Ethos is the Greek word for character, and rhetorically ethos refers to a writer or speaker's credibility. When a writer has a strong ethos, readers trust his or her ideas and are inclined to concur with the argument's line of reasoning. Read this article to better understand ethos and the strategies you can employ to build your own ethos as a writer.

Appealing to ethos is all about using credibility, either your own as a writer or of your sources, in order to be persuasive. Essentially, ethos is about believability. Will your audience find you believable? What can you do to ensure they do?

You can establish ethos, or credibility, in two basic ways: you can use or build your own credibility on a topic, or you can use credible sources, which, in turn, builds your credibility as a writer.

Credibility is extremely important when building an argument, so, even if you do not have a lot of built-in credibility or experience with a topic, it is important for you to work on your credibility, such as by integrating the credibility of others into your argument.

Aristotle argued that ethos was the most powerful of the modes of persuasion, and while you may disagree, you cannot discount its power. After all, think about the way advertisers use ethos to get us to purchase products. Taylor Swift sells us perfume, and Peyton Manning sells us pizza. But, it is really their fame and name they are selling.

With the power of ethos in mind, here are some strategies you can use to help build your ethos in your arguments.

  • If you have specific experience or education related to your issues, mention it in some way. Some professors may discourage this, since it will depend upon the level of formality of the assignment, but this is generally an effective strategy.
  • If you do not have specific experience or education related to your issue, make sure you find sources from authors who do. When you integrate that source information, it's best if you can address the credibility of your sources. When you have credible sources, you want to let your audience know about them.

  • Use a tone of voice that is appropriate to your writing situation and will make you sound reasonable and credible as a writer. Controversial issues can often bring out some extreme emotions in us when we write, but we have to be careful to avoid sounding extreme in our writing, especially in academic arguments. You may not convince everyone to agree with you, but you at least need your audience to listen to what you have to say.

  • Provide good balance when it comes to pathos and logos, which will be explored in the following pages.

  • Avoid flaws in logic – or logical fallacies.

Source: Excelsior College,
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Last modified: Wednesday, November 20, 2019, 6:15 PM