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Pathos, Logos, and Ethos

Most people are able to drive a car without fully understanding how the car operates. Making an argument is the same way. Most of us attempt to persuade people every day without understanding how persuasion works. Learning how a strong argument is crafted empowers us to better communicate and persuade others to understand our viewpoints.

What Are Pathos, Logos, and Ethos?

Ethos, Pathos, and Logos are three strategies commonly employed when attempting to persuade a reader.

Pathos , or the appeal to emotion, means to persuade an audience by purposely evoking certain emotions to make them feel the way the author wants them to feel. Authors make deliberate word choices, use meaningful language, and use examples and stories that evoke emotion. Authors can desire a range of emotional responses, including sympathy, anger, frustration, or even amusement.

Logos , or the appeal to logic, means to appeal to the audiences’ sense of reason or logic. To use logos, the author makes clear, logical connections between ideas, and includes the use of facts and statistics. Using historical and literal analogies to make a logical argument is another strategy. There should be no holes in the argument, also known as logical fallacies, which are unclear or wrong assumptions or connections between ideas.

Ethos is used to convey the writer’s credibility and authority. When evaluating a piece of writing, the reader must know if the writer is qualified to comment on this issue. The writer can communicate their authority by using credible sources; choosing appropriate language; demonstrating that they have fairly examined the issue (by considering the counterargument); introducing their own professional, academic or authorial credentials; introducing their own personal experience with the issue; and using correct grammar and syntax.

Sample Paragraph

Imagine this: a small dog sits in a dark, cold garage. His hair is matted and dirty; he is skinny and weak from going days without food. There is no water for him to drink, no person to give him love and no blanket to keep him warm at night. 1 While this might be a hard scenario to imagine, it is not an uncommon one in America today. According to the Humane Society of the United States, nearly 1,000,000 animals are abused or die from abuse every year. 2 As a veterinarian with 30 years of experience, I have seen how even one incident of abuse can affect an animal for the rest of its life. 3 As a society, we need to be more aware of this terrible problem and address this issue before it gets worse.

1 Pathos: the author paints a vivid picture to evoke a feeling from the reader—sadness and pity for the abused animal.

2 Logos: the author uses a startling statistic to appeal to our intellect. Keep in mind that these three strategies can often overlap. This sentence qualifies as both Logos and Ethos because it cites a reputable organization, so we know the author is using credible sources.

3 Ethos: the author establishes their own credibility by stating their occupation and experience.>

How Do I Know if the Author is Using Pathos, Logos or Ethos?

Pathos—does the writer appeal to the emotions of their reader.

  • Do they use individuals’ stories to “put a face” on the problem you’re exploring? For example, using an individual’s story about losing their home during the mortgage crisis of the 2008 Recession may be more powerful than using only statistics.
  • Do they use charged language or words that carry appropriate connotations? For example, if a writer describes a gun as a “sleek, silver piece of sophisticated weaponry,” they are delivering a much different image than if she writes, “a cold hunk of metal, dark and barbaric and ready to kill.”

Logos—does the writer appeal to the rational mind by using logic and evidence?

  • Do they include facts and statistics that support their point? It’s more convincing to tell the reader that “80% of students have committed some form of plagiarism,” than simply saying that “Lots of students have plagiarized.”
  • Do they walk us through the logical quality of their argument? Do they show us how ideas connect in a rational way? For example: “English students have been able to raise their overall grade by meeting with peer tutors, so it’s safe to assume that math students could also benefit from frequent tutoring sessions.” This example points out that logically, if the result has been seen in one situation, then it should be seen in a different but similar situation.
  • Hasty generalizations: “Even though the movie just started, I know it’s going to be boring.”
  • Slippery Slope: “If the government legalizes marijuana, eventually they’ll legalize all drugs.”
  • Circular Argument: “Barack Obama is a good communicator because he speaks effectively.”

Ethos—is this writer trustworthy?

  • What are their credentials? Are they an expert in the field? Have they written past essays, articles or books about this topic?
  • Do they use reputable sources? Do they support her statements with sources from established publications like The New York Times or a government census report? Do they fail to mention any sources?
  • Are they a fair-minded person who has considered all sides of this issue? Have they acknowledged any common ground they share with the opposite side? Do they include a counterargument and refutation?

Learn more about the Rhetorical Analysis Graphic Organizer .

Learn more about the Rhetorical Analysis Sample Essay .

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19 Ethos, Pathos, & Logos

Using rhetorical appeals to support your argument.

In addition to choosing an effective rhetorical mode (see Rhetorical Modes for Paragraphs & Essays for details) for an essay, you need to think about the most effective rhetorical appeal , or way of persuading your audience.

Writers are generally most successful with their audiences when they can skillfully and appropriately balance the three core types of rhetorical appeals. These appeals are referred to by their Greek names: ethos ,   pathos , and logos .

Graphic. Central green circle reads "Persuasion." Three circles connect out from it: at the top, a purple one reads "Ethos / trust / authority." Bottom right, in blue, "Pathos / emotion / beliefs." Bottom left, in turquoise, "Logos / logic / reasoning."

Authoritative Appeals = Ethos

Authors using authority to support their claims can use a variety of techniques. These include the following:

  • personal anecdotes
  • proof of deep knowledge on the issue
  • citation of recognized experts on the issue
  • testimony of those involved first-hand on the issue

Emotional Appeals = Pathos

Authors using emotion to support their claims also have many options to do so. These include the following:

  • impact studies

Logical Appeals = Logos

Authors using logic to support their claims can incorporate a combination of different types of evidence. These include the following:

  • established facts
  • case studies
  • experiments
  • analogies and logical reasoning

As you can see, there is some overlap on these lists. One type of support may work in two or three different ways.

Many authors rely on one of the three as the primary method of support, but they may also draw upon one or two others at the same time. Consider your audience, purpose, and context to determine the best appeal(s) to use in your writing.

Activity A ~ Recognizing Rhetorical Appeals

Examine an article that you are reading for your research. Can you find examples of ethos, pathos, and/or logos? Discuss with a partner.

Watch “Nissan Leaf TM : Polar Bear” by clicking below (also found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdYWSsUarOg#action=share)

What appeal(s) did the authors of this video use?

Can you find other short videos which show rhetorical appeals?

Activity B ~ Choosing Rhetorical Appeals

A. Check in with your partners: What’s the difference between rhetorical modes and rhetorical appeals ?

B. Discuss the following topics with your partners, as we did in our chapter on rhetorical modes (patterns of organization). This time, think about which appeal(s) would be most effective for an essay about each topic. Why?

