“If one doesn’t value logic, what logical argument would you invoke to prove they should value logic?” – Sam Harris
Have you ever wondered why people do crazy things you don’t agree with? Or ponder why certain figures are renowned throughout history as being great orators and speech givers? Why do we value some authors’ writing over others, even if the content is equally informative?
The answer, in many cases, lies in how well the author of the speech or writing is able to use persuasion and rhetorical analysis.
One of the greatest philosophers of all time, Aristotle, first identified the rhetorical triangle of ethos, pathos, and logos. He expanded upon how useful the rhetorical devices could be when attempting to win over an audience, no matter what form of artistic expression they were consuming the message.
This article explores the entirety of the three rhetorical appeals, what they are, examples of them in use, and how to work on creating your own. Let’s jump in, shall we?
The Rhetorical Triangle: Ethos, Pathos, and Logos
- Ethos: Establishing trust and credibility with your audience. Also known as appealing to authority.
- Pathos: Connecting with your audience’s emotions and creating a strong emotional response. Also known as appealing to emotion.
- Logos: Using facts and logic to make a persuasive argument. Also known as appealing to logic.
What is Ethos?
Ethos is something we all know and understand, even if we don’t realize it. It’s the way we communicate and share our beliefs, values, and attitudes with the world. It’s an important part of our identity and how we interact with others, even when we’re unaware of our methods.
At its core, ethos is all about trust. It’s a way of conveying your character and personality through the words you use, the actions you take, and the way you present yourself. Essentially, ethos is about the presentation of your integrity and credibility.
We can often find aspects of ethos in marketing and advertising all around us. It’s a fantastically convincing way to help urge others to trust you and your brand. Some people, such as marketers and speech writers, even think of ethos as an art form that requires careful consideration and thought. And when done right, it can be incredibly effective.
In politics, it’s used in speaking to the public and conveying a message and beliefs in a way that resonates. For voters, ethos displays itself as the words that truly connect with them and demonstrate their leader’s trustworthiness and credibility.
But ethos can also be seen in everyday life. We use it when making friends and building trust in business relationships. Used strategically, it can also be a method for engaging with people and presenting yourself as someone others can rely on and trust.
Examples of Ethos in Advertising
Ever wonder why LeBron James gets multi-million dollar advertising contracts? Or why after politicians retire they get enormous fees to do short speeches at events? It’s simply due to the power of ethos. When companies hire famous people with enormously strong brands to associate themselves with their brand, we consumers unconsciously tie their values together.
Would Nike hire Donald Trump to represent its latest version of running shoes? Probably not. We’d associate an out-of-shape, large, angry, fake-tanned man with Nike’s product, and rightfully think the shoes are meant for old fat people. That’s why you always see top-of-their-game athletes representing famous sports brands.
It’s using ethos to grant authority to a bland name like Adidas, which at some point decades ago would’ve meant nothing to you if you’ve heard of it. Now you think of fast runners, skilled soccer players, and lightning-fast shoes. There’s a reason athletics companies like Nike and Adidas spend upwards of 10% on marketing, nearly double the rate of most industries.
It simply works. Can you honestly say you don’t own a single piece of clothing or footwear without a Nike swoop on it?
Other Examples of Ethos in Famous Speeches
While you might think it’s a bit shady to use ethos in advertising in an effort to get us to buy ever more things, even famous political figures regularly use the rhetorical effect.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” Speech:
In this famous speech, King speaks to the importance of equality and justice, and he cites both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as sources of authority to back up his argument. He proclaims that these documents “give us a promissory note 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.”
John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address:
Kennedy used his inaugural address to set the tone for his presidency and to call for a new era of American leadership in the world. He used the Declaration of Independence to remind Americans of the “self-evident truths” that are the foundation of our nation, and he spoke of the “great tasks” that lie ahead of us.
Franklin D. Roosevelt’s First Inaugural Address:
Roosevelt’s famous speech was given in the midst of the Great Depression and he used it to call for a “new deal” for the American people. He spoke of the importance of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, saying that they “consecrate our country to the unfinished task” of ensuring justice and opportunity for all.
What is Pathos?
