’ll get me a cell phone for my safety.
  • I have to pick up my children from school every day, can you give me a good deal on this car?
  • Look at these innocent street children. By seeing this, you can give us good donations.
  • If you let me eat chips everyday, it will prove that you love me and I will do the dishes.

Examples of Pathos in Literature

Though Aristotle defined pathos as a rhetorical technique for persuasion, literary writers rely on pathos as well to evoke emotion and understanding in readers. As a literary device, pathos allows readers to connect to and find meaning in characters and narratives. Here are some examples of pathos in literature and the impact this literary device has on the work and the reader:

Example 1:  Funeral Blues by W.H. Auden

He was my North, my South, my East and West, My working week and my Sunday rest, My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song; I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong. The stars are not wanted now ; put out every one, Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun, Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood; For nothing now can ever come to any good.

In his poem, Auden relies on pathos as a literary device to evoke feelings of grief and inspire sympathy in the reader. The poet cannot cope with the loss of his loved one and companion, yet the world around him continues to function as if nothing is different and as if the funeral is not taking place. The poet’s passion for his loved one, that he was all cardinal directions and days and times, followed by the poet’s desperation to remove elements of nature, inspires sympathetic mourning in readers.

Though the poet cannot get the world to pause in grief for his loved one, by utilizing pathos as a literary device in this poem, Auden is able to momentarily capture the reader’s attention and understanding. This pause for grief and sympathy on the part of the reader fulfills, on some level, the emotional need of the poet to be recognized and validated in his mourning. This reciprocal exchange of feeling enhances the connection between the poet and reader through pathos.

Example 2:  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou

If growing up is painful for the Southern Black girl, being aware of her displacement is the rust on the razor that threatens the throat. It is an unnecessary insult.

In her memoir , Angelou focuses on the emotional events of her life from early childhood through adolescence. While recounting her story, Angelou utilizes pathos to appeal to the reader’s emotions and to evoke empathy for her experiences, especially in terms of trauma, abuse, and racism.

In this particular passage from her memoir, Angelou appeals to the reader’s feelings of shame, empathy, and fear by describing her experience and how she felt as a Black girl growing up in the South. This allows the reader to connect with and find meaning in Angelou’s writing and experiences, especially if those experiences are unfamiliar or personally unknown to the reader. In addition, the pathos in this passage is an effective literary device through confronting the reader with the pain, displacement, and insult experienced not just by Angelou as a Southern Black girl, but in a generalized manner for all Southern Black girls. Angelou’s readers are therefore encouraged through pathos to identify this experience and share in the resulting emotional anger and pain.

Example 3:  Romeo and Juliet  by William Shakespeare

Two households, both alike in dignity In fair Verona, where we lay our scene From ancient grudge break to new mutiny Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean. From forth the fatal loins of these two foes A pair of star- cross ’d lovers take their life Whose misadventured piteous overthrows Do with their death bury their parents’ strife.

In the prologue , Shakespeare foreshadows the events that take place in the play between Romeo and Juliet and their families. He also foreshadows the feelings and struggles of the characters, which is an appeal to the pathos of the audience/reader. For example, by stating that “civil blood makes civil hands unclean,” Shakespeare evokes feelings of dread and uncertainty in the audience, knowing that there is impending violence. By categorizing Romeo and Juliet as “star-crossed” lovers, Shakespeare appeals to the audience’s feelings of passion and unrequited love. Finally, in announcing the deaths of the lovers, Shakespeare inspires sadness, grief, and possibly anger or frustration in the audience at the foretold outcome.

With these emotional appeals in his prologue, Shakespeare not only prepares his audience for what is to come in the plot of the play but also sets the tone and prepares the appropriate emotional reactions for the audience to the events that will happen. This is a unique use of pathos as a literary device. Rather than allowing the audience to feel and react to the play’s narrative as it unfolds, Shakespeare “primes” emotional responses through pathos before the play even begins. This technique is effective because the audience is able to focus on the nuances of the play since they are already aware of the main events and outcomes, as well as how to feel about it.

Synonyms of Pathos

Pathos has a few synonyms that follow but they are only distant meanings. Some of them are tragedy, sadness, pitifulness, piteousness, sorrowfulness, lugubrious, poignant, and poignancy.

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Pathos, Logos, and Ethos

Most people are able to drive a car without fully understanding how the car operates. Making an argument is the same way. Most of us attempt to persuade people every day without understanding how persuasion works. Learning how a strong argument is crafted empowers us to better communicate and persuade others to understand our viewpoints.

What Are Pathos, Logos, and Ethos?

Ethos, Pathos, and Logos are three strategies commonly employed when attempting to persuade a reader.

Pathos , or the appeal to emotion, means to persuade an audience by purposely evoking certain emotions to make them feel the way the author wants them to feel. Authors make deliberate word choices, use meaningful language, and use examples and stories that evoke emotion. Authors can desire a range of emotional responses, including sympathy, anger, frustration, or even amusement.

Logos , or the appeal to logic, means to appeal to the audiences’ sense of reason or logic. To use logos, the author makes clear, logical connections between ideas, and includes the use of facts and statistics. Using historical and literal analogies to make a logical argument is another strategy. There should be no holes in the argument, also known as logical fallacies, which are unclear or wrong assumptions or connections between ideas.

Ethos is used to convey the writer’s credibility and authority. When evaluating a piece of writing, the reader must know if the writer is qualified to comment on this issue. The writer can communicate their authority by using credible sources; choosing appropriate language; demonstrating that they have fairly examined the issue (by considering the counterargument); introducing their own professional, academic or authorial credentials; introducing their own personal experience with the issue; and using correct grammar and syntax.

Sample Paragraph

Imagine this: a small dog sits in a dark, cold garage. His hair is matted and dirty; he is skinny and weak from going days without food. There is no water for him to drink, no person to give him love and no blanket to keep him warm at night. 1 While this might be a hard scenario to imagine, it is not an uncommon one in America today. According to the Humane Society of the United States, nearly 1,000,000 animals are abused or die from abuse every year. 2 As a veterinarian with 30 years of experience, I have seen how even one incident of abuse can affect an animal for the rest of its life. 3 As a society, we need to be more aware of this terrible problem and address this issue before it gets worse.

1 Pathos: the author paints a vivid picture to evoke a feeling from the reader—sadness and pity for the abused animal.

2 Logos: the author uses a startling statistic to appeal to our intellect. Keep in mind that these three strategies can often overlap. This sentence qualifies as both Logos and Ethos because it cites a reputable organization, so we know the author is using credible sources.

3 Ethos: the author establishes their own credibility by stating their occupation and experience.>

How Do I Know if the Author is Using Pathos, Logos or Ethos?

Pathos—does the writer appeal to the emotions of their reader.

  • Do they use individuals’ stories to “put a face” on the problem you’re exploring? For example, using an individual’s story about losing their home during the mortgage crisis of the 2008 Recession may be more powerful than using only statistics.
  • Do they use charged language or words that carry appropriate connotations? For example, if a writer describes a gun as a “sleek, silver piece of sophisticated weaponry,” they are delivering a much different image than if she writes, “a cold hunk of metal, dark and barbaric and ready to kill.”

Logos—does the writer appeal to the rational mind by using logic and evidence?

  • Do they include facts and statistics that support their point? It’s more convincing to tell the reader that “80% of students have committed some form of plagiarism,” than simply saying that “Lots of students have plagiarized.”
  • Do they walk us through the logical quality of their argument? Do they show us how ideas connect in a rational way? For example: “English students have been able to raise their overall grade by meeting with peer tutors, so it’s safe to assume that math students could also benefit from frequent tutoring sessions.” This example points out that logically, if the result has been seen in one situation, then it should be seen in a different but similar situation.
  • Hasty generalizations: “Even though the movie just started, I know it’s going to be boring.”
  • Slippery Slope: “If the government legalizes marijuana, eventually they’ll legalize all drugs.”
  • Circular Argument: “Barack Obama is a good communicator because he speaks effectively.”

Ethos—is this writer trustworthy?

  • What are their credentials? Are they an expert in the field? Have they written past essays, articles or books about this topic?
  • Do they use reputable sources? Do they support her statements with sources from established publications like The New York Times or a government census report? Do they fail to mention any sources?
  • Are they a fair-minded person who has considered all sides of this issue? Have they acknowledged any common ground they share with the opposite side? Do they include a counterargument and refutation?

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Understanding Pathos, Logos, and Ethos: The Power of Persuasion

Understanding Pathos, Logos, and Ethos: The Power of Persuasion

When it comes to effective communication, knowing how to use pathos, logos, and ethos can mean the difference between a persuasive argument and one that falls flat. These three rhetorical appeals are frequently used in speeches, essays, and other forms of communication to establish credibility, evoke emotions, and provide logical evidence to support ideas.

Let’s start with pathos–does the word sound familiar? It should, as it comes from the Greek word for “suffering” or “experience.” Pathos is all about appealing to the emotions of the audience. By using phrases, examples, or anecdotes that evoke pity or sympathy, a speaker or writer can establish a connection with the audience on a more emotional level. It’s a powerful tool to unleash whenever you want your message to be more persuasive.

On the other hand, logos is all about using logical reasoning and evidence to support arguments. It appeals to the rationality and intellect of the audience. Logos is often used in conjunction with facts, statistics, and logical statements to establish the credibility of the speaker or author. When applying logos in your writing, be sure to use clear and concise sentences, provide examples or case studies, and keep your audience engaged with logical analysis.

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Lastly, we have ethos, which is all about the character or authority of the speaker or author. Ethos is used to establish the credibility and trustworthiness of the person presenting the arguments. By showcasing your expertise, professional background, or previous works, you can establish yourself as a credible source on the subject matter. This is especially important when writing persuasive essays or presenting arguments on certain topics.

Now that we have a general understanding of pathos, logos, and ethos, let’s clarify some common fallacies and abuses of these rhetorical appeals. It’s important to note that while pathos, logos, and ethos can be powerful tools, they can also be misused. For example, appealing to someone’s emotions without providing any additional evidence or logical reasoning can lead to a biased and irrational argument.

Understanding Pathos, Logos, and Ethos

Let’s start by clarifying what pathos, logos, and ethos mean in the context of persuasive writing. Pathos appeals to the emotions of the reader or listener, making them feel pity, anger, or other strong feelings. Logos focuses on the logical reasoning and evidence used to support an argument. Ethos, on the other hand, establishes the credibility and authority of the writer or speaker.

Pathos–Evoke Emotions

The use of pathos is crucial in persuading others. By using language that connects with the reader’s emotions, writers can create a climate of sympathy or urgency. Pathos can be evoked through vivid imagery, personal anecdotes, or by appealing to shared values and beliefs. It is often employed in advertising campaigns or when discussing issues that require an emotional response from the audience.

Logos–Use Logic and Reasoning

While pathos appeals to emotions, logos relies on logical reasoning and evidence. This includes presenting facts, statistics, and logical arguments to support the writer’s or speaker’s point of view. By structuring sentences and paragraphs in a logical manner, writers can strengthen their arguments and make them more persuasive. Logos is commonly used in academic and argumentative writing, as well as in government reports and scientific research.

Ethos–Establish Credibility

Lastly, ethos plays a crucial role in persuading your audience. By presenting yourself as a credible and knowledgeable authority on the subject, you gain the trust of your readers or listeners. This can be achieved through the use of reliable sources, professional language, and a well-structured and organized argument. Ethos is particularly important when dealing with contentious or controversial topics, as it helps establish your credibility and persuasiveness.

The Importance of Pathos in Persuasive Writing

Pathos is the appeal to the emotions and experiences of the audience. It allows writers to tap into the readers’ feelings, such as empathy, sympathy, pity, or even anger, in order to persuade them to agree with their arguments. By using emotionally charged language, vivid descriptions, and relatable anecdotes, writers can create a connection with their audience and make them more likely to be swayed by their ideas.

In persuasive writing, pathos can be especially effective when discussing personal stories or real-life examples that evoke strong emotions. For example, when writing about the impact of climate change, a writer could describe the devastating effects of rising sea levels on coastal communities, like the loss of homes and beaches, to evoke a sense of urgency and concern in the reader.

Furthermore, pathos can also be used to establish the credibility of the writer. By connecting emotionally with the audience, the writer can be seen as someone who understands their concerns and experiences, making them more likely to be trusted and listened to. This is particularly important when addressing controversial or sensitive topics, as it helps the writer establish a connection and gain the readers’ trust before presenting their arguments.

It is important to note, however, that pathos should not overshadow the other rhetorical appeals. Persuasive writing should also include logical and rational arguments (logos) and establish the credibility of the writer (ethos). By combining all three appeals, writers can create a well-rounded persuasive essay that appeals to both the emotions and the intellect of their audience.

So, when writing a persuasive essay, make sure to incorporate pathos effectively by using emotionally compelling language, personal anecdotes, and real-life examples. By appealing to the emotions of your audience, you can establish a stronger connection and make your arguments more persuasive. Remember to balance pathos with logos and ethos, and always provide evidence and logical analysis to support your points. Thank you for reading!

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Tapping Into Emotions to Influence Your Audience

Emotions have a way of connecting people on a deeper level. By evoking certain emotions in your audience, you can create a strong bond and make your message or argument much more impactful. This is where pathos, one of Aristotle’s three appeals, comes into play.

Pathos appeals to the emotions of the audience and is often used to elicit empathy, sympathy, or even anger. By appealing to the emotions, you can make your audience more receptive to your ideas and more likely to take action.

One way to tap into emotions is by using powerful and descriptive language. Paint a vivid image in the minds of your audience, allowing them to truly feel what you are saying. Use words that evoke specific emotions such as joy, sadness, fear, or anger, depending on the desired effect.

Another effective technique is to tell stories or share personal anecdotes that relate to the subject matter. This allows the audience to connect with the topic on a personal level and feel a sense of empathy or sympathy. It can also make your message more relatable and memorable.

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As with any persuasive writing, it is important to keep in mind the audience you are addressing. Different emotions will resonate with different audiences, so it is important to tailor your message accordingly. Consider what emotions are most likely to resonate with your specific audience and craft your arguments and evidence in a way that appeals to those emotions.

While emotions are a powerful tool, it is important to use them ethically. Always be credible and honest in your arguments and avoid using emotions in a manipulative or exploitative way. The goal is to evoke genuine emotions and create a connection with your audience, not to deceive or manipulate them.

Remember, a persuasive essay or speech doesn’t necessarily have to make the audience angry or sad. It can also inspire happiness, hope, or motivation. The key is to unleash the power of emotions in a way that supports your overall message and objectives.

So, the next time you’re writing an argumentative essay or preparing a speech, remember to keep your audience’s emotions in mind. Use the tips and techniques mentioned above to create a strong emotional appeal, and you’ll be on your way to delivering a persuasive message that resonates with your audience.

Utilizing Logos to Strengthen Your Argument

Logos is derived from the Greek word meaning “logic,” and it emphasizes the use of reasoning and evidence to convince your audience. When you use logos in your writing, you are relying on facts, statistics, expert opinions, and logical reasoning to support your claims and persuade your readers or listeners.

Why is logos important?