  • Gender roles
  • Race in America
  • The value of art in society
  • Travel as part of a well-rounded education
  • Drugs and alcohol
  • Advice to new parents
  • Advice to teachers
  • The value of making mistakes
  • How you’d spend a million dollars
  • What a tough day at work taught you about yourself or others

C. Consider the essay you are working on now. What rhetorical appeals would be most effective for your audience? Why? Discuss with your writing partners.

This chapter was modified from “ Logos, Ethos, Pathos ” from  Developmental English: Introduction to College Composition under a CC BY-SA: Attribution-ShareAlike license.

Image of Persuasion. Authored by : Mrs. Adcock.  Located at :  https://agi241classes.wikispaces.com/Fifth+Grade .  Project : Computer Class AGI241.  License :  CC BY-SA: Attribution-ShareAlike

Note : links open in new tabs.

moral character, credibility, trust, authority

emotion, feeling, beliefs

reasoning, logic

ENGLISH 087: Academic Advanced Writing Copyright © 2020 by Nancy Hutchison is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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Essay On Ethos Pathos Logos

Use of logos, ethos, and pathos for rhetorical appeal in advertising.

Rhetorical appeal is intended to persuade individuals to think a certain way, conduct themselves in a certain manner, or the purchase particular products. Unlike speech in which an individual relies on their persona and content of speech to get their point across to an audience or consumer, advertisements use images to enhance the impact and appeal of logos, ethos, and pathos.

Thesis For Ethos Pathos Logos

I am presenting the same problem here. Ethos Pathos Logos and I am also kind of confuse because I don’t know if the thesis statement is supposed to include them or if I am able to introduce them with in the paragraphs of the essay without mention them in my thesis. If you can read this post a reply to it, I will greatly appreciate it. Despite that I also think I did a good job with my thesis and now I need to re arrange the essay for Ethos pathos and Logos.

Rhetorical Analysis Of The Four Texts In Apollo 11

The four texts that I have read seem to all use a variety of rhetorical appeals. After analyzing them, I noticed each had a speaker, an occasion, an audience, a purpose and a subject. Not only did they use “SOAPS” but they also used ethos, logos, and pathos to strengthen their speeches and to really connect with the audience. They proved that they’re credible, then they used sources and quotations and eventually they hit the audience with emotions.

Analysis Of Horace Mann 's ' The Massachusetts Board Of Education '

There are many different ways that writer tries to connect to their audience or try to get their point across. The three major ways a writer does this is through ethos, pathos, and logos. Ethos is any way the writer takes a reference or a quote from an expert with the same point of view as them to help build their own credibility. Pathos is words that can completely change the way the reader feels about certain way about a topic. Logos is anything that is logical and can be proven by statistics.

Sinners In The Hand Of An Angry God Rhetorical Analysis

To begin with, there are three types of rhetorical appeals. The three rhetorical appeals are ethos,

Apollo 11 Rhetorical Analysis

Authors, people and writers over time have used the available means of persuasion and making sure that they include what the rhetorical situation is. In the four texts about the 1969 Apollo 11 mission that talk about the first humans that landed on the moon, all were effective due to them showing ethos, pathos, logos and soaps which are the rhetorical appeals that one has to use when making an argument in a rhetorical situation.

Rhetorical Analysis Of Mother Tongue By Amy Tan

Aristotle has an idea that there are three rhetorical appeals people can use to persuade someone else – ethos, pathos and logos. Each of them is very useful and the persuasion will be most effective when three of them are all used. Amy Tan used all in “Mother Tongue.”

Logos Ethos Pathos

Logos is presented as a form of logic and offers the most relatable method of communication to an audience, as it is so commonly used. Since Aristotle can be the most authoritative on the three forms of appeals, logos can be viewed

Ethos Pathos And Logos

Athletes in America are known to be some of the highest paid athletes in the world. Multi-million dollar contracts and extreme amounts of money. They play extreme amounts of games and get paid what the general public would think to be a lot. In reality, they don’t get paid enough. In The Cauldron article, Leland Faust try’s to persuade the audience about athletes paychecks. He effectively uses ethos, pathos, and logos in order to persuade the audience into believing athletes should be paid more.

Rhetorical Analysis Of Don 't Like The Candidates?

There are many ways to convey a message to readers. Often times authors, speech writers, etc., refer to Aristotle’s three main concepts of rhetoric, Ethos, Pathos, and Logos. Ethos is considered to be the, “credibility,” of the author. Pathos is the idea of, “emotional appeal,” to the audience. Finally, Logos is the translated as the, “logic,” involved when making a point. All forms of rhetoric have at least one of these concepts, while good arguments incorporate a well balanced mixture of the three.

Ethos, pathos, and logos are all devices that Barbara Ehrenreich effectively uses throughout her novel Nickel and Dimed to prove that America needs to address the commonly overlooked issue of poverty within every community. It is important that she uses all three devices because they help support her argument by increasing her credibility, connecting to the readers’ emotions, and appealing to their sense of logic. The combination of these devices puts a sense of urgency on the problem Ehrenreich is addressing and therefore creates an effective argument.

The Really Big One By Kathryn Schulz

In her article, Schulz uses three rhetorical appeals. These appeals are called Ethos, Pathos, and Logos. Aristotle, the Greek philosopher, created these terms to refer specifically to the different ways they appeal to the reader. Ethos is used to establish credibility, Pathos refers to emotion, and Logos is the appeal to logic.While the article is packed full of history, science and facts, it’s the appeal to emotion that really draws in the readers and instills curiosity and a desire for action.

Resistance to Civil Government: Thoreau Essay

The goal of this style is to be able to convince the readers that your statements are better and more valid than anybody else’s. There are three categories for the means of persuasion which are; Logos, Ethos, and Pathos. Thoreau uses these means pf persuasion very well throughout his essay to convince his audience.

Rhetorical Appeals In Jane Addams

Rhetoric appeals is something that we use in our everyday life and sometimes without even knowing it. Sometimes it can be hard to tell which rhetoric appeals are being used by the speaker, but once you can identify them you cans see how the speaker is trying to persuade you based on what rhetorical appeal they are using. Many writers have use rhetorical appeals as a way to make make the audience feel what they feel, in an act to persuade them to once side. That can be seen a lot in persuasive writing.

