By Ryan Maxwell:
So, your teacher asks you to write a paper analyzing the use of the rhetorical appeals in a book, song, or TV commercial; you are confused, wondering “What is this?” Don’t worry, that’s why I’m here. The rhetorical appeals, ethos, logos, and pathos, are implied or direct statements/ideas which cause others a specific response. They are used to ensure the audience wants to read your article, buy your product, or listen to your song. The key in the analysis is understanding what each appeal is and what the creator accomplished by using it.
And what are the rhetorical appeals? Ethos is one’s credibility, based on what one does and how one appears/speaks. Celebrity status, a book written, or a college degree gives one credibility. Logos is the appeal to logical reasoning, based on the presentation of statistics, research, and personal experiences. An audience will be inclined to agree with a certain viewpoint if there is proof to back up statements made. Pathos is the appeal to audience emotion. The tone of voice, humor, music and lighting, relating emotional experiences: these cause the audience to react to a work in the desired way, via experiencing certain emotions.
We now know what the appeals are, but how does rhetorical analysis work? A mistake the novice rhetorical analyzer often makes is identifying examples of rhetorical appeals, without specifying what the content creator was persuading their audience to do or feel and if the appeal was successful. Identification, alone, is not rhetorical analysis. Identification, alongside specification of appeal intent and effectiveness, is. Focus on the purpose of the appeal; how the audience responds, what response the creator might be trying to invoke by themes or comments presented.
Indeed, inexperienced writer, this can be a challenge. However, if you understand what the appeals are and how to identify them and infer intent, in a work, you have a good start. And if the task proves too difficult, come to the Writers’ Corner, Ordway 104, and one of us will be happy to help you set things straight. Happy writing.
This column about writing and the writing process is created by the Amarillo College Writers’ Corner tutors. The name “Word for Word” pays tribute to Robert W. Wylie (1923-2011), who worked at Amarillo College from 1963 until 1992. He was chairman of the English Department from 1984 to 1992, served as Writer-in-Residence at AC for several years after his retirement and wrote a weekly column for the Amarillo Globe-News called “Word for Word” from 1992 through 2003.
The Writers’ Corner provides free tutors who review assignment requirements, provide constructive feedback, and guide students through all phases of the writing process.
The Writer’s Corner also offers
- One-on-one tutoring sessions with trained tutors
- Small workshops throughout the semester covering various aspects of academic writing
- In-class presentations on the role of the Writers’ Corner
- A waiting area for walk-ins and early arrivals
- Coffee for students with appointments