Using logos in your arguments is essential because it helps to establish your credibility and makes your argument more persuasive and convincing. By providing clear and logical evidence, you show that you have done your research and have a deep understanding of the subject matter. This can help build trust with your audience and make them more likely to agree with your point of view.

When you use logos effectively, it also helps to counter any potential fallacies or weak arguments that may arise. By presenting strong evidence and using rational reasoning, you can effectively debunk any faulty or misleading statements made by others. This helps to strengthen your own position and make your argument more convincing.

Strategies for using logos

Here are some tips for effectively utilizing logos in your writing:

  • Research and gather relevant data and evidence to support your claims.
  • Cite credible sources and expert opinions to add credibility to your argument.
  • Use logical reasoning to connect your evidence to your main points.
  • Address counterarguments and provide refutations to strengthen your argument.
  • Keep your language clear, concise, and free from any logical fallacies.
  • Structure your argument in a logical and organized manner.

It is important to note that while logos is crucial for making a strong and persuasive argument, it can be even more effective when combined with pathos and ethos. By appealing to both the emotions and ethics of your audience, you create a well-rounded and compelling argument that is more likely to resonate with them.

Building a Solid Reasoning and Evidence-based Approach

To use logos–logical appeal–in your writing, you need to develop clear and sound arguments. Make sure that your statements are supported by evidence, such as facts, statistics, or expert opinions. This helps to strengthen your message and convince the audience that your ideas are valid and well-reasoned.

In an argumentative essay, for example, you can use logos to clarify your main points and counter any potential fallacies or opposing arguments. By using logical reasoning, you can demonstrate that your position is well-founded and supported by evidence.

On the other hand, pathos–emotional appeal–can also be a powerful tool in persuasive writing. By evoking emotions in your readers, you can create a connection and make your message more relatable. This can be done by telling personal stories, using descriptive language, or appealing to the values and beliefs of your audience.

However, it’s important to use pathos responsibly and without abuse. While emotions can be powerful, relying solely on emotional appeal without logical reasoning may undermine the credibility of your argument. It’s crucial to strike a balance between emotional appeal and logical reasoning to create a convincing and compelling message.

In addition to logos and pathos, ethos–is the character and credibility of the author–also plays a significant role in persuasive writing. To establish ethos, the writer needs to demonstrate expertise and credibility on the subject matter. This can be done by including relevant credentials, citing reputable sources, and displaying a deep understanding of the topic.

When building a solid reasoning and evidence-based approach, it is essential to consider your audience. Different strategies may be necessary for different audiences. For example, if you are writing a persuasive speech to a government body, you may need to use more formal language and rely heavily on statistics and expert opinions. On the other hand, if your purpose is to appeal to a broader audience, you may use storytelling and personal anecdotes to create a connection.

To further strengthen your reasoning and evidence-based approach, here are some tips and resources:

1. Use clear and concise language:

Avoid using complicated or ambiguous language that may confuse your audience. Keep your paragraphs and sentences short and to the point.

2. Know your audience:

Understanding the interests, values, and knowledge of your audience can help you tailor your message and arguments to their needs.

3. Keep the focus on your main message:

Avoid getting sidetracked or including irrelevant information that may weaken your argument. Stay focused on your main points and keep the audience engaged.

By following these strategies and applying a solid reasoning and evidence-based approach, you can create persuasive essays that resonate with your audiences. Remember to use logos, pathos, and ethos effectively and responsibly to build a strong and convincing message.

If you’re unsure about the effectiveness of your writing or want to check for any grammar or spelling mistakes, you can use resources like LanguageTool or seek editing assistance from others. With practice, you’ll become more adept at applying these strategies and connecting with your readers on a deeper level.

Developing Ethos for Effective Persuasion

To develop ethos, it is important to consider your audience and tailor your approach accordingly. Start by asking yourself questions such as: What level of expertise do my readers have? What kind of language and examples would resonate with them? Knowing your audience will help you structure your arguments and better appeal to their emotions and intellect.

A well-developed ethos also includes using professional language and avoiding fallacies or abuses of logic. Show that you have done your research and provide evidence to support your claims. Use words and phrases that express certainty and authority, but be careful not to come across as arrogant or condescending.

Another important aspect of ethos is acknowledging and addressing potential counterarguments. By showing that you have considered other viewpoints and have a well-rounded understanding of the topic, you demonstrate fairness and openness. This can further establish your credibility and make your arguments more persuasive.

Developing ethos requires practice and continuous improvement. Read sample speeches, articles, or essays written by professionals to learn from their techniques. Take additional classes or workshops to further enhance your persuasive skills. The more you unleash the power of ethos, the more effective you will be in making your point and influencing others.

Remember, ethos is just one of the three pillars of persuasion. Pathos appeals to emotions, while logos–logic–does so with rational arguments. By using a combination of ethos, pathos, and logos, you can create a well-rounded persuasive piece that communicates your ideas effectively and ethically.

Thank you for reading!

Does appealing to emotions make a persuasive argument stronger?

Yes, appealing to emotions can make a persuasive argument stronger. By tapping into the reader’s emotions, the writer can create a stronger connection and engage the reader on a more personal level. Emotions can help to evoke empathy, create a sense of urgency, and ultimately motivate the reader to take action.

How can a writer appeal to the emotions of their reader?

A writer can appeal to the emotions of their reader by using vivid and descriptive language, storytelling, personal anecdotes, and powerful imagery. They can also use rhetorical devices such as metaphors, similes, and hyperbole to evoke strong emotions. Additionally, the writer can focus on relatable topics and issues that resonate with the reader’s own experiences and emotions.

Is it more effective to appeal to emotions when trying to persuade someone?

It depends on the situation and the audience. Appealing to emotions can be very effective in certain circumstances, especially when the topic is highly personal or sensitive. However, in other situations where the audience values logic and reason, appealing to emotions may be less effective and could even backfire. It’s important for the writer to understand their audience and tailor their persuasive techniques accordingly.

What are the benefits of appealing to emotions in persuasive writing?

Appealing to emotions in persuasive writing can have several benefits. Firstly, it can create a strong connection between the writer and the reader, enhancing the reader’s engagement with the argument. Secondly, emotions can help to evoke empathy and compassion, making the reader more likely to take action or support the writer’s cause. Lastly, appealing to emotions can make the argument more memorable and impactful, as emotions tend to leave a lasting impression on the reader.

Are there any risks associated with appealing to emotions in persuasive writing?

Yes, there are some risks associated with appealing to emotions in persuasive writing. If the emotions are not effectively supported by evidence and logical reasoning, the argument may come across as manipulative or disingenuous. Additionally, different people may have different emotional responses to the same argument, so it’s important for the writer to consider the diverse perspectives and emotional reactions of their audience. Overall, the writer should strike a balance between appealing to emotions and presenting a well-supported and logical argument.

Does using pathos make the writer’s argument more persuasive?

Yes, using pathos can make the writer’s argument more persuasive. By appealing to the emotions of their reader, the writer can create a strong emotional connection and make their argument more relatable, memorable, and convincing.

Alex Koliada, PhD

By Alex Koliada, PhD

Alex Koliada, PhD, is a well-known doctor. He is famous for studying aging, genetics, and other medical conditions. He works at the Institute of Food Biotechnology and Genomics. His scientific research has been published in the most reputable international magazines. Alex holds a BA in English and Comparative Literature from the University of Southern California , and a TEFL certification from The Boston Language Institute.

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 Ethos, Logos, and Pathos – A Simple Guide

 Ethos, Logos, and Pathos – A Simple Guide

4-minute read

  • 12th April 2023

Ethos, logos, and pathos are three essential components of persuasive communication . They’ve been used for centuries by great communicators to influence the beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors of their audiences. In this simple guide, we’ll take a closer look at these three components using examples from famous writing and speeches.

What Is Ethos?

Ethos is a persuasive appeal based on the credibility or character of the speaker or writer. It refers to the trustworthiness, expertise, or authority that they bring to the argument. It’s crucial in establishing the credibility of the speaker or writer and can be built in through a variety of means, such as reputation and sources, or language and tone.

How To Use Ethos

Ethos can be established through the speaker or writer’s reputation: if they are known for being knowledgeable, honest, and trustworthy, this can lend credibility to their argument. For example, in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, Martin Luther King Jr. established his ethos by highlighting his role as a civil rights leader and his personal experience with racial injustice.

Another way you can achieve ethos in speech or writing is through the use of credible sources. For example, Rachel Carson established ethos in her book Silent Spring by providing extensive scientific evidence to support her argument that pesticides were harming the environment.

Finally, ethos can be accomplished through the use of language and tone . Using a professional and respectful tone can create the impression of credibility and authority. For instance, in his second inaugural address, President Abraham Lincoln employed ethos by using a solemn, reflective tone to convey the gravity of the situation.

What Is Logos?

Logos is a persuasive appeal based on logic and reasoning. It refers to the use of evidence and logical arguments to support the speaker or writer’s position.

How To Use Logos

One way you can implement logos in your speech or writing is through the use of statistics and data. When writing, or constructing a speech, try to incorporate reliable and credible stats or figures to strengthen your claims or argument and persuade your audience.

You can also employ examples and analogies to achieve logos. These can make your argument more accessible and understandable to a wider audience. For example, in his book The Tipping Point , Malcolm Gladwell uses the example of “the broken windows” theory to illustrate his argument that small changes can have a big impact on social behavior.

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Finally, logos can be established through the use of logical arguments . To ensure you have a logical argument, you should have a clear statement with definitions, examples, and evidence to support it. For instance, in his essay “Civil Disobedience,” Henry David Thoreau made a logical argument that individuals have a moral obligation to resist unjust laws.

What Is Pathos?

Pathos is a persuasive appeal based on emotion. It refers to the use of language and imagery that elicits an emotional response. Pathos can be used to create a sense of urgency, inspire empathy, or evoke a particular mood.

How To Use Pathos

Vivid imagery is a great way in which a writer or speaker can implement pathos. Using descriptive language to paint a picture in your audience’s mind is a powerful and persuasive skill. For example, in his poem “Dulce et Decorum Est,” Wilfred Owen used vivid imagery to describe the horrors of war and elicit an emotional response in his readers.

Pathos can also be accomplished by using personal anecdotes. The power of storytelling is an invaluable skill for any writer or speaker because it creates rapport and an emotional connection with your audience. For example, in her TED talk “The Power of Vulnerability,” Brene Brown shares personal stories about her struggles with shame and vulnerability to inspire empathy and connection with her audience.

Finally, pathos can be established through the use of rhetorical questions and appeals to shared values. A good example can be heard in Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. He poses his biggest question to his audience (and the world): “Now, what does all of this mean in this great period of history?” In response to this rhetorical question, he beautifully tries to persuade the audience to work together toward a common goal, stating, “It means that we’ve got to stay together. We’ve got to stay together and maintain unity.”

Ethos, logos, and pathos are powerful tools for persuasive speech and writing. By establishing credibility, using logical arguments, and appealing to emotion, speakers and writers can influence the beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors of their audiences. When used effectively, these elements can help to create meaningful and lasting change in the world.

Interested in learning how to elevate your writing with more literary devices? Check our other articles .

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Understand The Difference Between Ethos, Pathos, And Logos To Make Your Point

  • What Is Ethos?
  • What Is Pathos?
  • What Is Logos?
  • Examples Of Each
  • What Are Mythos And Kairos?

During an argument, people will often say whatever is necessary to win. If that is the case, they would certainly need to understand the three modes of persuasion, also commonly known as the three rhetorical appeals: ethos , pathos , and logos . In short, these three words refer to three main methods that a person can use to speak or write persuasively. As you’re about to find out, the modes of persuasion are important because a speaker who knows how to effectively use them will have a significant advantage over someone who doesn’t.

The terms ethos , pathos , and logos and the theory of their use can be traced back to ancient Greece to the philosophy of Aristotle . Aristotle used these three concepts in his explanations of rhetoric , or the art of influencing the thought and conduct of an audience. For Aristotle, the three modes of persuasion specifically referred to the three major parts of an argument: the speaker ( ethos ), the argument itself ( logos ), and the audience ( pathos ). In particular, Aristotle focused on the speaker’s character, the logic and reason presented by an argument, and the emotional impact the argument had on an audience.

While they have ancient roots, these modes of persuasion are alive and well today. Put simply, ethos refers to persuasion based on the credibility or authority of the speaker, pathos refers to persuasion based on emotion, and logos refers to persuasion based on logic or reason.

By effectively using the three modes of persuasion with a large supply of rhetorical devices, a speaker or writer can become a master of rhetoric and win nearly any argument or win over any audience. Before they can do that, though, they must know exactly what ethos , pathos , and logos mean. Fortunately, we are going to look closely at each of these three ideas and see if they are really as effective as they are said to be.

⚡️ Quick summary

Ethos , pathos , and logos are the three classical modes of persuasion that a person can use to speak or write persuasively. Specifically:

  • ethos (character): known as “the appeal to authority” or “the appeal to credibility.” This is the method in which a person relies on their credibility or character when making an appeal or an argument.
  • pathos (emotions): known as “the appeal to emotion.” Pathos refers to the method of trying to persuade an audience by eliciting some kind of emotional reaction.
  • logos (logic): known as “the appeal to reason.” This method involves using facts and logical reasoning to support an argument and persuade an audience.

What is ethos ?

The word ethos comes straight from Greek. In Greek, ethos literally translates to “habit,” “custom,” or “character.” Ethos is related to the words ethic and ethical , which are typically used to refer to behavior that is or isn’t acceptable for a particular person.

In rhetoric, the word ethos is used to refer to the character or reputation of the speaker. As a rhetorical appeal, ethos is known as “the appeal to authority” or “the appeal to credibility.” When it comes to ethos , one important consideration is how the speaker carries themself and how they present themselves to the audience: Does it seem like they know what they are talking about? Do they even believe the words they are saying? Are they an expert? Do they have some experience or skills that tell us we should listen to them?

Ethos is important in rhetoric because it often influences the opinion or mood of the audience. If a speaker seems unenthusiastic, unprepared, or inexperienced, the audience is more likely to discount the speaker’s argument regardless of what it even is. On the other hand, a knowledgeable, authoritative, confident speaker is much more likely to win an audience over.

Ethos often depends on more than just the argument itself. For example, a speaker’s word choice, grammar, and diction also contribute to ethos ; an audience may react more favorably toward a professional speaker who has a good grasp of industry jargon and enunciates clearly versus a speaker who lacks the necessary vocabulary and fails to enunciate. Ethos can also be influenced by nonverbal factors as well, such as posture, body language, eye contact, and even the speaker’s choice of clothing. For example, a military officer proudly wearing their uniform bedecked with medals will go a long way to establishing ethos without them saying a single word.

Here as a simple example of ethos :

  • “As a former mayor of this city, I believe we can solve this crisis if we band together.”

The speaker uses ethos by alerting the audience of their credentials and experience. By doing so, they rely on their reputation to be more persuasive. This “as a…” method of establishing ethos is common, and you have probably seen it used in many persuasive advertisements and speeches.

What are open-ended questions and how can you use them effectively? Find out here.

What is pathos ?

In Greek, pathos literally translates to “suffering, experience, or sensation.” The word pathos is related to the words pathetic , sympathy , and empathy , which all have to do with emotions or emotional connections. Aristotle used the word pathos to refer to the emotional impact that an argument had on an audience; this usage is still mainly how pathos is used in rhetoric today.

