What is rhetoric

Tuesday, December 4, 2018
by Taimoor Sajid Riar

Have you ever tried to convince your parents to increase your allowance? I have. I remember trying to use whatever method I had to make my parents see my point of view, which caused me to use rhetoric without even being aware of it. Rhetoric is the art of persuasive speaking or writing, and we use it in one way or another whenever we communicate.

Triangle with the 3 points labelled as Ethos, Pathos, and Logos.

Retrieved from: Pformacademy

If we learn about the aspects of rhetoric and apply them, it will make our writing, and overall communication, much stronger. There are three aspects to the rhetorical triangle: ethos, pathos, and logos.

1. Ethos

Image of a handshake

Retrieved from: flickr

Ethos is about credibility and trust. The more trustworthy the speaker is, the more reasonable the message seems. Going back to my allowance example, I could have improved my credibility by demonstrating that I was good with money and that I would use it responsibly. Unfortunately, I spent most of my money on junk food instead of saving it, so my ethos wasn’t very strong during this time.

In writing, you can improve ethos by showing the audience that you know your stuff, which also applies to spoken communication. The goal is to appear knowledgeable enough on the subject for the audience to be able to trust you and trust what you say. I could have improved my ethos during the conversation by telling them about how I used the money wisely or by having someone vouch for me, which would have built credibility.

2. Pathos

Image of a lecture hall full of people during RootedCON 2013

Retrieved from: Wikipedia

Pathos elicits the emotional response of the audience. The big take-away from this aspect is that you should always keep the audience in mind because it is not always appropriate to appeal to the audience's emotions in all genres of writing. In my case, I appealed to my parents’ emotions by using an age-old excuse: “but, all my friends have it.” This appeal works on their emotions as my parents did not want to feel like they were being too stingy, and it made them feel that way.

Using pathos in writing goes back to the importance of writing concisely because a major component is to understand you audience. It works the same way for verbal communication as well: who are you speaking to, and what resonates with them? If you can figure out how to make an audience feel a certain way, it will make you argument more convincing.

3. Logos

Hand holding magnifying glass over the word

Retrieved from: Pixabay

Logos is the appeal to logic and involves using facts and figures to support your message. The logos I tried using involved me being competent with money (which wasn’t exactly true) and involved all my friends having higher allowances already, both of which acted as the facts. My logic claimed that my parents should give me a higher allowance because it was common for that age to have one, and I was able to handle the money.

As students, we are already familiar with using logos in writing, but we also use it in verbal communication all the time. Using logos in spoken communication works the same way as in writing: you just have to provide credible facts or figures and explain how it logically supports your claim.

If you incorporate all three aspects into your communication, it will make for a stronger argument that will sway others to your point of view. In fact, you have probably been using these techniques without realizing it, but being more aware of them will allow you to use them more effectively. Even in this blog, I tried using ethos, pathos, and logos to convince you that they will improve your communication. Hopefully, it worked.