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Basic ethos/pathos/logos intro lecture instructor notes
K. TafollaYoung
Before looking at the way arguments are structured, it is important to think about the fact
that they are written in a social context. They’re not some paper, some entity that exists
in a vacuum. By its very nature, an argument paper is supposed to persuade. This means
that in writing an argument paper, we have three entities to worry about. These can be
visualized as a triangle.
ETHOS: Writer
This refers to the credibility
of the writer. Can be a
writer’s reputation in the
field, but also how honest the
writing is. Are you hiding
behind words? How do you
treat opposing ideas? Do you
build a “straw man?” (Also
physical presentation,
appearance of work)
LOGOS: Message
Internal consistency of the
message itself, the clarity
of its claim, whether it
contradicts itself, whether
it uses strong supporting
evidence. We can think of
it as “logic” or “logical
PATHOS: Audience
Refers to “suffering,” like the
word “empathy.”How to
make the reader open to your
message, engaging the reader
emotionally, “hooking” him
in, making him see your
beliefs, values, understanding
In an argument paper, it’s important to balance all of these things.
(Talk about what might happen if you lack any one of these.)
Also, it’s important to note the practical application of these things to real-world
situations. If you give a company a business plan and they see the logic in it, but just
can’t relate to it, it won’t be successful. If you write an editorial, and it’s all about
making the reader identify with you, it will probably not be successful. If you’re
disputing what a set of lab results means and you build a straw man, you’ll alienate the
other side.