Quick Summary on Using Ethos, Logos, and Pathos in Your Writing
- Ethos, logos, and pathos are elements of writing that make it more effective and persuasive. While ethos establishes the writer’s credibility, logos appeals to the audience’s reason, and pathos appeals to their emotions.
- These three concepts, also known as the rhetorical triangle, three rhetorical appeals, or three modes of persuasion, were coined by Aristotle in his explanation of what makes rhetoric effective.
Ethos vs. Logos vs. Pathos
To understand what ethos, logos, and pathos are, you must first know what rhetoric is.
Rhetoric is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing.” Aristotle defined rhetoric as “the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion.” In simpler terms, rhetoric is the effectiveness of the words (spoken or written) you choose to convey a message or change your audience’s perspective.
According to Aristotle, there are three means by which your rhetoric can be more powerful and that’s through the use of ethos, logos, and pathos. Knowing how to apply these three elements of persuasion can make your writing more compelling, so we’re going to teach you exactly what they mean and how to use them.
What Is Ethos, and How Do You Include It in Your Writing?
Ethos establishes the writer’s credibility or authority. Imagine you’re at a climate change conference to learn how you can help planet Earth. Whose speech would you find more trustworthy—that of a CEO of a gas company that has profited millions of dollars by drilling for oil, or a speech by the CEO of a non-profit that helps clean oceans?
Ethos “appeals to the writer’s credibility, authority, or character” to get the audience to trust them.
My non-profit organization started with just one volunteer—me. I’d walk up and down the beaches collecting trash. Then, a friend joined me. The following week, that friend brought a friend. And then another. Until it grew to what it is today—an organization with more than 300 volunteers who have helped remove more than 15,000 pounds (6.8 tons) of trash from the beaches and the oceans. So, I know quite a bit on getting people together for a good cause.
Consider word choice, spelling, and grammar when incorporating ethos to your writing. It’s hard to trust a writer when their text is riddled with errors. Depending on what you’re writing, it may be a good idea to explicitly explain why you’re trustworthy and your expertise in the area you’re writing about.
To ensure your writing is error-free, try using LanguageTool as your writing assistant. This multilingual spelling and grammar checker can detect various types of mistakes in your writing and suggest stylistic improvements.
What Is Logos, and How Do You Include It in Your Writing?
The word logic is derived from the word logos. As you might have imagined, logos is the “appeal to the reader’s logic.” This means that you use facts, data, and statistics to support your reasoning.
Using logos in your writing is effective because it provides evidence that makes it difficult for your audience to disagree with you. Proper use of logos in your writing requires thorough research. The following example includes logos:
According to NASA and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “the influence of human activity on the warming of the planet has evolved from theory to established fact.” This can be proven through data collected from ice cores, rocks, and tree rings as well as modern equipment, like satellites.
What Is Pathos, and How Do You Include It in Your Writing?
The last of the three elements of persuasion we’ll be discussing is pathos, which appeals to the audience’s emotions. In other words, writers try to persuade their audience by having them feel a certain way. Consider the following example:
Climate change is already happening all around us. But let’s pretend that we’re at the liberty of not having to worry about it because its effects won’t be evident in our lifetimes. What about your children? Or your children’s children? Imagine the life they will live as they have to endure extreme heat, catastrophic hurricanes, unprecedented rainfalls, and more. Climate change may not affect you personally, but it will affect those you love.
Ethos, Pathos, and Logos Makes For Effective Writing
Depending on what you’re writing and how you’re writing it, you may find yourself using more of either ethos, logos, or pathos. Truly effective writing finds a way to incorporate all three, even if one or two are used just a bit. As you read, try to recognize ethos, logos, and pathos. This will help you better incorporate it into your writing.