Pathos, logos and Ethos in Aristotle´s Rhetorical Triangle Essay

Many writers use several diverse ways to persuade readers into believing them. Some writers may tell a story, provide facts and information, or other ideas to encourage his or her reader to agree with the argument. Aristotle’s rhetorical triangle describes three diverse appeals: logos, pathos, and ethos. Logos is based on facts and reasons explaining logical arguments that rely on information and evidence. Logos is built with enough evidence, data, statistics, and reliable information. Another type of appeal is pathos, which attracts the reader’s emotions and feelings into the work. Many writers who use pathos tend to write about their personal experience and by diction and tone. In addition to logos and pathos, ethos corresponds with

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Ethos, Logos and Pathos: The Structure of a Great Speech

“A speech is like a love affair. Any fool can start it, but to end it requires considerable skill.” — Lord Mancroft

The structure of a great oral argument has been passed down through the ages, starting with Aristotle. Not only is it an incredibly valuable skill to have, it’s important to know  how you’re being persuaded  when you’re a part of the audience. So using Sam Leith’s Words Like Loaded Pistols as our guide, let’s discuss Aristotle’s three modes of persuasion: Ethos, Logos, and Pathos.

But before we get into the specifics of the three modes, we need to decide on the structure of our argument itself. How? By doing the work required to have an opinion .

This phase is referred to as invention , but it’s not about making something up, it’s more about the information gathering or research phase of your work.

Invention is doing your homework: thinking up in advance exactly what arguments can be made both for and against a given proposition, selecting the best on your own side, and finding counterarguments to those on the other.

This research phase should not be limited to the subject matter, it should also include your audience. If there is one theme that resonates throughout Leith’s book, it’s that you must know your audience; their interests, prejudices and expectations. Without that grounding, you’re already setting yourself up for failure. (In other words, your moving speech on why we all need to take a social media holiday may not resonate at the Twitter shareholder meeting.)

Ethos is about establishing your authority to speak on the subject, logos is your logical argument for your point and pathos is your attempt to sway an audience emotionally. Leith has a great example for summarizing what the three look like.

Ethos: ‘Buy my old car because I’m Tom Magliozzi.’ Logos: ‘Buy my old car because yours is broken and mine is the only one on sale.’ Pathos: ‘Buy my old car or this cute little kitten, afflicted with a rare degenerative disease, will expire in agony, for my car is the last asset I have in the world, and I am selling it to pay for kitty’s medical treatment.’

The first part of ethos is establishing your credentials to be speaking to the audience on the specific subject matter. It’s the verbal equivalent of all those degrees hanging up in your doctor’s office. And once you’ve established why you are an authority on the subject, you need to build rapport. Ethos, when everything is stripped away, is about trust.

Your audience needs to know (or to believe, which in rhetoric adds up to the same thing) that you are trustworthy, that you have a locus standi to talk on the subject, and that you speak in good faith. You need your audience to believe that you are, in the well-known words, ‘A pretty straight kind of guy.’

So if you’re a politician and you’re speaking about reforming the legal system, it’s great to be a lawyer or a judge, but it’s even better to be a lawyer or a judge who comes from the same community as your audience. Between two speakers with identical credentials, the more closely relatable one will win the audience.

You’ll even see a reverse ethos appeal at times, an attack on an opponent which questions their credentials and trustworthiness and serves to alienate them from the audience. To head that off, it’s best to establish your ethos early on, both to give your attackers more of a challenge and to create a hook for your logos to hang on.

Here’s how Leith describes logos , the next link in the chain:

If ethos is the ground on which your argument stands, logos is what drives it forward: it is the stuff of your arguments, the way one point proceeds to another, as if to show that the conclusion to which you are aiming is not only the right one, but so necessary and reasonable as to be more or less the only one.

Think of this as the logic behind your argument. You want your points to seem so straightforward and commanding that your audience can’t conceive of an alternative.

Aristotle had a tip here: He found that the most effective use of logos is to encourage your audience to reach the conclusion to your argument on their own, just moments before your big reveal. They will relish in the fact that they were clever enough to figure it out, and the reveal will be that much more satisfying.

Another logos trick used often is the much abused syllogism.

The syllogism is a way of combining two premises and drawing a fresh conclusion that follows logically from them. The classic instance you always hear quoted is the following: All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

While you need to take care with the syllogisms you use — false syllogisms can lead to obvious logical fallacies — they can be a powerful tool for helping your audience draw certain conclusions.

Aristotle also advocated the use ‘commonplaces’, or   accepted premises shared with the audience. The best arguments are soaked in them.

Associated with these general topics are ‘commonplaces’ (topos is Greek for a ‘place’). Any form of reasoning has to start from a set of premises, and in rhetoric those premises are very often commonplaces. A commonplace is a piece of shared wisdom: a tribal assumption. In the use of commonplaces, you can see where logos and ethos intersect. Commonplaces are culturally specific, but they will tend to be so deep-rooted in their appeal that they pass for universal truths. They are, in digested form, the appeal to ‘common sense.’ You get nowhere appealing to commonplaces alien to your audience. The wise persuader starts from one or two commonplaces he knows he has in common with his audience – and, where possible, arrives at one too.

Your use of commonplaces is also a good point to interject pathos , as many of these common beliefs can illicit an emotional response. Let’s dig into pathos .

Your logical argument will be that much more persuasive if it’s wrapped up with a good dose of emotion. Because of the way we use the word pathos in the modern world, you may be thinking of something dramatic and sad. But pathos is more nuanced than that; it can be humor, love, patriotism, or any emotional response.

The key here once again is to know your audience . If you are trying to evoke a sense of anger or sadness regarding mankind’s role in the decline of the honeybee, you might not get the response you want from the bee allergy support group.

You can even invoke pathos by admitting a wrong. ( We all make mistakes …) This can be a clever way to put your opponent off balance.

This is the figure, called paromologia in the Greek, where you concede, or appear to concede, part of your opponent’s point. It turns what is often necessity to advantage, because it makes you look honest and scrupulous, takes the wind out of your opponent’s sails, and allows you to shift the emphasis of the argument in a way finally favorable to you. It’s the equivalent of a tactical retreat, or of the judo fighter using an opponent’s momentum against him.

Another tool you can use with pathos is something the ancients called aposiopesis.

Aposiopesis – a sudden breaking off as if at a loss for words – can be intended to stir pathos. And even where something appears merely decorative – a run of alliteration or a mellifluously turned sentence – it serves to commend the speech more easily to memory, and to give pleasure to the audience. Delight is an end, as well as a means.

