All About Persuasion Or: How to make everyone agree with you.
Not brute force but only persuasion and faith are the kings of this world. - Thomas Carlyle
He who wants to persuade should put his trust not in the right argument, but in the right word. The power of sound has always been greater than the power of sense. -Joseph Conrad
First, what is rhetoric? Rhetoric is the art of persuasive discourse. Today, the word can sometimes carry a negative connotation. So what do YOU think of when you think of rhetoric?
To most modern audiences, the term rhetoric implies a stale, recycled, and insincere line of argumentation. Example – The liberal politician offered mere rhetoric instead of trying to fully explain the issue. While the negative definition of the word is common today, lets remember where it all began.
The Founder That was Aristotle. You know, the Ancient Greek philosopher. Student of Plato. Really smart guy. He is generally credited as the laying the foundation of rhetoric and its principles.
Aristotles Modes of Persuasion Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds. [...] Persuasion is achieved by the speaker's personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible. [...] Secondly, persuasion may come through the hearers, when the speech stirs their emotions. [...] Thirdly, persuasion is effected through the speech itself when we have proved a truth or an apparent truth by means of the persuasive arguments suitable to the case in question. Aristotles On Rhetoric
Modes of Persuasion (cont.) Aristotle argued that there were three ways that a speaker can appeal to his audience. When a person utilizes these modes of persuasion, their argument becomes solid. They are: ethos, pathos, and logos.
Ethos Ethos is all about the speakers (or in your case, writers) authority and credibility. Nobody wants to hear the argument of a person that isnt qualified to speak on the subject. Example: What would you rather read? How to Win an NBA Championship By: Mr. Stebbins How to Win an NBA Championship By: Michael Jordan
How to Win an NBA Championship Mr. Stebbins What a garbage book! Who is this guy anyway? -Michael Jordan
Pathos Pathos is an appeal to the audiences emotion. If the speaker can arouse a strong emotion, his argument is likely to take hold. Consider the following scenario…
We must stop drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico! Every day, thousands of baby dolphins are sucked into the machinery and killed!
Logos Logos is an appeal to reason or logic. This is a powerful device because people want things to make sense. In short, if the speaker is making logical sense, then the audience will align themselves with his stance.
The rhetorical triangle is typically represented by an equilateral triangle, suggesting that logos, ethos, and pathos should be balanced within a text. However, which aspect(s) of the rhetorical triangle you favor in your writing depends on both the audience and the purpose of that writing. Yet, if you are in doubt, seek a balance among all three elements
Persuasive Techniques The modes of rhetoric (ethos, pathos, and logos) contain different, specific techniques. Here are some: Bandwagon Testimonial Expert opinion Statistics Emotional appeal Cause and effect.
Bandwagon This argument suggests that since everyone else is doing something, you should too. This targets the human need to belong or fit in. CONFORMITY IS VERY POWERFUL. Example: Every other technologically advanced nation has abolished the death penalty. The United States should too.
Testimonial A well known person (but perhaps not an expert) supports your claim or stance.
Expert Opinion If an expert on the subject agrees with you, then your audience will too. Four out of five dentists recommend Trident gum for their patients who chew gum.
Statistics This is when you use numbers to prove your point. Numbers can be manipulated and become misleading. If you use numbers, make sure they SUPPORT your claim.
Emotional appeal Remember us? Dont drill in the GULF!
Cause and Effect This emphasizes the consequences of a specific plan of action or stance. Cause and effect is powerful because it forces the reader to consider not only the issue itself, but the larger picture. Of course, no one can predict the future, but people sure try. Example…
If we withdraw our troops from Iraq, the whole Middle East will become unstable! Chaos will ensue! We need to keep our troops there!