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Ethos, Pathos, & Logos
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Words of Wisdom

Read a thousand books, and your words will flow like a river.

— Lisa See



How do you persuade someone to see things YOUR way?
The Greek philosopher Aristotle had some good ideas on how to persuade people. Among his most
powerful techniques were what he called the three appeals, designed to ask an audience to believe his argument.
Aristotle called these three appeals: Ethos, Pathos, and Logos.
Ethos appeals to the audience by asking them to trust the person making the argument.
Pathos appeals to the audience’s emotions, asking them to believe because they care.
Logos appeals to the audience’s sense of logic and rationality, asking them to believe because the
argument makes sense.
Using the appeals can make your writing or speaking more persuasive. And if you can spot them when
they are being used or misused— by others, you can also protect yourself against
Let’s examine the three appeals more closely.
First up: Ethos.
One way to win over a skeptical audience is to convince them that you’re trustworthy, knowledgeable,
and well-meaning.
You can build ethos by referencing relevant experience by explaining your credentials, or even by using
good sources to show that you know your subject.
When presenting, dressing and speaking professionally will boost your audience’s confidence in you.
When writing, making sure your documents have a professional tone and are error-free can also
enhance your ethos.
Next, we’ll address Pathos: the appeal to emotion. Many popular movies, books, and songs appeal to
emotion. These appeals often engage positive emotions like joy or hope, but other times . . .
No, no please-
Pathos can engage negative emotions as well; however, in academic writing, a simple tug on the
heartstrings won’t suffice.
To use pathos effectively, incorporate vivid imagery and intentionally emotional and impactful
adjectives and verbs.
Academics can support their arguments most effectively with Logos—an appeal to logic and
rationality—by building an argument with facts, figures, and well-thought out reasoning.
By appealing to the audience with logic, you draw your conclusions as rational, rendering the opposition
less persuasive, sometimes even as “irrational.” Not all conclusions are easy to prove, though, and the
responsibility falls on you to make the case and convince the audience.

While many arguments rely on one or two of these methods, some of the most effective use a
combination of all three.
The most important aspect of persuasive writing is to create a credible line of thought for your message
that audiences will follow; if you do it carefully, they very well might arrive at the same conclusion.
For more information on persuasive writing and speaking, visit our website at writingcenter.tamu.edu.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute The University Writing Center, Texas A&M University.

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