And we can’t forget joy and laughter. A well received joke can help you both connect with the audience (ethos) and bring home the pathos appeal.

… the joke can do more than just perk up a drowsing audience. It can be a powerful rhetorical tool. It participates in the pathos appeal inasmuch as it stirs an audience’s emotions to laughter – but more importantly, it participates in the ethos appeal, inasmuch as laughter is based on a set of common assumptions. As Edwin Rabbie argues in ‘Wit and Humour in Roman Rhetoric,’ ‘Jokes usually presuppose (even rest on) a significant amount of shared knowledge.

Ultimately, the three modes of persuasion are interconnected. It’s helpful not to think of them in a linear way but more like three overlapping circles. If you can create something with ethos, logos, and pathos peppered throughout, and tie it all into your audience’s belief system, you will have a very strong argument.

While Aristotle’s three persuasive appeals make appearances throughout the book, there is so much more to Words Like Loaded Pistols . Leith goes into depth regarding the five parts of rhetoric and the three branches of oratory. He also spend considerable time explaining the different figures, also known as the ‘flowers of rhetoric, which can be thought of as the literary weapons you can use in your war of words. If you have an interest in making your own presentations or speeches better, or in understanding the techniques a speaker is using when you are in the audience then this book is definitely worth the read. In the meantime check out our post on Wartime Rhetoric for some inspiration.

Persuasive Writing Topics

Persuasive Writing Essay Ideas:

1. Should/Shouldn’t talking on the cell phone without the use of a handsfree device be illegal?

2. Should/Shouldn’t sports betting or gambling be legal?

3. Should/Shouldn’t there be an internet censor imposed by the government?

4. Should/Shouldn’t teachers have a dress code or uniform?

5. Should/Shouldn’t companies have affirmative action?

6. Is or isn’t it right to teach sex education in public schools?

7. Should/Shouldn’t abortion be legal?

8. Should/Shouldn’t politicians be able to accept money from lobbyists?

9. Legalization/Prohibition of Marijuana.

10. Should Puerto Rico be incorporated into the U.S as a state?

11. Should euthanasia be legal?

12. Why should we protect the environment?

13. Should prostitution be legal/why should prostitution stay illegal?

14. Should more forms of renewable energy be used?

15. Should genetically modified foods be labeled/illegal?

16. Should there be a subsidy/program for free wi-fi, why would it benefit the cost?

17. Do immigration laws need to be reformed?

18. Is the penalty for downloading illegal content too excessive?

19. Should teenage girls have to obtain parental consent for birth control?

20. Should selling sugary snacks and drinks be banned at elementary/middle/high schools?

21. Should state colleges be tuition free/completely state funded?

22. Are uniforms necessary for students?

23. Should elderly people be forced to renew their driver's licenses?

24. Is cloning an ethical practice, even for organs?

25. Is giving an allowance an effective way to teach financial responsibility or should it be only given as a reward?

26. Why should someone do community service for a specific organization/cause?

27. Is the amount of television/media watched by Americans too much, persuade why or why not?

28. Should students be forced to do volunteer work?

29. Are searching schools using drug dogs randomly an effective way to prevent drug use?

30. Should we reform our food system from factory farms & harmful chemicals? Or are they necessary?

31. Why should someone quit smoking or why is a certain substance harmful?

32. Prohibition/Protection of the consumption of alcohol.

33. Are interactions over the computer and electronics making people less social?

34. Should fathers have a right to a “paternity leave”?

35. Should there be some sort of measure of population control, i.e., limiting a number of children?

36. How is television influencing peoples minds?

37. Should more funding be given to public education?

38. Should more funding be given to public transportation?

39. Should funding be taken away from public transportation?

40. Write an essay calling people to action to save the environment.

41. Is the Euro a good idea?

42. Should/Shouldn’t migrants or refugees be allowed in a country?

43. Write an essay persuading readers to diet better/exercise more.

44. Is a speed limit for highways necessary?

45. Is access to the internet a fundamental human right?

46. Should foreign aid be reduced to decrease the budget deficit?

47. Should private property owners be forced to limit smoking indoors?

48. Should school cafeterias be healthier?

49. Is the American dream still attainable?

50. Do we need more/less social welfare?

51. Are music lyrics promoting violence and selling drugs?

52. Are online classes an effective method of teaching?

53. Does the media control our elections?

54. Try to convince someone to be a vegetarian?

55. Should stricter fuel emission standards be imposed?

56. Why or why not is learning history important?

57. Write an essay defending/criticizing progressive tax rates?

58. Should the rich be taxed more?

59. Should there be regulations on junk food?

60. Write an essay about a cause you are passionate about.

61. Is polygamy acceptable?

62. Are we too focused on beauty?

63. Does the media influence our idea of beauty?

64. Why is it important to know foreign languages?

65. Write an essay criticizing/defending the patriot act?

66. Should the executive branch hold more power?

67. Write an essay about a law that should be changed.

68. How can something in your community be improved?

69. Call people to action to vote for a particular political candidate.

70. How could our legal system be improved?

71. Should the government censor obscene content?

72. At a certain age, should people be required to take a driving test every year or two years?

73. Should more people grow their own food?

74. Why should you be a vegetarian or vegan?

75. Is America’s fascination with celebrities unhealthy?

76. Is conscription ethical for wars fought outside the country?

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Evaluating Appeals to Ethos, Logos, and Pathos


As a reader and a listener, it is fundamental that you be able to recognize how writers and speakers depend upon  ethos ,  logos , and  pathos  in their efforts to communicate. As a communicator yourself, you will benefit from being able to see how others rely upon ethos, logos, and pathos so that you can apply what you learn from your observations to your own speaking and writing.

Evaluate an Appeal to Ethos

When you evaluate an appeal to  ethos , you examine how successfully a speaker or writer establishes authority or credibility with her intended audience. You are asking yourself what elements of the essay or speech would cause an audience to feel that the author is (or is not) trustworthy and credible.

A good speaker or writer leads the audience to feel comfortable with her knowledge of a topic. The audience sees her as someone worth listening to—a clear or insightful thinker, or at least someone who is well-informed and genuinely interested in the topic.

