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Ethos, Logos, and Pathos

The Three Appeals of Argument

By Stephanie J. BradberryPublished 2 months ago Updated 28 days ago 4 min read
Ethos, Logos, and Pathos
Photo by Chris Brignola on Unsplash

The three appeals of argument go by several names. Often times they are simply called "the three appeals." But some people call them the three appeals of argument, persuasive appeals, modes of persuasion, and three persuasive audience appeals, to name a few. The most telling of these names is "The Aristotelian Appeals" which gives a clue as to the origins of the appeals. The three appeals were posited by the Greek philosopher Aristotle.

In one of my other writings about composition and speech (see link below), I mention that Argumentation is the third of the four traditional modes of discourse. And the point of Argumentation is to convince the reader of something. While the argument is often made by using facts, any one or combination of the three appeals (ethos, logos or pathos) can be used.

This is where I will elaborate on what the three appeals are and how and why they are used in written and spoken communication.

The Appeal of Ethos

Ethos is the ethical appeal. This means the writer and/or speaker is appealing to one's ethics or beliefs. Ethos is often based on one's character.

An example would be ending an essay with a call for action that goes something like this: If you believe in equal rights for all, then you should vote for Senator X.

The appeal is to what the reader or listener’s ethics or beliefs are. Therefore, if the reader or listener believes is a specific ideology, movement, belief system, ruling, and et cetera, the he or she would naturally follow through with the recommendation of the speaker or writer.

The Appeal of Pathos

Pathos is known as the pathetic appeal. This is usually when students laugh and chuckle. And I always tell them, "This does not mean you or the people in the audience are pathetic." Rather, the writer and/or speaker is appealing to one's emotions. This appeal is known for trying to pull at one's heartstrings.

An example of using the pathetic appeal is often seen used by protestors. If it is an animal rights group or vegans, they will hold signs up depicting the horrors of mass production and animal slaughter. If it is a pro-life organization, they will have billboards stating what bodily features and functions a fetus has after so many days and/or months.

The Appeal of Logos

Logos is known as the logical appeal. The writer or speaker appeals to one's logic or reasoning. This is based on facts and other forms of evidence. I saved this appeal for last because it comes with the most uncertainty.

What do I mean by uncertainty? The first main point is that “evidence” is often sketchy and subjective. Just think of any high-profile case and what is considered “evidence.” The second main point is there is a difference between facts and the truth. The truth is absolute. However, most people rely on facts, which are determined by group consensus. Facts, therefore, can be skewed, altered, coerced, made to support what one thinks through omission or inflating, and be based on faulty calculations. Just like evidence, facts are also highly subjective rather than objective.

Logical Fallacies

The misuse and misapplication of facts, evidence and logic leads to a whole other extensive study of Logical Fallacies. Notice how “logical” is part of the name? It is not ethical or pathetic fallacies. Logical fallacies apply to faulty logic or reasoning. And if you are a fan of legal shows like Law & Order, you have probably heard some of these terms.

Logical fallacies tend to appear most in argumentative essays, debates, speeches, and persuasive and expository writing.

There are 15 main Logical Fallacies and more categories of fallacies added over time. The following is a list of 25 fallacies.

25 Logical Fallacies

  1. Ad hominem
  2. Red herring
  3. Strawman
  4. Equivocation
  5. Slippery slope
  6. Hasty generalization
  7. Slothful Induction
  8. Appeal to authority
  9. Post hoc
  10. False dilemma
  11. False cause
  12. Bandwagon
  13. Appeal to ignorance
  14. Circular argument
  15. Begging the question
  16. Sunk cost
  17. Appeal to pity
  18. Causal fallacy
  19. Appeal to hypocrisy
  20. Anecdotal Evidence
  21. Texas Sharpshooter
  22. "No True Scotsman"
  23. Middle Ground
  24. Burden of Proof
  25. Personal Incredulity

What Did We Learn Today?

There is no correct blend of the three appeals when writing a paper or speech. However, being aware of balance based on the audience and intent, one can present a much more solid argument and be more successful at convincing others.

You Can Also Read About The Four Rhetorical Modes Here

About the Author

Stephanie Bradberry is first and foremost an educator and life-long learner. Her time in academia spans 19 years and counting as a professor of English, Literature, Business and Education, high school English teacher, and more. She loves freelance writing and editing. She is the former founder/owner of Crosby Educational Consulting, LLC and current founder/owner of Stephanie J. Bradberry LLC. Learn more at

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About the Creator

Stephanie J. Bradberry

I have a passion for literature and anime. And I love everything involving academia, health, metaphysics and entrepreneurship. During my free time I enjoy nature, crocheting, reading, my kiddos, and writing.

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Comments (6)

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  • Novel Allena day ago

    I have to pay more attention to these college lessons. So much is involved in writing something down. Analyzing and compartmentalizing is the key to great stories. I am learning as I go. Very informative work here,

  • quitzon sandy5 days ago

    I have the utmost respect for the approach in which you give information. A reduction in the number of words used while maintaining the impression that the topic has been completely covered. Excellent source of data. I believe that most of the time I employ a combination of all three. I am grateful that you shared your knowledge with me!

  • Heather Hubler2 months ago

    I always appreciate the way you present information. An economy of words while still feeling like you've explained it thoroughly. Great information. I feel I often use a blend of all three. Thank you for sharing your expertise!!

  • sleepy drafts2 months ago

    Wow! This is so awesome and informative. A fantastic follow-up piece to the first! ❤️

  • Interesting read. The idea of "facts" is one that has always struck me. Take for instance science, and just to note I am not anti-science, but science is something that is ever evolving. It is called facts, but at the same point it's a living and growing fact that evolves with time. Much like facts, science can be skewed to support opposing viewpoints.

  • Cathy holmes2 months ago

    Great article, very interesting. thanks for sharing.

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