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15 Ethos Examples (Appeal to Credibility)

ethos example and definition, explained below

Ethos is one part of the so-called rhetorical triangle. In Aristotle’s Rhetoric, Ethos refers to a technical means of persuasion that has to do with the credibility of the persuader.

Aristotle claims that there are three technical means of persuasion:

“Now the proofs furnished by the speech are of three kinds. The first depends upon the moral character of the speaker, the second upon putting the hearer into a certain frame of mind, the third upon the speech itself, in so far as it proves or seems to prove” (Aristotle, Rhetoric, ca. 367-322 B.C.E./1926, Book 1, Chapter 2, Section 3).

Each of these corresponds to the three means of persuasion: 

  • Ethos (Appeal to credibility): Persuasion through establishing the character of the speaker.
  • Pathos (Appeal to emotion) : Persuasion through putting the hearer into a certain frame of mind.
  • Logos (Appeal to logic) : Persuasion through proof or seeming proof.

For Aristotle, speech consists of three things: the speaker, the hearer, and the speech. These correspond to ethos, pathos, and logos , respectively. The first of these is the subject of this article.

Definition of Ethos

In rhetoric, ethos, from the Greek word for “character,” refers to persuasion through establishing the authority of the speaker .

According to Aristotle, people follow a trustworthy speaker more readily on almost all subjects and completely so if there are no objective criteria to decide the matter.

The orator is using ethos if their speech is delivered in a manner that makes them seem worthy of confidence (Aristotle, Rhetoric, ca. 367-322 B.C.E./1926, Book 1, Chapter 2, Section 4). 

The importance of ethos in rhetoric can readily be seen through Aristotle’s example: The orator must appear to be of a certain character because this will determine how the audience is disposed towards them.

One’s dispositions toward the speaker will make all the difference,

“…for when a man is favorably disposed towards one on whom he is passing judgement, he either thinks that the accused has committed no wrong at all or that his offence is trifling; but if he hates him, the reverse is the case.” (Aristotle, Rhetoric, ca. 367-322 B.C.E./1926, Book 2, Chapter 1, Section 4).

Effective use of ethos requires three qualities: good sense, virtue, and good will (Aristotle, Rhetoric, ca. 367-322 B.C.E./1926, Book 2, Chapter 1, Section 5). These qualities are necessary and sufficient for the orator. 

15 Examples of Ethos

Example 1: the climate expert.

“As a leading climate scientist with years of experience researching this field, I can assure you that global warming is a pressing issue that requires an urgent and serious response.” 

The first part of the argument above (“As a leading climate scientist with years of experience researching this field”) establishes the speaker’s credibility, which means that the primary means through which the speaker is trying to convince their audience is ethos. For a topic as complex as global warming, the average audience member is far more likely to listen to someone who establishes their credibility from the start than to someone who relies solely on pathos and logos. 

Example 2: The Infectious Disease Expert

“I’ve dedicated over 40 years of my career to studying infectious diseases and their large-scale effects, so I can assert with full confidence that widespread vaccination is crucial for public health.”

It is easy to see that virtually anyone is more likely to trust the medical advice of someone who immediately establishes themselves as a seasoned professional than someone who limits their speech to logical arguments alone.

Example 3: Brand Credibility

The use of ethos is particularly frequent for brands. This is especially true when two competing brands have virtually indistinguishable products in terms of their use value. There would be no logical reason to prefer one brand to another, so each must try to appear more credible than the other. 

Example 4: The Art Critic

“I’ve been an art critic for over 30 years and during that time I’ve never come across a contemporary work of art that has as many layers of meaning as this one.”

This example exploits the peculiar advantages of ethos in matters that have no objective criteria. As Aristotle said, “we feel confidence in a greater degree and more readily in persons of worth in regard to everything in general, but where there is no certainty and there is room for doubt, our confidence is absolute.” (Aristotle, Rhetoric, ca. 367-322 B.C.E./1926, Book 1, Chapter 2, Section 4).

Example 5: The Expert Witness

An expert witness is using ethos (their education, certification, experience, etc.) to establish their testimony as authoritative.

For example, an expert witness might be called up to give evidence about whether an image was doctored or if it was, indeed, the original image that is being presented. The jury is more likely to find the witness credible if they can established that they do indeed have expertise on the topic, making their statement more authoritative.

Example 6: The Seasoned Traveler

“Having visited over 60 countries around the world, my recommendations for which places to visit and which to avoid are based on my years of experience.”

In this example, the speaker is using ethos to establish trustworthiness in an area where the audience members are unlikely to have conflicting experiences. The sheer number of countries they have been to gives them some clout, although we may be having the wool pulled over our eyes if 45 of those countries were merely in transit!

Example 7: The Experienced Entrepreneur

“While I wasn’t born in a particularly well-off family, by age 22 I was already the CEO of a 100 million dollar company. I know what it’s like to go from zero to hundred when it comes to entrepreneurship, so you can rest assured that what I’m about to say is backed up by lived experience.”

The speaker’s appeal to their financial success story is an attempt to prime the audience and make the speech that will follow more persuasive and influential through the use of ethos. 

Example 8: The Former Judge

“As a former judge who presided over hundreds of criminal justice cases, I’ve seen first hand what injustices our system often gives rise to.”

Not only is the speaker establishing their credibility from the start, but ethos is an especially well-suited persuasion technique in such a case because the matter at hand requires personal acquaintance with the topic. It’s not just that a judge will be more knowledgeable about criminal justice than the average person, but a judge would also have access to information that is simply unavailable for others, no matter how well-informed they may be. 

Example 9: The Celebrity Endorsement

While most examples focus on how ethos can be used in speech or writing, we shouldn’t forget that ethos may also be expressed visually.

For example, using images of celebrities or doctors to advertise a product is an example of ethos, because the advertisement is trying to establish its credibility and trustworthiness.

Example 10: The Certified Personal Trainer

“As a certified personal trainer with years of experience coaching professional athletes as well as clients with diverse fitness goals, I can build a training and nutrition program that is a perfect fit for your goals.”

The speaker is using ethos in the first part of the speech to establish credibility. In the context of physical fitness, ethos often has a visual component along with the verbal: the speaker will probably be especially fit and they will make sure you see that because you’re far more likely to take advice from someone who already has the body you want. 

Example 11: The Veteran Educator

“With 25 years of experience in teaching and a doctoral degree in education, I can assure you that early childhood learning lays a vital foundation for a child’s future academic and personal development.”

Here, the speaker uses their academic qualifications and extensive experience to convince the audience about the importance of early childhood education. The ethos is essential as it brings forth a certain level of expertise and credibility to the argument.

Example 12: The Renowned Chef

“Having trained in culinary schools around the world and worked in Michelin-starred restaurants, I can assure you that the art of cooking is much more than just following recipes.”

In this case, the chef uses their international experience and association with esteemed restaurants to validate their point of view about cooking. This is an excellent example of ethos, as it makes the audience value the speaker’s perspective based on their distinguished background.

Example 13: The Skilled Craftsman

“Working as a craftsman for more than 30 years, mastering techniques of pottery and sculpture, I can vouch for the therapeutic benefits of hands-on artistry.”

The speaker uses ethos to enhance the weight of their perspective, drawing upon their lifelong experience in the field of craftsmanship. The audience would likely give more credence to the speaker’s argument due to their established authority in the subject.

Example 14: The Experienced Psychologist

“As a psychologist with over two decades of clinical experience and several research papers in the field of cognitive behavior, I strongly believe that maintaining a positive mindset is crucial for mental health.”

In this instance, the psychologist uses ethos, leveraging their years of practical experience and contribution to scientific research to advocate for the importance of a positive mindset. This use of ethos enhances the credibility of their argument, making the audience more likely to accept their viewpoint.

Example 15: The Professional Environmentalist

“As a professional environmentalist, who has spent the last 20 years advocating for sustainable practices and policies, I can confidently say that adopting renewable energy sources is essential for a sustainable future.”

Here, the speaker uses their long-term dedication to environmental issues and advocacy work to establish their credibility. The ethos in this argument underscores the importance of their message, making it more persuasive to the audience.

Strengths of Ethos

  • Trust: In settings where the audience has little or no knowledge of the topic, the speaker’s appeals to ethos might be the most important means of persuasion. For example, if you know nothing about quantum physics, you may not be able to detect fallacies in arguments about it, and it’s not a subject that’s connected with any strong emotions, so the only thing you may rely on is the speaker’s credibility. 
  • Subjective topics: Ethos, as Aristotle noted, is especially useful in cases where there are no objective criteria to decide the matter. For example, the orator may make greater use of ethos when speaking about a work of art than when debating the merits of a mathematical proof.

Weaknesses of Ethos

  • Insincerity: It is easy for the audience to perceive the speaker’s appeals to ethos as inauthentic. While arguments don’t generally arouse suspicion, an appeal to one’s credentials can make the audience distrust you if done unskillfully. 
  • Objectivity: The converse of Aristotle’s statement about the usefulness of ethos in vague matters is that its utility is limited in matters that have objective criteria. For example, ethos is of no use if the truth of the argument one makes can easily be determined by each audience member for themselves.

Ethos is one of three main technical means of persuasion. In the context of rhetoric, it refers to appeals to the persuader’s credibility and comes from the Greek word for “character.” Like other means of persuasion, it has its strengths and weaknesses. 

See Also: The 5 Types of Rhetorical Situations

Aristotle. (1926). Rhetoric. In Aristotle in 23 Volumes, Vol. 22, translated by J. H. Freese. Harvard University Press. (Original work published ca. 367-322 B.C.E.) 

Rapp, C. (2022). Aristotle’s Rhetoric. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2022). Metaphysics Research Lab, Stanford University.


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Tio Gabunia is an academic writer and architect based in Tbilisi. He has studied architecture, design, and urban planning at the Georgian Technical University and the University of Lisbon. He has worked in these fields in Georgia, Portugal, and France. Most of Tio’s writings concern philosophy. Other writings include architecture, sociology, urban planning, and economics.

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ethos essay example

Ethos Definition

What is ethos? Here’s a quick and simple definition:

Ethos , along with logos and pathos , is one of the three "modes of persuasion" in rhetoric (the art of effective speaking or writing). Ethos is an argument that appeals to the audience by emphasizing the speaker's credibility and authority. If the speaker has a high-ranking position, is an expert in his or her field, or has had life experience relevant to a particular topic, anything the speaker says or does to ensure that the audience knows about and remembers these qualifications is an example of ethos .

Some additional key details about ethos:

  • Ethos shares a root with the word "ethics ." This is helpful to remember because speakers often try to establish their own strong moral character by using ethos.
  • The word "ethos" is also often used to refer to a community or organization's characteristic belief or spirit, as in the sentence, "We will not give you a larger bonus than your coworkers: that is against our company's ethos of fairness." However, this guide focuses specifically on the rhetorical technique of ethos used in literature and public speaking.
  • The three "modes of persuasion"— pathos , logos , and ethos —were originally defined by Aristotle.
  • While ethos appeals to an audience's instinctive respect for authority, logos appeals to the audience's sense of reason, and pathos appeals to the audience's emotions.
  • Ethos is used in advertising just as often as it is used in public speaking and literature. Any commercial in which a celebrity endorses a product, for example, hopes to persuade its target audience by cultivating an aura of authority or expertise through its association with the celebrity—and is therefore an example of ethos.

How to Pronounce Ethos

Here's how to pronounce ethos: ee -thos

Ethos Explained

Aristotle (the ancient Greek philosopher and scientist) first defined e thos , along with logos and pathos , in his treatise on rhetoric, Ars Rhetorica. Together, he referred to e thos , logos , and pathos as the three modes of persuasion, or sometimes simply as "the appeals." Aristotle believed that in order to have ethos a good speaker must demonstrate three things:

  • Phronesis : Sound reasoning, and relevant experience or expertise.
  • Arete : Moral character.
  • Eunoia : Good intentions towards the audience.

Aristotle argued that a speaker in possession of these three attributes will naturally impress the audience with his or her ethos , and as a result will be better able to influence that audience. Over time, however, the definition of ethos has broadened, and the significance of the three qualities Aristotle named is now lost on anyone who hasn't studied classical Greek. So it may give more insight into the meaning of ethos to translate Aristotle's three categories into a new set of categories that make more sense in the modern era. A speaker or writer's credibility can be said to rely on each of the following:

  • Within literature, it's interesting to notice when characters attempt to invoke their own authority and enhance their ethos by reminding other characters of the titles they possess. Often, this can be an indication that the character citing his or her own credentials actually feels his or her authority being threatened or challenged.
  • In literature, this form of ethos is particularly relevant with respect to narrators. Authors often have their narrators profess impartiality or objectivity at the outset of a book in order to earn the reader's trust in the narrator's reliability regarding the story he or she is about to tell.
  • This type of ethos translates into literature quite easily, in the sense that characters' opinions are often evaluated within the framework of their professions.
  • Literary characters often use ethos to communicate similarity or likemindedness to other characters, and you can detect this by certain changes in their speech. In these situations, characters (as well as real-life speakers) often use a shibboleth— a specialized term or word used by a specific group of people—to show that they belong. For example, if you knew the name of a special chemical used to make jello, and you wanted to impress the head of a jello company, the name of that chemical would count as a shibboleth and saying it would help you show the jello executive that you're "in the know."

The Stagecraft of Ethos

In order to impress their positive personal qualities upon audiences, public speakers can use certain techniques that aren't available to writers. These include:

  • Speaking in a certain manner or even with a certain accent.
  • Demonstrating confident stage presence.
  • Having reputable people to introduce the speaker in a positive light.
  • Listing their credentials and achievements.

Put another way, the ethos of a speech can be heavily impacted by the speaker's confidence and manner of presenting him or herself.

