THE ESSENTIAL AP GUIDE TO ETHOS, PATHOS, AND LOGOS

The goal of argumentative writing is to persuade your audience that your ideas are convincing. Basically, there are three ways of doing this:

  • You can convince your reader that your authority is indisputable (ethos)
  • You can convince your reader by appealing to his emotions (pathos)
  • You can convince your reader by appealing to his sense of logic and reason (logos)

Think of these different modes of persuasion, ethos, pathos, and logos, as tactics or strategies. Tactics you’ve used all your life when you use words to try to persuade someone to do something, be that agree with your opinion or buy you a new bike.

Yes, you use ethos, pathos, and logos every day.

To succeed in AP English, you need to know how to identify ethos, pathos, and logos quickly. Below is our quick guide that gives you everything you need to know to identify ethos, pathos, and logos and ace AP English.

Ethos

In Greek, ethos means character. When writers use their positions, areas of expertise, authority, or reputations to try to persuade you, they are referring to their own character and credibility.

When writers try to persuade readers through reference to the quality of their own characters, they are using the mode of persuasion, a rhetorical strategy, called ethos.

How to Identify Ethos:

  • The writer refers to her expertise, title, position, authority, and/or pedigree
  • The writer demonstrates mastery of the terminology in the field
  • The writer uses her reputation to gain the readers agreement

Remember: A writer who attempts to persuade through references to her own character, position, rank, and/or authority is trying to convince you of her reliability, knowledgeability, and authority in the hope that by so doing she will establish a sufficient sense of her own credibility that you will be persuaded to do something.

Example of Ethos:

“I will end this war in Iraq responsibly, and finish the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. I will rebuild our military to meet future conflicts. But I will also renew the tough, direct diplomacy that can prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and curb Russian aggression. I will build new partnerships to defeat the threats of the 21st century: terrorism and nuclear proliferation; poverty and genocide; climate change and disease. And I will restore our moral standing, so that America is once again that last, best hope for all who are called to the cause of freedom, who long for lives of peace, and who yearn for a better future.”

Democratic Presidential Candidate Acceptance Speech by Barack Obama. August 28th, 2008

Pathos

In Greek, the word pathos means suffering and experience. The words empathy and pathetic are derived from pathos.

When writers try to persuade readers by designing their arguments to elicit emotional responses from the readers, they are using a mode of persuasion, a rhetorical tactic, called pathos.

Writers use pathos to evoke sympathy or other emotions from readers and, optimally, to make readers feel what they want them to feel. When writers design arguments to draw pity from readers or to inspire anger, they are employing pathos, or making an emotional appeal to their readers.

When writers try to persuade readers by designing their arguments to elicit emotional responses from the readers, they are using a mode of persuasion, a rhetorical tactic, called pathos.

Writers use pathos to evoke sympathy or other emotions from readers and, optimally, to make readers feel what they want them to feel. When writers design arguments to draw pity from readers or to inspire anger, they are employing pathos, or making an emotional appeal to their readers.

How to Identify Pathos:

  • The writer uses emotionally charged diction
  • The writer uses imagery
  • The writer uses a charged tone
  • The writer uses emotion-evoking examples and stories of emotionally charged events
  • The writer relies on the value of implied meanings to help convince you

Remember: A writer who tries to convince you by manipulating your emotional responses is hoping that your emotional reactions will help persuade you to do what she wants.

Example of Pathos:

“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. And 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. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.”

I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King Jr. August 28th, 1963

Logos

In Greek, logos means reason. The word logic is derived from logos.

When writers try to persuade readers by designing their arguments to appeal to your sense of logic and reason, they are using a mode of appeal, a rhetorical tactic or strategy, called logos.

How to Identify Logos:

  • The writer uses facts and statistics, historical and literal analogies
  • The writer uses advanced, theoretical, or abstract language
  • The writer cites certain authorities on a subject
  • The writer often uses syllogisms

Remember: A writer who uses information that is generally agreed upon, that is or appears indisputable, is trying to convince you of the objectivity of her argument and is, therefore, appealing to your sense of reason and logic.

Example of logos:

“However, although private demand, output, and employment have indeed been growing for more than a year, the pace of that growth recently appears somewhat less vigorous than we expected. Notably, since stabilizing in mid-2009, real household spending in the United States has grown in the range of 1 to 2 percent at annual rates, a relatively modest pace. Households’ caution is understandable. Importantly, the painfully slow recovery in the labor market has restrained growth in labor income, raised uncertainty about job security and prospects, and damped confidence. Also, although consumer credit shows some signs of thawing, responses to our Senior Loan Officer Opinion Survey on Bank Lending Practices suggest that lending standards to households generally remain tight.”

The Economic Outlook and Monetary Policy by Ben Bernanke. August 27th, 2010

Remember, you use rhetorical appeals every day, depending on who you are talking to or writing to and depending on what you want from your listener or correspondent. Start paying attention to the ways you try to persuade different people. Emotionally (pathos)? Logically (logos)? Through an appeal to your own authority (ethos)? Once you can identify your own rhetorical appeals, you will be better able to recognize the way other writers and speakers use ethos, pathos, and logos.

And then it’s all downhill!

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About The Author
Susan, a long-time English and writing professor at Rutgers University and professional writer, brings decades of experience, powerful expert resources, and personalized client support to each tutoring relationship. Susan started tutoring students in test prep, college admissions strategies, and language arts over fifteen years ago. Since then, she has guided students and parents through all aspects of academic, test, and college prep as a tutor, adviser, coach, and public speaker.