Persuasive Appeals

This resource was prepared by the Business Communications Lab at the Sam M. Walton College of Business
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The three persuasive appeals, which are ethos, pathos, and logos, are the building blocks of argumentation. Being able to identify them in other arguments—and being able to successfully incorporate them into your own arguments—will make you a more effective rhetor (someone who makes a written or oral argument).

What is ethos?
Ethos, or the ethical appeal, is the appeal to your own character. Rhetors must persuade the audience they can be trusted by showing that they have:

  • Good sense—they have a good understanding of the topic they are arguing about,
  • Good will—they are on the audience’s side,
  • Good character—they are a morally good person.

Examples of ethical appeals:

As a professor of economics at Princeton, I say we need tax reform. The rhetor demonstrates good sense by citing her authority in the field of economics.

My tax plan would help you all save money. The rhetor demonstrates good will by suggesting she cares about her audience’s well-being.

I give money to charity every year. With my tax plan, I could donate even more. The rhetor demonstrates good character by giving an example of her moral behavior.

What is pathos?
Pathos, or the pathetic appeal, is the appeal to the audience’s emotions or state of mind, such as fear, anger, sadness, or excitement.

Examples of pathetic appeals:

Without your donation, people will go hungry. The rhetor invokes sympathy by asking the audience to think about other people’s well-being.

 We’ve had enough of this corrupt administration! The rhetor invokes anger by stirring the audience’s resentment of the “corrupt” administration.

Don’t you want your children to be safe? The rhetor invokes fear by suggesting that rejecting the rhetor’s argument could endanger the audience’s children.

What is logos?
Logos, or the logical appeal, is the appeal to the audience’s sense of sound reasoning. Logos is commonly associated with the use of statistics and facts. However, logos includes any argument that attempts to draw a conclusion from premises. Logical appeals are often built on examples.

Examples of logical appeals:

We should not let a demagogue hold office. Last year, when we elected a demagogue, he tried to declare himself dictator. The rhetor uses an example from the past to suggest that the same thing would happen again.

We need more class activities involving social media. In a poll, 95% of students said they enjoyed Dr. Brown’s blog assignment. The rhetor uses a statistic to lend credibility to her argument.

 Many scholars acknowledge the income cap. For instance, economist Paul Krugman states that “the country has returned to Gilded Age levels of inequality.” The rhetor cites an expert in the field to lend credibility to her argument.

Note: When a logos appeal is based on unsound reasoning, it is called a logical fallacy (hyper link to logical fallacies resources).


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