Rhetoric; Many of us have heard the word, but as writers, how can we successfully apply rhetoric? By definition, rhetoric is using an available means of communication to influence others. As writers, our tool, our means of communication is the almighty pen. How do we influence people? That is what I want to write about today. Whether the goal is a proposal request for funding, an advertisement or copy, a letter to the editor, or even an environmental or political issue written on your blog page, the goal is persuasion. Not only must effective rhetoric persuade your target audience to agree with your views and ideas, you are looking for an action or a change. To produce effective rhetoric, writers must first consider who your target audience will be. Who has the power to implement the results we are seeking? Once the target audience has been identified, we must shape our message to appeal to our audience’s values, concerns, and interests. The three widely applied rhetorical appeals are ethos; pathos, and logos.
Ethos is used to establish the credibility of you, the writer. You must incorporate the reasons that make you a person of authority, a likable and trustworthy source of credibility. Set a tone of respectability. It never ceases to amaze me how many writers actually swear in their blogs and emails. FYI: Swearing is not professional behavior.
Pathos persuades by appealing to your audience’s emotions. You are passionate and you want your audience to feel your passion. You want them to identify with you on a human level and sympathize with your situation or ideas. Invoke their imagination. Create a vision of success. Invoking feelings allows them to identify with your values and morals. We are all fighting the good fight and so on. Pathos conveys a powerful message that moves your target audience to action. An action that will manifest changes for a greater good.
Logos appeals to your reader’s use of logic and reasoning. This can be a difficult technique for writers. This is where you provide the evidence and proof, that your claims and ideas are relevant and valid. This step is important because this is where your reasons for desired change will be proposed. The application of logos will be the logic behind your ideas.
The successful demonstration of these three basic appeals are the essential core of all effective rhetoric. This of course, is merely a condensed guide to motivate serious writers to explore deeper into these ancient ideas. I only share briefly, my latest discoveries in my own writing. The world needs your message. You have important stories to tell in your own unique voice. Happy writing writers!
Source: Rampage, John D. and John C. Bean. Writing Arguments. 4th Edition. Needham Heights, MA: Allyn & Bacon, 1998, 81-82.]