As a rhetorical appeal, pathos is referred to as “the appeal to emotion.” Generally speaking, an author or speaker is using pathos when they are trying to persuade an audience by causing some kind of emotional reaction. When it comes to pathos , any and all emotions are on the table: sadness, fear, hope, joy, anger, lust, pity, etc.

As you probably know from your own life, emotions are a powerful motivating factor. For this reason, relying on pathos is often a smart and effective strategy for persuading an audience. Both positive and negative emotions can heavily influence an audience: for example, an audience will want to support a speaker whose position will make them happy, a speaker who wants to end their sadness, or a speaker who is opposed to something that makes them angry.

Here is a simple example of pathos :

  • “Every day, the rainforests shrink and innocent animals are killed. We must do something about this calamitous trend before the planet we call our home is damaged beyond repair.”

Here, the author is trying to win over an audience by making them feel sad, concerned, or afraid. The author’s choice of words like “innocent” and “calamitous” enforce the fact that they are trying to rely on pathos .

What is logos ?

In Greek, the word logos literally translates to “word, reason, or discourse.” The word logos is related to many different words that have to do with reason, discourse, or knowledge, such as logic , logical , and any words that end in the suffixes -logy or -logue .

As a mode of persuasion and rhetorical appeal, logos is often referred to as “the appeal to reason.” If a speaker or author is relying on logos , they are typically reciting facts or providing data and statistics that support their argument. In a manner of speaking, logos does away with all of the bells and whistles of ethos and pathos and cuts to the chase by trying to present a rational argument.

Logos can be effective in arguments because, in theory, it is impossible to argue against truth and facts. An audience is more likely to agree with a speaker who can provide strong, factual evidence that shows their position is correct. On the flip side, an audience is less likely to support an argument that is flawed or entirely wrong. Going further, a speaker that presents a lot of supporting evidence and data to the audience is likely to come across as knowledgeable and someone to be listened to, which earns bonus points in ethos as well.

While Aristotle clearly valued an argument based on reason very highly, we know that logos alone doesn’t always effectively persuade an audience. In your own life, you have likely seen a rational, correct speaker lose an argument to a charismatic, authoritative speaker who may not have the facts right.

Here is a simple example of logos :

  • “According to market research, sales of computer chips have increased by 300% in the last five years. Analysis of the industry tells us that the market share of computer chips is dominated by Asian manufacturers. It is clear that the Asian technology sector will continue to experience rapid growth for the foreseeable future.”

In this paragraph, the author is using data, statistics, and logical reasoning to make their argument. They clearly hope to use logos to try to convince an audience to agree with them.

Do you need persuading to take this quiz on identifying ethos, pathos, and logos? We think you’ll be a champion at it.

Examples of ethos , pathos , and logos

Ethos , pathos , and logos can all be employed to deliver compelling and persuasive arguments or to win over an audience. Let’s look at a variety of examples to see how different speakers and authors have turned to these modes of persuasion over the years.

“Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral. He was my friend, faithful and just to me […] You all did see that on the Lupercal I thrice presented him a kingly crown, Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?” —Marc Antony, Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

In this scene, Marc Antony is trying to win over the Roman people, so Shakespeare has Antony rely on ethos . Antony is establishing himself as both a person of authority in Rome (having the power to offer Caesar a crown) and an expert on Caesar’s true character (Antony was Caesar’s close friend and advisor).

“During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the world’s first computer animated feature film, Toy Story , and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance.” —Steve Jobs, 2005

Here, Steve Jobs is providing his background–via humblebrag – of being a major figure in several different highly successful tech companies. Jobs is using ethos to provide substance to his words and make it clear to the audience that he knows what he is talking about and they should listen to him.

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“Moreover, though you hate both him and his gifts with all your heart, yet pity the rest of the Achaeans who are being harassed in all their host; they will honour you as a god, and you will earn great glory at their hands. You might even kill Hector; he will come within your reach, for he is infatuated, and declares that not a Danaan whom the ships have brought can hold his own against him.” —Ulysses to Achilles, The Iliad by Homer

In this plea, Ulysses is doing his best to pile on the pathos . In one paragraph, Ulysses is attempting to appeal to several of Achilles’s emotions: his hatred of Hector, his infamous stubborn pride, his sympathy for civilians, and his desire for vengeance.

“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. 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.” —Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 1963

In this excerpt from his “I Have A Dream” speech, King is using pathos to accomplish two goals at once. First, he is connecting with his audience by making it clear is aware of their plight and suffering. Second, he is citing these examples to cause sadness or outrage in the audience. Both of these effects will make an audience interested in what he has to say and more likely to support his position.

Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech is recognizable and noteworthy for many reasons, including the rhetorical device he employs. Learn about it here.

“Let it be remembered how powerful the influence of a single introduced tree or mammal has been shown to be. But in the case of an island, or of a country partly surrounded by barriers, into which new and better adapted forms could not freely enter, we should then have places in the economy of nature which would assuredly be better filled up if some of the original inhabitants were in some manner modified; for, had the area been open to immigration, these same places would have been seized on by intruders. In such case, every slight modification, which in the course of ages chanced to arise, and which in any way favoured the individuals of any of the species, by better adapting them to their altered conditions, would tend to be preserved; and natural selection would have free scope for the work of improvement.” —Charles Darwin, On the Origin of the Species , 1859

In this passage, Darwin is using logos by presenting a rational argument in support of natural selection. Darwin connects natural selection to established scientific knowledge to argue that it makes logical sense that animals would adapt to better survive in their environment.

“I often echo the point made by the climate scientist James Hansen: The accumulation of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases—some of which will envelop the planet for hundreds and possibly thousands of years—is now trapping as much extra energy daily as 500,000 Hiroshima-class atomic bombs would release every 24 hours. This is the crisis we face.” —Al Gore, “The Climate Crisis Is the Battle of Our Time, and We Can Win,” 2019

In this call to action, Al Gore uses logos to attempt to convince his audience of the significance of climate change. In order to do this, Gore both cites an expert in the field and provides a scientifically accurate simile to explain the scale of the effect that greenhouse gases have on Earth’s atmosphere.

What are mythos and kairos ?

Some modern scholars may also use terms mythos and kairos when discussing modes of persuasion or rhetoric in general.

Aristotle used the term mythos to refer to the plot or story structure of Greek tragedies, i.e., how a playwright ordered the events of the story to affect the audience. Today, mythos is most often discussed as a literary or poetic term rather than a rhetorical one. However, mythos may rarely be referred to as the “appeal to culture” or the “appeal to myth” if it is treated as an additional mode of persuasion. According to this viewpoint, a speaker/writer is using mythos if they try to persuade an audience using shared cultural customs or societal values.

A commonly cited example of mythos is King’s “I Have a Dream” speech quoted earlier. King says:

“When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men—yes, black men as well as white men—would be guaranteed the ‘unalienable rights’ of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ ”

Throughout the speech, King repeatedly uses American symbols and American history ( mythos ) to argue that all Americans should be outraged that Black Americans have been denied freedom and civil rights.

Some modern scholars may also consider kairos as an additional mode of persuasion. Kairos is usually defined as referring to the specific time and place that a speaker chooses to deliver their speech. For written rhetoric, the “place” instead refers to the specific medium or publication in which a piece of writing appears.

Unlike the other modes of persuasion, kairos relates to the context of a speech and how the appropriateness (or not) of a setting affects how effective a speaker is. Once again, King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is a great example of the use of kairos . This speech was delivered at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation at the end of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Clearly, King intended to use kairos to enhance the importance and timeliness of this landmark speech.

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Ethos, pathos, logos, and kairos all stem from rhetoric—that is, speaking and writing effectively. You might find the concepts in courses on rhetoric, psychology, English, or in just about any other field!

The concepts of ethos, pathos, logos, and kairos are also called the modes of persuasion, ethical strategies, or rhetorical appeals. They have a lot of different applications ranging from everyday interactions with others to big political speeches to effective advertising.

Read on to learn about what the modes of persuasion are, how they’re used, and how to identify them!

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What Are the Modes of Persuasion?

As you might have guessed from the sound of the words, ethos, pathos, logos, and kairos go all the way back to ancient Greece. The concepts were introduced in Aristotle’s Rhetoric , a treatise on persuasion that approached rhetoric as an art, in the fourth century BCE.

Rhetoric was primarily concerned with ethos, pathos, and logos, but kairos, or the idea of using your words at the right time, was also an important feature of Aristotle’s teachings.

However, kairos was particularly interesting to the Sophists, a group of intellectuals who made their living teaching a variety of subjects. The Sophists stressed the importance of structuring rhetoric around the ideal time and place.

Together, all four concepts have become the modes of persuasion, though we typically focus on ethos, pathos, and logos.

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What Is Ethos?

Though you may not have heard the term before, ‘ethos’ is a common concept. You can think of it as an appeal to authority or character—persuasive techniques using ethos will attempt to persuade you based on the speaker’s social standing or knowledge. The word ethos even comes from the Greek word for character.

An ethos-based argument will include a statement that makes use of the speaker or writer’s position and knowledge. For example, hearing the phrase, “As a doctor, I believe,” before an argument about physical health is more likely to sway you than hearing, “As a second-grade teacher, I believe.”

Likewise, celebrity endorsements can be incredibly effective in persuading people to do things . Many viewers aspire to be like their favorite celebrities, so when they appear in advertisements, they're more likely to buy whatever they're selling to be more like them. The same is true of social media influencers, whose partnerships with brands can have huge financial benefits for marketers .

In addition to authority figures and celebrities, according to Aristotle, we’re more likely to trust people who we perceive as having good sense, good morals, and goodwill —in other words, we trust people who are rational, fair, and kind. You don’t have to be famous to use ethos effectively; you just need whoever you’re persuading to perceive you as rational, moral, and kind.

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What Is Pathos?

Pathos, which comes from the Greek word for suffering or experience, is rhetoric that appeals to emotion. The emotion appealed to can be a positive or negative one, but whatever it is, it should make people feel strongly as a means of getting them to agree or disagree.

For example, imagine someone asks you to donate to a cause, such as saving rainforests. If they just ask you to donate, you may or may not want to, depending on your previous views. But if they take the time to tell you a story about how many animals go extinct because of deforestation, or even about how their fundraising efforts have improved conditions in the rainforests, you may be more likely to donate because you’re emotionally involved.

But pathos isn’t just about creating emotion; it can also be about counteracting it. For example, imagine a teacher speaking to a group of angry children. The children are annoyed that they have to do schoolwork when they’d rather be outside. The teacher could admonish them for misbehaving, or, with rhetoric, he could change their minds.

Suppose that, instead of punishing them, the teacher instead tries to inspire calmness in them by putting on some soothing music and speaking in a more hushed voice. He could also try reminding them that if they get to work, the time will pass quicker and they’ll be able to go outside to play.

Aristotle outlines emotional dichotomies in Rhetoric . If an audience is experiencing one emotion and it’s necessary to your argument that they feel another, you can counterbalance the unwanted emotion with the desired one . The dichotomies, expanded upon after Aristotle, are :

  • Anger/Calmness
  • Friendship/Enmity
  • Fear/Confidence
  • Shame/Shamelessness
  • Kindness/Unkindness
  • Pity/Indignation
  • Envy/Emulation

Note that these can work in either direction; it’s not just about swaying an audience from a negative emotion to a positive one. 

However, changing an audience's emotion based on false or misleading information is often seen as manipulation rather than persuasion. Getting into the hows and whys requires a dive into the ethics of rhetoric , but suffice to say that when you attempt to deceive an audience, that is manipulation.

If you really want to get an audience fired up about something, you can inspire righteous anger, which may or may not be manipulation. If somebody is offended that you’ve asked them for something, you can try making them feel sorry for you by turning indignation into pity— that’s manipulation.

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What Is Logos?

Logos comes from a Greek word of multiple meanings, including “ground,” “speech,” and “reason.” In rhetoric, it specifically refers to having a sense of logic to your persuasion; logos-based rhetoric is founded in logic and reason rather than emotion, authority, or personality.

A logic-based argument appeals to a person’s sense of reason— good logos-based rhetoric will persuade people because the argument is well-reasoned and based in fact. There are two common approaches to logos: deductive and inductive arguments.

Deductive arguments build on statements to reach a conclusion —in effect, the conclusion is reached in reverse. A common method is to propose multiple true statements which are combined to reach a conclusion, such as the classic method of proving that Socrates is mortal.

All men are mortal, and Socrates is a man, therefore Socrates must be mortal.

That’s not really a case that needs to be argued, but we can apply the same framework to other arguments as well. For example, we need energy to live. Food gives the body energy. Therefore, we need food to live.  

All of this is based on things we can prove, and results in a conclusion that is true , not just theorized. Deductive reasoning works on the assumption that A = B, B = C, so therefore A = C. But this also supposes that all the information is true, which is not always the case.

Sometimes the conclusions you reach with deductive reasoning can be valid, as in the reasoning makes sense, but the conclusion may not be necessarily true. If we return to the Socrates argument, we could propose that:

All men eat apples. Socrates is a man. Therefore, Socrates must eat apples.

The problem is that we can’t prove that all men eat apples —some do, some don’t. Some might eat an apple once but never again. But based on our arguments, the conclusion that Socrates must eat apples is valid.

A strong deductive argument for logos-based reasoning will be composed of provable facts that can reach a provable conclusion. However, a valid but not entirely sound argument can also be effective—but be wary of shifting from persuasion to manipulation!

Another approach to logos-based rhetoric is inductive reasoning, which, unlike deductive reasoning, results in a probable argument rather than a definite one. That doesn’t mean that it is less effective—many scientific concepts we accept as truth are inductive theories simply because we cannot travel back in time and prove them— but rather that inductive reasoning is based on eliminating the impossible and ending in an argument that is based in sound logic and fact, but that may not necessarily be provable.

For example, all people with a cough have a cold. Kelly has a cough. Therefore, Kelly likely has a cold.

Our conclusion is likely , but not absolute. It’s possible that Kelly doesn’t have a cold—not because she doesn't have a cough, but because there are other possible causes, such as having allergies or having just breathed in some dust. The conclusion that she has a cold is likely based on data, but not absolute.

Another example would be that Kelly picks her nose. Kelly is a woman, therefore all women must pick their nose.

Inductive reasoning is based on generalizations. The first example, in which Kelly likely has a cold, makes sense because it’s based on something provable—that a sampling of people who have a cough have colds—and followed up with a likely conclusion. In the second example, this is a less sensible conclusion because it’s based on extrapolation from a single reference point.

If we reverse the claim and say that all women pick their noses, and Kelly is a woman, therefore Kelly must pick her nose, that would be more sound logic. Still not necessarily true—not all women pick their noses—but a more sound example of inductive reasoning.

Inductive reasoning can still be incredibly effective in persuasion, provided that your information is well-reasoned. Inductive reasoning creates a hypothesis that can be tested; its conclusion is not necessarily true, but can be examined.

As always, be wary of venturing into manipulation, which is more likely to be based on erroneous or misleading facts.

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What Is Kairos?

