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1.7: Finding Ethos, Pathos, and Logos

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    Rhetorical appeals

    How do we know whom to trust as we read? How can writers convince their readers of their opinions? Rhetoric is the art of effective, persuasive writing and speaking. Writers and speakers often use a combination of strategies to convince their audience of their opinion. Aristotle, a Greek philosopher who lived from 384-322 BC, outlined three methods used to get people to agree with them. He called these three rhetorical appeals: pathos, ethos, and logos. When we read a text or listen to a TED talk, for instance, we can often observe a combination of appeals. In academic writing, we tend to emphasize ethos and logos, but pathos and ethos are useful tools as well. For more about these appeals, see also 5.3: Distinguishing Rhetorical Appeals.

    Pathos: emotions and values

    With pathos, the writer or presenter’s goal is to convince the audience of their particular opinion by appealing to their heart and emotions.

    Some examples are stories, anecdotes, powerful use of words or phrases, or images that awaken a strong emotion such as anger, joy, or fear due to a person’s beliefs.

    Ethos: credibility and trust

    The writer or presenter builds trust by presenting their argument in a thoughtful and thorough way and including expert opinion(s).

    Some examples are introducing recognized experts with their credentials, citing sources accurately, including first-hand testimony, and using appropriate language (e.g., This suggests…)

    Logos: logic

    The writer or presenter develops their argument logically with evidence we can measure, count, or agree on.

    Some examples include using facts, case studies, experiments, statistics, logical reasoning and organization, defining key terms, explaining ideas, and being objective.

    Identifying rhetorical appeals in a text

    We will explore how rhetorical appeals work by looking at three quotations from Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen. Vargas (see Figure 1.7.1) came to the U.S. from the Philippines at age 12 and was surprised to find out at the age of 16 that he was in the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant. When he tried to get his driver’s permit at the DMV, the person helping him told him his green card was a fake and he should not return. Vargas is a well-known journalist, filmmaker, and Pulitzer Prize winner.

    Man with short brown hair and a short-sleeved shirt at a podium
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): "Jose Antonio Vargas" by MIT Media Lab is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

    Try this!

    Identify which appeal is used in each quotation. 

    1. “Later that night, on a phone call with Mama, I demanded answers to questions I had never imagined I would have to ask. I found out that the “uncle” who accompanied me on the flight to America was a smuggler whom Lolo had paid. The morning I left the Philippines was so rushed because she hadn’t known when I would be leaving. The smuggler didn’t give an exact date or time. The plan was that the smuggler would call hours before my flight was set to depart. I had to be ready at all times. Unbeknownst to me, my suitcase has been packed for months."
    2. “Another editor, Ann Gerhart, also known for her keen journalistic eye, and an ace fact-checker, Julie Tate, reported what I wrote, to make sure all the facts lined up.”
    3. “Annually, undocumented workers pay 12 billion to the Social Security Trust Fund.”

    Which appeals are most effective for you? Why?

    (For possible answers, see 1.13: Answer Key - Critical Reading)

    Interactive Element

    Extra practice with rhetorical appeals

    If you would like to learn more about Jose Antonio Vargas, watch this video. What types of appeals do you notice?

    Works Cited

    Vargas, Jose Antonio. Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen. Dey Street Books, 2018.

    Licenses and Attribution

    CC Licensed Content: Original

    Authored by Marit ter Mate-Martinsen, Santa Barbara City College. License: CC BY NC.

    All Rights Reserved

    Three quotations by Jose Antonio Vargas are from Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen.

    This page titled 1.7: Finding Ethos, Pathos, and Logos is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Gabriel Winer & Elizabeth Wadell (ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative (OERI)) .

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