Logos, Ethos, and Pathos

What Are Logos, Ethos, and Pathos

Logos, ethos, and pathos are the three main persuasive modes speakers and writers use to convince their audience that the point they are making has validity. Although these terms are associated most often with expository writing and public speaking, most prose writing, including fiction, contains elements of some or all of these modes.

How Do You Identify Logos, Ethos, and Pathos in Writing?

  • Logos, which comes from the Greek "word," is an appeal to logic and reason. Developing a logical appeal means using statistical facts, historical precedents, clear analogies, and the ideas of experts in the field to support your argument. Logos is the primary mode you would use in the body of a research essay to support your claim, and it is the primary mode found in textbooks and technical literature. "Letting the facts speak for themselves" is the province of logos. 
  • Ethos is an ethical appeal. When you use ethos, you attempt to convince someone based on their sense of right and wrong. It is one thing, for instance, to cite statistics about the national healthcare costs that come from peoples breathing in second-hand smoke. That is a logical appeal. It is another thing to ask if one person has the right to knowingly endanger the life of another through their actions. That is an appeal to ethos. It’s not uncommon to see logos and ethos operating together in the social sciences, where people are often reminded of their moral duty to take responsibility for the actions in order to improve the common good.
  • The third mode, pathos, is an emotional appeal. If you simply asked the reader, "Do you want to give your child lung cancer?" you’d be engaged in pathos. This rhetorical question is designed to arouse emotions like shame and indignation. Talk shows, politicians, and Internet forums often use pathos as the primary means of persuasion; because in these cases there is a larger audience, it becomes easier to influence people through emotion, which produces an immediate reaction that spreads quickly.

Examples of Logos, Ethos, and Pathos

1. Becoming a vegetarian because you don’t think people are better than animals is a decision based on ethos.

2. Becoming a vegetarian because you realize that raising and processing animal protein is harmful to the environment is a decision based on logos.

3. Becoming a vegetarian because pigs are cute is a decision based on pathos.

4. "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." Kennedy’s famous speech uses ethos to remind us that we must stand together and become a part of the solution we seek rather than standing passively by and waiting to benefit from change.

5. "[S]ome of you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering." Martin Luther King Jr. appeals to emotions of his audience in this example of pathos.

6. "In 2014, the federal government received about $1.2 billion in leases, royalties and other fees for coal mining on public lands, with a leasing rate of $3 per acre, plus royalties paid on the market value of the coal at the time of extraction. But a 2013 report by the Government Accountability Office questioned whether the lease and royalty rates accurately reflected the market value of the coal. ‘The lease payments are notoriously known for being paid below market value,’ said Dan Bucks, a former director of the Montana Department of Revenue." This clip from Coral Davenport’s Jan 14, 2016 news article, "In Climate Move, Obama to Halt New Coal Mining Leases on Public Lands," uses various elements of logos to make its point.

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