Kairos is the Greek word for the opportune moment, which is precisely what it means in rhetoric. According to this principle, the time in which an argument is deployed is as important as the argument itself. An argument at the wrong time or to the wrong audience will be wasted; to be effective, you must also consider when you are speaking and to whom.

In effect, kairos means choosing the correct rhetorical device to match the audience and space in which you’re attempting to persuade. If you wanted to persuade people to go vegetarian, the middle of a hot dog-eating contest is probably not the right time. Likewise, you’re probably not going to persuade a room of data-driven scientists of something by appealing to pathos or ethos; logos is probably your best bet.

In essence, kairos asks you to consider the context and atmosphere of the argument you’re making. How can you deploy your argument better considering time and space? Should you wait, or is time of the essence?

As Aristotle famously said, “Anybody can become angry—that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way—that is not within everybody's power and is not easy.”

The goal of kairos is to achieve exactly that. Effective use of kairos strengthens your persuasion ability by considering how people are already feeling based on context. How can you influence or counteract that? Or maybe pathos isn’t the right approach—maybe cold hard facts, using logos, is more suited. Kairos works in conjunction with the other modes of persuasion to strengthen your argument, so as you’re putting a persuasive piece together, consider how and when it’ll be deployed!

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How to Identify Ethos, Pathos, Logos, and Kairos

Understanding how the modes of persuasion work can make you better at identifying and picking them out. Not only is a better understanding of them useful for composing your own arguments, but it’s also beneficial when seeing other people’s arguments. When you understand how ethos, pathos, logos, and kairos work, you’re less susceptible to them.

Advertising is one of the places we see the modes of persuasion most often. Looking at each of these advertisements, you can see how they use each mode of persuasion to convince audiences to convince an audience of something.

Using celebrities is a classic example of ethos, which uses authority or recognition to convince an audience of something. In this case, celebrities like Michelle Obama, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Janelle Monáe discuss the importance of voting.

It doesn’t matter that they’re not politicians or political scientists; audiences find them appealing and genuine. When they speak of the importance of voting, audiences listen because they like what these figures have to say . If talented, famous people like this are taking the time to vote, it must be important!

Historians or those well-versed in politics might make different arguments about why audiences should vote, but in this case, the goal is to inspire people. When we see people we admire doing things, we want to do them too; hence the reason that ethos works so well.

ASPCA’s commercials are some of the most infamous examples of pathos in advertising. Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” plays over footage of abused animals in shelters, encouraging viewers to donate money to support the organization.

It’s not hard to understand why it works; both the song and the imagery are heartbreaking! You can’t help but feel sad when you see it, and that sadness, when followed up by a prompt to donate, encourages you to take immediate action.  And these ads are effective— the campaign raised millions of dollars for ASPCA .

By appealing to our emotions and making us feel sad, this advertisement encourages us to act. That’s a classic use of ethos—it influences our feelings through the one-two punch of sad music and imagery, encouraging us to perform the desired action.

In some cases, emotion and authority aren’t the right tactic. Logos often appears in tech advertisements, such as this one for the iPhone XS and XR.

Notice how the advertisement focuses on product shots and technological terms. Most audiences won’t know what an A12 bionic neural engine is, but it sounds impressive. Likewise, that “12 MPf/1.8 wide-angle lens, with larger, deeper 1.4 micron pixels” is pretty meaningless to most people, but the numbers suggest that this phone is something special because it uses scientific-sounding language.

It doesn’t matter whether audiences really understand what’s being said or not. What matters is that they feel confident that the ad is selling them something they need —in this case, impressive technological specifications that make this phone an improvement over others.

Kairos should ideally factor into all uses of the modes of persuasion, but timeliness can also be a big selling point. In this Christmas-themed M&Ms advertisement, the company uses timely humor to forge a connection between the holidays and M&Ms.

Because these commercials have been running for such a long time, there’s also a nostalgic attachment to them. Just as people look forward to new Budweiser advertisements during the Super Bowl, others look forward to seeing M&Ms or the Coca-Cola polar bear during the holidays.

Though this commercial doesn’t go out of its way to tell you the benefits of M&Ms, it does forge a connection between M&Ms and Christmas, encouraging people to purchase them around the holidays.

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Examples of the Modes of Persuasion

Now that you’ve had some exposure to how ethos, pathos, logos, and kairos function and what they can do, you can test your ability to recognize them using the images below!

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There are a few things to notice about this image:

  • The anonymous figure
  • The language
  • The use of a statistic

Can you figure out which mode of persuasion this represents?

The fact that the figure is anonymous tells us it’s probably not ethos. While we might be influenced by a person who’s in shape, there’s not really an appeal here based on the person—they’re just an image to support the ad.

“DOMINATE” is a pretty loaded word, suggesting that this may have elements of pathos.

However, take a look at that statistic. Whether it’s true or not, a hard statistic like that suggests that this ad is using logos to appeal to viewers. You can draw out an argument from there—75% of users lose weight within weeks. You’re a user. Therefore, you will likely lose weight within weeks.

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What do you notice about this image?

  • The way the text frames the woman’s body
  • The name of the perfume
  • The color choice

What mode of persuasion is this?

Again, we don’t know who the model is, and perfume isn’t going to make us look like her, so we can count ethos out.

The ad seems pretty intent on making us look at certain things—the woman’s lips and chest in particular. What is it trying to make us feel?

“FORBIDDEN FRUIT” has a connotation of sensuality.

Red is a color commonly associated with passion.

When you combine the photo, the framing, the perfume name, and the color, you get a strong sense of sex appeal from the advertisement. This makes it an example of pathos—the ad is trying to make us feel a certain way . If we buy this perfume, maybe we would feel attractive, too.

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How about this advertisement?

  • A serious-looking photo
  • Text promising “no more back pain”
  • “Doctor recommended.”

Seeing a doctor might make you tempted to think the answer is logos, but there’s no appeal to logic here.

“No more back pain,” is a nice promise, but there’s no attempt to appeal to emotions, so it can’t be pathos.

What’s important in this image is the combination of the doctor in the image and the line “doctor recommended.” This doctor might not be famous, but he does have authority, making this an example of ethos.

Our confidence in this treatment grows because we trust that a doctor understands how to address back pain.

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What mode of persuasion is this?  Think about:

  • The framing

She does look fashionable and the ad mentions stylists, so it’s possible that this is ethos.

There are no statistics or arguments being made, so the answer probably isn’t logos.

Pathos is possible, but despite having a heavily made-up model, this ad is far less about sex appeal than the previous one.

But the text mentions a specific holiday—New Year’s—suggesting that this is kairos. Kairos can, and often should, be combined with all the modes of persuasion to be even more effective. In this case, the model’s appearance could suggest either ethos or pathos in addition to kairos. The message here is that you should act now, at the beginning of the year, to take advantage of the deal and to start the year off with a new style, much like the one the model is sporting.

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Key Tips for Identifying Ethos, Pathos, Logos, and Kairos

Now that you know the difference between all the modes of persuasion, you’ll have a much easier time identifying them. If you run into trouble, you can always ask questions about what you’re seeing, hearing, or reading to understand what mode of persuasion it’s using.

#1: Is It Related to a Specific Time?

If the argument is based on a specific day or context, such as Valentine’s Day or appealing only to a select group of people, such as people with dogs, it’s more likely to be kairos.

#2: Does It Involve a Celebrity or Authority Figure?

Celebrities are often a dead giveaway that an argument is using ethos. But authority figures, such as doctors, dentists, or politicians, can also be used to appeal to ethos. Even regular, everyday people can work, particularly when combined with pathos, to appeal to you based on a mutual connection you have.

#3: Does It Involve Statistics?

Statistics are a huge clue that an argument is using logos. But logos can also just be a logical argument, such as that if plants need water, and it’s hard to remember to water them, you should buy an automatic plant waterer. It makes perfect sense, making you more likely to buy it, rather than changing your habits to remember to water your plants more frequently.

#4: Does It Influence Your Emotions?

If an argument tries to change your emotions, whether by making you sad, happy, angry, or something else entirely, it’s a good indicator that it’s using pathos. Sex appeal is one of the biggest examples of pathos in advertising, appearing everywhere from makeup ads to car commercials to hamburger advertisements.

What’s Next?

Need help understanding the historical context for  The Great Gatsby to perfect your kairos-based argument?

You can always combine the modes of persuasion with literary devices to make your arguments even stronger!

Learn how to say "good morning" in Japanese ! Even if it's not a mode of persuasion, it's just good manners.

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Melissa Brinks graduated from the University of Washington in 2014 with a Bachelor's in English with a creative writing emphasis. She has spent several years tutoring K-12 students in many subjects, including in SAT prep, to help them prepare for their college education.

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E thos, pathos and logos are techniques of persuasion that form the rhetorical triangle. A compelling argument, sales pitch, speech, or commercial ideally uses elements of all three strategies. We’ll show you how to employ each of the techniques and present some awesome examples along the way.

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Persuasion in advertising.

What are persuasive advertising techniques? They're how you convince a buyer of your product through visuals.

You can thank Aristotle for inventing persuasive advertising techniques . More than 2,000 years ago, he categorized how rhetoric is used in arguments into three groups: ethos, pathos and logos.

This is also known as the the rhetorical triangle .

And we still depend on it today.

How to Make a Commercial by Mastering Persuasive Ads - Logos Ethos Pathos Rhetorical Triangle.

Ethos, pathos and logos are the three categories of persuasive advertising techniques.

Each category invokes a different appeal between speaker and audience.

Ethos calls upon the ethics, or what we'd call the values, of the speaker. Pathos elicits emotions in the audience. Finally, logos puts logic into play by using evidence and facts.

Good persuasive advertising technique is when you balance all three.

But using ethos, pathos and logos in commercials sometimes means featuring one advertising technique prominently.

ETHOS DEFINITION

What is ethos.

Ethos  is the persuasive technique that appeals to an audience by highlighting credibility. Ethos advertisement techniques invoke the superior “character” of a speaker, presenter, writer, or brand.

Ethos examples aim to convince the audience that the advertiser is reliable and ethical. It’s easier to make a decision when someone you respect signs off on it, right?

This is broadly the function of ethos in commercials.

When an esteemed public figure endorses a product, it validates it to the end consumer.

An ethos advertisement plays off the consumer’s respect for a given spokesperson.

Through that respect, the spokesperson appears convincing, authoritative and trustworthy enough to listen to. Of the types of persuasive techniques in advertising, ethos is best used to unlock trust.

USE OF ETHOS IN ADVERTISING

How is ethos used in advertising.

So what does ethos mean?

It’s all about credibility. Famous people enjoy a high status in our society. So they’re the ones selling products to us -- whether or not they have product-specific expertise.

Persuasive Advertising Techniques - Ethos Pathos Logos - Ethos techniques in Advertising - StudioBinder

Example of ethos in advertising: Jennifer Aniston in a campaign for Glaceau Smart Water

For example, a recent Infiniti commercial featured Steph Curry. Even though he’s not known for his taste in vehicles, his stature validates the product.

This is ethos in commercials at work.

Example of ethos in commercials: Steph Curry in a recent spot for Infiniti.

Ethos rhetoric is also invoked to tie a brand to fundamental rights.

Brands build trust with their audience when they stand with an important cause. Anheuser-Busch illustrated this in their recent “Born the Hard Way” spot.

Ethos examples: This ethos advertisement by Anheuser-Busch underscores the value of multiculturalism.

This spot focuses on the origin story of Anheuser-Busch’s founders.

It shows Busch’s turbulent immigration from Germany to St. Louis, and speaks to the importance of immigration and multiculturalism.

This is how ethos rhetoric is used in advertising.

Of the many types of persuasive advertising techniques in advertising, ethos is best for playing up the strength of a brand or spokesperson’s character.

ETHOS EXAMPLE IN COMMERCIALS

Ethos advert case study.

If you want a really strong example of Ethos that also has a pretty funny meta quality to it, check out the shot list for this Heineken spot. See how many times they use foreground elements and OTS shots in this spot:

Ethos Pathos Logos - Ethos Heineken Screenshot - StudioBinder

Ethos Examples • Shot Listed in StudioBinder

This Heineken commercial shows famous actor Benicio Del Toro at the bar enjoying a Heineken. Benicio chats about how both he, and Heineken, are world famous and instantly recognizable.

Then, a pair of goofy tourists spot him in the bar, and they call out for him to pose for a photo, but... they actually think he's Antonio Banderas.

Ethos Example in Heineken Commercial

This commercial not only uses ethos as a way to tie the celebrity of Benicio to the celebrity of Heineken, but it uses humor and the bold faced usage of ethos to make fun of the brand, people, and fame. 

THE "PLAIN FOLKS" PERSUASIVE ADVERTISING TECHNIQUE

How is "plain folks" used in ads.

Ethos rhetoric often employs imagery of everyday, ordinary people.

Known as the  Plain Folks persuasive advertising technique,  in this approach a spokesperson or brand appears as an Average Joe to feel common and sensible. In doing so, they appear concerned and cut from the same cloth as you.

This approach is very common in political ads. Consider the “Family Strong” ad from Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Ethos Examples: Hillary Clinton underscores the “Plain Folks” definition in her campaign videos.

Despite her status and wealth, Clinton draws on imagery of her family and upbringing to make her feel more relatable. In this way, “Plain” folks is propaganda and also a logical fallacy .

But it’s also an effective and persuasive advertising technique.

Of the types of persuasive techniques in advertising, Plain Folks aligns your brand with the values of the everyday consumer.

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Pathos DEFINITION

What is pathos.

Pathos is persuasive technique that try to convince an audience through emotions. Pathos advertisement techniques appeal to the senses, memory, nostalgia, or shared experience. Pathos examples pull at the heartstrings and make the audience feel.

A quick way to appeal to a viewer’s emotions? A cute animal. A devastated family. A love story. Overcoming great odds. An inspirational song and imagery. A good zinger. 

Learn More Logos Ethos and Pathos

Comparing other techniques.

There are many types of rhetorical strategies. To get a full picure on how they work together, or when to use which rhetorical strategies, explore the full guide below.

EVERYTHING ABOUT Rhetorical appeals

Basics & terminology, appeal to credibility , appeal to emotion, appeal to logic, appeal to purpose, appeal to timeliness.

Each of these rhetorical strategies can be effective in its own way. When combined, their potential effects grow exponentially. To fully understand the power of persusaion, these are the tools you need.

Emotions create responses and, in our increasingly consumer-driven culture, the response is to buy something. Pathos appeals to an audience’s basic emotions like joy, fear, and envy. All are easily triggered in many ways.

So what is pathos?

Well, it's a model enjoying a refreshing Coke. Or a frustrated infomercial character desperate for a better remedy. And "tired" of the "same old blah-blah-blah."

The many different pathos advertisement examples not only evoke your feelings but anticipate your responses too. If you want to explore pathos in advertising, language is the best place to start.

Because the words we hear and read  trigger specific feelings . Positive words conjure feelings of love, excitement and wonder.

Persuasive Advertising Techniques - Ethos Pathos Logos - Coca Cola Pathos technique - StudioBinder

What is pathos? Cutting to the emotional core, really.

Look at how General Mills and Cheerios achieved this in their “Good Goes Round” campaign.