Some of the questions you can ask yourself as you evaluate an author’s ethos may include the following:

  • Has the writer or speaker cited her sources or in some way made it possible for the audience to access further information on the issue?
  • Does she demonstrate familiarity with different opinions and perspectives?
  • Does she provide complete and accurate information about the issue?
  • Does she use the evidence fairly? Does she avoid selective use of evidence or other types of manipulation of data?
  • Does she speak respectfully about people who may have opinions and perspectives different from her own?
  • Does she use unbiased language?
  • Does she avoid excessive reliance on emotional appeals?
  • Does she accurately convey the positions of people with whom she disagrees?
  • Does she acknowledge that an issue may be complex or multifaceted?
  • Does her education or experience give her credibility as someone who should be listened to on this issue?

Some of the above questions may strike you as relevant to an evaluation of logos as well as ethos—questions about the completeness and accuracy of information and whether it is used fairly. In fact, illogical thinking and the misuse of evidence may lead an audience to draw conclusions not only about the person making the argument but also about the logic of an argument.

Recognizing a Manipulative Appeal to Ethos

In a perfect world, everyone would tell the truth and we could depend upon the credibility of speakers and authors. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. You would expect that news reporters would be objective and tell new stories based upon the facts. Janet Cooke, Stephen Glass, Jayson Blair, and Brian Williams all lost their jobs for plagiarizing or fabricated part of their news stories. Janet Cooke’s Pulitzer Prize was revoked after it was discovered that she made up “Jimmy,” an eight-year old heroin addict (Prince, 2010). Brian Williams was fired as anchor of the NBC Nightly News for exaggerating his role in the Iraq War.

Others have become infamous for claiming academic degrees that they didn’t earn as in the case of Marilee Jones. At the time of discovery, she was Dean of Admissions at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). After 28 years of employment, it was determined that she never graduated from college (Lewin, 2007). However, on her website ( http://www.marileejones.com ) she is still promoting herself as “a sought after speaker, consultant and author” (para. 1) and “one of the nation’s most experienced College Admissions Deans” (para. 2).

Beyond lying about their own credentials, authors may employ a number of tricks or fallacies to lure you to their point of view. Some of the more common techniques are described below. Others may be found in the appendix. When you recognize these fallacies being committed you should question the credibility of the speaker and the legitimacy of the argument. If you use these when making your own arguments, be aware that they may undermine or destroy your credibility.

Fallacies That Misuse Appeals to Ethos

Ad hominem : attacking the person making an argument rather than the argument itself.

Example:  “Of course that doctor advocates vaccination—he probably owns stock in a pharmaceutical company.”

False authority : relying on claims of expertise when the claimed expert (a) lacks adequate background/credentials in the relevant field, (b) departs in major ways from the consensus in the field, or (c) is biased, e.g., has a financial stake in the outcome.

Example:  “Dr. X is an engineer, and  he  doesn’t believe in global warming.”

Guilt by association : linking the person making an argument to an unpopular person or group.

Example:  “My opponent is a card-carrying member of the ACLU.”

Poisoning the well: undermining an opponent’s credibility before he or she gets a chance to speak.

Example:  “The prosecution is going to bring up a series or so-called experts who are getting a lot of money to testify here today.”

Transfer fallacy : associating the argument with someone or something popular or respected; hoping that the positive associations will “rub off” onto the argument.

Examples:  In politics, decorating a stage with red, white, and blue flags and bunting; in advertising, using pleasant or wholesome settings as the backdrop for print or video ads.

Name-calling : labeling an opponent with words that have negative connotations in an effort to undermine the opponent’s credibility.

Example:  “These rabble-rousers are nothing but feminazis.”

Plain folk : presenting yourself as (or associating your position with) ordinary people with whom you hope your audience will identify; arguers imply that they or their supporters are trustworthy because they are ‘common people’ rather than members of the elite.

Example:  “Who would you vote for—someone raised in a working-class neighborhood who has the support of Joe the Plumber or some elitist whose daddy sent him to a fancy school?”

Testimonial fallacy : inserting an endorsement of the argument by someone who is popular or respected but who lacks expertise or authority in the area under discussion.

Example:  “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV”—a famous example of a celebrity endorsement for a cough syrup (Deis, 2011, n.p.).

Image titled Logical Fallacies: Argument from Authority. Two men in business suits stand outside; the one on the left holds a briefcase and a chihuahua. Dialogue bubbles: Holding this Chihuahua will prevent me from getting the flu. / That seems unlikely. Why would you believe that? / It's true! My neighbour told me. His uncle is a homeopathic doctor with four university degrees!

The most general structure of this argument runs something like the following: Person A claims that Person A is a respected scientist or other authority; therefore, the claim they make is true.

Evaluate an Appeal to Logos

When you evaluate an appeal to  logos , you consider how logical the argument is and how well-supported it is in terms of evidence. You are asking yourself what elements of the essay or speech would cause an audience to believe that the argument is (or is not) logical and supported by appropriate evidence.

To evaluate whether the evidence is appropriate, apply the  STAR criteria: how  S ufficient,  T ypical,  A ccurate, and  R elevant is the evidence? 

Recognizing a Manipulative Appeal to Logos

Diagramming the argument can help you determine if an appeal to logos is manipulative. Are the premises true? Does the conclusion follow logically from the premises? Is there sufficient, typical, accurate, and relevant evidence to support inductive reasoning? Is the speaker or author attempting to divert your attention from the real issues? These are some of the elements you might consider while evaluating an argument for the use of logos.

Pay particular attention to numbers, statistics, findings, and quotes used to support an argument. Be critical of the source and do your own investigation of the “facts.” Maybe you’ve heard or read that half of all marriages in America will end in divorce. It is so often discussed that we assume it must be true. Careful research will show that the original marriage study was flawed, and divorce rates in America have steadily declined since 1985 (Peck, 1993). If there is no scientific evidence, why do we continue to believe it? Part of the reason might be that it supports our idea of the dissolution of the American family.

Fallacies that misuse appeals to logos or attempt to manipulate the logic of an argument are discussed below. Other fallacies of logos may be found in the appendix.

Fallacies That Misuse Appeals to Logos

Hasty generalization: jumping to conclusions based upon an unrepresentative sample or insufficient evidence.

Example: “10 of the last 14 National Spelling Bee Champions have been Indian American. Indian Americans must all be great spellers!”

Appeal to ignorance—true believer’s form: arguing along the lines that if an opponent can’t prove something  isn’t  the case, then it is reasonable to believe that it  is  the case; transfers the burden of proof away from the person making the claim (the proponent).

Example:  “You can’t prove that extraterrestrials  haven’t  visited earth, so it is reasonable to believe that they  have  visited earth.”

