As I was trying to come up with a topic for this week’s “choose-your-own” post, I tried to think about something that has been relevant in all my writing classes this semester. What has appeared over and over is Aristotle’s three persuasive appeals: ethos, logo, and pathos. Whoever is reading now has probably already heard about these appeals once, twice, or maybe too many times to count, but I find it interesting how they are always applicable to writing, so they are worth mentioning over and over again.
Ethos — the appeal to credibility and authority
Logos — the appeal to logic and reasoning
Pathos — the appeal to emotions
Whether it’s for a print document, something online, a presentation, and so on, these rhetorical appeals should often be considered when creating something to persuade an audience to do something. In my science writing course, I’ve had to consider the appeal in the articles I’ve analyzed. Are the stories clutching at my emotions or are they convincing me with their scientific evidence and credibility? In my visual rhetoric course, I have to ask myself how images are persuading the reader to do something. Is it ethos, logos, or pathos? Is it a combination?
From my limited experience in becoming more aware of these rhetorical strategies, I’ve noticed that many articles seem to really rely on pathos (emotions) and ethos (credibility). For example, with the LSS class project, I’ve definitely considered incorporating the appeals within the project, with special emphasis on pathos since LSS seems motivated by its emotional drive to reach out to the greater community.
When I look back at assignment topics I’ve chosen or interests I’ve pursued, I feel like I’m mostly interested in pathos, which leads me to think I may have a bit of a bias toward that appeal. I think this is good to be aware of so that I can check myself in order to balance the appeals to the audience’s needs and not my own. From what I’ve noticed so far is that many great pieces of work have a combination of the appeals, and some even have all three.
However, as many of us know, how something is written is often determined by what the content and purpose is and vice versa. For example, if I were to write a manual on putting out a fire, I probably wouldn’t make it into a lengthy book that makes the reader feel all sorts of emotions. However, if the material was on a heartfelt memoir about a retired firefighter, then pathos is most likely welcome and encouraged.
I think Aristotle’s rhetorical appeals also cross over to my internship. For example, the purpose, audience, and appeals the material has, need to be considered within a publishing house when pitching, creating, and selling a book. Publishing, as I have been discovering little by little, is much more complicated than I thought. Maybe I can write more about this next time.
As I continue to write, whether it’s for school or work, I will refer back to my rhetorical toolbox and perhaps see ethos, logos, and pathos on the top shelf.