Rhetorical Appeals

Rhetorical Appeals are

  • Ethos: appeals to credibility
  • Pathos: appeals to emotion
  • Logos: appeals to logic.

Rhetors deploy a variety of rhetorical appeals depending on their rhetorical situation, thesis/research question, and mindset.

Rhetorical Appeals
character, ethics,
Pathos appeals to empathy, compassion.
logic, substantive prose, deductive reasoning, inductive reasoning  
Kairos “the right place and the right time.”

Ethos: An appeal to ethos is an appeal to credibility. Writers use ethos when they use their own expertise on a topic or cite an expert on the subject. An author might refer to work credentials, degrees, etc. The writer can also “borrow” credibility by citing evidence from another author who is an expert in the topic.

Pathos: Although “pathos” may sound a lot like the word “pathetic,” that isn’t what it means. Rather, pathos is an appeal to emotion. Think of the words “empathy” and “sympathy” instead of “pathetic.” When an author uses pathos, he or she is appealing to the audience’s emotions to invoke empathy and/or sympathy towards the topic as well as the author. Pathos reinforces ethos and logos. Pathos can come in a variety of forms, especially personal anecdotes and narratives. It can appeal to emotions such as anger, happiness, sadness, joy, etc. Pathos is especially used in texts that employ visuals and/or sound. Think of those super sad SPCA commercials with the haunting music and all the depressed dogs and cats who look longingly at the camera. The makers of the commercial are trying to get the audience to feel sad that these animals have not yet found a home.

Logos: The Greek word “logos” is the origin of the English word “logic.” Think of logos as an author’s use of logic to accomplish his or her purpose. An author appeals to logos by using data, statistics, relevant evidence/examples, and any other forms of proof appropriate to the topic. It also refers to the use of incomplete logic.

Kairos: An appeal to kairos is an appeal to timing. When using kairos, an author attempts to convince the audience to take quick action. In this situation, an author might create a sense of urgency by setting a goal or referring to a timeline. Sometimes, the author conveys that bad things will happen if his or her suggestions are ignored.

Be careful to use these appeals correctly and with the audience in mind.

Related Concepts

Logical Fallacies

Errors in rhetorical appeals are Logical Fallacies–i.e., errors in reasoning that undermine the soundness of an argument.