Example of pathos: This Cheerios pathos advertisement injects good vibes with positive words

We see sunshine, smiles and bright colors while we hear the words “good goes around.”

It invites positivity and encourages us to associate Cheerios accordingly.

On the other hand, pathos advertisements can also employ unpleasant emotions like fear and worry just as effectively.

Pathos examples: this somber pathos advertisement says don’t let heart disease happen to you.

This ad by the British Heart Foundation underscores the dangers of heart disease. As the spot unfolds, you start to realize that the narrator suddenly died at her sister’s wedding.

Her tragic story encourages you to not let it happen to you.

Persuasive Advertising Techniques - Ethos Pathos Logos - BMW Pathos technique in advertising - StudioBinder

Pathos examples: BMW warns against drinking and driving in this pathos advertisement example.

Pathos example in commercials, pathos advert case study.

If you want a really strong example of pathos is an advertisement, check out this shot list from a particularly emotional Zillow spot. Notice how the shots on the son are often singles and medium close-ups:

Ethos Pathos Logos - Pathos Zillow Screenshot - StudioBinder

Pathos Examples  • Shot Listed in StudioBinder

This Zillow commercial shows a father and son who have just suffered the terrible loss of their wife/mother. The father tries to cheer his son up by finding a new home, one preferably near the boy's grandparents. 

The son seems disinterested, but then the father finds his son and the family dog looking up at the stars, one of which is particularly bright. The son decides that the star is his mother, looking down on him.

That gives the father an idea:

Pathos example in Zillow Commercial

The father searches on Zillow, finds a home, and buys it. We then learn that the home is not only close to the grandparents, but it also has a skylight in the son's room, allowing him to see his Mother's star at night.

This commercial uses the emotions of the father, the son, the grandparents, and of course the viewer to suggest that Zillow is the type of website that can balm grief through its functionality.

USE OF PATHOS IN ADVERTISING

The appeal of pathos in advertising.

Sex appeal is of course also hugely successful among the pathos advertising techniques. Open any  Cosmopolitan  magazine and you’ll find scantily clad models, muscular men and sexual innuendo.

Although the common expression “sex sells” has been debated, sexually provocative ads do leave a lasting impression. Mr. Clean , for example, spiced up their eponymous mascot for comedic effect.

Pathos Examples: This Mr. Clean pathos advertisement gave their mascot a sexy upgrade.

Their brawny Mr. Clean upgrade wears tight clothes and turns mopping the floor into something more... sensual?

Humor, patriotism and snob appeal are also all common in pathos advertisement examples. The pathos definition even extends to nostalgia and the strategic use of music in ads.

Pathos Examples: The pathos definition extends to evoking emotions with music ... even *NSYNC

The bandwagon advertising technique, what is the "bandwagon advertising".

“Bandwagon advertising” is commonly categorized under pathos advertisement examples. While it may sound unfamiliar, you're probably pretty familiar with it.

It creates that impression that using certain product will put you on the “winning team”. It adheres to the pathos definition because it plays off your fear... of being left out.

Old Spice used this in their “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” spot.

Bandwagon advertising: to be The Man Your Man Could Smell Like, you buy Old Spice.

In its comical way, it puts pressure on men to smell as good as the Old Spice Guy. Like the “Plain Folks” technique, Bandwagon advertising is a very popular form of propaganda.

Of the persuasive advertising techniques, “Bandwagon” puts your brand on the right side of popular opinion. Remember the "Be like Mike" Ads?

Pathos example: Talk about putting the consumer on the "winning team"

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LOGOS DEFINITION

What is logos.

Logos is the persuasive technique that aims to convince an audience by using logic and reason. Also called “the logical appeal,” logos examples in advertisement include the citation of statistics, facts, charts, and graphs.

Persuasive Advertising Techniques - Ethos Pathos Logos - Samsung logos technique - StudioBinder

Logos Examples: This Samsung ad puts the Logos persuasive advertising technique to work.

Ever told someone to “listen to reason” during an argument? This is what logos does. The best logos advertisement examples are when a speaker appeals to logic.

Statistics, surveys, facts, and historical data can make a product seem like a more reasonable decision. Whether the data is sound or not is another story...

LOGOS EXAMPLE IN COMMERCIALS

Logos advert case study.

If you want a really strong example of logos is an advertisement, check out this shot list from a recent Nissan Commercial. You'll notice how the angles and shot size change when the "ProPilot" system clicks on:

Ethos Pathos Logos - Logos Nissan Screenshot - StudioBinder

Logos Advertisment Examples  • Shot Listed in StudioBinder

This Nissan commercial shows a daughter and father driving on a highway. The daughter is about to drive past some scary construction, but then the father uses his sage like wisdom to instruct her to turn on the "ProPilot" system that Nissan now features in their cars.

Once the daughter does this, we see a Star Wars battle scene playing out in front of out eyes, and she becomes so distracted that she begin to veer off the road... but guess what? The "ProPilot" system saves her by auto-correcting the trajectory of the car based on the sensor system. 

So how is this logos? Well, the commercial places the daughter in a relatively common situation and uses the machine logic behind having a guided system in the car to keep your distracted children safe.

Now... is it logical that this Star Wars homage suggests the daughter reach out to use the force by using a guided machine? Of course not! That's the opposite of what Luke does in the movie. Is it logical for your kid to be scared of driving past construction at 40mph? Of course not!

Is there anything in this spot that is logical? The basic fact that young drivers get distracted, and the Nissan "ProPilot" system might just save their lives one day, well that is how you use logic to sell cars.

LOGOS TECHNIQUES

How is logos being used in advertising.

Technology advertisements use logos because their goal is to showcase cool new features. Consider the example of logos in Apple’s advertisement for the iPhone X:

A logos advertisement example: In Apple’s iPhone X spot, the features pop out at you.

In logos rhetoric, you have to the sell best reasons to buy your product..

How does Apple do that?

They have their new innovative features pop out at you. From durable glass to Face ID software. It effectively asks you why you would choose any phone but iPhone. Logos often use buzzwords to sell the product. 

What's a great example of this?

Food companies capitalizing on the rising demand for healthy choices.

Logos Examples: I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter underscore organic and vegan offerings

This I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter ad hinges on the two words “organic” and “vegan" to prove the point that they’re “made with the goodness of plants.” Of the types of persuasive techniques in advertising, logos will build your brand as the most logical, functional and helpful option.

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Wrapping up ethos, pathos, logos

When browsing the many types of persuasive techniques in advertising, consider what your user needs from you. Then ideate on which technique can best fulfill that need.

As you’ve seen in these ethos, pathos and logos ads, the brand should guide how the persuasive advertising techniques are deployed. What is the company known for? What does it stand for? 

Hopefully you’ve found a few striking examples to inspire you. If so, create a free moodboard to capture the look and feel you’re going for. And be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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Marquette University Law School Faculty Blog

Marquette University Law School Faculty Blog

Logos, Ethos, and Pathos in Persuasive Writing

  • Post author: Lisa A. Mazzie
  • Post published: January 27, 2014
  • Post category: Legal Writing / Political Processes & Rhetoric / Public
  • Post comments: 1 Comment

At their core, objective and persuasive legal writing share many of the same traits, such as maintaining the small scale organizational paradigm we refer to as CREAC (a/k/a IRAC). Because lawyers use that paradigm to advance their arguments, students need to master it, which makes the structure of the argument look similar to objective writing. But students need to make other, subtler changes in their writing (and thinking) to persuade effectively. It’s often challenging to succinctly explain these more subtle differences, but one easy way is to introduce the “why” behind the differences, which in turn helps explain those differences. Good persuasive writing argues a position by using a combination of three ancient rhetorical techniques: logos, ethos, and pathos.

The first technique is logos, which means logic. Persuasive writing that uses logos uses, where appropriate, literal or historical analogies as well as factual and historical data. Such writing contains citations to authorities or experts. As scholars Ruth Anne Robbins, Steve Johansen, and Ken Chestek say in their new book, Your Client’s Story: Persuasive Legal Writing 21 (2013), “Logos makes your audience think you are right.”

Logos is the easiest technique to understand when referring to legal writing.  It makes sense that a persuasive legal document use logic to persuade readers, and logos is undoubtedly the starting point for a persuasive argument.  But it’s just the start.

The second technique is ethos, which deals with the credibility of the writer. When we read something from someone we trust, we are more likely to believe what she is saying. As Professors Robbins, Johansen, and Chestek tell us, “[E]thos makes your audience trust you are right.” Id. Building ethos in legal writing means the writer must focus on providing substantively sound analyses and arguments, while appropriately acknowledging contrary law and counterarguments, but also focus on creating a professional and polished document that is error-free.

The final technique is pathos, which deals with emotions—specifically, with empathy.  When a speaker or writer uses pathos, he is appealing to his audience’s sense of empathy for his position or his client. He may use vivid, concrete language and examples.  He might use figurative language, such as alliteration, similes, or metaphors. “[P]athos makes your audience feel you are right.” Id.

There are two kinds of pathos: emotional substance and medium mood control. The speaker or writer uses emotional substance when she is trying to elicit an emotional response from her audience. One example that I use to illustrate this idea is the ten-second public service announcement popular in the late 1980s. The spot opens with butter sizzling in a hot pan. There’s an ominous bit of music and a serious voice tells you, “This is drugs.” We then see an egg cracked into the pan, which is so hot that the white of the egg cooks immediately. The voice returns. “This is your brain on drugs. [pause] Any questions?” Here, it seems clear that the viewer is to feel fear and to act on that fear: Look what happens to your brain when you use drugs! Don’t use drugs!

In legal writing, we use the emotional substance pathos when we attempt to create empathy for our client and when we appeal to grander themes of fairness or justice.

Another kind of pathos is medium mood control.  “Medium” here applies to the mode of communication and how that mode of communication affects the audience’s mood.  Humor is an often used technique.  When the reader feels happy, he is more likely to be receptive to (and, thus, persuaded by) the reader’s message.

Humor is quite difficult to use in legal writing.  Instead, a legal writer effectively uses medium mood control by using an appropriate tone, carefully choosing words, and avoiding techniques that might irritate a reader (like poor citation or sloppy organization, among others).  Most of the things a writer does to build her ethos apply here as well: a well-crafted, accurate brief is a joy to read, which makes a reader happy to read it.

The trick with pathos is to use emotion appropriately.  Heavy-handed pathos can make your reader feel manipulated, and no one likes to feel manipulated.

Using all three techniques in concert helps create a strong persuasive piece.  The example I like to use is Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail .  In that piece, Dr. King so brilliantly uses all three rhetorical techniques to create a compelling and persuasive document that explains why white clergy’s call for gradualism in the early days of the civil rights movement was misguided. If you haven’t yet read the Letter, I encourage you to do so and to locate for yourself how and where Dr. King uses logos, ethos, and pathos.

How a reader responds to a writer’s persuasive techniques depends on two things: what the reader’s stock structures are and how the reader is being asked to respond.

First, when people are asked to confront new situations or new information, they rely on their stock structures to make sense of that situation or information.  See Robbins et al., Your Client’s Story 29-36. Stock structures (which are known by different names in different fields) are our stereotyped models of experiences. Stock structures provide useful cognitive short cuts because we can quickly assess a new situation and know how we should respond based on our experiences with that situation. But—and it’s a very important “but”—while there may be some commonality between them, stock structures differ for different people because our experiences differ.

Second, readers can be asked to respond in one of three ways: response shaping, response reinforcing, and response changing.  See id. Where a reader has little knowledge or experience and is being persuaded to adopt a new position, the writer has a chance to shape the reader’s response, to help build some stock structures, if you will. This situation does not occur frequently in law, mostly with issues of first impression. A reader who is being asked to simply reinforce what he already knows or has experienced may be easily persuaded. For example, when a trial judge is asked to simply apply precedent, she is being asked to simply reinforce what she knows she needs to do. More difficult is the reader who is being asked to respond by changing his existing beliefs in order to form new ones. Such a reader will need more persuasion.

As our students begin their foray into persuasive writing, share with them some of your favorite persuasive pieces (legal or otherwise).

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Law’s love of adverbs, writing competition success, former packer who attended muls receives phd degree, this post has one comment.

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Great post.

I just came across a footnote in Law and Language: Effective Symbols of Community , by Harold Berman (edited by John Witte, Jr.), which explains the relationship between syllogistic logic and legal argument:

“‘However useful syllogistic logic may be in testing the validity of conclusions drawn from given premises, it is inadequate in practical science such as law, where the premises are not given but must be created. Legal rules, viewed as major premises, are always subject to qualification in light of the particular circumstances; it is a rule of English and American law, for example, that a person who intentionally strikes another is civilly liable for battery, but such a rule is subject, in legal practice to infinite modification in light of the possible defense (for example, self-defense, defense of property, parental privilege, immunity from suit, lack of jurisdiction, insufficiency of evidence, etc.). In addition, life continually presents new situations to which no existing rule is applicable; we simply do not know the legal limits of freedom of speech, for example, since the social context in which words are spoken is continually changing. Thus, legal rules are continually being made and remade.'”

73 n.23 (quoted in part, internal citations omitted). Syllogism is the starting point for discussing legal logic. I find it helpful to explain the structure of legal argument in the context of major premise/minor premise/conclusion. But Berman highlights the very point that allows two sides of an argument to be presented: that the major premises “are subject to qualification.” The same point could be made of the minor premises–the facts.

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Posted on Sep 29, 2023

What is Pathos? Definition and Examples in Literature

Pathos is a literary device that uses language to evoke an emotional response, typically to connect readers with the characters in a story. The emotions associated with pathos in literature include sympathy, compassion, sadness, and occasionally, anger.

The most obvious examples of pathos can be found in tragic narratives where characters’ fates take a dramatic turn for the worse. However, this device also subtly appears in virtually every story that features a negative plot development.

Let’s take a look at the origins of the term and how it can be used to achieve different effects in books.

Pathos persuades by appealing to emotion

Pathos taps into our most primal behavioral responses, making us feel things. As well as a way to appeal to readers’ emotions in literature, it is known as one of the three rhetorical modes of persuasion, along with ethos and logos . All three are outlined in Aristotle’s Rhetoric as ways to appeal to an audience and convince them that the point you’re making has credibility.

  • Pathos appeals to the audience’s sense of compassion
  • Ethos appeals to their sense of right and wrong
  • Logos appeals to their logic

It’s not hard to see why pathos can persuade. Let’s say you’re trying to illustrate how significant clinical depression is. The following two statements would affect your audience in very different ways:

  • 18.4% of U.S. adults reported having been diagnosed with depression before, according to a 2020 study .
  • “I have no energy, feel drained, and have no interest in anything,” says Steven, who has recently been diagnosed with depression — every sleepless night, he battles the overpowering feeling of self-hatred. 

Statistics rarely lie, but they are hard to relate to. A single individual’s struggles, however, are something everyone can imagine themselves facing.

Pathos as a device appears in rhetoric, literature, and other kinds of writing, like politicians' speeches, but in the rest of this post, we’ll focus on pathos as a literary device in a few novels, novellas, and plays. It’s helpful to remember that pathos was originally a persuasive technique — when you encounter it in books, films, and TV shows, you can take a step back and ask yourself what the writer is trying to show you.

