Plato said, “Rhetoric is the art of ruling the minds of men.” Rhetoric is persuasion in writing, speaking, reading or thinking. It is used to cause a reaction in an audience. When writing a rhetorical paper, analyze the work you have chosen for the rhetorical appeals of logos, ethos and pathos. If you can zero in on the methods of persuasion being used, you’ll be able to write a successful rhetorical paper.
Logos Approaches to Persuasion
Are you a “just the facts, ma’am” type of thinker? If so, logical appeals using analysis and reasoning persuade you. Cause and effect statements or lists of facts make effective logical appeals. Linear thinking techniques, such as outlines or syllogisms, sometimes persuade an audience to reach logical conclusions.
Ethos Persuasive Techniques
Do you prefer to stand on the moral high ground? If so, ethical appeals persuade you. You are interested in the credibility of the speaker. When celebrities endorse such products as make-up or athletic shoes, their character is used to persuade the audience the product is worthwhile. Some politicians also use ethical appeals by focusing on their own voting records, moral living or limited fiscal spending.
Pathos Rhetorical Devices
Ever cry when you watch a television commercial? If so, pathetic appeals work on you. Pathetic appeals hit viewers or readers on a gut level and persuade them through emotions and feelings. Some poets and musicians use pathetic appeals through powerful imagery or lilting melodies to persuade their audiences to feel a certain way. A novel’s protagonist may be morally corrupt, but the reader pulls for him anyway, because the author has persuaded the reader through pathetic appeals.
Persuasive Triple Threat
Find all three appeals in the piece you are analyzing? Then, you have found a triple threat of persuasion. The creators of the piece put effort into their wording and presentation to affect their audience. Their use of rhetorical techniques will most likely persuade their audience to think, feel or act in a certain way.
Writing Your Rhetorical Paper
Write a thesis statement for your essay and include the rhetorical appeals you found in the piece you are analyzing. Use the rest of the paragraphs to cite specific examples of the rhetorical appeal you found. In this way, you will substantiate your claims about rhetorical appeals.
- "Everything's An Argument"; Andrea A. Lunsford, et. al.; 2003
- "Springboard: English Textual Power Level 4"; The College Board; 2010
Based in Florida, Nancy Lee Bethea has ghostwritten nonfiction since 1997. She now contributes stories and columns for the "Nassau Sun" and Jax4Kids. Bethea has also taught English and creative writing in public schools for more than a decade. She holds a Master of Arts in teaching English from Jacksonville University.