Ethos and Ad Hominem

An ad hominem argument is a specific type of argument which involves attacking someone else's character or ethos, rather than attacking that person's position or point of view on the subject being discussed. Ad hominem attacks usually have the goal of swaying an audience away from an opponent's views and towards one's own by degrading the audience's perception of the opponent's character. For instance, if one politician attacks another as being "elite," the attacker may be seeking to make voters question whether the other politician is trustworthy or actually has the public's interest at heart. But the first politician is not in any way attacking their opponent's positions on matters of policy.

An ad hominem argument is not necessarily "wrong" or even a bad strategy, but it's generally seen as more dignified (another component of ethos ) for speakers to focus on strengthening their own ethos, and to debate their opponents based on the substance of the opposition's counterarguments. When a literary character uses an ad hominem argument, this can sometimes indicate that he or she is insecure about his or her own position regarding a certain issue.

Ethos Examples

Examples of ethos in literature.

Characters in novels often use ethos , as well as logos and pathos , to convince one another of certain arguments in the same way that a speaker in reality might use these techniques. In addition, authors often use a subtler form of ethos when establishing a narrator's reliability at the outset of a novel.

Ethos in Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged

In Atlas Shrugged, a group of pioneering American industrialists, financiers, and artists go on strike against a corrupt government. As the strike nears its end, its leader—John Galt—delivers a speech to the nation about his ideals. He promises that the strike will end only if Americans allow him to remake the country according to his moral code, which he explains in the following lines:

Just as I support my life, neither by robbery nor alms, but by my own effort, so I do not seek to derive my happiness from the injury or the favor of others, but earn it by my own achievement. Just as I do not consider the pleasure of others as the goal of my life, so I do not consider my pleasure as the goal of the lives of others. Just as there are no contradictions in my values and no conflicts among my desires—so there are no victims and no conflicts of interest among rational men, men who do not desire the unearned and do not view one another with a cannibal's lust, men who neither make sacrifices nor accept them.

Galt not only creates an impression of moral rectitude, but also emphasizes his own self-sufficiency. He assures his audience that he expects nothing in return from them for sharing his personal views. In this way, his ability to cultivate an aura of impartiality and objectivity enhances his ethos.

Ethos in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter opens with a chapter called "The Custom-House," in which the unnamed narrator—who has a similar biography to Hawthorne—describes his job in a Custom House, a place where taxes were paid on imports in 18th century Massachusetts. The narrator's stories about his job have no relation to the actual narrative of The Scarlet Letter, except that he finds the scarlet letter of the title in the Custom House attic. This discovery inspired him to research the life of the woman who wore the embroidered letter, and to tell her story. By presenting himself as someone who merely discovered, researched, and "edited" the story the reader is about to begin, the narrator effectively creates the impression that his is a reliable historical account, thereby strengthening his ethos.

It will be seen, likewise, that this Custom-House sketch has a certain propriety, of a kind always recognised in literature, as explaining how a large portion of the following pages came into my possession, and as offering proofs of the authenticity of a narrative therein contained. This, in fact—a desire to put myself in my true position as editor, or very little more, of the most prolix among the tales that make up my volume—this, and no other, is my true reason for assuming a personal relation with the public.

Ethos in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby

In the opening lines of The Great Gatsby , the narrator, Nick Carraway, claims that he has followed one piece of his father's advice throughout his life:

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since. 'Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,' he told me, just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had.'... In consequence I'm inclined to reserve all judgements, a habit that has opened up many curious natures to me and also made me the victim of not a few veteran bores. The abnormal mind is quick to detect and attach itself to this quality when it appears in a normal person, and so it came about that in college I was unjustly accused of being a politician, because I was privy to the secret griefs of wild, unknown men...

Nick's tendency to reserve judgement makes him an ideal, objective narrator, while his awareness of his own economic and social advantages makes him a perfect guide to the privileged world of The Great Gatsby. Though he describes his non-judgmental, "neutral" affect with self-deprecating humor, it's a subtle way of strengthening his ethos as a narrator, and of causing the reader to eagerly anticipate hearing the stories that "wild, unknown men" have shared with him.

Examples of Ethos in Political Speeches

Every politician recognizes that a speaker must earn an audience's respect and trust if he or she expects to be listened to. As a result, it's difficult to find a political speech that doesn't contain an example of ethos. It's particularly easy to spot ethos in action when listening to speeches by candidates for office.

Ethos in Mitt Romney's Acceptance Speech at the 2012 Republican National Convention

When he accepted the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, Romney pointed to his business success as relevant experience that would serve him well if he were to take office:

I learned the real lessons about how America works from experience. When I was 37, I helped start a small company. My partners and I had been working for a company that was in the business of helping other businesses. So some of us had this idea that if we really believed our advice was helping companies, we should invest in companies. We should bet on ourselves and on our advice. So we started a new business called Bain Capital...That business we started with 10 people has now grown into a great American success story. Some of the companies we helped start are names you know. An office supply company called Staples – where I'm pleased to see the Obama campaign has been shopping; The Sports Authority, which became a favorite of my sons. We started an early childhood learning center called Bright Horizons that First Lady Michelle Obama rightly praised.

In addition to strengthening his ethos by pointing to his past achievements, Romney also hopes to portray himself as principled, rational, and daring when he explains how his company decided to "bet on ourselves and on our advice."

Ethos in John Kasich's 2016 Ohio Primary Victory Speech

After winning his first campaign victory, 2016 presidential candidate John Kasich told his supporters about his disadvantaged yet hardworking relatives to contextualize his own rise to success:

And you know, ladies and gentlemen, my whole life has been about trying to create a climate of opportunity for people. You know, as my father carried that mail on his back and his father was a coal miner, and you know, I was just told by my cousin—I didn't realize this—that my mother, one of four [children]‚ was the only one to graduate from high school. The other three barely made it out of the eighth grade because they were poor... And you know, as I've traveled the country and I look into your eyes... You want to believe that your children are going to have ultimately a better America than what we got from our mothers and fathers. That's the great American legacy: that our kids will be better than we are.

By saying that he comes from a modest background, Kasich hopes to convey that he is "just a regular American" and that he will advocate for other hard working Americans.

Ethos in Winston Churchill's 1941 Address to Joint Session of the US Congress

In this speech to the US Congress during World War II, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill enhances the ethos of his speech by emphasizing both the qualities he shares in common with the American people and the American Democratic values instilled in him by his parents:

I am a child of the House of Commons. I was brought up in my father's house to believe in democracy. "Trust the people." That was his message. I used to see him cheered at meetings and in the streets by crowds of workingmen way back in those aristocratic Victorian days when as Disraeli said "the world was for the few, and for the very few." Therefore I have been in full harmony all my life with the tides which have flowed on both sides of the Atlantic against privilege and monopoly and I have steered confidently towards the Gettysburg ideal of government of the people, by the people, for the people.

Examples of Ethos in Advertisements

Advertisers often attempt to use ethos to influence people to buy their product. Dressing up an actor as a doctor who then extols the benefits a medication is a way that advertisers used to try to gin up a little ethos , but such obvious practices of what might be called "fake ethos" are now regularly mocked. However, any celebrity endorsement or testimonial from an expert are also attempts to build up ethos around a product's endorsement. For instance, here's a Prudential Financial commercial that ups its ethos with an appearance by Harvard social psychologist Dan Gilbert.

Why Do Writers Use Ethos?

Politicians, activists, and advertisers use ethos because they recognize that it is impossible to convince an audience of anything if its members do not believe in the speaker's credibility, morality, or authority.

The use of e thos in fiction is often different from real-world examples. Authors are not usually trying to directly influence their audience in the way politicians or advertisers are. Rather, authors often show one of their characters making use of ethos . In doing so, the author gives insight into characters' perceptions of one another, their values, and their motives.

In addition, e thos is an especially useful tool for authors looking to establish a narrator's credibility. Having a credible narrator is hugely important to the success of a literary work. Books with narrators that never establish a reasonable claim to an objective viewpoint are nearly impossible to read because everything they say is cast in doubt, so that readers come to feel like they're being lied to or "jerked around," which is fatiguing. Although often enough readers simply assume that a narrator has credibility , if you've ever read a book where you felt you simply didn't like the narrator very much—or watched a television show where you felt that none of the characters were likable or believable—that might be another sign that the writer has failed to establish a character's ethos . There are circumstances in which a writer creates an unreliable narrator —a narrator who is either purposefully or subconsciously offering a slanted narrative—but ethos is just as crucial in creating such a narrator: the author must first establish the narrator's ethos and then slowly undermine it over the course of the book.

Other Helpful Ethos Resources

  • The Wikipedia Page on Ethos: An in-depth explanation of ethos , and how the concept has changed over time.
  • The Dictionary Definition of Ethos: A definition and etymology of the term, which comes from the Greek ethos meaning "character, custom, or habit."
  • Ethos on Youtube: An excellent video from TED-Ed about the three modes of persuasion.

The printed PDF version of the LitCharts literary term guide on Ethos

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  • Downloadable (PDF) line-by-line translations of every Shakespeare play
  • Figurative Language
  • Anadiplosis
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What Are Logos, Pathos & Ethos?

A straight-forward explainer (with examples)

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | Reviewer: Eunice Rautenbach (DTech) | June 2023

If you spend any amount of time exploring the wonderful world of philosophy, you’re bound to run into the dynamic trio of rhetorical appeals: logos , ethos and pathos . But, what exactly do they mean and how can you use them in your writing or speaking? In this post, we’ll unpack the rhetorical love triangle in simple terms, using loads of practical examples along the way.

Overview: The Rhetorical Triangle

  • What are logos , pathos and ethos ?
  • Logos unpacked (+ examples)
  • Pathos unpacked (+ examples)
  • Ethos unpacked (+ examples)
  • The rhetorical triangle

What are logos, ethos and pathos?

Simply put, logos, ethos and pathos are three powerful tools that you can use to persuade an audience of your argument . At the most basic level, logos appeals to logic and reason, while pathos appeals to emotions and ethos emphasises credibility or authority.

Naturally, a combination of all three rhetorical appeals packs the biggest punch, but it’s important to consider a few different factors to determine the best mix for any given context. Let’s look at each rhetorical appeal in a little more detail to understand how best to use them to your advantage.

Logos appeals to logic and reason, pathos appeals to emotions and ethos emphasises credibility and/or authority.

Logos appeals to the logical, reason-driven side of our minds. Using logos in an argument typically means presenting a strong body of evidence and   facts to support your position. This evidence should then be accompanied by sound logic and well-articulated reasoning .

Let’s look at some examples of logos in action:

  • A friend trying to persuade you to eat healthier might present scientific studies that show the benefits of a balanced diet and explain how certain nutrients contribute to overall health and longevity.
  • A scientist giving a presentation on climate change might use data from reputable studies, along with well-presented graphs and statistical analyses to demonstrate the rising global temperatures and their impact on the environment.
  • An advertisement for a new smartphone might highlight its technological features, such as a faster processor, longer battery life, and a high-resolution camera. This could also be accompanied by technical specifications and comparisons with competitors’ models.

In short, logos is all about using evidence , logic and reason to build a strong argument that will win over an audience on the basis of its objective merit . This contrasts quite sharply against pathos, which we’ll look at next.

Leveraging logos involves presenting a strong body of evidence, accompanied by sound logic and well-articulated reasoning.

Contrasted to logos, pathos appeals to the softer side of us mushy humans. Specifically, it focuses on evoking feelings and emotions in the audience. When utilising pathos in an argument, the aim is to cultivate some feeling of connection in the audience toward either yourself or the point that you’re trying to make.

In practical terms, pathos often uses storytelling , vivid language and personal anecdotes to tap into the audience’s emotions. Unlike logos, the focus here is not on facts and figures, but rather on psychological affect . Simply put, pathos utilises our shared humanness to foster agreement.

Let’s look at some examples of pathos in action:

  • An advertisement for a charity might incorporate images of starving children and highlight their desperate living conditions to evoke sympathy, compassion and, ultimately, donations.
  • A politician on the campaign trail might appeal to feelings of hope, unity, and patriotism to rally supporters and motivate them to vote for his or her party.
  • A fundraising event may include a heartfelt personal story shared by a cancer survivor, with the aim of evoking empathy and encouraging donations to support cancer research.

As you can see, pathos is all about appealing to the human side of us – playing on our emotions to create buy-in and agreement.

Pathos appeals to the softer side of us humans, as it focuses on evoking strong feelings and emotions in the audience.

Last but not least, we’ve got ethos. Ethos is all about emphasising the credibility and authority of the person making the argument, or leveraging off of someone else’s credibility to support your own argument.

The ethos card can be played by highlighting expertise, achievements, qualifications and accreditations , or even personal and professional associations and connections. Ultimately, the aim here is to foster some level of trust within the audience by demonstrating your competence, as this will make them more likely to take your word as fact.

Let’s look at some examples of ethos in action:

  • A fitness equipment brand might hire a well-known athlete to endorse their product.
  • A toothpaste brand might make claims highlighting that a large percentage of dentists recommend their product.
  • A financial advisor might present their qualifications, certifications and professional memberships when meeting with a prospective client.

As you can see, using ethos in an argument is largely about emphasising the credibility of the person rather than the logical soundness of the argument itself (which would reflect a logos-based approach). This is particularly helpful when there isn’t a large body of evidence to support the argument.

Ethos can also overlap somewhat with pathos in that positive emotions and feelings toward a specific person can oftentimes be extended to someone else’s argument. For example, a brand that has nothing to do with sports could still benefit from the endorsement of a well-loved athlete, just because people feel positive feelings about the athlete – not because of that athlete’s expertise  in the product they’re endorsing.

Ethos emphasises the credibility or authority of the person making the argument, rather than the credibility of the argument itself.

How to use logos, pathos and ethos

Logos, pathos and ethos combine to form the rhetorical triangle , also known as the Aristotelian triangle. As you’d expect, the three sides (or corners) of the triangle reflect the three appeals, but there’s also another layer of meaning. Specifically, the three sides symbolise the relationship between the speaker , the audience and the message .

