Rhetorical Appeals

Study the definitions and reflective questions in this table. Keep in mind that you should consider who you are writing to (your audience) and why you are writing to them (your purpose). How should your tone vary when writing an argumentative essay versus an informal email?

Rhetorical Appeal

Abbreviated Definition

Reflective Questions


appeal to credibility

You may want to think of ethos as related to "ethics", or the moral principles of the writer: ethos is the author's way of establishing trust with their reader.

  • Why should I (the reader) read what the writer has written?
  • How does the author cite that they have something valid and important for me to read?
  • Does the author mention his or her education or professional experience, or convince me that they are a valid, educated, and experienced source?


appeal to emotion

You may want to think of pathos as "empathy", which pertains to the experience of or sensitivity toward emotion.

  • How is the writer trying to make me feel, or what have they written that makes me want to do something?
  • What specific parts of the author's writing make me feel happy, sad, inspired, dejected, and so on?


appeal to logic

You may want to think of logos as "logic", because something that is logical "makes sense" – it is reasonable.

  • What evidence does the writer provide that convinces me that his or her argument is logical – that it makes sense?
  • What proof is the author offering me?


appeal to timeliness

You may want to think of kairos as the type of persuasion that pertains to "the right place and the right time".

  • Does the writer make claims that are particularly important given what is happening right now?
  • How is the author "making the most of the moment" or attempting to speak to the concern of their audience?

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Last modified: Wednesday, November 20, 2019, 5:43 PM