Pathos is a form of persuasion that aims to evoke an emotional response from an audience. Pathos is all about connecting with people on an emotional level, stirring up feelings of pity, sorrow, empathy, or any of the other 27 known emotions. To do this, pathos makes use of stories, imagery, and metaphors to create powerful visuals that can change the way people think and feel.
Pathos is often used to evoke sympathy, making people more likely to be persuaded by the speaker’s argument. It can involve telling stories of hardship or tragedy, or simply by showing how the audience can relate to the speaker’s experiences. This emotional connection can be incredibly powerful, as it allows people to connect with an argument on a much deeper level.
Pathos can also be used to create feelings of anger and outrage, which can be a powerful tool for getting people to take action. This can be done through rhetoric, such as asking questions that cause people to think about injustice or suffering. By doing this, pathos can inspire people to take action and fight for a cause.
Lastly, it’s often used to evoke joy and happiness. This is done by showing the audience how they too can benefit from something. It can be used to create a feeling of hope, which can be a great motivator for people to get involved with a cause or idea.
Examples of Pathos in Advertising
When it comes to advertising, pathos is a more nuanced technique for convincing people to buy products. But don’t let that fool you, it’s used all the time. You can spot examples of pathos in advertising whenever you have a sense of a promise about your life. As in, “If you buy this product, your life will improve in XYZ ways!”
It’s a subtle but powerful effect. Here are a few other examples you’re probably familiar with.
Burger King: The fast-food chain has long used pathos in its advertising, such as the famous “Have it Your Way” campaign. This message appeals to people’s emotions, showing them that Burger King will cater to their needs and desires.
Coca-Cola: The company’s iconic Christmas adverts tug on the heartstrings, showing families coming together over a cold glass of Coke. It’s a powerful image that speaks to people of all ages and backgrounds, creating an emotional connection with the brand.
Apple: Apple has always used pathos in its marketing, from its famous “Think Different” campaign to its more recent “Shot on iPhone” ads. These ads use powerful visuals and stories to connect with people on an emotional level and make them feel part of something bigger.
Other Examples of Pathos in Famous Speeches
If you ever hear a seemingly outrageous blurb from a politician on TV and wonder why the hell people can still respect that person, they might be using an appeal to emotion (pathos) in their speech. It’s a method of connecting with the audience through a shared feeling, whether or not that feeling is fundamentally true or not.
To the voters who truly believe and admire that politician, it is true to them. And that’s why pathos can be so incredibly effective, it can even convince people to not believe what their eyes and ears are telling them, as George Orwell once wrote. Here are a few more examples.
Malala Yousafzai: In her famous UN speech, Malala used pathos to emphasize the importance of education, drawing on her own experiences to connect with her audience and get them to feel as she felt.
Steve Jobs: In his famous Stanford commencement address, Jobs used pathos to inspire people to challenge themselves and think differently, using stories to illustrate his points and further enrapture the audience.
Taylor Swift: In her famous acceptance speech for the Woman of the Decade award, Swift used pathos to emphasize the importance of female empowerment, drawing on her own experiences as a female artist in a male-dominated industry.
What is Logos?
Logos – it’s not just the name of the Greek god of logic and reason but also a cornerstone of rhetoric. Logos is the part of the rhetoric triangle that uses reason and facts to convince an audience, and it should be the most important part of any persuasive argument.
Logos is the logical side of persuasion, and it’s all about using facts and data to support your point. It’s one of the most important elements of persuasive writing, and it can be the method that makes your argument the most convincing. By using facts and evidence to back up your argument, you can make a stronger case for your position and increase the likelihood that your audience will be swayed by your argument.
Importantly, the facts should be presented in a logical and organized manner. This means the evidence should appear in an orderly fashion, and be broken down into smaller, more manageable chunks.
Examples of Logos in Advertising
When it comes to logos in advertising, or an appeal to logic, we might not see it as much as we used to. Fortunately, if you’re learning this kind of stuff, it’s far easier to spot the use of logic in advertisements. It almost always takes the form of data. Whether it’s customer surveys, “9 out of 10 people agree, eating cockroaches tastes terrible!” or mixing a bit of authority and logic appeal, as is the case with dentist commercials, “4 out of 5 dentists agree, give us more money!”