Logos, ethos and pathos: the rhetorical triangle

Without getting too philosophical, the key takeaway here is that logos, pathos and ethos are all tools that you can use to present a persuasive argument . However, how much you use each tool needs to be informed by careful consideration of who your audience is and what message you’re trying to convey to them.

For example, if you’re writing a research paper for a largely scientific audience, you’ll likely lean more heavily on the logos . Conversely, if you’re presenting a speech in which you argue for greater social justice, you may lean more heavily on the pathos to win over the hearts and minds of your audience.

Simply put, by understanding the relationship between yourself (as the person making the argument), your audience , and your message , you can strategically employ the three rhetorical appeals to persuade, engage, and connect with your audience more effectively in any context. Use these tools wisely and you’ll quickly notice what a difference they can make to your ability to communicate and more importantly, to persuade .

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 Ethos, Logos, and Pathos – A Simple Guide

 Ethos, Logos, and Pathos – A Simple Guide

4-minute read

  • 12th April 2023

Ethos, logos, and pathos are three essential components of persuasive communication . They’ve been used for centuries by great communicators to influence the beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors of their audiences. In this simple guide, we’ll take a closer look at these three components using examples from famous writing and speeches.

What Is Ethos?

Ethos is a persuasive appeal based on the credibility or character of the speaker or writer. It refers to the trustworthiness, expertise, or authority that they bring to the argument. It’s crucial in establishing the credibility of the speaker or writer and can be built in through a variety of means, such as reputation and sources, or language and tone.

How To Use Ethos

Ethos can be established through the speaker or writer’s reputation: if they are known for being knowledgeable, honest, and trustworthy, this can lend credibility to their argument. For example, in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, Martin Luther King Jr. established his ethos by highlighting his role as a civil rights leader and his personal experience with racial injustice.

Another way you can achieve ethos in speech or writing is through the use of credible sources. For example, Rachel Carson established ethos in her book Silent Spring by providing extensive scientific evidence to support her argument that pesticides were harming the environment.

Finally, ethos can be accomplished through the use of language and tone . Using a professional and respectful tone can create the impression of credibility and authority. For instance, in his second inaugural address, President Abraham Lincoln employed ethos by using a solemn, reflective tone to convey the gravity of the situation.

What Is Logos?

Logos is a persuasive appeal based on logic and reasoning. It refers to the use of evidence and logical arguments to support the speaker or writer’s position.

How To Use Logos

One way you can implement logos in your speech or writing is through the use of statistics and data. When writing, or constructing a speech, try to incorporate reliable and credible stats or figures to strengthen your claims or argument and persuade your audience.

You can also employ examples and analogies to achieve logos. These can make your argument more accessible and understandable to a wider audience. For example, in his book The Tipping Point , Malcolm Gladwell uses the example of “the broken windows” theory to illustrate his argument that small changes can have a big impact on social behavior.

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Finally, logos can be established through the use of logical arguments . To ensure you have a logical argument, you should have a clear statement with definitions, examples, and evidence to support it. For instance, in his essay “Civil Disobedience,” Henry David Thoreau made a logical argument that individuals have a moral obligation to resist unjust laws.

What Is Pathos?

Pathos is a persuasive appeal based on emotion. It refers to the use of language and imagery that elicits an emotional response. Pathos can be used to create a sense of urgency, inspire empathy, or evoke a particular mood.

How To Use Pathos

Vivid imagery is a great way in which a writer or speaker can implement pathos. Using descriptive language to paint a picture in your audience’s mind is a powerful and persuasive skill. For example, in his poem “Dulce et Decorum Est,” Wilfred Owen used vivid imagery to describe the horrors of war and elicit an emotional response in his readers.

Pathos can also be accomplished by using personal anecdotes. The power of storytelling is an invaluable skill for any writer or speaker because it creates rapport and an emotional connection with your audience. For example, in her TED talk “The Power of Vulnerability,” Brene Brown shares personal stories about her struggles with shame and vulnerability to inspire empathy and connection with her audience.

Finally, pathos can be established through the use of rhetorical questions and appeals to shared values. A good example can be heard in Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. He poses his biggest question to his audience (and the world): “Now, what does all of this mean in this great period of history?” In response to this rhetorical question, he beautifully tries to persuade the audience to work together toward a common goal, stating, “It means that we’ve got to stay together. We’ve got to stay together and maintain unity.”

Ethos, logos, and pathos are powerful tools for persuasive speech and writing. By establishing credibility, using logical arguments, and appealing to emotion, speakers and writers can influence the beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors of their audiences. When used effectively, these elements can help to create meaningful and lasting change in the world.

Interested in learning how to elevate your writing with more literary devices? Check our other articles .

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What is Ethos? Definition, Examples, and Techniques

by Kaelyn Barron

What is Ethos? Definition, Examples, and Techniques Image

There are three modes of persuasion—ethos, pathos , and logos —that are frequently used to appeal to audiences when making an argument.

Pathos works at our emotions to get us to think, feel, or act in a certain way, while logos appeals to logic and reason, making it an excellent asset for both written and spoken discourse.

Ethos, however, works by establishing the presenter’s credibility, which is essential for a convincing argument.

Ethos Definition

Derived from the Greek word for “character,” ethos is a rhetorical device that is used to establish the speaker’s credibility or appeal to the audience’s sense of ethical responsibility.

Ethos is usually applied when the speaker wants to validate their intentions (in other words, why their argument is a good and relevant one) or when they want to demonstrate their authority on a subject.

Why is Ethos Important?

Ethos is necessary for convincing an audience that a speaker is someone they should believe. If an audience does not trust the qualifications or knowledge of the persuader, they likely will not be moved by his or her words.

Even if a speaker presents logically sound arguments, some audiences will still not be totally convinced unless they know something about the speaker’s merits.

How to Use Ethos in Writing

When used properly, an appeal to ethos can make your persuasive, creative, and expository writing more effective and interesting to readers.

Use Expert Opinions

Through extensive, up-to-date research—or by bringing in expert support—you can establish greater credibility for your argument. This is also where logos and ethos can work hand in hand to create not only a logical, but believable, point.

Although you might use a personal experience or two to illustrate your authority, avoid overdoing it and limit your use of the first person to these specific experiences.

In all other cases, write from the third person point of view and avoid bringing in too much emotion.

Present Balanced Arguments

Presenting a valid counter argument can actually help to build your credibility as a speaker.

By showing that you and the other side agree on at least one point—or, by conceding to one of the opposition’s valid points—you will demonstrate to audiences that you are both fair and rational, which makes you trustworthy.

However, don’t get carried away in your counter argument—remember which side you support and only concede what is necessary to show that you can be even-handed.

Use Appropriate Vocabulary

When appealing to ethos, it is important that you choose your words with care. Consider both your audience and the topic—you don’t want to use fancy words that will confuse or intimidate your audience, but you also don’t want to sound weak or unprofessional.

Try to match your tone and level of writing to that of your target audience. Make sure that your words carry the appropriate connotations, as well.

Examples of Ethos

Examples of ethical appeals can be found in both fiction and nonfiction works.

It is frequently utilized in advertisement campaigns, political rhetoric, and even literature.

Ethos in Literature

From To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee:

I’m no idealist to believe firmly in the integrity of our courts and in the jury system—that is no ideal to me, it is a living, working reality. Gentlemen, a court is no better than each man of you sitting before me on this jury. A court is only as sound as its jury, and a jury is only as sound as the men who make it up. I am confident that you gentlemen will review without passion the evidence you have heard, come to a decision, and restore this defendant to his family. In the name of God, do your duty.

In this example from To Kill a Mockingbird , Atticus uses ethos to appeal to the jury before him in hopes that they will make the right, ethical decision.

Ethos in Politics

From Winston Churchill’s 1941 Address to the United States Congress:

I am a child of the House of Commons. I was brought up in my father’s house to believe in democracy. “Trust the people.” That was his message. I used to see him cheered at meetings and in the streets by crowds of workingmen way back in those aristocratic Victorian days when as Disraeli said “the world was for the few, and for the very few.”

Therefore I have been in full harmony all my life with the tides which have flowed on both sides of the Atlantic against privilege and monopoly and I have steered confidently towards the Gettysburg ideal of government of the people, by the people, for the people.

In this speech, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill stresses the qualities and values he shares with the American public in order to establish ethos and present himself as more relatable to his audience.

Ethos in Advertising

When it comes to advertising, ethos is usually employed in one of two ways: by using a celebrity or big name that people recognize and trust, or by appealing to the average person, aka the “plain folks” strategy.

Celebrities and Trusted Names

Jennifer Aniston is featured in Glaceau’s Smart Water advertising campaign because she is a family name, and even though most of us don’t actually know her or have any reason to trust her opinion on water so easily, many people feel like they can.

If Rachel from Friends says this water is good for me, it must be true, right?

This technique is mostly used by big brands to sell anything from athletic shoes to acne products.

The “Plain Folks” Technique

The other common strategy—the “plain folks” technique—takes exactly the opposite approach by appealing to everyday individuals.

While it is also used to sell products, the plain folks technique is frequently used in political campaigns to show voters that a candidate—despite their wealth or status—is just like them.

Hillary Clinton’s “Family Strong” ad from her 2016 presidential campaign is an example of this method. The video uses images of Clinton’s family and highlights her rather ordinary upbringing to make her appear more relatable to voters.

Use Ethos to Improve Your Writing

Whether you’re writing to persuade or entertain, ethos can enrich your writing and help you gain the trust of your readers.

Start practicing with writing prompts today to see if you can apply the three modes of persuasion for more effective prose.

Which techniques have helped you improve your persuasive writing? Feel free to share in the comments below!

If you enjoyed this post, then you might also like:

  • What is Pathos? Definition, Examples, and Techniques
  • The 4 Main Writing Styles: Definitions, Examples, and Techniques
  • What is Logos? Definition, Examples, and Techniques
  • What is Creative Writing? Types, Techniques, and Tips

Kaelyn Barron

As a blog writer for TCK Publishing, Kaelyn loves crafting fun and helpful content for writers, readers, and creative minds alike. She has a degree in International Affairs with a minor in Italian Studies, but her true passion has always been writing. Working remotely allows her to do even more of the things she loves, like traveling, cooking, and spending time with her family.

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Writing Explained

What is Ethos? Definition, Examples of Ethos in Literature

Home » The Writer’s Dictionary » What is Ethos? Definition, Examples of Ethos in Literature

Ethos definition: Ethos is a rhetorical device that includes any content in an argument that is meant to appeal to ethics.

What is Ethos? Ethos as a Literary Term

What does ethos mean? Ethos is one of the three Aristotelian appeals. Ethos refers to any element of an argument that is meant to appeal to an audience’s ethics or ethical responsibilities.

A writer utilizes the three appeals in order to convince his audience of his argument. The other two appeals are pathos (emotion) and logos (logic).

Appeals to ethos are those that involve or influence the ethical reasons an audience should believe an argument.

Ethos definition in literature

Ethos Examples in Writing

Examples of ethos in an argument in support of education reform that appeal to ethos might include:

  • I have studied this topic for the past ten years.
  • This is a national problem, one every citizen and every parent should find concerning.

The first example is reference to the speaker’s credibility; the second example is an appeal to the audience’s sense of ethical responsibility.

What are ethos pathos logos definition

  • The idea of building a large work force of full-time employees, outside of core disciplines like engineering, is not part of the ethos of most companies in today’s tech industry, observers who have studied the industry say.

In this example, the author is contrasting the company with that of its competitors. This company has a different set of ethos, a different set of ethics and priorities. This company, unlike others in the industry, value full-time employees outside of engineers. It is an attempt to set this company on an ethical high ground above its peers.

Ethos vs. Pathos vs. Logos

Logos pathos ethos English definition

Each of these is used in an argument in order to convince an audience. The argument may be heavier in one appeal over another; however, a good argument will contain some of all three appeals.

Continuing the education reform argument from above, here are additional examples for demonstration:

  • How can you look at these failing students and say nothing should be done about our education system?
  • No average person would ignore this problem.
  • Student SAT scores are the lowest they are in 40 years.
  • Given these low test scores, we should rally our efforts to reform K-12 education.

The Purpose of Ethos in Writing

Meaning of Ethos appeal definition

First and foremost, a speaker must convince his audience that he is someone they should believe. He does this through appeals to ethos. The speaker might not directly state his credits, but he should in some way present his authority to the audience. Some speakers have innate authority (like the President) and others have to prove it.

Furthermore, most people want to do the “right” thing. That is where ethos comes into play. Through appeals to ethos, a speaker will convince the audience that agreeing with his argument is “good” and “right.”

Examples of Ethos in Literature

An example of logos ethos pathos

“When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.”

These lines appeal to ethos especially in the last clause beginning with “a decent respect”. At the time of this document’s conception, it was the “right” thing for mankind to want to separate from the British Kingdom.

This document starts with these lines because the authors intend to convince the British Crown that their separation is a just and ethical obligation.

Summary: What Does Ethos Mean in Literature?

Define ethos in literature: the definition of ethos in literature is an argument based on the ethics or credibility of the person making the argument; an appeal to ethics.

To sum up, ethos is:

  • one of the three Aristotelian appeals used in argument
  • an appeal to ethics
  • evident in an argument in statements of the speaker’s credibility or references to why the argument is “good” or “right”

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Using Rhetorical Strategies for Persuasion

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There are three types of rhetorical appeals, or persuasive strategies, used in arguments to support claims and respond to opposing arguments. A good argument will generally use a combination of all three appeals to make its case.

Logos or the appeal to reason relies on logic or reason. Logos often depends on the use of inductive or deductive reasoning.

Inductive reasoning takes a specific representative case or facts and then draws generalizations or conclusions from them. Inductive reasoning must be based on a sufficient amount of reliable evidence. In other words, the facts you draw on must fairly represent the larger situation or population. Example:

In this example the specific case of fair trade agreements with coffee producers is being used as the starting point for the claim. Because these agreements have worked the author concludes that it could work for other farmers as well.

Deductive reasoning begins with a generalization and then applies it to a specific case. The generalization you start with must have been based on a sufficient amount of reliable evidence.Example:

In this example the author starts with a large claim, that genetically modified seeds have been problematic everywhere, and from this draws the more localized or specific conclusion that Mexico will be affected in the same way.

Avoid Logical Fallacies

These are some common errors in reasoning that will undermine the logic of your argument. Also, watch out for these slips in other people's arguments.

Slippery slope: This is a conclusion based on the premise that if A happens, then eventually through a series of small steps, through B, C,..., X, Y, Z will happen, too, basically equating A and Z. So, if we don't want Z to occur A must not be allowed to occur either. Example:

In this example the author is equating banning Hummers with banning all cars, which is not the same thing.

Hasty Generalization: This is a conclusion based on insufficient or biased evidence. In other words, you are rushing to a conclusion before you have all the relevant facts. Example:

In this example the author is basing their evaluation of the entire course on only one class, and on the first day which is notoriously boring and full of housekeeping tasks for most courses. To make a fair and reasonable evaluation the author must attend several classes, and possibly even examine the textbook, talk to the professor, or talk to others who have previously finished the course in order to have sufficient evidence to base a conclusion on.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc: This is a conclusion that assumes that if 'A' occurred after 'B' then 'B' must have caused 'A.' Example:

In this example the author assumes that if one event chronologically follows another the first event must have caused the second. But the illness could have been caused by the burrito the night before, a flu bug that had been working on the body for days, or a chemical spill across campus. There is no reason, without more evidence, to assume the water caused the person to be sick.

Genetic Fallacy: A conclusion is based on an argument that the origins of a person, idea, institute, or theory determine its character, nature, or worth. Example:

In this example the author is equating the character of a car with the character of the people who built the car.

Begging the Claim: The conclusion that the writer should prove is validated within the claim. Example:

Arguing that coal pollutes the earth and thus should be banned would be logical. But the very conclusion that should be proved, that coal causes enough pollution to warrant banning its use, is already assumed in the claim by referring to it as "filthy and polluting."

Circular Argument: This restates the argument rather than actually proving it. Example:

In this example the conclusion that Bush is a "good communicator" and the evidence used to prove it "he speaks effectively" are basically the same idea. Specific evidence such as using everyday language, breaking down complex problems, or illustrating his points with humorous stories would be needed to prove either half of the sentence.

Either/or: This is a conclusion that oversimplifies the argument by reducing it to only two sides or choices. Example:

In this example where two choices are presented as the only options, yet the author ignores a range of choices in between such as developing cleaner technology, car sharing systems for necessities and emergencies, or better community planning to discourage daily driving.

Ad hominem: This is an attack on the character of a person rather than their opinions or arguments. Example:

In this example the author doesn't even name particular strategies Green Peace has suggested, much less evaluate those strategies on their merits. Instead, the author attacks the characters of the individuals in the group.

Ad populum: This is an emotional appeal that speaks to positive (such as patriotism, religion, democracy) or negative (such as terrorism or fascism) concepts rather than the real issue at hand. Example:

In this example the author equates being a "true American," a concept that people want to be associated with, particularly in a time of war, with allowing people to buy any vehicle they want even though there is no inherent connection between the two.

Red Herring: This is a diversionary tactic that avoids the key issues, often by avoiding opposing arguments rather than addressing them. Example:

In this example the author switches the discussion away from the safety of the food and talks instead about an economic issue, the livelihood of those catching fish. While one issue may affect the other, it does not mean we should ignore possible safety issues because of possible economic consequences to a few individuals.

Ethos or the ethical appeal is based on the character, credibility, or reliability of the writer. There are many ways to establish good character and credibility as an author:

  • Use only credible, reliable sources to build your argument and cite those sources properly.
  • Respect the reader by stating the opposing position accurately.
  • Establish common ground with your audience. Most of the time, this can be done by acknowledging values and beliefs shared by those on both sides of the argument.
  • If appropriate for the assignment, disclose why you are interested in this topic or what personal experiences you have had with the topic.
  • Organize your argument in a logical, easy to follow manner. You can use the Toulmin method of logic or a simple pattern such as chronological order, most general to most detailed example, earliest to most recent example, etc.
  • Proofread the argument. Too many careless grammar mistakes cast doubt on your character as a writer.

Pathos , or emotional appeal, appeals to an audience's needs, values, and emotional sensibilities.  Pathos can also be understood as an appeal to audience's disposition to a topic, evidence, or argument (especially appropriate to academic discourse). 

Argument emphasizes reason, but used properly there is often a place for emotion as well. Emotional appeals can use sources such as interviews and individual stories to paint a more legitimate and moving picture of reality or illuminate the truth. For example, telling the story of a single child who has been abused may make for a more persuasive argument than simply the number of children abused each year because it would give a human face to the numbers.  Academic arguments in particular ​benefit from understanding pathos as appealing to an audience's academic disposition.

Only use an emotional appeal if it truly supports the claim you are making, not as a way to distract from the real issues of debate. An argument should never use emotion to misrepresent the topic or frighten people.


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Sat / act prep online guides and tips, ethos, pathos, logos, kairos: the modes of persuasion and how to use them.

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General Education


Ethos, pathos, logos, and kairos all stem from rhetoric—that is, speaking and writing effectively. You might find the concepts in courses on rhetoric, psychology, English, or in just about any other field!

The concepts of ethos, pathos, logos, and kairos are also called the modes of persuasion, ethical strategies, or rhetorical appeals. They have a lot of different applications ranging from everyday interactions with others to big political speeches to effective advertising.

Read on to learn about what the modes of persuasion are, how they’re used, and how to identify them!


What Are the Modes of Persuasion?

As you might have guessed from the sound of the words, ethos, pathos, logos, and kairos go all the way back to ancient Greece. The concepts were introduced in Aristotle’s Rhetoric , a treatise on persuasion that approached rhetoric as an art, in the fourth century BCE.

Rhetoric was primarily concerned with ethos, pathos, and logos, but kairos, or the idea of using your words at the right time, was also an important feature of Aristotle’s teachings.

However, kairos was particularly interesting to the Sophists, a group of intellectuals who made their living teaching a variety of subjects. The Sophists stressed the importance of structuring rhetoric around the ideal time and place.

Together, all four concepts have become the modes of persuasion, though we typically focus on ethos, pathos, and logos.


What Is Ethos?

Though you may not have heard the term before, ‘ethos’ is a common concept. You can think of it as an appeal to authority or character—persuasive techniques using ethos will attempt to persuade you based on the speaker’s social standing or knowledge. The word ethos even comes from the Greek word for character.

An ethos-based argument will include a statement that makes use of the speaker or writer’s position and knowledge. For example, hearing the phrase, “As a doctor, I believe,” before an argument about physical health is more likely to sway you than hearing, “As a second-grade teacher, I believe.”

Likewise, celebrity endorsements can be incredibly effective in persuading people to do things . Many viewers aspire to be like their favorite celebrities, so when they appear in advertisements, they're more likely to buy whatever they're selling to be more like them. The same is true of social media influencers, whose partnerships with brands can have huge financial benefits for marketers .

In addition to authority figures and celebrities, according to Aristotle, we’re more likely to trust people who we perceive as having good sense, good morals, and goodwill —in other words, we trust people who are rational, fair, and kind. You don’t have to be famous to use ethos effectively; you just need whoever you’re persuading to perceive you as rational, moral, and kind.


What Is Pathos?

Pathos, which comes from the Greek word for suffering or experience, is rhetoric that appeals to emotion. The emotion appealed to can be a positive or negative one, but whatever it is, it should make people feel strongly as a means of getting them to agree or disagree.

For example, imagine someone asks you to donate to a cause, such as saving rainforests. If they just ask you to donate, you may or may not want to, depending on your previous views. But if they take the time to tell you a story about how many animals go extinct because of deforestation, or even about how their fundraising efforts have improved conditions in the rainforests, you may be more likely to donate because you’re emotionally involved.

But pathos isn’t just about creating emotion; it can also be about counteracting it. For example, imagine a teacher speaking to a group of angry children. The children are annoyed that they have to do schoolwork when they’d rather be outside. The teacher could admonish them for misbehaving, or, with rhetoric, he could change their minds.

Suppose that, instead of punishing them, the teacher instead tries to inspire calmness in them by putting on some soothing music and speaking in a more hushed voice. He could also try reminding them that if they get to work, the time will pass quicker and they’ll be able to go outside to play.

Aristotle outlines emotional dichotomies in Rhetoric . If an audience is experiencing one emotion and it’s necessary to your argument that they feel another, you can counterbalance the unwanted emotion with the desired one . The dichotomies, expanded upon after Aristotle, are :

  • Anger/Calmness
  • Friendship/Enmity
  • Fear/Confidence
  • Shame/Shamelessness
  • Kindness/Unkindness
  • Pity/Indignation
  • Envy/Emulation

Note that these can work in either direction; it’s not just about swaying an audience from a negative emotion to a positive one. 

However, changing an audience's emotion based on false or misleading information is often seen as manipulation rather than persuasion. Getting into the hows and whys requires a dive into the ethics of rhetoric , but suffice to say that when you attempt to deceive an audience, that is manipulation.

If you really want to get an audience fired up about something, you can inspire righteous anger, which may or may not be manipulation. If somebody is offended that you’ve asked them for something, you can try making them feel sorry for you by turning indignation into pity— that’s manipulation.


What Is Logos?

Logos comes from a Greek word of multiple meanings, including “ground,” “speech,” and “reason.” In rhetoric, it specifically refers to having a sense of logic to your persuasion; logos-based rhetoric is founded in logic and reason rather than emotion, authority, or personality.

A logic-based argument appeals to a person’s sense of reason— good logos-based rhetoric will persuade people because the argument is well-reasoned and based in fact. There are two common approaches to logos: deductive and inductive arguments.

Deductive arguments build on statements to reach a conclusion —in effect, the conclusion is reached in reverse. A common method is to propose multiple true statements which are combined to reach a conclusion, such as the classic method of proving that Socrates is mortal.

All men are mortal, and Socrates is a man, therefore Socrates must be mortal.

That’s not really a case that needs to be argued, but we can apply the same framework to other arguments as well. For example, we need energy to live. Food gives the body energy. Therefore, we need food to live.  

All of this is based on things we can prove, and results in a conclusion that is true , not just theorized. Deductive reasoning works on the assumption that A = B, B = C, so therefore A = C. But this also supposes that all the information is true, which is not always the case.

Sometimes the conclusions you reach with deductive reasoning can be valid, as in the reasoning makes sense, but the conclusion may not be necessarily true. If we return to the Socrates argument, we could propose that:

All men eat apples. Socrates is a man. Therefore, Socrates must eat apples.

The problem is that we can’t prove that all men eat apples —some do, some don’t. Some might eat an apple once but never again. But based on our arguments, the conclusion that Socrates must eat apples is valid.

A strong deductive argument for logos-based reasoning will be composed of provable facts that can reach a provable conclusion. However, a valid but not entirely sound argument can also be effective—but be wary of shifting from persuasion to manipulation!

Another approach to logos-based rhetoric is inductive reasoning, which, unlike deductive reasoning, results in a probable argument rather than a definite one. That doesn’t mean that it is less effective—many scientific concepts we accept as truth are inductive theories simply because we cannot travel back in time and prove them— but rather that inductive reasoning is based on eliminating the impossible and ending in an argument that is based in sound logic and fact, but that may not necessarily be provable.

For example, all people with a cough have a cold. Kelly has a cough. Therefore, Kelly likely has a cold.

Our conclusion is likely , but not absolute. It’s possible that Kelly doesn’t have a cold—not because she doesn't have a cough, but because there are other possible causes, such as having allergies or having just breathed in some dust. The conclusion that she has a cold is likely based on data, but not absolute.

Another example would be that Kelly picks her nose. Kelly is a woman, therefore all women must pick their nose.

Inductive reasoning is based on generalizations. The first example, in which Kelly likely has a cold, makes sense because it’s based on something provable—that a sampling of people who have a cough have colds—and followed up with a likely conclusion. In the second example, this is a less sensible conclusion because it’s based on extrapolation from a single reference point.

If we reverse the claim and say that all women pick their noses, and Kelly is a woman, therefore Kelly must pick her nose, that would be more sound logic. Still not necessarily true—not all women pick their noses—but a more sound example of inductive reasoning.

Inductive reasoning can still be incredibly effective in persuasion, provided that your information is well-reasoned. Inductive reasoning creates a hypothesis that can be tested; its conclusion is not necessarily true, but can be examined.

As always, be wary of venturing into manipulation, which is more likely to be based on erroneous or misleading facts.


What Is Kairos?

Kairos is the Greek word for the opportune moment, which is precisely what it means in rhetoric. According to this principle, the time in which an argument is deployed is as important as the argument itself. An argument at the wrong time or to the wrong audience will be wasted; to be effective, you must also consider when you are speaking and to whom.

In effect, kairos means choosing the correct rhetorical device to match the audience and space in which you’re attempting to persuade. If you wanted to persuade people to go vegetarian, the middle of a hot dog-eating contest is probably not the right time. Likewise, you’re probably not going to persuade a room of data-driven scientists of something by appealing to pathos or ethos; logos is probably your best bet.

In essence, kairos asks you to consider the context and atmosphere of the argument you’re making. How can you deploy your argument better considering time and space? Should you wait, or is time of the essence?

As Aristotle famously said, “Anybody can become angry—that is easy, but to be angry with the right person and to the right degree and at the right time and for the right purpose, and in the right way—that is not within everybody's power and is not easy.”

The goal of kairos is to achieve exactly that. Effective use of kairos strengthens your persuasion ability by considering how people are already feeling based on context. How can you influence or counteract that? Or maybe pathos isn’t the right approach—maybe cold hard facts, using logos, is more suited. Kairos works in conjunction with the other modes of persuasion to strengthen your argument, so as you’re putting a persuasive piece together, consider how and when it’ll be deployed!


How to Identify Ethos, Pathos, Logos, and Kairos

Understanding how the modes of persuasion work can make you better at identifying and picking them out. Not only is a better understanding of them useful for composing your own arguments, but it’s also beneficial when seeing other people’s arguments. When you understand how ethos, pathos, logos, and kairos work, you’re less susceptible to them.

Advertising is one of the places we see the modes of persuasion most often. Looking at each of these advertisements, you can see how they use each mode of persuasion to convince audiences to convince an audience of something.

Using celebrities is a classic example of ethos, which uses authority or recognition to convince an audience of something. In this case, celebrities like Michelle Obama, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Janelle Monáe discuss the importance of voting.

It doesn’t matter that they’re not politicians or political scientists; audiences find them appealing and genuine. When they speak of the importance of voting, audiences listen because they like what these figures have to say . If talented, famous people like this are taking the time to vote, it must be important!

Historians or those well-versed in politics might make different arguments about why audiences should vote, but in this case, the goal is to inspire people. When we see people we admire doing things, we want to do them too; hence the reason that ethos works so well.

ASPCA’s commercials are some of the most infamous examples of pathos in advertising. Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” plays over footage of abused animals in shelters, encouraging viewers to donate money to support the organization.

It’s not hard to understand why it works; both the song and the imagery are heartbreaking! You can’t help but feel sad when you see it, and that sadness, when followed up by a prompt to donate, encourages you to take immediate action.  And these ads are effective— the campaign raised millions of dollars for ASPCA .

By appealing to our emotions and making us feel sad, this advertisement encourages us to act. That’s a classic use of ethos—it influences our feelings through the one-two punch of sad music and imagery, encouraging us to perform the desired action.

In some cases, emotion and authority aren’t the right tactic. Logos often appears in tech advertisements, such as this one for the iPhone XS and XR.

Notice how the advertisement focuses on product shots and technological terms. Most audiences won’t know what an A12 bionic neural engine is, but it sounds impressive. Likewise, that “12 MPf/1.8 wide-angle lens, with larger, deeper 1.4 micron pixels” is pretty meaningless to most people, but the numbers suggest that this phone is something special because it uses scientific-sounding language.

It doesn’t matter whether audiences really understand what’s being said or not. What matters is that they feel confident that the ad is selling them something they need —in this case, impressive technological specifications that make this phone an improvement over others.

Kairos should ideally factor into all uses of the modes of persuasion, but timeliness can also be a big selling point. In this Christmas-themed M&Ms advertisement, the company uses timely humor to forge a connection between the holidays and M&Ms.

Because these commercials have been running for such a long time, there’s also a nostalgic attachment to them. Just as people look forward to new Budweiser advertisements during the Super Bowl, others look forward to seeing M&Ms or the Coca-Cola polar bear during the holidays.

Though this commercial doesn’t go out of its way to tell you the benefits of M&Ms, it does forge a connection between M&Ms and Christmas, encouraging people to purchase them around the holidays.


Examples of the Modes of Persuasion

Now that you’ve had some exposure to how ethos, pathos, logos, and kairos function and what they can do, you can test your ability to recognize them using the images below!


There are a few things to notice about this image:

  • The anonymous figure
  • The language
  • The use of a statistic

Can you figure out which mode of persuasion this represents?

The fact that the figure is anonymous tells us it’s probably not ethos. While we might be influenced by a person who’s in shape, there’s not really an appeal here based on the person—they’re just an image to support the ad.

“DOMINATE” is a pretty loaded word, suggesting that this may have elements of pathos.

However, take a look at that statistic. Whether it’s true or not, a hard statistic like that suggests that this ad is using logos to appeal to viewers. You can draw out an argument from there—75% of users lose weight within weeks. You’re a user. Therefore, you will likely lose weight within weeks.


What do you notice about this image?

  • The way the text frames the woman’s body
  • The name of the perfume
  • The color choice

What mode of persuasion is this?

Again, we don’t know who the model is, and perfume isn’t going to make us look like her, so we can count ethos out.

The ad seems pretty intent on making us look at certain things—the woman’s lips and chest in particular. What is it trying to make us feel?

“FORBIDDEN FRUIT” has a connotation of sensuality.

Red is a color commonly associated with passion.

When you combine the photo, the framing, the perfume name, and the color, you get a strong sense of sex appeal from the advertisement. This makes it an example of pathos—the ad is trying to make us feel a certain way . If we buy this perfume, maybe we would feel attractive, too.


How about this advertisement?

  • A serious-looking photo
  • Text promising “no more back pain”
  • “Doctor recommended.”

Seeing a doctor might make you tempted to think the answer is logos, but there’s no appeal to logic here.

“No more back pain,” is a nice promise, but there’s no attempt to appeal to emotions, so it can’t be pathos.

What’s important in this image is the combination of the doctor in the image and the line “doctor recommended.” This doctor might not be famous, but he does have authority, making this an example of ethos.

Our confidence in this treatment grows because we trust that a doctor understands how to address back pain.


What mode of persuasion is this?  Think about:

  • The framing

She does look fashionable and the ad mentions stylists, so it’s possible that this is ethos.

There are no statistics or arguments being made, so the answer probably isn’t logos.

Pathos is possible, but despite having a heavily made-up model, this ad is far less about sex appeal than the previous one.

But the text mentions a specific holiday—New Year’s—suggesting that this is kairos. Kairos can, and often should, be combined with all the modes of persuasion to be even more effective. In this case, the model’s appearance could suggest either ethos or pathos in addition to kairos. The message here is that you should act now, at the beginning of the year, to take advantage of the deal and to start the year off with a new style, much like the one the model is sporting.


Key Tips for Identifying Ethos, Pathos, Logos, and Kairos

Now that you know the difference between all the modes of persuasion, you’ll have a much easier time identifying them. If you run into trouble, you can always ask questions about what you’re seeing, hearing, or reading to understand what mode of persuasion it’s using.

#1: Is It Related to a Specific Time?

If the argument is based on a specific day or context, such as Valentine’s Day or appealing only to a select group of people, such as people with dogs, it’s more likely to be kairos.

#2: Does It Involve a Celebrity or Authority Figure?

Celebrities are often a dead giveaway that an argument is using ethos. But authority figures, such as doctors, dentists, or politicians, can also be used to appeal to ethos. Even regular, everyday people can work, particularly when combined with pathos, to appeal to you based on a mutual connection you have.

#3: Does It Involve Statistics?

Statistics are a huge clue that an argument is using logos. But logos can also just be a logical argument, such as that if plants need water, and it’s hard to remember to water them, you should buy an automatic plant waterer. It makes perfect sense, making you more likely to buy it, rather than changing your habits to remember to water your plants more frequently.

#4: Does It Influence Your Emotions?

If an argument tries to change your emotions, whether by making you sad, happy, angry, or something else entirely, it’s a good indicator that it’s using pathos. Sex appeal is one of the biggest examples of pathos in advertising, appearing everywhere from makeup ads to car commercials to hamburger advertisements.

What’s Next?

Need help understanding the historical context for The Great Gatsby to perfect your kairos-based argument?

You can always combine the modes of persuasion with literary devices to make your arguments even stronger!

Learn how to say "good morning" in Japanese ! Even if it's not a mode of persuasion, it's just good manners.

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Melissa Brinks graduated from the University of Washington in 2014 with a Bachelor's in English with a creative writing emphasis. She has spent several years tutoring K-12 students in many subjects, including in SAT prep, to help them prepare for their college education.

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Understand The Difference Between Ethos, Pathos, And Logos To Make Your Point

  • What Is Ethos?
  • What Is Pathos?
  • What Is Logos?
  • Examples Of Each
  • What Are Mythos And Kairos?

During an argument, people will often say whatever is necessary to win. If that is the case, they would certainly need to understand the three modes of persuasion, also commonly known as the three rhetorical appeals: ethos , pathos , and logos . In short, these three words refer to three main methods that a person can use to speak or write persuasively. As you’re about to find out, the modes of persuasion are important because a speaker who knows how to effectively use them will have a significant advantage over someone who doesn’t.

The terms ethos , pathos , and logos and the theory of their use can be traced back to ancient Greece to the philosophy of Aristotle . Aristotle used these three concepts in his explanations of rhetoric , or the art of influencing the thought and conduct of an audience. For Aristotle, the three modes of persuasion specifically referred to the three major parts of an argument: the speaker ( ethos ), the argument itself ( logos ), and the audience ( pathos ). In particular, Aristotle focused on the speaker’s character, the logic and reason presented by an argument, and the emotional impact the argument had on an audience.

While they have ancient roots, these modes of persuasion are alive and well today. Put simply, ethos refers to persuasion based on the credibility or authority of the speaker, pathos refers to persuasion based on emotion, and logos refers to persuasion based on logic or reason.

By effectively using the three modes of persuasion with a large supply of rhetorical devices, a speaker or writer can become a master of rhetoric and win nearly any argument or win over any audience. Before they can do that, though, they must know exactly what ethos , pathos , and logos mean. Fortunately, we are going to look closely at each of these three ideas and see if they are really as effective as they are said to be.

⚡️ Quick summary

Ethos , pathos , and logos are the three classical modes of persuasion that a person can use to speak or write persuasively. Specifically:

  • ethos (character): known as “the appeal to authority” or “the appeal to credibility.” This is the method in which a person relies on their credibility or character when making an appeal or an argument.
  • pathos (emotions): known as “the appeal to emotion.” Pathos refers to the method of trying to persuade an audience by eliciting some kind of emotional reaction.
  • logos (logic): known as “the appeal to reason.” This method involves using facts and logical reasoning to support an argument and persuade an audience.

What is ethos ?

The word ethos comes straight from Greek. In Greek, ethos literally translates to “habit,” “custom,” or “character.” Ethos is related to the words ethic and ethical , which are typically used to refer to behavior that is or isn’t acceptable for a particular person.

In rhetoric, the word ethos is used to refer to the character or reputation of the speaker. As a rhetorical appeal, ethos is known as “the appeal to authority” or “the appeal to credibility.” When it comes to ethos , one important consideration is how the speaker carries themself and how they present themselves to the audience: Does it seem like they know what they are talking about? Do they even believe the words they are saying? Are they an expert? Do they have some experience or skills that tell us we should listen to them?

Ethos is important in rhetoric because it often influences the opinion or mood of the audience. If a speaker seems unenthusiastic, unprepared, or inexperienced, the audience is more likely to discount the speaker’s argument regardless of what it even is. On the other hand, a knowledgeable, authoritative, confident speaker is much more likely to win an audience over.

Ethos often depends on more than just the argument itself. For example, a speaker’s word choice, grammar, and diction also contribute to ethos ; an audience may react more favorably toward a professional speaker who has a good grasp of industry jargon and enunciates clearly versus a speaker who lacks the necessary vocabulary and fails to enunciate. Ethos can also be influenced by nonverbal factors as well, such as posture, body language, eye contact, and even the speaker’s choice of clothing. For example, a military officer proudly wearing their uniform bedecked with medals will go a long way to establishing ethos without them saying a single word.

Here as a simple example of ethos :

  • “As a former mayor of this city, I believe we can solve this crisis if we band together.”

The speaker uses ethos by alerting the audience of their credentials and experience. By doing so, they rely on their reputation to be more persuasive. This “as a…” method of establishing ethos is common, and you have probably seen it used in many persuasive advertisements and speeches.

What are open-ended questions and how can you use them effectively? Find out here.

What is pathos ?

In Greek, pathos literally translates to “suffering, experience, or sensation.” The word pathos is related to the words pathetic , sympathy , and empathy , which all have to do with emotions or emotional connections. Aristotle used the word pathos to refer to the emotional impact that an argument had on an audience; this usage is still mainly how pathos is used in rhetoric today.

As a rhetorical appeal, pathos is referred to as “the appeal to emotion.” Generally speaking, an author or speaker is using pathos when they are trying to persuade an audience by causing some kind of emotional reaction. When it comes to pathos , any and all emotions are on the table: sadness, fear, hope, joy, anger, lust, pity, etc.

As you probably know from your own life, emotions are a powerful motivating factor. For this reason, relying on pathos is often a smart and effective strategy for persuading an audience. Both positive and negative emotions can heavily influence an audience: for example, an audience will want to support a speaker whose position will make them happy, a speaker who wants to end their sadness, or a speaker who is opposed to something that makes them angry.

Here is a simple example of pathos :

  • “Every day, the rainforests shrink and innocent animals are killed. We must do something about this calamitous trend before the planet we call our home is damaged beyond repair.”

Here, the author is trying to win over an audience by making them feel sad, concerned, or afraid. The author’s choice of words like “innocent” and “calamitous” enforce the fact that they are trying to rely on pathos .

What is logos ?

In Greek, the word logos literally translates to “word, reason, or discourse.” The word logos is related to many different words that have to do with reason, discourse, or knowledge, such as logic , logical , and any words that end in the suffixes -logy or -logue .

As a mode of persuasion and rhetorical appeal, logos is often referred to as “the appeal to reason.” If a speaker or author is relying on logos , they are typically reciting facts or providing data and statistics that support their argument. In a manner of speaking, logos does away with all of the bells and whistles of ethos and pathos and cuts to the chase by trying to present a rational argument.

Logos can be effective in arguments because, in theory, it is impossible to argue against truth and facts. An audience is more likely to agree with a speaker who can provide strong, factual evidence that shows their position is correct. On the flip side, an audience is less likely to support an argument that is flawed or entirely wrong. Going further, a speaker that presents a lot of supporting evidence and data to the audience is likely to come across as knowledgeable and someone to be listened to, which earns bonus points in ethos as well.

While Aristotle clearly valued an argument based on reason very highly, we know that logos alone doesn’t always effectively persuade an audience. In your own life, you have likely seen a rational, correct speaker lose an argument to a charismatic, authoritative speaker who may not have the facts right.

Here is a simple example of logos :

  • “According to market research, sales of computer chips have increased by 300% in the last five years. Analysis of the industry tells us that the market share of computer chips is dominated by Asian manufacturers. It is clear that the Asian technology sector will continue to experience rapid growth for the foreseeable future.”

In this paragraph, the author is using data, statistics, and logical reasoning to make their argument. They clearly hope to use logos to try to convince an audience to agree with them.

Do you need persuading to take this quiz on identifying ethos, pathos, and logos? We think you’ll be a champion at it.

Examples of ethos , pathos , and logos

Ethos , pathos , and logos can all be employed to deliver compelling and persuasive arguments or to win over an audience. Let’s look at a variety of examples to see how different speakers and authors have turned to these modes of persuasion over the years.

“Come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral. He was my friend, faithful and just to me […] You all did see that on the Lupercal I thrice presented him a kingly crown, Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?” —Marc Antony, Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

In this scene, Marc Antony is trying to win over the Roman people, so Shakespeare has Antony rely on ethos . Antony is establishing himself as both a person of authority in Rome (having the power to offer Caesar a crown) and an expert on Caesar’s true character (Antony was Caesar’s close friend and advisor).

“During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the world’s first computer animated feature film, Toy Story , and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance.” —Steve Jobs, 2005

Here, Steve Jobs is providing his background–via humblebrag – of being a major figure in several different highly successful tech companies. Jobs is using ethos to provide substance to his words and make it clear to the audience that he knows what he is talking about and they should listen to him.

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“Moreover, though you hate both him and his gifts with all your heart, yet pity the rest of the Achaeans who are being harassed in all their host; they will honour you as a god, and you will earn great glory at their hands. You might even kill Hector; he will come within your reach, for he is infatuated, and declares that not a Danaan whom the ships have brought can hold his own against him.” —Ulysses to Achilles, The Iliad by Homer

In this plea, Ulysses is doing his best to pile on the pathos . In one paragraph, Ulysses is attempting to appeal to several of Achilles’s emotions: his hatred of Hector, his infamous stubborn pride, his sympathy for civilians, and his desire for vengeance.

“I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest—quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality.” —Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 1963

In this excerpt from his “I Have A Dream” speech, King is using pathos to accomplish two goals at once. First, he is connecting with his audience by making it clear is aware of their plight and suffering. Second, he is citing these examples to cause sadness or outrage in the audience. Both of these effects will make an audience interested in what he has to say and more likely to support his position.

Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech is recognizable and noteworthy for many reasons, including the rhetorical device he employs. Learn about it here.

“Let it be remembered how powerful the influence of a single introduced tree or mammal has been shown to be. But in the case of an island, or of a country partly surrounded by barriers, into which new and better adapted forms could not freely enter, we should then have places in the economy of nature which would assuredly be better filled up if some of the original inhabitants were in some manner modified; for, had the area been open to immigration, these same places would have been seized on by intruders. In such case, every slight modification, which in the course of ages chanced to arise, and which in any way favoured the individuals of any of the species, by better adapting them to their altered conditions, would tend to be preserved; and natural selection would have free scope for the work of improvement.” —Charles Darwin, On the Origin of the Species , 1859

In this passage, Darwin is using logos by presenting a rational argument in support of natural selection. Darwin connects natural selection to established scientific knowledge to argue that it makes logical sense that animals would adapt to better survive in their environment.

“I often echo the point made by the climate scientist James Hansen: The accumulation of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases—some of which will envelop the planet for hundreds and possibly thousands of years—is now trapping as much extra energy daily as 500,000 Hiroshima-class atomic bombs would release every 24 hours. This is the crisis we face.” —Al Gore, “The Climate Crisis Is the Battle of Our Time, and We Can Win,” 2019

In this call to action, Al Gore uses logos to attempt to convince his audience of the significance of climate change. In order to do this, Gore both cites an expert in the field and provides a scientifically accurate simile to explain the scale of the effect that greenhouse gases have on Earth’s atmosphere.

What are mythos and kairos ?

Some modern scholars may also use terms mythos and kairos when discussing modes of persuasion or rhetoric in general.

Aristotle used the term mythos to refer to the plot or story structure of Greek tragedies, i.e., how a playwright ordered the events of the story to affect the audience. Today, mythos is most often discussed as a literary or poetic term rather than a rhetorical one. However, mythos may rarely be referred to as the “appeal to culture” or the “appeal to myth” if it is treated as an additional mode of persuasion. According to this viewpoint, a speaker/writer is using mythos if they try to persuade an audience using shared cultural customs or societal values.

A commonly cited example of mythos is King’s “I Have a Dream” speech quoted earlier. King says:

“When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men—yes, black men as well as white men—would be guaranteed the ‘unalienable rights’ of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.’ ”

Throughout the speech, King repeatedly uses American symbols and American history ( mythos ) to argue that all Americans should be outraged that Black Americans have been denied freedom and civil rights.

Some modern scholars may also consider kairos as an additional mode of persuasion. Kairos is usually defined as referring to the specific time and place that a speaker chooses to deliver their speech. For written rhetoric, the “place” instead refers to the specific medium or publication in which a piece of writing appears.

Unlike the other modes of persuasion, kairos relates to the context of a speech and how the appropriateness (or not) of a setting affects how effective a speaker is. Once again, King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is a great example of the use of kairos . This speech was delivered at the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation at the end of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Clearly, King intended to use kairos to enhance the importance and timeliness of this landmark speech.

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How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis Essay–Examples & Template

ethos essay example

What is a Rhetorical Analysis Essay?

A rhetorical analysis essay is, as the name suggests, an analysis of someone else’s writing (or speech, or advert, or even cartoon) and how they use not only words but also rhetorical techniques to influence their audience in a certain way. A rhetorical analysis is less interested in what the author is saying and more in how they present it, what effect this has on their readers, whether they achieve their goals, and what approach they use to get there. 

Its structure is similar to that of most essays: An Introduction presents your thesis, a Body analyzes the text you have chosen, breaks it down into sections and explains how arguments have been constructed and how each part persuades, informs, or entertains the reader, and a Conclusion section sums up your evaluation. 

Note that your personal opinion on the matter is not relevant for your analysis and that you don’t state anywhere in your essay whether you agree or disagree with the stance the author takes.

In the following, we will define the key rhetorical concepts you need to write a good rhetorical analysis and give you some practical tips on where to start.

Key Rhetorical Concepts

Your goal when writing a rhetorical analysis is to think about and then carefully describe how the author has designed their text so that it has the intended effect on their audience. To do that, you need to consider a number of key rhetorical strategies: Rhetorical appeals (“Ethos”, “Logos”, and “Pathos”), context, as well as claims, supports, and warrants.

Ethos, Logos, and Pathos were introduced by Aristotle, way back in the 4th century BC, as the main ways in which language can be used to persuade an audience. They still represent the basis of any rhetorical analysis and are often referred to as the “rhetorical triangle”. 

These and other rhetorical techniques can all be combined to create the intended effect, and your job as the one analyzing a text is to break the writer’s arguments down and identify the concepts they are based on.

Rhetorical Appeals

Rhetorical appeal #1: ethos.

Ethos refers to the reputation or authority of the writer regarding the topic of their essay or speech and to how they use this to appeal to their audience. Just like we are more likely to buy a product from a brand or vendor we have confidence in than one we don’t know or have reason to distrust, Ethos-driven texts or speeches rely on the reputation of the author to persuade the reader or listener. When you analyze an essay, you should therefore look at how the writer establishes Ethos through rhetorical devices.

Does the author present themselves as an authority on their subject? If so, how? 

Do they highlight how impeccable their own behavior is to make a moral argument? 

Do they present themselves as an expert by listing their qualifications or experience to convince the reader of their opinion on something?

Rhetorical appeal #2: Pathos

The purpose of Pathos-driven rhetoric is to appeal to the reader’s emotions. A common example of pathos as a rhetorical means is adverts by charities that try to make you donate money to a “good cause”. To evoke the intended emotions in the reader, an author may use passionate language, tell personal stories, and employ vivid imagery so that the reader can imagine themselves in a certain situation and feel empathy with or anger towards others.

Rhetorical appeal #3: Logos

Logos, the “logical” appeal, uses reason to persuade. Reason and logic, supported by data, evidence, clearly defined methodology, and well-constructed arguments, are what most academic writing is based on. Emotions, those of the researcher/writer as well as those of the reader, should stay out of such academic texts, as should anyone’s reputation, beliefs, or personal opinions. 

Text and Context

To analyze a piece of writing, a speech, an advertisement, or even a satirical drawing, you need to look beyond the piece of communication and take the context in which it was created and/or published into account. 

Who is the person who wrote the text/drew the cartoon/designed the ad..? What audience are they trying to reach? Where was the piece published and what was happening there around that time? 

A political speech, for example, can be powerful even when read decades later, but the historical context surrounding it is an important aspect of the effect it was intended to have. 

Claims, Supports, and Warrants

To make any kind of argument, a writer needs to put forward specific claims, support them with data or evidence or even a moral or emotional appeal, and connect the dots logically so that the reader can follow along and agree with the points made.

The connections between statements, so-called “warrants”, follow logical reasoning but are not always clearly stated—the author simply assumes the reader understands the underlying logic, whether they present it “explicitly” or “implicitly”. Implicit warrants are commonly used in advertisements where seemingly happy people use certain products, wear certain clothes, accessories, or perfumes, or live certain lifestyles – with the connotation that, first, the product/perfume/lifestyle is what makes that person happy and, second, the reader wants to be as happy as the person in the ad. Some warrants are never clearly stated, and your job when writing a rhetorical analysis essay is therefore to identify them and bring them to light, to evaluate their validity, their effect on the reader, and the use of such means by the writer/creator. 

bust of plato the philosopher, rhetorical analysis essay

What are the Five Rhetorical Situations?

A “rhetorical situation” refers to the circumstance behind a text or other piece of communication that arises from a given context. It explains why a rhetorical piece was created, what its purpose is, and how it was constructed to achieve its aims.

Rhetorical situations can be classified into the following five categories:

Asking such questions when you analyze a text will help you identify all the aspects that play a role in the effect it has on its audience, and will allow you to evaluate whether it achieved its aims or where it may have failed to do so.

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Outline

Analyzing someone else’s work can seem like a big task, but as with every assignment or writing endeavor, you can break it down into smaller, well-defined steps that give you a practical structure to follow. 

To give you an example of how the different parts of your text may look when it’s finished, we will provide you with some excerpts from this rhetorical analysis essay example (which even includes helpful comments) published on the Online Writing Lab website of Excelsior University in Albany, NY. The text that this essay analyzes is this article on why one should or shouldn’t buy an Ipad. If you want more examples so that you can build your own rhetorical analysis template, have a look at this essay on Nabokov’s Lolita and the one provided here about the “Shitty First Drafts” chapter of Anne Lamott’s writing instruction book “Bird by Bird”.

Analyzing the Text

When writing a rhetorical analysis, you don’t choose the concepts or key points you think are relevant or want to address. Rather, you carefully read the text several times asking yourself questions like those listed in the last section on rhetorical situations to identify how the text “works” and how it was written to achieve that effect.

Start with focusing on the author : What do you think was their purpose for writing the text? Do they make one principal claim and then elaborate on that? Or do they discuss different topics? 

Then look at what audience they are talking to: Do they want to make a group of people take some action? Vote for someone? Donate money to a good cause? Who are these people? Is the text reaching this specific audience? Why or why not?

What tone is the author using to address their audience? Are they trying to evoke sympathy? Stir up anger? Are they writing from a personal perspective? Are they painting themselves as an authority on the topic? Are they using academic or informal language?

How does the author support their claims ? What kind of evidence are they presenting? Are they providing explicit or implicit warrants? Are these warrants valid or problematic? Is the provided evidence convincing?  

Asking yourself such questions will help you identify what rhetorical devices a text uses and how well they are put together to achieve a certain aim. Remember, your own opinion and whether you agree with the author are not the point of a rhetorical analysis essay – your task is simply to take the text apart and evaluate it.

If you are still confused about how to write a rhetorical analysis essay, just follow the steps outlined below to write the different parts of your rhetorical analysis: As every other essay, it consists of an Introduction , a Body (the actual analysis), and a Conclusion .

Rhetorical Analysis Introduction

The Introduction section briefly presents the topic of the essay you are analyzing, the author, their main claims, a short summary of the work by you, and your thesis statement . 

Tell the reader what the text you are going to analyze represents (e.g., historically) or why it is relevant (e.g., because it has become some kind of reference for how something is done). Describe what the author claims, asserts, or implies and what techniques they use to make their argument and persuade their audience. Finish off with your thesis statement that prepares the reader for what you are going to present in the next section – do you think that the author’s assumptions/claims/arguments were presented in a logical/appealing/powerful way and reached their audience as intended?

Have a look at an excerpt from the sample essay linked above to see what a rhetorical analysis introduction can look like. See how it introduces the author and article , the context in which it originally appeared , the main claims the author makes , and how this first paragraph ends in a clear thesis statement that the essay will then elaborate on in the following Body section:

Cory Doctorow ’s article on BoingBoing is an older review of the iPad , one of Apple’s most famous products. At the time of this article, however, the iPad was simply the latest Apple product to hit the market and was not yet so popular. Doctorow’s entire career has been entrenched in and around technology. He got his start as a CD-ROM programmer and is now a successful blogger and author. He is currently the co-editor of the BoingBoing blog on which this article was posted. One of his main points in this article comes from Doctorow’s passionate advocacy of free digital media sharing. He argues that the iPad is just another way for established technology companies to control our technological freedom and creativity . In “ Why I Won’t Buy an iPad (and Think You Shouldn’t, Either) ” published on Boing Boing in April of 2010, Cory Doctorow successfully uses his experience with technology, facts about the company Apple, and appeals to consumer needs to convince potential iPad buyers that Apple and its products, specifically the iPad, limit the digital rights of those who use them by controlling and mainstreaming the content that can be used and created on the device . 

Doing the Rhetorical Analysis

The main part of your analysis is the Body , where you dissect the text in detail. Explain what methods the author uses to inform, entertain, and/or persuade the audience. Use Aristotle’s rhetorical triangle and the other key concepts we introduced above. Use quotations from the essay to demonstrate what you mean. Work out why the writer used a certain approach and evaluate (and again, demonstrate using the text itself) how successful they were. Evaluate the effect of each rhetorical technique you identify on the audience and judge whether the effect is in line with the author’s intentions.

To make it easy for the reader to follow your thought process, divide this part of your essay into paragraphs that each focus on one strategy or one concept , and make sure they are all necessary and contribute to the development of your argument(s).

One paragraph of this section of your essay could, for example, look like this:

One example of Doctorow’s position is his comparison of Apple’s iStore to Wal-Mart. This is an appeal to the consumer’s logic—or an appeal to logos. Doctorow wants the reader to take his comparison and consider how an all-powerful corporation like the iStore will affect them. An iPad will only allow for apps and programs purchased through the iStore to be run on it; therefore, a customer must not only purchase an iPad but also any programs he or she wishes to use. Customers cannot create their own programs or modify the hardware in any way. 

As you can see, the author of this sample essay identifies and then explains to the reader how Doctorow uses the concept of Logos to appeal to his readers – not just by pointing out that he does it but by dissecting how it is done.

Rhetorical Analysis Conclusion

The conclusion section of your analysis should restate your main arguments and emphasize once more whether you think the author achieved their goal. Note that this is not the place to introduce new information—only rely on the points you have discussed in the body of your essay. End with a statement that sums up the impact the text has on its audience and maybe society as a whole:

Overall, Doctorow makes a good argument about why there are potentially many better things to drop a great deal of money on instead of the iPad. He gives some valuable information and facts that consumers should take into consideration before going out to purchase the new device. He clearly uses rhetorical tools to help make his case, and, overall, he is effective as a writer, even if, ultimately, he was ineffective in convincing the world not to buy an iPad . 

Frequently Asked Questions about Rhetorical Analysis Essays 

What is a rhetorical analysis essay.

A rhetorical analysis dissects a text or another piece of communication to work out and explain how it impacts its audience, how successfully it achieves its aims, and what rhetorical devices it uses to do that. 

While argumentative essays usually take a stance on a certain topic and argue for it, a rhetorical analysis identifies how someone else constructs their arguments and supports their claims.

What is the correct rhetorical analysis essay format?

Like most other essays, a rhetorical analysis contains an Introduction that presents the thesis statement, a Body that analyzes the piece of communication, explains how arguments have been constructed, and illustrates how each part persuades, informs, or entertains the reader, and a Conclusion section that summarizes the results of the analysis. 

What is the “rhetorical triangle”?

The rhetorical triangle was introduced by Aristotle as the main ways in which language can be used to persuade an audience: Logos appeals to the audience’s reason, Ethos to the writer’s status or authority, and Pathos to the reader’s emotions. Logos, Ethos, and Pathos can all be combined to create the intended effect, and your job as the one analyzing a text is to break the writer’s arguments down and identify what specific concepts each is based on.

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Ethos Essay Examples

ethos essay example

Ethos In Aviation

shows the quality of tools and level of education students will get, which type of college life students are going to have, and what kind of feelings students will obtain. However, this video is not doing a great job by using the appeal of logos, ethos, and pathos. Generally speaking,

Ethos Logos

THESIS: In Jonathan Edwards' "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" vivid imagery is utilized through ethos, logos, and pathos in an attemt to sway the acts of sinners to be morally correct." Jonathan Edward, an American theolagian and central figure in the awakening during the 1800’s, was mostly known for leadning the great awakning and his strong belief in hell: a very common topic during his time. In his sermon “ sinners in the hands of an angry god,” preached on July 8, 1741 in Enfield, Connecticut

Ethos And Pathos: The Use Of Ethos Pathos Logos

adults. The documentary shows that adults come together to compete in competitions on who can create the greatest LEGO sculpture. Many people may not know just how big this toy is used around the world. The use of ethos, logos, and pathos are included throughout the documentary. The use of ethos was shown when the they interviewed grown adults and taped LEGO seminars to show that people of all ages

Examples Of Ethos In Superman

Holy Musical Batman Write a 3-6 paragraph response describing an example of Pathos, Ethos and Logos appeals used by the characters in the story. The examples may represented by appeals to you as an audience or appeals between characters. This must be submited in the dropbox by the posted due date. Paythos, Ethos, and Logos, three different thems littered throughtout lititure, media, and scosity. thoughth no exception are these elements found in the Holy Musical Batman. Paythos is a theme which

Ethos Pathos Logos

Ethos or “classical” as it is also sometimes referred to as and pathos or “romantic” as it is also sometimes referred to as. Ethos and pathos are considered prime examples of the way contrast was used to bring out the hidden meaning behind the musical piece, art, and literature. Ethos contains the characteristics of rational, balance, clarity, and restraint. Pathos contains the characteristics of emotion, motion, passion, and instinct. When an artist or architect creates some sort of architecture

Ethos Pathos And Logos

An efficient persuasive essay should contain a multitude of elements in order to support claims and establish credibility. The three terms Pathos, Ethos and Logos are rhetorical appeals used specifically for persuasion. Each of these terms is useful in arguing a point, or persuading a reader to observe a topic in your favor. Pathos originates from the Greek language, and is translated into “suffering.” This appeal is most commonly used to adhere to the senses, such as a person’s emotions, needs

Ethos And Logos In Advertising

types of form of argument in creating advertisement, namely, ethos, pathos and logos. Ethos is a form based on character or authority while pathos is based on emotions such as fear, desire, sympathy and anger. Lastly, logos is something on logic, facts and figures. In advertisement industry, ethos could be identified through the product which is endorsed by celebrity, someone in a uniform and professional looking people. This is because ethos refers to the trustworthiness or credibility of the people

Ethos In Advertising Campaigns

Rationale The use of ethos, pathos, and logos is evident throughout our advertising campaign for Savidge Tea Kettles. We used these strategies to appeal to our target market- young, middle class couples with families. The commercial follows a young couple as they use the kettle in many different ways as their daughter grows up, which our target market will identify with. In the commercial, we made an appeal to ethos by showing a note that says, “From Grandma,” when the tea kettle is left on the

the Use of Ethos, Logos, and Pathos The main purpose of commercials and advertisements is to persuade the viewer to purchase the product that is advertised, but not all commercials are successful in this endeavor. Companies, such as Budweiser and Kleenex, appeal to the viewers’ ethos, logos, and pathos in order to influence them to buy the advertised product(s). In order to appeal to each of the categories, companies use different tactics to catch viewers’ attention. The use of ethos, logos, and

Ethos, Logos And Symbology

“Ethos, Pathos, and Logos are modes of persuasion used to convince audiences.” In the video, “Breaking News: Some Bullshit Happening Somewhere”, uses Pathos very well by provoking the audience to laugh and feel sorry for the residents. The actual “Bullshit”, is the language given by the news anchors and how careless the “somewhere” is to have a bear loose. The language actually pulls readers in and some find it funny rather than inappropriate. There were no facts included in the video, so there’s

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Rhetorical Analysis Sample Essay

Harriet Clark

Ms. Rebecca Winter

13 Feb. 2015

Not Quite a Clean Sweep: Rhetorical Strategies in

Grose's "Cleaning: The Final Feminist Frontier”

A woman’s work is never done: many American women grow up with this saying and feel it to be true. 1 One such woman, author Jessica Grose, wrote “Cleaning: The Final Feminist Frontier,” published in 2013 in the New Republic, 2 and she argues that while the men recently started taking on more of the childcare and cooking, cleaning still falls unfairly on women. 3 Grose begins building her credibility with personal facts and reputable sources, citing convincing facts and statistics, and successfully employing emotional appeals; however, toward the end of the article, her attempts to appeal to readers’ emotions weaken her credibility and ultimately, her argument. 4

In her article, Grose first sets the stage by describing a specific scenario of house-cleaning with her husband after being shut in during Hurricane Sandy, and then she outlines the uneven distribution of cleaning work in her marriage and draws a comparison to the larger feminist issue of who does the cleaning in a relationship. Grose continues by discussing some of the reasons that men do not contribute to cleaning: the praise for a clean house goes to the woman; advertising and media praise men’s cooking and childcare, but not cleaning; and lastly, it is just not fun. Possible solutions to the problem, Grose suggests, include making a chart of who does which chores, dividing up tasks based on skill and ability, accepting a dirtier home, and making cleaning more fun with gadgets. 5

Throughout her piece, Grose uses many strong sources that strengthen her credibility and appeal to ethos, as well as build her argument. 6 These sources include, “sociologists Judith Treas and Tsui-o Tai,” “a 2008 study from the University of New Hampshire,” and “P&G North America Fabric Care Brand Manager, Matthew Krehbiel” (qtd. in Grose). 7 Citing these sources boosts Grose’s credibility by showing that she has done her homework and has provided facts and statistics, as well as expert opinions to support her claim. She also uses personal examples from her own home life to introduce and support the issue, which shows that she has a personal stake in and first-hand experience with the problem. 8

Adding to her ethos appeals, Grose uses strong appeals to logos, with many facts and statistics and logical progressions of ideas. 9 She points out facts about her marriage and the distribution of household chores: “My husband and I both work. We split midnight baby feedings ...but ... he will admit that he’s never cleaned the bathroom, that I do the dishes nine times out of ten, and that he barely knows how the washer and dryer work in the apartment we’ve lived in for over eight months.” 10 These facts introduce and support the idea that Grose does more household chores than her husband. Grose continues with many statistics:

[A]bout 55 percent of American mothers employed full time do some housework on an average day, while only 18 percent of employed fathers do. ... [W]orking women with children are still doing a week and a half more of “second shift” work each year than their male partners. ... Even in the famously gender-neutral Sweden, women do 45 minutes more housework a day than their male partners. 11

These statistics are a few of many that logically support her claim that it is a substantial and real problem that men do not do their fair share of the chores. The details and numbers build an appeal to logos and impress upon the reader that this is a problem worth discussing. 12

Along with strong logos appeals, Grose effectively makes appeals to pathos in the beginning and middle sections. 13 Her introduction is full of emotionally-charged words and phrases that create a sympathetic image; Grose notes that she “was eight months pregnant” and her husband found it difficult to “fight with a massively pregnant person.” 14 The image she evokes of the challenges and vulnerabilities of being so pregnant, as well as the high emotions a woman feels at that time effectively introduce the argument and its seriousness. Her goal is to make the reader feel sympathy for her. Adding to this idea are words and phrases such as, “insisted,” “argued,” “not fun,” “sucks” “headachey,” “be judged,” “be shunned” (Grose). All of these words evoke negative emotions about cleaning, which makes the reader sympathize with women who feel “judged” and shunned”—very negative feelings. Another feeling Grose reinforces with her word choice is the concept of fairness: “fair share,” “a week and a half more of ‘second shift’ work,” “more housework,” “more gendered and less frequent.” These words help establish the unfairness that exists when women do all of the cleaning, and they are an appeal to pathos, or the readers’ feelings of frustration and anger with injustice. 15

However, the end of the article lacks the same level of effectiveness in the appeals to ethos. 16 For example, Grose notes that when men do housework, they are considered to be “’enacting “small instances of gender heroism,” or ‘SIGH’s’—which, barf.” 17 The usage of the word “barf” is jarring to the reader; unprofessional and immature, it is a shift from the researched, intelligent voice she has established and the reader is less likely to take the author seriously. This damages the strength of her credibility and her argument. 18

Additionally, her last statement in the article refers to her husband in a way that weakens the argument. 19 While returning to the introduction’s hook in the conclusion is a frequently-used strategy, Grose chooses to return to her discussion of her husband in a humorous way: Grose discusses solutions, and says there is “a huge, untapped market ... for toilet-scrubbing iPods. I bet my husband would buy one.” 20 Returning to her own marriage and husband is an appeal to ethos or personal credibility, and while that works well in the introduction, in the conclusion, it lacks the strength and seriousness that the topic deserves and was given earlier in the article. 21

Though Grose begins the essay by effectively persuading her readers of the unfair distribution of home-maintenance cleaning labor, she loses her power in the end, where she most needs to drive home her argument. Readers can see the problem exists in both her marriage and throughout the world; however, her shift to humor and sarcasm makes the reader not take the problem as seriously in the end. 22 Grose could have more seriously driven home the point that a woman’s work could be done: by a man. 23

Works Cited

Grose, Jessica. “Cleaning: The Final Feminist Frontier.” New Republic. The New Republic, 19 Mar. 2013. Web. 28 Mar. 2014.

  • Article author's claim or purpose
  • Summary of the article's main point in the second paragraph (could also be in the introduction)
  • Third paragraph begins with a transition and topic sentence that reflects the first topic in the thesis
  • Quotes illustrate how the author uses appeals to ethos
  • Analysis explains how the quotes show the effective use of ethos as noted in the thesis
  • Transition and topic sentence about the second point from the thesis
  • Quote that illustrates appeals to logos
  • Analysis explains how the quotes show the effective use of logos, as noted in the thesis
  • Transition and topic sentence about the third point from the thesis
  • Quotes that illustrate appeals to pathos
  • Analysis explains how the quotes show the effective use of pathos, as noted in the thesis
  • Transition and topic sentence about fourth point from the thesis
  • Quote illustrates how the author uses appeal to ethos
  • Analysis explains how quote supports thesis
  • Transition and topic sentence about fourth point from thesis
  • Conclusion returns to the ideas in the thesis and further develops them
  • Last sentence returns to the hook in the introduction

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David French

The Atmosphere of the ‘Manosphere’ Is Toxic

A photo of a person seen from behind, wedged between two large spheres on grass and stones. The person’s head is not visible.

By David French

Opinion Columnist

To understand the state of men in this country, it’s necessary to know three things.

First, millions of men are falling behind women academically and suffering from a lack of meaning and purpose. Second, there is no consensus whatsoever on whether there’s a problem, much less how to respond and pull millions of men back from the brink. Third, many men are filling the void themselves by turning to gurus to guide their lives. They’re not waiting for elite culture, the education establishment or the church to define manhood. They’re turning to Andrew Tate, Joe Rogan, Jordan Peterson and a host of others — including Elon Musk and Tucker Carlson — to show them the way.

Not all of these influencers are equally toxic. Tate, for example, is in a class by himself. He’s a pornographer who is facing human trafficking and rape charges in Romania. Peterson, by contrast, mixes good advice with a bizarre ideology . He’ll swing between compassionate insight and wild conspiracy. I’ve known men who genuinely improved their lives through elements of Peterson’s teaching. But to spend time watching and reading these gurus as a group is to understand why men continue to struggle even though the market is now flooded with online advice.

It’s as if an entire self-help industry decided the best cure for one form of dysfunction is simply a different dysfunction. Replace passivity and hopelessness with frenetic activity, tinged with anger and resentment. Get in the weight room, dress sharper, develop confidence and double down on every element of traditional masculinity you believe is under fire.

Yes, men are absolutely feeling demoralized, as Richard Reeves put it in his brilliant book “ Of Boys and Men : Why the Modern Male Is Struggling, Why It Matters, and What to Do About It.” But what is the influencer advice in response? Lash out. Fight. Defy the cultural elite that supposedly destroyed your life.

I’m reminded of my colleague David Brooks’s distinction between “résumé virtues” and “eulogy virtues.” As David described it, résumé virtues “are those skills you bring to the marketplace.” Eulogy virtues, by contrast, “are talked about at your funeral — whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful. Were you capable of deep love?” Most of the “manosphere” influencers look at men’s existential despair and respond with a mainly material cure. Yes, some nod at classical values (and even cite the Stoics , for example), but it’s in service of the will to win. Success — with money, with women — becomes your best revenge.

The problems with this approach are obvious to anyone with an ounce of wisdom or experience, but I’m reminded of a memorable line from “The Big Lebowski”: “I mean, say what you want about the tenets of national socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.” It’s hard to counter something with nothing, and when it comes to the crisis confronting men and boys, there is no competing, holistic vision for our sons.

One reason for this vacuum is that any discussion of the crisis among men almost immediately devolves into a debate over masculinity itself. Is traditional masculinity toxic? Or is it toxic to abandon traditionally masculine approaches to raising boys? What is traditional masculinity anyway? Is “masculinity” even a concept worth pursuing, or does it jam too many boys into stereotypical boxes, magnifying their misery?

After reading a new book, I’m wondering if there is another, better way. Can we sidestep the elite debate over masculinity by approaching the crisis with men via an appeal to universal values rather than to the distinctively male experience? In other words, is there a universal approach to shaping character that can have a disproportionately positive impact on our lost young men?

The book I am talking about is called “ The Pursuit of Happiness .” It’s by Jeffrey Rosen, the president of the National Constitution Center (where I’ve spoken at a number of events), and it’s not a self-help book, nor is it a guide for young men. But it does contain a superior moral vision for the good life, one that is directly connected to the philosophy of the founding generation.

The core argument of the book is that the phrase “pursuit of happiness” — Thomas Jefferson’s memorable phrase in the Declaration of Independence — is fundamentally misunderstood. We think of happiness as the pursuit of pleasure, Rosen writes, “but classical and Enlightenment thinkers defined happiness as the pursuit of virtue — as being good, rather than feeling good.”

He explains how several of the founders imperfectly but quite intentionally and systematically listed the virtues they aspired to uphold and engaged in critical self-reflection about their own faults. As Rosen writes, “The classical definition of the pursuit of happiness meant being a lifelong learner, with a commitment to practicing the daily habits that lead to character improvement, self-mastery, flourishing and growth.” The emphasis is on the word “lifelong” — the pursuit of happiness is a quest, not a destination, in part because we are always a work in progress, even to our last days.

And what are these classical virtues? Benjamin Franklin’s list included temperance, silence, order, resolution, frugality, industry, sincerity, justice, moderation, cleanliness, tranquillity, chastity and humility. I prefer the shorter and simpler formulation in Aristotle’s four cardinal virtues : prudence, justice, temperance and courage.

None of these virtues is distinctly male, of course. Rosen speaks of the influence of classical virtues on Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s moral development, for example. At the same time, however, I’ve never met a struggling young man whose life wouldn’t be enriched by greater commitment to any one of those cardinal virtues, much less all four. Regardless of your definition of masculinity, is there any world or any relevant ideology in which a prudent, just, temperate and courageous man isn’t a good man?

In Rosen’s book, you’ll find both the people and the philosophy that can replace the influencers of the modern manosphere. Franklin, John Adams and other founders were hardly perfect, but their ideas and examples are orders of magnitude more positive than the ideas and examples that dominate masculine discourse today.

Too much of our education establishment and too many of our nation’s parents are focused on success ethics, not virtue ethics. Our schools train students for careers, and parents push their children toward success, hovering over them to monitor their progress or snowplowing to clear their way. In the success ethic, virtues are often a means to an end. Prudence, temperance and industry can contribute to your success, but that is not their ultimate purpose.

Yet success ethics are ultimately empty, and our children feel that emptiness. If they fall behind, they feel panic and dread. But even when they succeed, their success doesn’t fill that hole in their hearts, at least not for long. Virtue, however, is different. Perfection is impossible, but virtue is a purpose all its own. And it’s that pursuit of virtue, not mere achievement (and certainly not resentment), that ultimately defines who we are.

I fall back to these universal values not because I reject the idea that young men have a distinct masculine experience, but rather because the argument about ideal masculinity is diverting our attention from the more urgent quest, to fill the hole in the hearts of our children, to provide them with a purpose that is infinitely more satisfying than the ambition and rebellion that define the ethos of the gurus who are leading so many young men astray.

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David French is an Opinion columnist, writing about law, culture, religion and armed conflict. He is a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom and a former constitutional litigator. His most recent book is “Divided We Fall: America’s Secession Threat and How to Restore Our Nation .” You can follow him on Threads ( @davidfrenchjag ).


  1. 15 Ethos Examples (Appeal to Credibility) (2023)

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  4. Rhetoric (Ethos, Logos, and Pathos)

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  1. 15 Ethos Examples (Appeal to Credibility) (2024)

    Ethos (Appeal to credibility): Persuasion through establishing the character of the speaker. Pathos (Appeal to emotion): Persuasion through putting the hearer into a certain frame of mind. Logos (Appeal to logic): Persuasion through proof or seeming proof. For Aristotle, speech consists of three things: the speaker, the hearer, and the speech.

  2. Ethos

    Ethos, along with logos and pathos, is one of the three "modes of persuasion" in rhetoric (the art of effective speaking or writing). Ethos is an argument that appeals to the audience by emphasizing the speaker's credibility and authority. If the speaker has a high-ranking position, is an expert in his or her field, or has had life experience ...

  3. Logos, Ethos & Pathos: Easy Explainer + Examples

    Simply put, logos, ethos and pathos are three powerful tools that you can use to persuade an audience of your argument. At the most basic level, logos appeals to logic and reason, while pathos appeals to emotions and ethos emphasises credibility or authority. Naturally, a combination of all three rhetorical appeals packs the biggest punch, but ...

  4. Ethos, Logos, and Pathos

    Ethos, logos, and pathos are three essential components of persuasive communication. They've been used for centuries by great communicators to influence the beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors of their audiences. In this simple guide, we'll take a closer look at these three components using examples from famous writing and speeches.

  5. What Is Ethos? Definition of Ethos With Examples

    Definition of Ethos With Examples. Written by MasterClass. Last updated: Sep 9, 2021 • 3 min read. Ethos is an integral part of any good piece of persuasive writing. As you seek to improve your own writing, it's important to understand what ethos means and learn how the effective use of ethos can greatly improve your prose.

  6. What Is Ethos? History, Definition, and Examples

    Examples of ethos. Ethos is often at play in speeches, literature, and marketing, such as in the examples below. In the first excerpt, Hillary Clinton, who was first lady at the time, bolsters her credibility and authority to speak on women-focused issues by noting that she's had twenty-five years of experience doing so.

  7. Ethos Essays: Samples & Topics

    Essay grade Good. Rhetoric is the art of persuasive speaking techniques. Examples of rhetoric are: ethos (credibility), pathos (emotion), and logos (logic). In Animal Farm by George Orwell, the pigs have pushed themselves in power because of their use of rhetoric. They used ethos, pathos, and logos to... Animal Farm. Ethos.

  8. Using Ethos in an Essay: Crafting Persuasive and Credible Arguments

    When it comes to the art of persuasion, the effective use of ethos can be a powerful tool. In this how to use ethos in an essay, we will delve into the depths of this rhetorical strategy, exploring how it lends credibility and authenticity to your arguments.As you navigate the intricate landscape of persuasive writing, understanding how to wield ethos can elevate your essay from mere words to ...

  9. What is Ethos? Definition, Examples, and Techniques

    Ethos Definition. Derived from the Greek word for "character," ethos is a rhetorical device that is used to establish the speaker's credibility or appeal to the audience's sense of ethical responsibility. Ethos is usually applied when the speaker wants to validate their intentions (in other words, why their argument is a good and ...

  10. PDF Rhetorical Analysis Essay: Ethos, Pathos, Logos

    Rhetorical Analysis Essay: Ethos, Pathos, Logos Created by: Brandon Everett Summer 2019 An appeal is an author's attempt to earn audience approval. Authors will utilize specific ... These are just a few examples of what these appeals look like. When you begin to form your analysis, sometimes it can be beneficial to start with some prewriting ...

  11. How To Incorporate Ethos, Logos, and Pathos in Your Writing

    Aristotle developed the concept of "ethos," "logos," and "pathos.". 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 ...

  12. What is Ethos? Definition, Examples of Ethos in Literature

    Define ethos in literature: the definition of ethos in literature is an argument based on the ethics or credibility of the person making the argument; an appeal to ethics. To sum up, ethos is: one of the three Aristotelian appeals used in argument. an appeal to ethics. evident in an argument in statements of the speaker's credibility or ...

  13. Rhetorical Strategies

    Ethos. Ethos or the ethical appeal is based on the character, credibility, or reliability of the writer. There are many ways to establish good character and credibility as an author: ... For example, telling the story of a single child who has been abused may make for a more persuasive argument than simply the number of children abused each ...

  14. Ethos, Pathos, Logos, Kairos: The Modes of Persuasion and ...

    Ethos, pathos, logos, and kairos all stem from rhetoric—that is, speaking and writing effectively. You might find the concepts in courses on rhetoric, psychology, English, or in just about any other field! The concepts of ethos, pathos, logos, and kairos are also called the modes of persuasion, ethical strategies, or rhetorical appeals.

  15. How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis

    Revised on July 23, 2023. A rhetorical analysis is a type of essay that looks at a text in terms of rhetoric. This means it is less concerned with what the author is saying than with how they say it: their goals, techniques, and appeals to the audience. A rhetorical analysis is structured similarly to other essays: an introduction presenting ...

  16. Ethos Essay

    Ethos, a cornerstone of persuasive communication, encompasses the credibility, trustworthiness, and authority of a speaker or writer. It is a vital component in building strong arguments and influencing audiences. An ethos-driven approach establishes a firm foundation for any message, as it appeals to the values, ethics, and character of the ...

  17. What Are Ethos, Pathos, & Logos? Examples & How To Use Them

    Make sure your argument is persuasive by learning the three modes of persuasion—ethos, pathos, and logos—and how to effectively use them in communication.

  18. Ethos Essay Examples

    Analyzing Ethos, Pathos, and Logos in Liz Ogbu's Speech on Gentrification. Introduction Persuasion, an art perfected over centuries, finds its influential core in Aristotle's Modes of Persuasion: ethos, pathos, and logos. This essay explores Liz Ogbu's persuasive speech on the subject of gentrification, that holds historical significance.

  19. How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis Essay-Examples & Template

    Rhetorical appeal #2: Pathos. The purpose of Pathos-driven rhetoric is to appeal to the reader's emotions. A common example of pathos as a rhetorical means is adverts by charities that try to make you donate money to a "good cause". To evoke the intended emotions in the reader, an author may use passionate language, tell personal stories ...

  20. Ethos Essay Examples

    Examples Of Ethos In Superman. Holy Musical Batman Write a 3-6 paragraph response describing an example of Pathos, Ethos and Logos appeals used by the characters in the story. The examples may represented by appeals to you as an audience or appeals between characters. This must be submited in the dropbox by the posted due date.

  21. A Modest Proposal Ethos Pathos Logos: [Essay Example], 683 words

    In Jonathan Swift's satirical essay "A Modest Proposal," the author employs a combination of ethos, pathos, and logos to craft a compelling argument that challenges societal norms and moral values. With a humorous yet biting tone, Swift proposes a solution to the poverty and overpopulation issues facing Ireland in the 18th century: the consumption of infants as a means of economic relief.

  22. Persuasive Writing: The Power of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos: [Essay

    In conclusion, persuasive writing is a complex and multifaceted skill that requires the use of ethos, pathos, and logos to be effective. Ethos establishes the writer's credibility and authority, pathos engages the audience's emotions and values, and logos provides evidence, reasoning, and counterarguments. To use these techniques together, you ...

  23. Rhetorical Analysis Sample Essay

    Rhetorical Analysis Sample Essay. A woman's work is never done: many American women grow up with this saying and feel it to be true. 1 One such woman, author Jessica Grose, wrote "Cleaning: The Final Feminist Frontier," published in 2013 in the New Republic, 2 and she argues that while the men recently started taking on more of the ...

  24. Opinion

    Yes, some nod at classical values (and even cite the Stoics, for example), but it's in service of the will to win. Success — with money, with women — becomes your best revenge.