Appeal to ignorance—skeptic’s form: confusing absence of evidence with evidence of absence; assumes that if you cannot now  prove something exists, then it is shown that it doesn’t exist.

Example:  “There’s no proof that starting classes later in the day will improve the performance of our high school students; therefore, this change in schedule will not work.”

Begging the question: circular argument because the premise is the same as the claim that you are trying to prove.

Example:  “This legislation is sinful because it is the wrong thing to do.”

False dilemma: misuse of the either/or argument; presenting only two options when other choices exist

Example:  “Either we pass this ordinance or there will be rioting in the streets.”

Post hoc ergo propter hoc: Latin phrase meaning “after this, therefore because of this”; confuses correlation with causation by concluding that an event preceding a second event must be the cause of that second event.

Example:  “My child was diagnosed with autism after receiving vaccinations. That is proof that vaccines are to blame.”

Non-sequitur: Latin for “does not follow”; the conclusion cannot be inferred from the premises because there is a break in the logical connection between a claim and the premises that are meant to support it, either because a premise is untrue (or missing) or because the relationship between premises does not support the deduction stated in the claim.

Example (untrue premise): “If she is a Radford student, she is a member of a sorority. She is a Radford student. Therefore she is a member of a sorority.”

Smoke screen : avoiding the real issue or a tough question by introducing an unrelated topic as a distraction; sometimes called a red herring .

Example:  “My opponent says I am weak on crime, but I have been one of the most reliable participants in city council meetings.”

Straw man: pretending to criticize an opponent’s position but actually misrepresenting his or her view as simpler and/or more extreme than it is and therefore easier to refute than the original or actual position; unfairly undermines credibility of  claim  if not source  of claim.

Example:  “Senator Smith says we should cut back the Defense budget. His position is that we should let down our defenses and just trust our enemies not to attack us!”

Picture of two ducklings, labeled Red Herring. In dialogue bubbles: It is my contention that The Flying Spaghetti Monster does exist! / What evidence do you have to support such an assertion? / Oh there is plenty of evidence; it is all around us! Besides, look at how I am standing on one leg!

The red herring is as much a debate tactic as it is a logical fallacy. It is a fallacy of distraction, and is committed when a listener attempts to divert an arguer from his argument by introducing another topic. This can be one of the most frustrating, and effective, fallacies to observe.The fallacy gets its name from fox hunting, specifically from the practice of using smoked herrings, which are red, to distract hounds from the scent of their quarry. Just as a hound may be prevented from catching a fox by distracting it with a red herring, so an arguer may be prevented from proving his point by distracting him with a tangential issue.

Evaluate an Appeal to Pathos

People may be uninterested in an issue unless they can find a personal connection to it, so a communicator may try to connect to her audience by evoking emotions or by suggesting that author and audience share attitudes, beliefs, and values—in other words, by making an appeal to pathos . Even in formal writing, such as academic books or journals, an author often will try to present an issue in such a way as to connect to the feelings or attitudes of his audience.

When you evaluate pathos, you are asking whether a speech or essay arouses the audience’s interest and sympathy. You are looking for the elements of the essay or speech that might cause the audience to feel (or not feel) an emotional connection to the content.

An author may use an audience’s attitudes, beliefs, or values as a kind of foundation for his argument—a layer that the writer knows is already in place at the outset of the argument. So one of the questions you can ask yourself as you evaluate an author’s use of pathos is whether there are points at which the writer or speaker makes statements assuming that the audience shares his feelings or attitudes. For example, in an argument about the First Amendment, does the author write as if he takes it for granted that his audience is religious?

Recognizing a Manipulative Appeal to Pathos

Up to a certain point, an  appeal to pathos  can be a legitimate part of an argument. For example, a writer or speaker may begin with an anecdote showing the effect of a law on an individual. This anecdote will be a means of gaining an audience’s attention for an argument in which she uses evidence and reason to present her full case as to why the law should/should not be repealed or amended. In such a context, engaging the emotions, values, or beliefs of the audience is a legitimate tool whose effective use should lead you to give the author high marks.

An appropriate appeal to  pathos  is different than trying to unfairly play upon the audience’s feelings and emotions through fallacious, misleading, or excessively emotional appeals. Such a  manipulative  use of pathos may alienate the audience or cause them to “tune out”. An example would be the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) commercials featuring the song “ In the Arms on an Angel ” and footage of abused animals. Even Sarah McLachlan, the singer and spokesperson featured in the commercials admits that she changes the channel because they are too depressing (Brekke, 2014).

Even if an appeal to pathos is not manipulative, such an appeal should complement rather than replace reason and evidence-based argument. In addition to making use of pathos, the author must establish her credibility ( ethos ) and must supply reasons and evidence ( logos ) in support of her position. An author who essentially replaces logos and ethos with pathos alone should be given low marks.

See below for the most common fallacies that misuse appeals to pathos.

Fallacies That Misuse Appeals to Pathos

Appeal to fear: using scare tactics; emphasizing threats or exaggerating possible dangers.

Example:  “Without this additional insurance, you could find yourself broke and homeless.”

Appeal to guilt and  appeal to pity : trying to evoke an emotional reaction that will cause the audience to behave sympathetically even if it means disregarding the issue at hand.

Example:  “I know I missed assignments, but if you fail me, I will lose my financial aid and have to drop out.”

Appeal to popularity (bandwagon): urging audience to follow a course of action because “everyone does it.”

Example:  “Nine out of ten shoppers have switched to Blindingly-Bright-Smile Toothpaste.”

Slippery Slope: making an unsupported or inadequately supported claim that “One thing inevitably leads to another.” This may be considered a fallacy of logos as well as pathos but is placed in this section because it often is used to evoke the emotion of fear.

Example:  “We can’t legalize marijuana; if we do, then the next thing you know people will be strung out on heroin.”

Appeal to the people:  also called  stirring symbols  fallacy; the communicator distracts the readers or listeners with symbols that are very meaningful to them, with strong associations or connotations.

Example: This fallacy is referred to in the sentence  “That politician always wraps himself in the flag.”

Appeal to tradition:  people have been done it a certain way for a long time; assumes that what has been customary in past is correct and proper.

Example:  “A boy always serves as student-body president; a girl always serves as secretary.”

Loaded-Language and other emotionally charged uses of language: using slanted or biased language, including God terms, devil terms, euphemisms, and dysphemisms.