💡 Note that the adjective for language that uses pathos is “pathetic.” In a piece of criticism, if a character is described as a “pathetic figure,” the writer isn’t saying they are a miserable loser. Rather, the audience feels for their suffering. 

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Let’s now take a look at a few different examples of pathos from literature to demonstrate the many ways in which pathos can be used to “persuade” an audience’s feelings one way or another.

It raises the stakes of a story

In tragedies, things must, by definition, go badly — leading to inevitable pathos. Classical tragedies (which follow Freytag’s pyramid structure ) create tension by escalating dramatic events beyond the point of no return, maximizing the stakes as the reader or audience becomes more invested in what happens to the characters.

Take a look at Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet as an example, with its famous family vendetta preventing the two protagonists from marrying with the approval of their families. As the play progresses, more and more devastating developments pose obstacles in the couple’s way. 

“Shall I speak ill of him that is my husband? Ah, poor my lord, what tongue shall smooth thy name, When I, thy three-hours wife, have mangled it? But, wherefore, villain, didst thou kill my cousin? That villain cousin would have kill’d my husband: Back, foolish tears, back to your native spring; Your tributary drops belong to woe, Which you, mistaking, offer up to joy.”   — Juliet in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

Quote card featuring this extract from Romeo and Juliet: “Shall I speak ill of him that is my husband?  Ah, poor my lord, what tongue shall smooth thy name,  When I, thy three-hours wife, have mangled it?  But, wherefore, villain, didst thou kill my cousin?  That villain cousin would have kill’d my husband:  Back, foolish tears, back to your native spring;  Your tributary drops belong to woe,  Which you, mistaking, offer up to joy.”

At a critical point in the play, Romeo (who has recently married Juliet in secret) avenges his friend Mercutio’s death by killing Juliet’s beloved cousin Tybalt. When Juliet learns this news, the audience sees her battle conflicting emotions: 

  • grief for her cousin 
  • anger toward Romeo
  • compassion because she knows that Tybalt would not have hesitated to kill Romeo
  • anger toward herself for not being fully on her husband’s side

We know that Juliet is in an impossible situation through no fault of her own, and the fact that Romeo has killed her cousin irrevocably rules out the possibility that their families will reconcile — the stakes, in other words, are higher than ever, and the play reaches its climax. 

There is no way out for Juliet, as all options lead to someone’s betrayal or disappointment. This emotional escalation heightens tension, and structurally signals that the play is snowballing toward its tragic conclusion. Used in this way, pathos delineates the exact point where things get completely out of control, upping the stakes.  

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Of course, the stakes are raised because the audience’s compassion for the main characters is elevated to a new level, which is one of the most powerful effects pathos can create.

It gets readers to sympathize with fictional characters

By definition, pathos tugs at the reader’s heartstrings. When we feel bad for a character’s predicament, we tend to side with them and hope their situation improves.   

Take Barbara Kingsolver’s Demon Copperhead , a modern-day retelling of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield . The novel’s protagonist, Demon, is an orphan growing up in addiction-stricken rural Appalachia. Told from Demon’s point of view as a child, the book doesn’t often explicitly reflect on his emotions — instead, readers see him as a boy of action, someone for whom practical difficulties leave little room for him to feel sorry for himself. The rare reflective moments readers are privy to take on even greater significance, showing that behind Demon’s confident behavior lie the broken heart and sharp mind of a boy who is conscious of the discomfort other people feel around him.

"Once on a time I was something, and then I turned, like sour milk. The dead junkie's kid. A rotten little piece of American pie that everybody wishes could just be, you know. Removed." — Demon in Barbara Kingsolver's  Demon Copperhead

Quote card containing this quote from Barbara Kingsolver's book Demon Copperhead: "Once on a time I was something, and then I turned, like sour milk. The dead junkie's kid. A rotten little piece of American pie that everybody wishes could just be, you know. Removed."

How can readers not feel for a young boy so devastatingly aware of the fact that his existence is an inconvenience to many although he has done nothing wrong? Moments of acute pathos such as these make readers care deeply about Demon, whose intelligence and vulnerability become even more evident. 

For writers, Demon Copperhead provides a masterclass in characterization. Demon is a flawed character and makes his fair share of mistakes, but when readers see his core need to be loved go so woefully unmet in his early years, they want to know where his story goes next. As Tom Bromley (author, ghostwriter, and head instructor of Reedsy’s three-month course, How to Write a Novel ) points out, creating characters readers care about, as opposed to perfectly likable ones, lends substance and complexity to a story, so don’t let your characters suffer from what Tom calls “nice person syndrome.” Prioritize creating space for empathy, not flawless likeability.

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In addition to caring more deeply for characters, pathos can help us understand them better.

It contextualizes character behavior

Backstory plays a massive role in determining how characters are received by readers. We all carry our pasts, and fictional characters are no different: their pasts continue to affect them, and knowing where they’re coming from can help us understand their behavior.

In Lily King’s Writers & Lovers , the narrator is a 31-year-old woman named Casey Peabody who has recently lost her mother. The book is not about her mother’s death — instead, it describes Casey’s ongoing financial struggles, writerly anxieties, and inability to choose and commit to a romantic partner. Remembering that the loss of her mother lingers in Casey’s thoughts every day helps readers contextualize her emotions and actions.

“But right on the heels of that feeling, that suspicion that all is not yet lost, comes the urge to tell my mother, tell her that I am okay today, that I have felt something close to happiness, that I might still be capable of feeling happy. She will want to know that. But I can’t tell her.”   ― Lily King, Writers & Lovers

Quote card containing this quote from Lily King's book, Writers and Lovers: "“But right on the heels of that feeling, that suspicion that all is not yet lost, comes the urge to tell my mother, tell her that I am okay today, that I have felt something close to happiness, that I might still be capable of feeling happy. She will want to know that. But I can’t tell her.”

In the extract above, Casey shares that she feels better than usual, but this feeling is bittersweet since she cannot talk to her mother about her improving emotional state. As readers, we feel for Casey, who is left unable to make active decisions.

Her reluctance to commit to one of two romantic interests, for example, isn’t as puzzling when readers are reminded that she constantly feels like she is losing control of her life.

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After all, understanding a character brings about increased empathy and helps reinforce a book’s central themes.

It reinforces a book’s central themes

In the same way that Lily King’s novel thematizes grief and coming of age, every work of literature arguably has some key threads that run through its narrative, and instances of pathos help bring these themes to the forefront.

In Tolstoy’s novella The Death of Ivan Ilych, an ill and dying man slowly realizes his life was wastefully spent in pursuit of the wrong things. Tolstoy returns to the themes of morality and death again and again, asking readers what it means to live a good and meaningful life.

After briefly describing a scene from Ivan Illych’s funeral, the book takes readers into his past, showing that he didn’t set out to be bad — he just prioritized what was valued in society. However, as Ivan nears death, he is hit by a terrible realization:

“‘Can it be that I have not lived as one ought?’ suddenly came into his head. ‘But how not so, when I’ve done everything as it should be done?’”   — Leo Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilych

Quote card for the following quote from Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilyich: "“‘Can it be that I have not lived as one ought?’ suddenly came into his head. ‘But how not so, when I’ve done everything as it should be done?’”

The entire novella hinges on this moment of staggering realization and pathos for its protagonist, and its readers can see the tremendous implications this has: Ivan cannot live his life again and make better choices. He’s stuck with the life he has lived, which is nearly over.

In this pathetic scene, the book’s themes are very painfully reinforced, showing readers that making moral choices is an urgent and pressing issue, with Ivan serving as a reminder that time is running out for all of us. If readers felt no sympathy for Ivan, the book would be dramatically less powerful — so pathos is key here.

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By strengthening themes , pathos can also serve to immerse readers in the mood of a literary work.

It immerses readers in the mood of the writing

When you finish reading a book, what feelings do you come away with? The answer to this question summarizes the book’s overarching mood — which might be, for example, one of hope, depression, apathy, or regret.

When pathos is used, the mood often darkens. With his 19th-century novel The Nether World , George Gissing wanted to highlight the plight of the working class to middle-class readers. Therefore, his book emphasizes the contrast between the beautiful, sunny English countryside and the bleakness of a working-class neighborhood in London:

“At noon to-day there was sunlight on the Surrey hills; the fields and lanes were fragrant with the first breath of spring, and from the shelter of budding copses many a primrose looked tremblingly up to the vision of blue sky. But of these things Clerkenwell takes no count; here it had been a day like any other, consisting of so many hours, each representing a fraction of the weekly wage. Go where you may in Clerkenwell, on every hand are multiform evidences of toil, intolerable as a nightmare.”   ― George Gissing, The Nether World 

Gissing begins by showing readers beauty before quickly ripping it away, leaving them in a place that is the polar opposite of the Surrey hills. The sharp contrast between the two is incredibly pathetic and shows the overarching mood of the novel to be one of disillusionment and gloom. By zooming in on the impoverished workers of London, Gissing sheds light on the misery and struggles prevalent in the city. He also shows how unnecessary and merciless it seems in the context of the wider natural world. 

📚 Got gaps in your reading? Check out our list of 100 must-read classic books .

By using pathos to insist on this mood of gloom and despair, Gissing “persuades” his readers that a better world should be possible. But pathos isn’t just about making readers passively react to something — it can also be used to spur them into action, or to create a sense that something must and will change.

Pathos can signal imminent change

Book cover of the Penguin classics edition of Madame Bovary, with the cover art showing a woman, apparently not pleased.

When used consecutively, plot points that evoke pathos will escalate tension, contributing to a story’s rising action . In time, this leads to an emotional climax in the protagonist’s journey.

In Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary , the novel’s titular character longs for a life of luxury and romance — a dream that’s stymied by her marriage to a middle-class health worker. Growing more and more bored by the day, she eventually becomes listless and desperate for change.

“At the bottom of her heart, however, she was waiting for something to happen. Like shipwrecked sailors, she turned despairing eyes upon the solitude of her life, seeking afar off some white sail in the mists of the horizon. She did not know what this chance would be, what wind would bring it her, towards what shore it would drive her, if it would be a shallop or a three-decker, laden with anguish or full of bliss to the portholes. But each morning, as she awoke, she hoped it would come that day; she listened to every sound, sprang up with a start, wondered that it did not come; then at sunset, always more saddened, she longed for the morrow.”    ― Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

These details of Emma Bovary’s desperate hope for a change in her life appeal to the readers’ emotions. Though the pathos in her situation stems from the lack of action in her life, as opposed to a disastrous event, we still feel for her because we see how isolated she feels from her husband and how she struggles to accept her reality. 

Readers witness Emma’s dejected state and empathize with her. Suddenly, we feel what Emma feels: that things have to change. That means that when change does arrive, we’re both prepared and relieved.

Though a simple literary device, pathos can take many forms. Hopefully, now that you’ve joined us in studying some of its manifestations, you’ll encounter it with greater awareness the next time you read a book. Just ask yourself: what’s the author persuading me to feel?

Want to brush up on more literary techniques? Head to our comprehensive list of 60+ literary devices next.

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  • Modes of Persuasion: Pathos

Pathos is developed with meaningful language, a compelling tone, emotion-evoking examples, inspiring stories, and/or implied meanings.

Pathos in Academic Writing

As with the other appeals, it all comes down to purpose and audience, and the easiest way to reach an audience is to create an emotional connection. Writers use pathos in academic writing by giving their readers a personal reason to continue reading and to think, feel, and do what the writer intends. Without a level of emotional appeal, academic writing, no matter how logical or credible, can be boring and ineffective.

a greek style university building.

In academic writing, knowing the audience is particularly important; a writer wouldn’t present information to a teacher or professor in the same way he or she would to a peer or even a parent. Balance is also important, as academic writing requires a solid base of logic and factual information to support the thesis, and pathos is what drives the reader to care about and remember that thesis.

Word choice, or diction, is especially critical when a writer is attempting to appeal to an audience’s emotions. A writer must not only consider each word’s denotations, or literal meanings, but also each word’s connotations, or the ideas and feelings the word invokes. For example, saying that obesity in America is a “problem” invokes different ideas than saying it’s an “epidemic.” Along these lines, details are also important. A writer should include relevant and specific examples to hold the reader’s attention and compel him or her to accept the thesis. The emotions that the words and details in a piece evoke should align with the context of the paper and thesis. If the writer would like the reader to see the subject as a problem and something that requires immediate rebellion, the details and diction in the piece should elicit feelings of anger or concern rather than humor or joy.

a student nervously biting her pencil and typing on her laptop.

Organization is also important. Writers use pathos at the beginning of academic pieces to hook their audience by igniting curiosity, evoking concern, drawing sympathy, getting a laugh, or simply sparking interest. This can be achieved with a provoking fact or statistic, a brief anecdote, or even an engaging metaphor or analogy. Beginning a paper with a quote or a question is also a way to appeal to a reader’s emotions; however, keep in mind that these are sometimes considered cliche and, depending on the reader, may not be as effective. Remember, it is important for a writer to know his or her audience and what will best trigger the desired response.

Finally, pathos acts as an effective bridge between the thesis and the logic, or logos, writers use to support their claims. Each time a writer presents factual information to support the thesis, the writer also needs to convince the reader to not only accept that information but to also care about and emotionally connect with it. This is best achieved with brief, relevant, and specific details and anecdotal examples. For instance, rather than just citing how many children in a school go home hungry each day, a writer can also briefly share a specific child’s story or use a rhetorical question to ask the reader to put him or herself into that child’s shoes. By emotionally connecting with the writer and the information in the piece, readers will more likely accept the writer’s thesis.

The ways a writer develops pathos in academic writing also apply to advertising, public speaking, and person-to-person sales.

Pathos in Advertising 

Pathos is particularly prevalent in advertising; in fact, many ads rely almost exclusively on it. Unlike academic writing, balance is not as important, and some may argue that a heavier dose of pathos over the other appeals is required. Be careful, though, because a modern audience will often turn away from ads that are obviously attempting to draw sympathy or are presenting something extremely graphic or controversial, and they will resist anything that’s too obviously attempting to get them to act solely out of emotion, especially when that action requires spending money or giving up time.

Take a look at how the New York City Department of Health uses pathos in this print ad about their quit smoking quitline. Consider the copy and the visuals.

an advertisement showing a man shoving a device into his throat, having to do so as a result of a medical condition.

Logically, words like “nothing” and “ever” are broad generalizations that in academic writing would wave red flags. However, in this case, they effectively appeal the the audience’s sense of fear, as the idea of being permanently changed is terrifying. Those feelings are meant to take over before logic kicks in or the viewing notices a the insignificant fallacy.

This ad is particularly effective because it’s not over the top. Here, Martinez looks subtly distraught and tinted with regret but mostly serious about his condition; his expression, like the text in the ad, is matter-of-fact and is meant to show that this can happen to any ordinary person, and once it happens, there’s no going back. It is what it is, which, in many ways, is more effective and close-to-home than something more dramatic or graphic.

Color and font choice also play into pathos in this ad. The fonts and color scheme, just like the subject of the ad, are simple, straight-forward, and black and white. There are only two options: quite or live with irreversible consequences. The creators of this ad effectively used pathos to invoke feelings of fear, sadness, urgency, and resolution to compel viewers to call the smoking quitline.

