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Pathos & Logos in Persuasive Essays

by Kori Morgan, Demand Media Google

    One mark of a successful persuasive essay is an author's ability to balance personal connection with his audience and his presentation of well-reasoned information. In the study of rhetoric, the art of persuasion, these strategies are called pathos, appealing to an audience's emotions, and logos, the appeal to an audience's need for logic. Understanding these techniques will enable you to use them in your own persuasive writing, crafting thought-provoking essays that will make audiences open to your position.

    Defining Logos

    Logos is a persuasive strategy that argues from logical reasoning. According to the Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL), logos typically employs one of two strategies: inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning occurs when the author uses a representative case to infer results for a general population. For example, a school district with year-round schooling might infer that if their students' grades improved, the schedule could help other districts as well. Deductive reasoning moves from general evidence to a more specific case. If general statistics show improved grades from year-round schooling, that might indicate that it could work for one specific school. (See References 1)

    Using Logos in Persuasive Writing

    According to George H. Williams of the University of South Carolina, effective logos offers both a claim and solid evidence to support it. (See References 2) Therefore, conducting good research is critical to your argument's success. For example, using scholarly sources like university databases instead of general web sources provides a solid foundation for your argument. Purdue OWL also advises writers to avoid logical fallacies, poor reasoning that undermines your argument's credibility. For example, if your writing relies on hasty generalizations instead of unbiased information, readers may question not just your argument, but your character as an author.

    Defining Pathos

    Solid reasoning isn't the only tactic that persuades audiences, says Dr. John R. Edlund of Cal Poly Pomona University. Our judgments can also be motivated by strong feelings, such as anger, sadness and love. Pathos occurs when an author appeals to audience emotion to persuade them to respond or change their views. (See References 3) For example, many animal rights organizations produce ads with images of abused animals accompanied by quiet music. These ads evoke a feeling of sadness in their audiences and convince them that their donations can help end the suffering of innocent animals.

    Using Pathos in Persuasive Writing

    According to an article on the educational website Edutopia, sharing true anecdotes as evidence can forge an emotional connection with audiences. For example, maybe you chose to write about the need for health care reform because your family has struggled to get health insurance. You could share your personal story of living without insurance and how you believe reform could have impacted your loved ones. Emotional appeal can also be overused, however. The University of Central Florida Writing Center advises students to not substitute pathos for logical reasoning or manipulate an audience's feelings. (See References 4)

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    About the Author

    Kori Morgan holds a Bachelor of Arts in professional writing and a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing and has been crafting online and print educational materials since 2006. She taught creative writing and composition at West Virginia University and the University of Akron and her fiction, poetry and essays have appeared in numerous literary journals.

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