Example:  In the sentence “Cutting access to food stamps would encourage personal responsibility,” the god term is “personal responsibility.” It might seem as if it would be hard to argue against “personal responsibility” or related god terms such as “independence” and “self-reliance.” However, it would require a definition of “personal responsibility,” combined with evidence from studies of people’s behavior in the face of food stamp or other benefit reductions, to argue that cutting access to food stamps would lead to the intended results.

Titled Logical Fallacies: The Ad Hominem. Two Canada geese stand in water. One, facing the camera, has a dialogue bubble: We share many genetic characteristics with ducks because we have evolved from a common ancestor. The other, facing the first goose, squawks at it with mouth open, tongue extended. It's dialogue bubble: You're close-minded and stupid and you eat corn! You don't know anything!

Here is an example of a common logical fallacy known as the ad hominem argument , which is Latin for “argument against the person” or “argument toward the person.” Basically, an ad hominem argument goes like this: Person 1 makes claim X. There is something objectionable about Person 1. Therefore claim X is false.

Fallacies can crop up whenever definitions, inferences, and facts are at issue. Once we become familiar with fallacies we may start to see them everywhere. That can be good and bad. Since persuasion is ever-present, it is good to be on guard against various hidden persuaders. But whether a persuasive strategy is considered fallacious may be dependent on context. Editorials and advertisements—both political and commercial—frequently use such strategies as transfer and appeals to popularity. We need to be critically aware of the techniques of persuasion being used on us, but since we  expect  advertisements, political speeches, and editorials on public policy or ethical issues to try to sway us emotionally, perhaps only extreme examples deserve to be judged harshly for being fallacious.

In addition, something that looks as if it is a fallacy may turn out not to be on closer examination. For example, not everything that smacks of slippery slope is fallacious. There are indeed some  genuine  slippery slopes, where an initial decision or action may have both great and inevitable repercussions. So whether that fallacy has been committed depends upon what the author has done (or failed to do) to support his claim. Similarly, while personal attacks ( ad hominem ) in most cases are unfair and considered fallacious, there are special situations in which a person’s character may be directly relevant to his or her qualifications. For example, when somebody is running for political office or for a judgeship, casting doubt on his or her character may be appropriate— if one has facts to back it up—since it relates to job expectations. But wholesale character assassination remains a rhetorical ploy of the propagandist or demagogue.

  • Revision and Adaptation. Provided by : Lumen Learning. License : CC BY: Attribution
  • Image of Red Herring. Authored by : Mark Klotz. Located at : https://flic.kr/p/81M6vG . License : CC BY-NC: Attribution-NonCommercial
  • Image of Argument from Authority. Authored by : Mark Klotz. Located at : https://flic.kr/p/7WGuwA . License : CC BY-NC: Attribution-NonCommercial
  • Image of the Ad Hominem. Authored by : Mark Klotz. Located at : https://flic.kr/p/7W4WMp . License : CC BY-NC: Attribution-NonCommercial
  • The Logical Structure of Arguments. Provided by : Radford University. Located at : http://lcubbison.pressbooks.com/chapter/core-201-analyzing-arguments/ . Project : Core Curriculum Handbook. License : Public Domain: No Known Copyright

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Frequently asked questions

What are logos, ethos, and pathos.

Logos appeals to the audience’s reason, building up logical arguments . Ethos appeals to the speaker’s status or authority, making the audience more likely to trust them. Pathos appeals to the emotions, trying to make the audience feel angry or sympathetic, for example.

Collectively, these three appeals are sometimes called the rhetorical triangle . They are central to rhetorical analysis , though a piece of rhetoric might not necessarily use all of them.

Frequently asked questions: Writing an essay

For a stronger conclusion paragraph, avoid including:

  • Important evidence or analysis that wasn’t mentioned in the main body
  • Generic concluding phrases (e.g. “In conclusion…”)
  • Weak statements that undermine your argument (e.g. “There are good points on both sides of this issue.”)

Your conclusion should leave the reader with a strong, decisive impression of your work.

Your essay’s conclusion should contain:

  • A rephrased version of your overall thesis
  • A brief review of the key points you made in the main body
  • An indication of why your argument matters

The conclusion may also reflect on the broader implications of your argument, showing how your ideas could applied to other contexts or debates.

The conclusion paragraph of an essay is usually shorter than the introduction . As a rule, it shouldn’t take up more than 10–15% of the text.

An essay is a focused piece of writing that explains, argues, describes, or narrates.

In high school, you may have to write many different types of essays to develop your writing skills.

Academic essays at college level are usually argumentative : you develop a clear thesis about your topic and make a case for your position using evidence, analysis and interpretation.

The “hook” is the first sentence of your essay introduction . It should lead the reader into your essay, giving a sense of why it’s interesting.

To write a good hook, avoid overly broad statements or long, dense sentences. Try to start with something clear, concise and catchy that will spark your reader’s curiosity.

Your essay introduction should include three main things, in this order:

  • An opening hook to catch the reader’s attention.
  • Relevant background information that the reader needs to know.
  • A thesis statement that presents your main point or argument.

The length of each part depends on the length and complexity of your essay .

Let’s say you’re writing a five-paragraph  essay about the environmental impacts of dietary choices. Here are three examples of topic sentences you could use for each of the three body paragraphs :

  • Research has shown that the meat industry has severe environmental impacts.
  • However, many plant-based foods are also produced in environmentally damaging ways.
  • It’s important to consider not only what type of diet we eat, but where our food comes from and how it is produced.

Each of these sentences expresses one main idea – by listing them in order, we can see the overall structure of the essay at a glance. Each paragraph will expand on the topic sentence with relevant detail, evidence, and arguments.

The topic sentence usually comes at the very start of the paragraph .

However, sometimes you might start with a transition sentence to summarize what was discussed in previous paragraphs, followed by the topic sentence that expresses the focus of the current paragraph.

Topic sentences help keep your writing focused and guide the reader through your argument.

In an essay or paper , each paragraph should focus on a single idea. By stating the main idea in the topic sentence, you clarify what the paragraph is about for both yourself and your reader.

A topic sentence is a sentence that expresses the main point of a paragraph . Everything else in the paragraph should relate to the topic sentence.

The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:

  • It gives your writing direction and focus.
  • It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.

Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.

The thesis statement should be placed at the end of your essay introduction .

Follow these four steps to come up with a thesis statement :

  • Ask a question about your topic .
  • Write your initial answer.
  • Develop your answer by including reasons.
  • Refine your answer, adding more detail and nuance.

