Aristotle’s 3 Rhetorical Appeals – Logos, Ethos, and Pathos

… a core concept in Communication Skills and Atlas 109

Concept description

Logos, ethos and pathos are the three rhetorical appeals set out in 350 BC by Aristotle in On Rhetoric: A Theory of Civic Discourse and used by many today to organize advice on public speaking and how to persuade.

Andrew Dlugan notes that many teachers of communication, speech, and rhetoric consider Aristotle’s On Rhetoric to be a seminal work in the field. Indeed, the editors of The Rhetoric of Western Thought: From the Mediterranean World to the Global Setting call it “the most important single work on persuasion ever written.” Dlugan says that it is hard to argue this claim; most advice from modern books can be traced back to Aristotle’s foundations.

On his website, Six Minutes – Speaking and Presentation Skills, Dlugan lists questions to ask oneself:

(logical argument)

Does your message make sense?

Is your message based on facts, statistics, and evidence?

Will your call-to-action lead to the desired outcome that you promise?


(credibility or character of the speaker)

Does the audience respect you?

Does the audience believe you are of good character?

Does the audience believe you are generally trustworthy?

Does the audience believe you are an authority on this speech topic?


(emotional connection to the audience)

Do your words evoke feelings of … love? … sympathy? … fear?

Do your visuals evoke feelings of compassion? … envy?

Does your characterization of the competition evoke feelings of hate? … contempt?


We will see why logos is critical to your success, and examine ways to construct a logical, reasoned argument. Keep in mind that it isn’t enough for you to know that you are a credible source. (This isn’t about your confidence, experience, or expertise.) Your audience must know this. Ethos is your level of credibility as perceived by your audience.

We will define ethos in greater detail, and we will study examples of how to establish and build ethos.

Emotional connection can be created in many ways by a speaker, perhaps most notably by stories. The goal of a story, anecdote, analogy, simile, and metaphor is often to link an aspect of our primary message with a triggered emotional response from the audience.

We will study pathos in greater detail, and look at how to build pathos by tapping into different audience emotions.

Marie Danziger, a lecturer in public policy at the Kennedy School, summarizes her advice on How To Be Persuasive as:

(logical argument)

Keep it simple, structured, and easy to remember

Use “mental models” to create a framework

Pre-empt objections and counterarguments establish common ground

(personal credibility and likability)

Show that you care

Talk from your own values and experience

Acknowledge the color of your lens

Use examples from your readings

Refer to people they know and trust

Be real and interactive, not a talking head

(emotional impact)

Acknowledge your audience’s values and feelings

Share your own feelings and reactions

Use striking facts, statistics, and contrasts

Be personal

Be visual

Tell stories


Drawn from Andrew Dlugan at, accessed 20 January 2016 and Marie Danziger, How to be Persuasive at, accessed 20 January 2016.

Atlas topic and subject

Practices of Persuasion (core topic) in Communication Skills

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 4 August 2022.

Image: Ethical Use of Credibility Appeals, at, accessed 22 January 2016.