Pathos in Public Speaking and Oral Presentations

In public speaking and oral presentations, language, anecdotes, visuals, and delivery are the most effective ways to make an emotional connection with an audience. As with academic writing, context and balance are also important. Effective speakers begin their presentations with emotion-driven attention grabbers. These attention grabbers can be the same types of things one would use in academic writing, and they can also include compelling visuals, sounds, or audience participation. With public speaking, questions to the audience are more acceptable because the audience can react and respond. Anecdotes and personal details are also important in public speaking and can be effective ways to emotionally connect with an audience.

Because an audience can see and hear the presenter, a speaker also considers pathos in his or her delivery. Tone of voice, facial expressions, timing and pauses, and gestures can all evoke specific emotions and lead an audience to accept what the speaker is claiming. Speakers also use visuals and sound in this way.

Consider Martin Luther King Junior’s I Have a Dream Speech , which still compels people to feel compassion, inspiration, and a sense of urgency to act against injustices and inequalities.

The opening lines immediately evoke a sense of community, comradery, and legacy, which are all feelings that lead to excitement and a desire to participate or be a part of something, which is exactly what King hoped and successfully inspired his audience to do. King masterfully uses pathos to lead his audience to literally change history by presenting facts they likely already knew in a way that was emotionally-charged and personally important. His audience acted because they felt emotionally connected to King and wanted to continue that connection and the way the speech made them feel.

Pathos in Sales

In business or person-to-person sales, pathos is also an effective way to compel an audience to take action and, ultimately, invest in a product, service, or company. Effective salespeople will take the time to get to personally know their audience without getting too personal. They will figure out basic demographic information such as family status, income, education, and cultural background, and they will also find ways to make common connections through basic hobbies or interests. A salesperson shouldn’t get too personal, however, because that may make a client or customer feel uncomfortable about the salesperson or perhaps see him or her as unprofessional or manipulative.

a man and a woman shaking hands in a business transaction.

Think of effective real estate agents; they remember their clients’ names, they learn details about what their clients want and how their clients may use certain parts of a home, and they make sure to present each home according to what they know will most appeal to their client’s practical and emotional needs. A real estate agent will use pathos, for example, to convince a young couple to spend more than their original budget for a larger home by showing the potential for family growth and for long-term return on investment. The agent may share personal stories about how he or she made a similar investment and had similar feelings of hesitation, but is now satisfied with the results. By showing empathy and establishing a common ground, the agent will use pathos to appeal to his or her clients’ emotions to compel them to make a choice that may go against what they logically know they should do.

Be careful of advertisements and sales people who use pathos to unethically, and sometimes even criminally take advantage of others. For example, consider CNBC’s American Greed and how many of the cases include criminals developing personal relationships with their victims or manipulatively eliciting feelings of guilt, sadness, and sympathy by sharing tragic stories or showing sad images.

Take a look at the episode that exposes Jim Reynolds , who used pathos to manipulate people out of millions of dollars by making them feel compelled to donate money to help cancer patients. If you strip away the emotional phone calls, mailers, and in-person pleas, the logic behind what Reynolds was asking his victims to do wasn’t really there. The episode encourages viewers to “do your homework” when being asked to contribute to a charity, as scammers will leave out facts about their “charities” or where the money is actually going and will mislead their victims with heavy doses of pathos.

Beware of Charity Scams from CNBC's American Greed .

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  • Ethos, Pathos, and Logos Definition and Examples
  • Modes of Persuasion: Ethos
  • Ethos, Pathos, and Logos ‒ Examples
  • Persuasive Writing

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The Rhetorical Triangle: Ethos, Pathos, Logos

Infographic to display Ethos, Pathos and Logos

Rhetoric Definition

Rhetoric is using language in an effective manner with the aim to persuade or motivate an audience. Rhetoric is applicable to both speaking and writing.

In high school, the ELA Common Core State Standards require students to develop formal writing skills, creating essays and arguments that are well-thought-out and syntactically varied. They also require students to effectively use persuasive writing strategies to defend a claim or point of view.

A great way to enhance students' understanding of effective arguments is to teach the Aristotelian concepts of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos . This requires a basic working knowledge of rhetoric. A key to strong persuasive writing is the ability to dissect and validate, or debunk, the rhetoric of other arguments.

Ethos is the credibility of the speaker or writer. To engage an audience on a particular topic, the person presenting the information must first establish themselves as someone who can be trusted, or as someone who has a lot of experience with the topic. This is also known as ethics .

Ethos appeals to:

  • Intelligence
  • Perception of trustworthiness

Ethos in Action

Pathos accesses the emotions and deeply held beliefs of the audience to draw them into the subject matter. Pathos often makes audiences feel like they have a personal stake in the provided information and is often the catalyst to drive them into action.

Pathos appeals to:

  • Emotions and feelings
  • Biases and prejudices
  • Motivations

Pathos In Action

Logos uses logic, reasoning, evidence, and facts to support an argument. Logos appeals to the more rational side of the audience’s minds, and provides support for the subject matter. Logos strategies can often strengthen the impact pathos has on the audience.

Logos utilizes:

  • Statistics and Data
  • Universal truths

Logos in Action

Rhetorical Strategies and Devices

The successful implementation of ethos, pathos, and logos in writing or speech depends on the effectiveness of different rhetorical strategies . There are many different rhetorical strategies (and rhetorical fallacies!) that can strengthen or weaken an argument. A few of the more familiar strategies to students include:

Rhetorical Devices and Strategies Example

By recognizing the tactics of a persuasive argument, students learn to use it themselves and recognize these tactics in daily life. One excellent way to teach and review the concepts of ethos, pathos, and pathos is through a storyboard.

In the following example storyboard, each concept is briefly explained and then shown in action. When students create a definition or example board like this, classroom concepts are reinforced, and students have the chance to demonstrate them creatively.

Rhetorical Triangle Ethos Pathos Logos Storyboard

By incorporating the visual elements of a storyboard as well as text, even students who struggle creating organized written thoughts can demonstrate mastery of the subject. Additionally, teachers can immediately see and respond to inaccuracies, allowing them to use class time to assess and correct, rather than handing back graded work a day or two later.

Using Storyboards In Your Classroom

  • Use storyboards to create advertisements for products using Ethos, Pathos, or Logos to convince potential buyers.
  • Use a storyboard to create an “argument diagram” of a famous speech. Students can break the speech up into tactics, then show an example of those tactics in each cell.
  • Ask students to create a persuasive storyboard about a topic that is important to them. Require them to use one, or all, of the tactics in the rhetorical triangle.
  • Have students collaborate and promote an unpopular school rule, consequence, homework, or even cafeteria food. Have them utilize rhetorical tactics and strategies in their promotion. Having to flip a negative idea into a positive one is also a great way to teach propaganda.
  • Give students an empty storyboard as part of an assessment and ask them to explain and give an example of each: ethos, pathos, logos.

More Ethos Examples and Activities

Use the following activities in your own classroom with the examples below! Use the template with your students, and assess their progress with Quick Rubric!

Ethos, Pathos, Logos Template

Related Activities

Check out these ethos, pathos, logos activities from our guides on Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass , The Tragedy of Julius Caesar , and "Letter from Birmingham Jail" .

Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass - Ethos, Pathos, and Logos

Related Resources

  • Ethos, Pathos, Logos in I Have a Dream Speech
  • Rhetorical Strategies in Declaration of Independence
  • Types of Propaganda
  • Text Analysis Storyboard Templates

How to Incorporate Ethos, Pathos, and Logos in Group Discussions and Debates in the Classroom

Introduction and explanation.

Begin by introducing ethos, pathos, and logos as rhetorical strategies used to persuade an audience. Explain that incorporating these strategies in group discussions and debates can enhance the effectiveness of arguments and promote critical thinking.

TEACH THE CONCEPTS

Provide clear definitions and examples of ethos, pathos, and logos. Illustrate how each strategy appeals to different aspects of persuasion: ethos focuses on credibility, pathos appeals to emotions, and logos emphasizes logical reasoning.

ANALYZE REAL-WORLD EXAMPLES

Engage students in analyzing real-world examples of group discussions, debates, or persuasive speeches. Encourage them to identify instances of ethos, pathos, and logos used by the speakers to support their arguments.

PRACTICE IDENTIFYING ETHOS, PATHOS, AND LOGOS

Assign group activities or provide sample texts where students can identify and analyze the use of ethos, pathos, and logos. Guide discussions on how the application of these strategies influences the effectiveness and persuasiveness of the arguments presented.

STRUCTURED DEBATE OR DISCUSSION

Divide students into groups and assign a debate or discussion topic relevant to the curriculum or current events. Instruct each group to incorporate ethos, pathos, and logos into their arguments and encourage them to support their viewpoints with evidence and logical reasoning.

REFLECTION AND FEEDBACK

After the debate or discussion, facilitate a reflection session where groups can evaluate their use of ethos, pathos, and logos. Provide constructive feedback on their application of these strategies and encourage students to reflect on how they can improve their persuasive skills in future discussions or debates.

Frequently Asked Questions about The Rhetorical Triangle: Ethos, Pathos, Logos

What is the rhetorical triangle.

The Rhetorical Triangle is a framework developed by Aristotle to analyze the elements of persuasive writing and speaking. It consists of three key elements: Ethos, Pathos, and Logos. Ethos refers to the credibility of the speaker or writer, Pathos appeals to emotions, and Logos appeals to logic.

Why is it important to understand the Rhetorical Triangle?

Understanding the Rhetorical Triangle is essential for effective communication, particularly in persuasive writing and speaking. By analyzing the use of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos in an argument, one can identify the strengths and weaknesses of the argument and ultimately develop stronger persuasive writing and speaking skills.

How can the Rhetorical Triangle be applied in the classroom?

The Rhetorical Triangle can be applied in the classroom to teach students how to develop persuasive writing and speaking skills. Teachers can introduce students to the concepts of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos and provide examples of each. Students can then practice identifying these elements in various texts and speeches and apply them in their own writing and speaking.

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Ethos, Logos, Pathos for Persuasion

  • Writing Research Papers
  • Writing Essays
  • English Grammar
  • M.Ed., Education Administration, University of Georgia
  • B.A., History, Armstrong State University

You may be surprised to learn that much of your life consists of constructing arguments. If you ever plead a case to your parents—in order to extend your curfew or to get a new gadget, for example—you are using persuasive strategies. When you discuss music with friends and agree or disagree with them about the merits of one singer compared to another, you are also using strategies for persuasion.

Indeed, when you engage in these "arguments" with your parents and friends, you are instinctively using ancient strategies for persuasion that were identified by the Greek philosopher Aristotle a few thousand years ago. Aristotle called his ingredients for persuasion pathos , logos , and ethos .

Persuasion Tactics and Homework

When you write a research paper , write a speech , or participate in a debate , you also use the persuasion strategies mentioned above. You come up with an idea (a thesis) and then construct an argument to convince readers that your idea is sound.

You should become familiar with pathos, logos, and ethos for two reasons: First, you need to develop your own skills at crafting a good argument so that others will take you seriously. Second, you must develop the ability to identify a really weak argument, stance, claim, or position when you see or hear it.

Logos Defined

Logos refers to an appeal to reason based on logic. Logical conclusions come from assumptions and decisions derived from weighing a collection of solid facts and statistics . Academic arguments (research papers) rely on logos.

An example of an argument that relies on logos is the argument that smoking is harmful based on the evidence that, "When burned, cigarettes create more than 7,000 chemicals. At least 69 of these chemicals are known to cause cancer, and many are toxic," according to the American Lung Association. Notice that the statement above uses specific numbers. Numbers are sound and logical.

An everyday example of an appeal to logos is the argument that Lady Gaga is more popular than Justin Bieber because Gaga's fan pages collected 10 million more Facebook fans than Bieber's. As a researcher, your job is to find statistics and other facts to back up your claims. When you do this, you are appealing to your audience with logic or logos.

Ethos Defined

Trustworthiness is important in research. You must trust your sources, and your readers must trust you. The example above concerning logos contained two examples that were based on hard facts (numbers). However, one example comes from the American Lung Association. The other comes from Facebook fan pages. You should ask yourself: Which of these sources do you suppose is more credible?

Anyone can start a Facebook page. Lady Gaga may have 50 different fan pages, and each page may contain duplicate "fans." The fan page argument is probably not very sound (even though it seems logical). Ethos refers to the credibility of the person posing the argument or stating the facts.

The facts provided by the American Lung Association are probably more persuasive than those provided by fan pages since the American Lung Association has been around for more than 100 years. At first glance, you might think that your own credibility is out of your control when it comes to posing academic arguments, but that is incorrect.

Even if you write an academic paper on a topic that is outside your area of expertise, you can improve your credibility—using ethos to persuade—by coming across as a professional by citing credible sources and making your writing error-free and concise.

Pathos Defined

Pathos refers to appealing to a person by influencing his emotions. Pathos is involved in the strategy of convincing the audience by invoking feelings through their own imaginations. You appeal through pathos when you try to convince your parents of something. Consider this statement:

"Mom, there is clear evidence that cellphones save lives in emergency situations."

While that statement is true, the real power lies in the emotions that you will likely invoke in your parents. What mother wouldn't envision a broken-down automobile perched by the side of a busy highway upon hearing that statement?

Emotional appeals are extremely effective, but they can be tricky. There may or may not be a place for pathos in your research paper . For example, you may be writing an argumentative essay about the death penalty.

Ideally, your paper should contain a logical argument. You should appeal to logos by including statics to support your view such as data that suggests that the death penalty does/does not cut down on crime (there's plenty of research both ways).

Use Appeals to Emotion Sparingly

You may also use pathos by interviewing someone who witnessed an execution (on the anti-death penalty side) or someone who found closure when a criminal was executed (on the pro-death penalty side). Generally, however, academic papers should employ appeals to emotions sparingly. A long paper that is purely based on emotions is not considered very professional.

Even when you are writing about an emotionally charged, controversial issue like the death penalty, you can't write a paper that is all emotion and opinion. The teacher, in that circumstance, will likely assign a failing grade because you haven't provided a sound (logical) argument.

  • “ What's In a Cigarette? ”  American Lung Association,
  • Use Social Media to Teach Ethos, Pathos and Logos
  • Logos (Rhetoric)
  • Pathos in Rhetoric
  • Artistic Proofs: Definitions and Examples
  • Definition and Examples of Ethos in Classical Rhetoric
  • Persuasion and Rhetorical Definition
  • What is an Appeal in Rhetoric?
  • An Introduction to Academic Writing
  • AP English Exam: 101 Key Terms
  • How to Write a Persuasive Essay
  • Proof in Rhetoric
  • Situated Ethos in Rhetoric
  • How to Write and Structure a Persuasive Speech
  • What Is Phronesis?
  • Convince Me: A Persuasive Writing Activity
  • Appeal to Force/Fear or Argumentum ad Baculum

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Mastering Persuasive Writing in ESL Education

In the ever-evolving landscape of English as a Second Language (ESL) education, the art of persuasive writing stands as a vital skill for non-native speakers. It is not merely about language proficiency but about the ability to influence, convince, and engage an audience. This comprehensive guide delves into the intricacies of persuasive writing in ESL, offering insights and practical tips to master this critical aspect of the English language.