A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.

An essay isn’t just a loose collection of facts and ideas. Instead, it should be centered on an overarching argument (summarized in your thesis statement ) that every part of the essay relates to.

The way you structure your essay is crucial to presenting your argument coherently. A well-structured essay helps your reader follow the logic of your ideas and understand your overall point.

The structure of an essay is divided into an introduction that presents your topic and thesis statement , a body containing your in-depth analysis and arguments, and a conclusion wrapping up your ideas.

The structure of the body is flexible, but you should always spend some time thinking about how you can organize your essay to best serve your ideas.

The vast majority of essays written at university are some sort of argumentative essay . Almost all academic writing involves building up an argument, though other types of essay might be assigned in composition classes.

Essays can present arguments about all kinds of different topics. For example:

  • In a literary analysis essay, you might make an argument for a specific interpretation of a text
  • In a history essay, you might present an argument for the importance of a particular event
  • In a politics essay, you might argue for the validity of a certain political theory

At high school and in composition classes at university, you’ll often be told to write a specific type of essay , but you might also just be given prompts.

Look for keywords in these prompts that suggest a certain approach: The word “explain” suggests you should write an expository essay , while the word “describe” implies a descriptive essay . An argumentative essay might be prompted with the word “assess” or “argue.”

In rhetorical analysis , a claim is something the author wants the audience to believe. A support is the evidence or appeal they use to convince the reader to believe the claim. A warrant is the (often implicit) assumption that links the support with the claim.

The term “text” in a rhetorical analysis essay refers to whatever object you’re analyzing. It’s frequently a piece of writing or a speech, but it doesn’t have to be. For example, you could also treat an advertisement or political cartoon as a text.

The goal of a rhetorical analysis is to explain the effect a piece of writing or oratory has on its audience, how successful it is, and the devices and appeals it uses to achieve its goals.

Unlike a standard argumentative essay , it’s less about taking a position on the arguments presented, and more about exploring how they are constructed.

You should try to follow your outline as you write your essay . However, if your ideas change or it becomes clear that your structure could be better, it’s okay to depart from your essay outline . Just make sure you know why you’re doing so.

If you have to hand in your essay outline , you may be given specific guidelines stating whether you have to use full sentences. If you’re not sure, ask your supervisor.

When writing an essay outline for yourself, the choice is yours. Some students find it helpful to write out their ideas in full sentences, while others prefer to summarize them in short phrases.

You will sometimes be asked to hand in an essay outline before you start writing your essay . Your supervisor wants to see that you have a clear idea of your structure so that writing will go smoothly.

Even when you do not have to hand it in, writing an essay outline is an important part of the writing process . It’s a good idea to write one (as informally as you like) to clarify your structure for yourself whenever you are working on an essay.

Comparisons in essays are generally structured in one of two ways:

  • The alternating method, where you compare your subjects side by side according to one specific aspect at a time.
  • The block method, where you cover each subject separately in its entirety.

It’s also possible to combine both methods, for example by writing a full paragraph on each of your topics and then a final paragraph contrasting the two according to a specific metric.

Your subjects might be very different or quite similar, but it’s important that there be meaningful grounds for comparison . You can probably describe many differences between a cat and a bicycle, but there isn’t really any connection between them to justify the comparison.

You’ll have to write a thesis statement explaining the central point you want to make in your essay , so be sure to know in advance what connects your subjects and makes them worth comparing.

Some essay prompts include the keywords “compare” and/or “contrast.” In these cases, an essay structured around comparing and contrasting is the appropriate response.

Comparing and contrasting is also a useful approach in all kinds of academic writing : You might compare different studies in a literature review , weigh up different arguments in an argumentative essay , or consider different theoretical approaches in a theoretical framework .

The key difference is that a narrative essay is designed to tell a complete story, while a descriptive essay is meant to convey an intense description of a particular place, object, or concept.

Narrative and descriptive essays both allow you to write more personally and creatively than other kinds of essays , and similar writing skills can apply to both.

If you’re not given a specific prompt for your descriptive essay , think about places and objects you know well, that you can think of interesting ways to describe, or that have strong personal significance for you.

The best kind of object for a descriptive essay is one specific enough that you can describe its particular features in detail—don’t choose something too vague or general.

If you’re not given much guidance on what your narrative essay should be about, consider the context and scope of the assignment. What kind of story is relevant, interesting, and possible to tell within the word count?

The best kind of story for a narrative essay is one you can use to reflect on a particular theme or lesson, or that takes a surprising turn somewhere along the way.

Don’t worry too much if your topic seems unoriginal. The point of a narrative essay is how you tell the story and the point you make with it, not the subject of the story itself.

Narrative essays are usually assigned as writing exercises at high school or in university composition classes. They may also form part of a university application.

When you are prompted to tell a story about your own life or experiences, a narrative essay is usually the right response.

The majority of the essays written at university are some sort of argumentative essay . Unless otherwise specified, you can assume that the goal of any essay you’re asked to write is argumentative: To convince the reader of your position using evidence and reasoning.

In composition classes you might be given assignments that specifically test your ability to write an argumentative essay. Look out for prompts including instructions like “argue,” “assess,” or “discuss” to see if this is the goal.

At college level, you must properly cite your sources in all essays , research papers , and other academic texts (except exams and in-class exercises).

Add a citation whenever you quote , paraphrase , or summarize information or ideas from a source. You should also give full source details in a bibliography or reference list at the end of your text.

The exact format of your citations depends on which citation style you are instructed to use. The most common styles are APA , MLA , and Chicago .

An argumentative essay tends to be a longer essay involving independent research, and aims to make an original argument about a topic. Its thesis statement makes a contentious claim that must be supported in an objective, evidence-based way.

An expository essay also aims to be objective, but it doesn’t have to make an original argument. Rather, it aims to explain something (e.g., a process or idea) in a clear, concise way. Expository essays are often shorter assignments and rely less on research.

An expository essay is a common assignment in high-school and university composition classes. It might be assigned as coursework, in class, or as part of an exam.

Sometimes you might not be told explicitly to write an expository essay. Look out for prompts containing keywords like “explain” and “define.” An expository essay is usually the right response to these prompts.

An expository essay is a broad form that varies in length according to the scope of the assignment.

Expository essays are often assigned as a writing exercise or as part of an exam, in which case a five-paragraph essay of around 800 words may be appropriate.

You’ll usually be given guidelines regarding length; if you’re not sure, ask.

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