Essay 2 – The means of persuasion

As we’ve discussed, writers of argument use three means of persuasion – logos, pathos and ethos – to appeal to readers.

The degree to which a writer uses each of these appeals depends on the rhetorical situation (the writer, the writer’s purpose, the audience, the topic).

Let’s review the means of persuasion or rhetorical appeals you are writing about for Essay 2.

LOGOS

To appeal to your reader’s mind, you give reasons. If your reasons make sense and your examples and details are specific and clear, your logos will be convincing.

Logos is a Greek word for word, by which the Greeks meant “divine words,” meaning reason or the word of God. From logos comes our word logic. So an appeal to logos is an appeal to reason.

If you are writing about logos, here a questions to ask yourself as you read the book:

Where does Stevenson use reasons that make sense?

Is Stevenson’s argument reasonable and worth considering? How so?

Is his supporting evidence clear, specific and convincing?

Does he use accurate facts, statistics, examples, and details?

PATHOS

Pathos comes from the Greek word for “suffering”; we use it to mean appealing to the emotions. From pathos comes the word sympathy: to have appropriate feelings for another person’s emotions.

If you are writing about Stevenson’s use of pathos, here are some questions to consider:

What clues are in the book that Stevenson is appealing to your emotions? What words or phrases does he use to move readers?

What emotions do you think Stevenson is trying to rouse in his readers: sadness, fear, guilt, hope?

Is the pathos appropriate and used with restraint – not faked or exaggerated in order to manipulate the readers?

ETHOS

Ethos is the Greek word for “character.” From it we have the word ethics. When you say that a writer has good character, you imply that you approve of his or her morals or his or her sense of right and wrong; you share the values of the writer.

If you are writing about ethos, here are a few questions to consider:

What clues in the book make you believe that Stevenson is trustworthy, fair-minded and credible?

What authority does Stevenson have on this subject?

What is Stevenson’s attitude toward his topic (the American criminal justice system)? Serious? Sincere?

Remember: When writing about the appeal to ethos, don’t confuse the appeal with how characters behave in the book; the essay assignment is asking you how the author – Stevenson – uses the appeal to ethos to establish his credibility in the minds of his readers.


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