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Ethos, Pathos, and Logos: How Writers Can Use Rhetoric Effectively

As writers, persuading our audience involves making them believe in our stories and characters, which allows them to not only follow narratives, but to empathize with situations or settings that they may be unfamiliar with as well. After all, persuasion plays a huge role not just in writing and storytelling, but in basic communication.

As humans, we evolved from pantomiming and gesturing to more expressive forms of communication using words and complex grammar in pursuit of reciprocal persuasion.

In fact, learning how to use language to effectively persuade people is a key goal in modern communication training. Persuasive communication skills can be applied to social, professional, and global uses; this is likely why the demand for communication professionals is expected to increase by 7% from 2019 to 2029, as content booms across a variety of platforms.

For writers specifically, the three modes of persuasion, also known as the three appeals of rhetoric developed by Greek philosopher Aristotle, can be helpful guides to writing more effectively.

Here are some practical tips for each appeal:


Ethos, from the Greek word meaning "character", is all about the credibility and authority of the writer to appeal to the reader's ethics. A big part of persuading the audience is by communicating our authority as writers, convincing them that we know what we are writing about. This rhetoric is also popular with people in leadership positions and is used as a means to establish their presence. Essentially, in whatever form of writing you're participating in, you want to write like you're a leader who is trustworthy and ‘in the know’. Using credible sources or references, and making use of appropriate word choices are simple but effective practices that can improve your writing and persuade your readers. While the typical advice is to write about what you know, it also pays to do research on things you may not be familiar with, but want to write about. This lets readers immerse themselves in your stories rather than forcing them to mentally fact check what you wrote.

Moreover, it's always good for both you and your readers to learn something new.

Pathos Pathos appeals to the reader's emotion. For writers, this involves the deliberate use of certain words or phrases to evoke emotions from the audience and to make them feel how we want them to feel.

In our post about writing sympathetic antagonists, we cover how writing bad guys whom readers can relate to (and empathize with) helps add more complex and nuanced characters to your stories. Adding sympathetic qualities to an antagonist — like developing their relationship with a family member, for example — can help ground them and make them more memorable. Writing with the intent of evoking specific emotions is important. While this can usually lead to over-writing backstories for your characters, trying out vivid or detailed descriptions of characters or places in your story can be a good starting point. Instead of describing a room as a setting, think about how you want the protagonist and the reader to feel while being in the room.

If they're supposed to be afraid of something, illustrate exactly what makes the room frightful or ominous. It may sound like a simple enough tip, but detailed descriptions can go a long way in forwarding a narrative and keeping readers engaged.

Logos Logos appeals to the reader's logic, or sense of reason — a rhetoric more often associated with debates, journalism, or politics. For fiction writers, it means that you should organize and present information in your stories in a way that makes sense to the audience. Generally speaking, logos means that you ensure what you are writing is factually and logically accurate. In fiction and creative writing, this is usually demonstrated in how characters behave in your story and whether or not they are justified in their characterization. Are they are acting based on internal logic, or not at all? (Although having no internal logic can work sometimes!)

Like the two other modes of rhetoric mentioned, using Logos effectively can enrich your stories and give your characters more depth.


About the Authot: Rosie Judson is a freelance writer and devoted cat mom. She dabbles in various topics with a focus on creative writing and animal welfare. In her free time, Rosie can be spotted at home playing video games with her lap cat Bobo.


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1 Comment

Liam Patrikson
Liam Patrikson
Aug 12, 2022

If the expert does not align with the writing, a student is looking forward to it, and then they need to check another. For example, choosing a critical review instead of a personal might be wrong because it doesn't align with the essential requirements

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