Rhetoric? RHETORIC?
Looking at pathos & ethos & logos, oh my!


“Rhetoric” is simply the art of speaking or writing effectively, and by “effectively” I mean the speaker/writer’s ability to affect her audience in the way she intended. This boils down to many choices the speaker/writer makes in her language. “Yolk” yellow will elicit a different response from the audience than “baby chick” yellow. “The war against Afghanistan” and “The war against evil” also have very different effects. A good speaker/writer knows that words and phrasing are powerful and she’ll use them to her advantage. (By the way, anyone notice the pronoun choices I made?)

Well, guess what? We’re about to learn how to argue effectively in our own writing.

Many a century ago, there was a famous philosopher and scholar named Aristotle who wrote about three kinds of rhetorical styles. These rhetorical styles, pathos, ethos, and logos are useful when thinking about argument because all three deal with how the audience perceives the speaker/writer and how believable s/he is.

Since we are about to embark on a study of argumentative writing, I thought it might be useful to get an understanding of each of these styles into our heads.

You have been assigned one of the words below.
1. You must look up this word and write down a definition IN YOUR OWN WORDS that clearly shows what this word means when it comes to argument.
2. You must find an example of someone’s written argument (persuasive piece) that uses, at least in part, that rhetorical style. I recommend looking at the Op/Ed (Opinion/Editorial) columns of newspapers for examples. Copy/print it and go onto step 3.
3. Highlight a portion of the article you find that exemplifies the rhetorical style you’re researching and write an explanation in the margin of why it has that rhetorical style.


(pay – thos)

(a – thos)

(low – gos)

Go to the source of Aristotle's thinking at: http://www.public.iastate.edu/~honeyl/Rhetoric/