Rhetorical Tools

We should know the Rhetorical Triangle–Logos, Pathos, and Ethos.  Here is some help in that regard.  

These 3 persuasive strategies make up the rhetorical triangle.  Logos is the use of logic, facts, or truth.  Pathos is the appeal to your audience’s emotions.  Ethos is the speaker or writer’s character, credibility, and authority.

Logos is the meat of an argument. When you are presenting an appeal to logos, you present logic, facts, or truth. It is the message by which you attempt to reason with your audience.

Let’s call pathos the cheese because it’s the appeal to your audience’s emotions. You can move your audience to anger to take action towards war. You can move your audience to fear in order to persuade them to buy a product that prevents illness. Sadness can cause an audience to donate to a cause. Or you can move your audience to believe that certain opinions or actions will make themselves and others happy.

As for ethos, you can think of it as the guacamole. Guacamole is good for you, right? Its nutrition credibility is in vitamins E and C. Well, ethos is the speaker or writer’s character, credibility, and authority. Ethos attempts to show you that the person or entity communicating is a valid source of information. For example, your teachers’ ethos comes from the credibility of their degrees. So, you consider their opinions on particular subjects to be worthy.

The Writer, Audience, Context.

Purpose, Author, Audience.  Oh, my!  From an AP literature.

More ethical appeals.  This page does a pretty good job of defining them with some interesting examples as well.  Good point on ethos . . . 

For Ethos, ask yourselves: Is the author establishing their moral position? If so, what is that position? Is this position effective for all audiences or just a few? Is the text challenging your credibility? In other words, is your credibility called into question if you were to disagree with their argument?


Ethos is ethics, character, trust, and trustworthiness.  When an audience assesses you, one of the things they measure is your trustworthiness.  And if you don’t deliver on this, you will be renounced.  That is the way of the marketplace.  So consider these:

Does your audience believe you are a good person who can be trusted to tell the truth?

SIMILARITY:  Does your audience identify with you?

AUTHORITY:  Do you have formal or informal authority relative to your audience?

REPUTATION: How much expertise does your audience think you have in this field?

One should note that these aspects of ethos are not always distinct from one another; they are often intertwined.  So this helps to analyze the rhetorical triangle of a speaker or writer.  But you can also ensure these in your own communicative engagements with clients or the public.  

Here is an example of ethos.  Rhetoric is not just some academic or literary exercise.  It is your life.  Others will judge you based on your own personal ethos, your own personal logos, and pathos.  So don’t blow it.

Let’s start with an easy one. Be a good person, do good things, and think good thoughts. There are far more important reasons to follow this mantra than to gain speaking ethos. Nonetheless, your ethos will grow. The positive effect you have on those around you will spread, and will become known to your audience.

Example: How much ethos does Tiger Woods have (in the wake of the fidelity scandal) in terms of trustworthiness?

I recently wrote an essay on “Unspeakable Conversations” by Harriet McBryde Johnson, disability rights’ lawyer from Charleston, South Carolina who died in 2008 and was asked to evaluate the author’s rhetorical appeals.  But the essay was not straightforward, I didn’t have all the details up front, there was some confusion between writing a rhetorical essay versus analyzing three main rhetorical appeals–ethos (ethics/credibility), logos (appeal to logic), and pathos (emotional appeals the writer uses to get us on board).  I started by researching the author.  I found a lot.  A lot of good essays on her as well.  But what I didn’t find because I didn’t look for it was a sample of an essay that analyzes rhetorical strategies.  So I found one, a good one that shows the phrasing and samples of ethics, logic, and pathos.  I asked the student if her instructor provided her and the class with sections from the text that satisfying an ethical appeal, logical appeal, or a emotional appeal.  She said no.  So I found this.

You appeal to logic when you rely on your audience’s intelligence and when you offer credible evidence to support your argument. That evidence includes:

FACTS: These are valuable because they are not debatable; they represent the truth.

EXAMPLES: These include events or circumstances that your audience can relate to their life

PRECEDENTS: These are specific examples (historical and personal) from the past

AUTHORITY: he authority must be timely (not out-dated), and it must be qualified to judge the topic

DEDUCTIVE/INDUCTIVE– Deductive reasoning is when you pick apart evidence to reach conclusions, and inductive reasoning is when you add logical pieces to the evidence to reach conclusions.

from “Unspeakable Conversations”


It is a chilly Monday in late March, just less than a year ago. I am at Princeton University. My host is Prof. Peter Singer.

I have agreed to two speaking engagements. In the morning, I talk to 150 undergraduates on selective infanticide. In the evening, it is a convivial discussion, over dinner, of assisted suicide

ALLUSION to Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening