Understanding and Using Logos, Ethos, and Pathos

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School of Liberal Arts
University Writing Center
“Because writers need readers”

Cavanaugh Hall 427 University Library 2125 (317)274-2049 (317)278-8171 www.iupui.edu/~uwc

  The Rhetorical Triangle: Understanding and Using Logos, Ethos, and Pathos Logos, ethos, and pathos are important components of all writing, whether we are aware of them or not. By learning to recognize logos, ethos, and pathos in the writing of others and in our own, we can create texts that appeal to readers on many different levels. This handout provides a brief overview of what logos, ethos, and pathos are and offers guiding questions for recognizing and incorporating these appeals.

Aristotle taught that a speaker’s ability to persuade an audience is based on how well the speaker appeals to that audience in three different areas: logos, ethos, and pathos. Considered together, these appeals form what later rhetoricians have called the rhetorical triangle. Logos appeals to reason. Logos can also be thought of as the text of the argument, as well as how well a writer has argued his/her point. Ethos appeals to the writer’s character. Ethos can also be thought of as the role of the writer in the argument, and how credible his/her argument is. Pathos appeals to the emotions and the sympathetic imagination, as well as to beliefs and values. Pathos can also be thought of as the role of the audience in the argument. LOGOS (Reason/Text)

ETHOS (Credibility/Writer)

PATHOS (Values, Beliefs/Audience)

The rhetorical triangle is typically represented by an equilateral triangle, suggesting that logos, ethos, and pathos should be balanced within a text. However, which aspect(s) of the rhetorical triangle you favor in your writing depends on both the audience and the purpose of that writing. Yet, if you are in doubt, seek a balance among all three elements.

Questions to help you recognize and utilize logos, ethos, and pathos The following questions can be used in two ways, both to think...
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