The art of persuasion was a mainstay of Aristotle's teachings over 2000 years ago. Aristotle taught three persuasion techniques, which he called ethos, pathos and logos. These techniques have been employed by writers and speakers ever since to change the minds of others. The technique that works the best depends on the audience that the writer or speaker is addressing. For writers, it is best to keep in mind that they are meeting their readers face-to-face and that their reading public may be wide spread across the state, the nation, or around the world. With that in mind, that writers will not always know which persuasive technique will work the best, so they should make use of all three forms of persuasion.
Ethos, Logos, Pathos in Brief
In the art of persuasion, writers will need to use these three techniques:
- an ethical appeal (ethos) to sway readers based on their moral fiber and trustworthiness and integrity.
- a logical appeal (logos) to persuade readers through the use of rational analysis and logic.
- an emotional appeal (pathos) to change the readers' minds by stirring up their emotions.
ETHOS, the Writer's Credibility
Ethos makes use of the writer's credibility as an expert or reputation within the community. Readers may not accept a writer's argument if the writer has a less-than-clean reputation, or if the writer is trying to discuss a topic on which he or she has absolutely no expertise. If the writer is trying to begin a reputation with a new audience or beginning to gain a reputation as an expert in a specific field, then that writer should not only behave consistently, but should be consistent in his or her writing skills and have an aptitude for adequately researching his or her topics. If beginning writers do not yet their topic inside and out, then they must go out of their way to research every bit of information they can find, and study, study, study until they can come across as someone who knows what they are talking about. In other words, if you're not an expert, become one. If the writer can discuss a topic, and explain it in ways that readers can easily comprehend, then readers will come to view the writer as an expert much more quickly.
LOGOS. the Writer Uses Logic and Reasoning
Writer's convince their readers that the writers' argument is sound, or persuade readers to change their minds, by presenting their material in a rational, chronological style. The writers' arguments must be backed up with specifics, sound analysis and verifiable evidence. Writers can strengthen their credibility by adding charts and tables, statistics, photos and first-hand experiences to the piece they are writing. The specifics, analysis, and evidence as well as the charts, tables, statistics, photos and first-hand experiences – either all of them together, or in any combination – will help to convince readers that the writers' arguments are valid, which makes it easier for readers to agree with them. If writers can make use of metaphors, analogies and similes, they can help their readers connect the writers' arguments with experiences and circumstances in their own lives. When writers make these sorts of connections, they are more likely to persuade their readers.
PATHOS, the Writer Appeals to the Emotions
Writers, of course, can always appeal to their readers' emotions in order to get them to take action. Stirring the readers' emotions, may inflame their sensibilities or rouse their interests. Through the use of certain keywords, pathos can be directed toward the readers' goals, values or beliefs (ie pain, their children, threats to their community). Pathos is a means of giving readers relief from their emotional needs. When reading a piece with emotional appeal, readers are looking for the writer to:
- make a personal connection with them.
- show them what actions they should take to make the problem right.
- give them advice on how to accept certain circumstances and events.
- provide them the opportunity to belong to a group.
Aristotle's methods for persuasion have withstood the test of time. They are worth any writer's time to learn and apply to their writing on a regular basis. These websites have great information on Aristotle's persuasion methods. For further research in this area check them out.
California State University, Los Angeles: Ethos, Logos, Pathos: Three Ways to Persuade, by Dr. John R. Edlund
Web English Teacher: Argument & Persuasive Writing, Lesson Plans And Teaching Resources
By Joan Whetzel