Aristotle's "modes for persuasion" — otherwise known as rhetorical appeals — are known by the names ethos, pathos and logos. They are tools for persuading others to a particular point of view and are often used in writing and advertising to sway the audience.
Aristotle used these three terms to explain how rhetoric works:
Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds. The first kind depends on the personal character of the speaker [ethos]; the second on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind [pathos]; the third on the proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech itself [logos]. Persuasion is achieved by the speaker's personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible.
Ethos is a means of convincing an audience using the authority or credibility of the persuader, whether it’s a notable or experienced figure in the field or a popular celebrity.
Pathos is a way of convincing an audience of an argument by creating an emotional response to an impassioned plea or a convincing story.
Logos is a way of persuading an audience with reason, using facts, figures and rationale.
Even understanding what ethos, pathos and logos mean, you may have trouble parsing them out. Ethics, emotion and logic are closely intertwined, not siloed off. How you feel affects what you think, and vice versa, and all of it can affect or be affected by your ethics.
Ethos in your speech or writing comes from sounding fair or demonstrating your expertise, education or pedigree. Examples of ethos include:
- As a doctor, I am qualified to tell you that this course of treatment will likely generate the best results.
- My three decades of experience in public service, my tireless commitment to the people of this community, and my willingness to reach across the aisle and cooperate with the opposition make me the ideal candidate for your mayor.
- If my years as a Marine taught me anything, it's that caution is the best policy in this sort of situation.
- You know me — I've taught Sunday School at your church for years, babysat your children, and served as a playground director for many summers — so you know I can run your preschool.
- Our expertise in roofing contracting is evidenced not only by our 50 years in the business and our staff of qualified technicians, but in the decades of satisfied customers who have come to expect nothing but the best.
- He is a forensics and ballistics expert for the federal government — if anyone's qualified to determine the murder weapon, it's him.
- Based on the dozens of archaeological expeditions I've made all over the world, I am confident that those potshards are Mesopotamian in origin.
- If my age doesn't convince you that I know what I'm talking about, at least consider that I am your grandfather and I only want the best for you.
- If you're still unsure, please consider that my advanced degree and fieldwork speak for themselves.
You can see examples of pathos in language that draws on your audience’s emotions:
- If we don't move soon, we're all going to die! Can't you see how dangerous it would be to stay?
- I'm not just invested in this community — I love every building, every business, every hard-working member of this town.
- There's no price that can be placed on peace of mind. Our advanced security systems will protect the well-being of your family so that you can sleep soundly at night.
- Where would we be without this tradition? Ever since our forefathers landed at Plymouth Rock, we've celebrated Thanksgiving without fail, making more than cherished recipes. We've made memories.
- They've worked against everything we've worked so hard to build, and they don't care who gets hurt in the process. Make no mistake, they're the enemy, and they won't stop until we're all destroyed.
- Don't be the last person on the block to have their lawn treated — you don't want to be the laughing stock of your community!
- You should consider another route if you leave later. I heard that that street is far more dangerous and ominous at night than during the daytime.
- You'll make the right decision because you have something that not many people do: You have heart.
- After years of this type of disrespect from your boss, countless hours wasted, birthdays missed … it's time that you took a stand.
- Better men than us have fought and died to preserve this great nation. Now is our turn to return the favor. For God and country, gentlemen!
- You will never be satisfied in life if you don't seize this opportunity. Do you want to live the rest of your years yearning to know what would have happened if you just jumped when you had the chance?
Many audiences are more prone to turning to logic or practicality, which is where you might use logos. Using logos as an appeal means reasoning with your audience and providing them with facts, statistics, and logic or making historical and literal analogies:
- The data is perfectly clear: This investment has consistently turned a profit year-over-year, even in spite of market declines in other areas.
- Ladies and gentlemen of the jury: We have not only the fingerprints, the lack of an alibi, a clear motive, and an expressed desire to commit the robbery, but we also have video of the suspect breaking in. The case could not be more open and shut.
- It's a matter of common sense that people deserve to be treated equally. The Constitution calls it “self-evident.” Why, then, should I have been denied a seat because of my disability?
- More than one hundred peer-reviewed studies have been conducted over the past decade, and none of them suggests that this is an effective treatment for hair loss.
- History has shown time and again that absolute power corrupts absolutely.
- Private demand for the product has tapered off for the past three years, and this year's sales figures are at an all-time low. It's time to research other options.
- The algorithms have been run in a thousand different ways, and the math continues to check out.
- You won't find any deer along this road. In 25 years of driving the same route, I haven't seen a single one.
- He has a track record of success with this company, culminating in some of our most acclaimed architecture to date and earning us Firm of the Year nine times in a row.
- Research compiled by analysts from NASA, as well as organizations from five other nations with space programs, suggests that a moon colony is viable with international support.
- Veterinarians say that German shepherds are the perfect match for people with active lifestyles.
- Doctors all over the world recommend this type of treatment.
Understanding these three rhetorical tools can help you better form your own arguments, and you might be surprised how easy it is to spot these appeals among politicians, advertisers and everyday people in your life. With a healthy understanding of ethos, pathos and logos, you can learn even more about rhetoric with: