HOME> Students > Writing & Speaking Guides > Alphabetical List of Guides > Academic Writing > Arguments > Ethos, Pathos, & Logos (Video)
Ethos, Pathos, & Logos
Alphabetical list of Handouts & Guides

Words of Wisdom

Obvious is the most dangerous word in mathematics.

— Eric Temple Bell



Howdy Ags!  I’m Lindsay, and in this episode of Write Right, we will be learning about the art of persuasion. Ethos, pathos, and logos are common themes in introductory English classes. So I will help clear some things, do some explaining, and hopefully you will be able to use these tools down the road. Let’s get started.

Ethos, pathos, and logos are three tools of rhetoric. For those of you unclear on the definition of rhetoric, it is the art of speaking and writing effectively. Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle identified three tools that public speakers can use to persuade an audience. He called these the appeals of ethos, pathos, and logos because speakers use them to appeal to an audience and win agreement.

So, why should you care? Well, if you understand ethos, pathos, and logos, it can help you build a stronger argument. It will also make you more aware of how a speaker or writer is addressing you. Sometimes the appeals can be used to manipulate the audience; but if you are aware of them, you can keep your wits about you and evaluate the argument rationally and soundly. Let’s take a look at each one.

Ethos means character, and the ethical appeal asks the audience to believe because the speaker or writer is a person of good character. The speaker or writer says in effect, “I am good person. I have good character. I have good will toward you. I have good common sense. So, you should believe me.”

For example, who is Uncle Sam to be telling you to join the army? Well, he personifies the United States, and he looks like he seriously needs your help.

What about Apple’s Mac vs. PC ad? The Mac people are cool and laid back. You should go with the Mac because the Mac guy is smart, nice, and sensible. The nerdy PC guy is insecure, not to mention all the errors he makes. Why believe him when he praises PCs?

Let’s take a look at pathos. Pathos stimulates emotion in an audience. It appeals to the heart, not the head. Most of you have probably seen Sara McLaughlin ASPCA commercials.  These are perfect examples of pathos because they make the viewer want to cry, go out and rescue every animal, or both.

The next image is from the children’s hospital in Boston asking you to like their Facebook page. One look and your heart wants you to find a computer ASAP because, if you don’t, the image will stay in your mind until you do so.

The last appeal is logos. While pathos appeals to the heart, logos appeals to the head. When used well, the logical appeal provides a well-supported argument. Sometimes though it just suggests logic. Like this milk add suggests that drinking milk will give you super powers because of the calcium. I mean you are not going to be able to fly through the sky after a tall glass of milk, but studies suggest that it will make you stronger. Actually, few ads rest on logical appeal alone, and most use all three. Like this one.

Of course this would appeal to women because they want to feel beautiful, and who best to show it than a famous actress and gorgeous super model, Brooke Shields. It makes an argument by analogy. If Brooke has beautiful lashes using Latisse, others who use it will also have beautiful lashes. Also, the medical lingo sounds very logical. Well, there you have it: an introduction to ethos, pathos, and logos. I hope you learned a little about the art of persuasion. Don’t forget, if you have any more rhetorical questions, you can always come to the University Writing Center on the second floor of Evans Library. We’ve got answers.

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.

Sitemap Login