Here are a few more famous examples.
Burger King’s “Whopper Freakout” commercial: This commercial featured real customers reacting to the news that Burger King had temporarily discontinued the Whopper. The commercial relied on data to show how popular the Whopper is and how it resonates with customers.
The Pepsi Taste Test Challenge: This campaign used real-life data where they asked consumers to rate the best-tasting cola, where the brands were, of course, hidden. Not surprisingly, Pepsi came out on top every time. (But who knows how many experiments they didn’t show us?)
Apple Commercials: Whenever Apple “invents” a new technology (AKA is the first to launch it in their product), their campaigns will often elicit a sense of exclusivity because only their device has that new technology. They’re sending out the message of: “Do you want to use this cool new feature? Logically speaking, you only have one choice; Apple.”
Other Examples of Logos in Famous Speeches
Of course, nearly every academic speech or presentation will be chock full of logos. Still, it’s often in a boring and bland message that only a small percentage of their audience will actually listen to. Politicians will sprinkle data points that support their argument, having memorized them just prior to the speech and likely forgotten a moment later. But really, we’ll see it all over, especially in planned appearances that involve planned speeches or essays, and of course, nonfiction books.
For example, Bill Gates used complex data to explain the impact of climate change in his book How To Avoid A Climate Disaster. Stephen King relied on demographic data to explain the rise of horror culture in his essay for The New Yorker. Taylor Swift uses data from music streaming platforms to explain how streaming has changed the music industry in her Rolling Stone interview.
Ethos vs Pathos vs Logos: Breaking It Down
Ethos, Pathos, and Logos are three important persuasive techniques that can be used to influence an audience.
Ethos is when an argument is based on an author or speaker’s credibility or authority. It relies on the trustworthiness of the speaker or writer. Pathos is when an argument appeals to an audience’s emotions. This can be through vivid imagery, humor, or stories that tug at the heartstrings.
Pathos can be used to make an audience sympathize or empathize with the speaker or writer and their point of view. For example, a politician might tell the story of a family affected by poverty in order to evoke an emotional response from their listeners.
Logos is when an argument is based on logical reasoning. This can be done through facts, statistics, and data that provide evidence for the point being made. For example, a scientist might discuss the results of a study on global warming in order to logically explain the impact of climate change.
All three of these persuasive techniques can be used together to create a powerful and convincing argument. By using ethos to build trust, pathos to evoke emotion, and logos to provide evidence, you can make a compelling case for your point of view.
The Rhetorical Triangle: Tying Them Altogether
Perhaps you’re reading this article because you want to learn how to be a better speaker, writer, or video creator. Convincing your audience, especially one composed of complete strangers on the internet, is no easy task! And of course, it takes tonnes of practice organizing your thoughts, putting them together, and getting feedback time after time.
But by using all three rhetorical effects of ethos, pathos, and logos in your work, you stand a far better chance at convincing them. Or at the very least, leaving a lasting impact.
First off, use ethos to build your credibility with your audience. You can do this by citing facts and statistics from reliable sources, providing examples from your own personal experiences or research, or just simply stating your own experience and credentials. Show your audience that you know what you’re talking about and that you have the expertise to back it up.
Next, use pathos to connect with your audience emotionally. Appeal to your audience’s empathy and compassion by telling stories, using anecdotes, and evoking visual images. Show them the consequences of actions in your story and make sure to focus on the positive outcome that can come from the audience making a change, even if it’s just a change in thinking.
Finally, use logos to make a logical argument. Stick to the facts and provide evidence to support your claims. Show the audience that you’ve done your research and that you’re well-informed on the issue, and that they are now, too. Make sure to explain your reasoning and provide clear examples.
By combining all three of these rhetorical effects, you can create a powerful and persuasive speech or essay. If it helps, remember the mnemonic ALE, Authority Logic Emotion. Just like a tasty beer, if you give your audience all three parts of ALE, you’re sure to do a far better job than you would otherwise.
And with that, I bid you good luck and happy convincing!