Understanding Persuasive Writing

Definition and importance.

Persuasive writing, at its core, is the art of using words to convince others to agree with a viewpoint or to take a specific action. For ESL learners, it’s a pathway to effectively express opinions, craft arguments, and engage in debates – essential skills in a global environment where English is the lingua franca.

Key Elements

The foundation of persuasive writing lies in three essential elements: ethos, pathos, and logos. Ethos refers to the credibility of the writer, pathos to the emotional connection with the audience, and logos to the logical reasoning behind the argument. ESL learners must learn to balance these elements to write persuasively in English.

Developing Persuasive Writing Skills in ESL

Building a strong vocabulary.

A robust vocabulary is crucial for persuasive writing. ESL learners should focus on acquiring words that convey emotions, depict strength, and express certainty. Phrases like “undeniably,” “it is imperative,” and “without a doubt” are persuasive tools that add weight to the argument.

Understanding the Audience

Persuasive writing is not a one-size-fits-all affair. Understanding the audience’s beliefs, values, and perspectives is crucial. ESL learners should practice tailoring their language and arguments to different audiences, whether it be in academic, professional, or casual contexts.

Structuring the Argument

A well-structured argument is key to persuasive writing. It typically includes an introduction with a clear thesis statement, body paragraphs presenting arguments and evidence, and a conclusion summarizing the points and reiterating the stance. ESL students should practice this structure to enhance their persuasive writing skills.

Techniques for Persuasive Writing

Use of rhetorical questions.

Rhetorical questions are a powerful persuasive tool. They provoke thought and engage the audience. ESL learners can use them to emphasize points and lead the audience towards a desired conclusion.

Incorporating Anecdotes and Examples

Anecdotes and real-life examples make arguments relatable and convincing. ESL students should learn to incorporate relevant stories and examples that support their viewpoint.

Balancing Emotional and Logical Appeal

Persuasive writing is most effective when it strikes a balance between emotional appeal (pathos) and logical reasoning (logos). ESL learners should practice creating arguments that not only appeal to the emotions but are also grounded in logic and facts.

Challenges in ESL Persuasive Writing

Language barriers.

Language proficiency can be a significant barrier in persuasive writing for ESL learners. Limited vocabulary, grammar issues, and difficulty in expressing nuances can hinder the effectiveness of the argument.

Cultural Differences

Persuasive writing styles can vary significantly across cultures. ESL learners often face the challenge of adapting to the norms and expectations of persuasive writing in English, which might differ from their native language.

Overcoming Stereotypes

Non-native speakers may encounter stereotypes regarding their language abilities. Building confidence and finding one’s unique voice is crucial for ESL learners to overcome these challenges and excel in persuasive writing.

Teaching Strategies for ESL Educators

Emphasizing active learning.

Active learning techniques such as debates, role-plays, and writing workshops can be highly effective in teaching persuasive writing. These methods encourage ESL students to practice, receive feedback, and refine their skills in real-time.

Focusing on Feedback and Revision

Feedback plays a crucial role in developing persuasive writing skills. Educators should provide constructive feedback that focuses on both language use and the effectiveness of the arguments. Encouraging students to revise their work based on feedback is equally important.

Incorporating Technology

Technology can be a powerful tool in ESL education. Online resources, writing tools, and interactive platforms can aid in teaching persuasive writing. They offer varied materials, examples, and opportunities for practice.

persuasive writing pathos

Advanced Persuasive Techniques for ESL Learners

The power of storytelling.

Storytelling is a timeless technique that can enhance persuasive writing. It involves weaving a narrative that supports the argument, making it more engaging and memorable. ESL learners can practice incorporating short, relevant stories that illustrate their points, thereby enhancing the persuasive impact of their writing.

Utilizing Comparative and Contrasting Arguments

Comparative and contrasting arguments can be highly effective in persuasion. They involve examining two or more viewpoints, ideas, or situations, highlighting differences and similarities. ESL students can use this technique to demonstrate the superiority of their stance or to refute opposing arguments.

The Art of Concession

Concession is acknowledging a point of the opposing argument while still holding firm to one’s position. This technique shows an understanding of the complexity of the issue and enhances the writer’s credibility. ESL learners can practice conceding minor points to strengthen their overall argument.

Case Studies of Successful ESL Persuasive Writers

Exploring real-life examples of successful ESL persuasive writers can provide valuable insights and inspiration. These case studies can include well-known public figures, authors, or even peers who have mastered the art of persuasive writing in English. Analyzing their work, understanding their techniques, and learning from their experiences can be immensely beneficial for ESL learners.

Incorporating Cultural Nuances in Persuasive Writing

Understanding and incorporating cultural nuances can significantly enhance the effectiveness of persuasive writing in ESL. This involves being aware of cultural references, idiomatic expressions, and context-specific language that resonates with the target audience. ESL learners should be encouraged to learn about these nuances and subtly weave them into their writing.

Practical Exercises for ESL Persuasive Writing

Writing prompts.

Providing diverse and challenging writing prompts is a great way for ESL learners to practice persuasive writing. These can range from simple topics like ‘The importance of learning a second language’ to complex issues like ‘Climate change and its global impact.’

Peer Review Sessions

Peer review sessions are an excellent way for students to give and receive feedback. This collaborative exercise not only helps improve writing skills but also encourages critical thinking and the ability to view arguments from different perspectives.

Simulation Exercises

Simulations of real-life scenarios, such as writing a persuasive letter to a government official or crafting an argument for a public debate, can provide practical experience in persuasive writing. These exercises help students apply their skills in realistic contexts.

The Role of Technology in Enhancing ESL Persuasive Writing Skills

Leveraging technology can greatly aid in teaching persuasive writing. Digital tools like grammar checkers, vocabulary-building apps, and online forums for writing practice can provide additional support to ESL learners. Moreover, engaging with global online communities can offer diverse perspectives and exposure, further enhancing persuasive writing skills.

Persuasive writing in ESL is a multifaceted skill that goes beyond mere linguistic competence. It involves understanding the audience, structuring arguments, utilizing effective techniques, and overcoming cultural and linguistic barriers. Through dedicated practice, constructive feedback, and the right educational strategies, ESL learners can become adept at crafting compelling, persuasive texts in English.

The journey to mastering persuasive writing is continuous and evolving. It is a skill that not only enhances language proficiency but also empowers individuals to express their ideas and opinions confidently and effectively. As ESL educators and learners embrace the challenges and opportunities of persuasive writing, they unlock new horizons of communication and expression in the global language of English.

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Home — Essay Samples — Education — Writing — Persuasive Writing: The Power of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos

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Persuasive Writing: The Power of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos

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Published: Feb 7, 2024

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Table of contents

Using ethos, pathos, and logos together, counterarguments.

  • Professional qualifications, expertise, and experience
  • Personal reputation, character, and integrity
  • Third-party endorsements, testimonials, and references
  • Common values, beliefs, and interests
  • Create empathy, compassion, or sympathy
  • Trigger fear, anger, or sadness
  • Stir hope, inspiration, or joy
  • Connect with the audience's values, beliefs, and experiences
  • Present facts, data, and statistics
  • Use reasoning, deductions, and analogies
  • Use examples, anecdotes, and case studies
  • Address counterarguments and refute objections
  • Establish your ethos first, to gain the audience's trust and respect
  • Use pathos to engage the audience's emotions and values, but avoid manipulating or exploiting them
  • Use logos to provide evidence, reasoning, and counterarguments, but avoid being too technical or dry
  • Integrate ethos, pathos, and logos seamlessly, so that they reinforce each other and create a persuasive synergy
  • Acknowledge the counterarguments and show that you understand the other side's perspective (ethos)
  • Anticipate the emotional reactions that the counterarguments may trigger and address them proactively (pathos)
  • Provide evidence, reasoning, and examples to refute the counterarguments and strengthen your position (logos)
  • Use rhetorical questions, analogies, or metaphors to reframe the counterarguments and show their weaknesses (logos)

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  1. What is Pathos? Definition, Examples, and Techniques for More

    Pathos is a tool of persuasion that is used to appeal to readers' emotions by arousing positive or negative feelings. It can be used in rhetoric, literature, film, and other forms of expression. While pathos is used to draw an emotional response, the other rhetorical appeals—ethos and logos—appeal to credibility and logic, respectively.

  2. Using Pathos in Persuasive Writing

    An important key to incorporating pathos into your persuasive writing effectively is appealing to your audience's commonly held emotions. To do this, one must be able to identify common emotions, as well as understand what situations typically evoke such emotions.

  3. Pathos

    Here's a quick and simple definition: Pathos, along with logos and ethos, is one of the three "modes of persuasion" in rhetoric (the art of effective speaking or writing). Pathos is an argument that appeals to an audience's emotions.

  4. Pathos

    Pathos, Greek for "suffering" or "experience," originated as a conceptual mode of persuasion by the Greek philosopher, Aristotle. Aristotle believed that utilizing pathos as a means of stirring people's emotions is effective in turning their opinion towards the speaker.

  5. What Is Pathos? Definition, and Examples

    The word pathos is derived from the Greek word páthos, which means "experience," "suffering," or "emotion." The Greek philosopher Aristotle introduced the concept of pathos in his written work Rhetoric, in which he also introduced the three other modes of persuasion: ethos, logos, and kairos.

  6. Pathos, Logos, and Ethos

    1Pathos: the author paints a vivid picture to evoke a feeling from the reader—sadness and pity for the abused animal. 2Logos: the author uses a startling statistic to appeal to our intellect. Keep in mind that these three strategies can often overlap.

  7. What Is Pathos? Definition of Pathos With Examples

    Pathos is a term used to describe an appeal to emotion in persuasive rhetoric or other forms of writing. Understanding what pathos is and how to employ it effectively is an essential tool for any good writer. The power of emotion can be overwhelmingly compelling even when it runs up against our sense of logic or reason.

  8. Home

    Pathos or the emotional appeal, means to persuade an audience by appealing to their emotions. Authors use pathos to invoke sympathy from an audience; to make the audience feel what what the author wants them to feel. A common use of pathos would be to draw pity from an audience.

  9. Understanding Pathos, Logos, and Ethos: The Power of Persuasion

    The use of pathos is crucial in persuading others. By using language that connects with the reader's emotions, writers can create a climate of sympathy or urgency. Pathos can be evoked through vivid imagery, personal anecdotes, or by appealing to shared values and beliefs.

  10. The Three Elements of Persuasion: Ethos, Pathos, and Logos

    It's no secret that writing persuasive content is difficult. You have to find the right words to say, make a logical argument, and appeal to your reader's emotions all at the same time. I struggled with this for a long time, until I learned about the three elements of persuasion: ethos, pathos, and logos.

  11. Persuasive Writing

    Persuasive Writing - Ethos, Pathos, and Logos, the Modes of Persuasion ‒ Explanation and Examples Persuasive Writing Print | Email Persuasive writing is an essential skill, it is useful whether you are selling something, writing for a cause, for business purposes, or even for your class!

  12. Persuasive Writing Strategies and Tips, with Examples

    1 Choose wording carefully. Word choice—the words and phrases you decide to use—is crucial in persuasive writing as a way to build a personal relationship with the reader. You want to always pick the best possible words and phrases in each instance to convince the reader that your opinion is right. Persuasive writing often uses strong ...

  13. Ethos, Logos, and Pathos

    Conclusion. Ethos, logos, and pathos are powerful tools for persuasive speech and writing. By establishing credibility, using logical arguments, and appealing to emotion, speakers and writers can influence the beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors of their audiences. When used effectively, these elements can help to create meaningful and lasting ...

  14. What Are Ethos, Pathos, & Logos? Examples & How To Use Them

    Ethos, pathos, and logos are the three classical modes of persuasion that a person can use to speak or write persuasively. Specifically: ethos (character): known as "the appeal to authority" or "the appeal to credibility." This is the method in which a person relies on their credibility or character when making an appeal or an argument.

  15. How to Use Ethos, Pathos, and Logos in Persuasive Speeches

    Ethos, pathos, and logos are derived from the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, who defined them as the three elements of a persuasive argument. Ethos is the appeal to the speaker's credibility ...

  16. Ethos, Pathos, Logos, Kairos: The Modes of Persuasion and ...

    The concepts of ethos, pathos, logos, and kairos are also called the modes of persuasion, ethical strategies, or rhetorical appeals. They have a lot of different applications ranging from everyday interactions with others to big political speeches to effective advertising.

  17. Ethos, Pathos & Logos: Definition and Examples of Persuasive

    Ethos, pathos and logos are the three categories of persuasive advertising techniques. Each category invokes a different appeal between speaker and audience. Ethos calls upon the ethics, or what we'd call the values, of the speaker. Pathos elicits emotions in the audience. Finally, logos puts logic into play by using evidence and facts.

  18. Pathos in Writing: Using it to Hook Readers & Write Better

    1. Appeals to the Reader's Emotions. Most obviously, pathos appeals to a reader's emotions. An effective argument from pathos will draw upon one specific emotion and target it to get a response from the listener. You may find that pathos commonly plays on darker emotions, like sadness, guilt, or anger.

  19. Logos, Ethos, and Pathos in Persuasive Writing

    Learn how to use logos, ethos, and pathos in legal writing to persuade your audience. Logos is logic, ethos is credibility, and pathos is emotion. Find out how to apply these techniques to different types of legal writing and how they affect your reader's response.

  20. What is Pathos? Definition and Examples in Literature

    Pathos persuades by appealing to emotion. Pathos taps into our most primal behavioral responses, making us feel things. As well as a way to appeal to readers' emotions in literature, it is known as one of the three rhetorical modes of persuasion, along with ethos and logos.All three are outlined in Aristotle's Rhetoric as ways to appeal to an audience and convince them that the point you ...

  21. Modes of Persuasion: Pathos

    Pathos or the emotional appeal, means to persuade an audience by appealing to their emotions and personal interests. Pathos is the Greek word for both "suffering" and "experience." The words empathy and pathetic are derived from pathos. A common use of pathos would be to draw pity from an audience.

  22. Ethos, Pathos & Logos: Definition, Activities and Examples

    The Rhetorical Triangle can be applied in the classroom to teach students how to develop persuasive writing and speaking skills. Teachers can introduce students to the concepts of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos and provide examples of each. Students can then practice identifying these elements in various texts and speeches and apply them in their own ...

  23. Ethos, Logos, Pathos for Persuasion

    Updated on August 02, 2019 You may be surprised to learn that much of your life consists of constructing arguments. If you ever plead a case to your parents—in order to extend your curfew or to get a new gadget, for example—you are using persuasive strategies.

  24. Mastering Persuasive Writing in ESL Education

    The foundation of persuasive writing lies in three essential elements: ethos, pathos, and logos. Ethos refers to the credibility of the writer, pathos to the emotional connection with the audience, and logos to the logical reasoning behind the argument. ESL learners must learn to balance these elements to write persuasively in English.

  25. Persuasive Writing: The Power of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos

    In conclusion, persuasive writing is a complex and multifaceted skill that requires the use of ethos, pathos, and logos to be effective. Ethos establishes the writer's credibility and authority, pathos engages the audience's emotions and values, and logos provides evidence, reasoning, and counterarguments. To use these techniques together, you ...