Chapter 7: Analyzing Rhetorically
Rhetorical strategies/appeals refer to ethos, pathos and logos. The strategies are Greek terms and can be discussed individually or as a culmination of all three. The way I approach rhetorical analysis is to help you identity rhetorical moves, rather than focusing on the broad category of the rhetorical strategy.
Ethos appeals to an audience using the author’s credibility and character. The author’s credibility is determined by his or her knowledge and expertise in the subject at hand. For example, if you are learning about Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, would you rather you learn from a professor of physics, or a high school English teacher?
Character is different from credibility because it involves personal history and even personality traits. A person can be credible but lack character or vice versa. For example, the President of the USA has both credibility and character because he is the leader of our country (credibility) and he was inaugurated because he won the votes from the American people (character). Tiger Woods is another example because he was once considered a great role model for children, then he cheated on his wife and the tabloids found out. He went from being considered appealing to audiences to losing his sponsors (Nike, Gatorade) because his character was badly tarnished.
When reading a text, you should always think about the author’s credibility regarding the subject as well as their character.
A rhetorical move that connects with ethos:
When reading an article about abortion, the author mentions that she has had an abortion.
The previous statement is an example of a move because they are creating credibility via anecdotal evidence and first person narrative, but it would be up to you, the analyzer, to point out this move and associate it with a rhetorical strategy.
To see how ethos can be misused or used in a manner that may be misleading, please visit the following link to WritingCommons.org: Fallacious Ethos
When an author relies on pathos, it means they are using emotions to appeal to their audience. Emotional appeals can be very strong and compelling. For example, ASPCA commercials use photographs of injured puppies, kittens, etc. to convince their audience to donate money.
However, authors can overuse emotional appeals and turn-off their target audience. This can be called “fallacious pathos.” For example,
An anti-abortionist might use graphic images of aborted babies to convince abortionist supporters to change their mind.
When reading a text, you should locate when the author is trying to convince you using emotions because it can mean they are lacking substance or trying to emotionally manipulate an audience.
When an author relies on logos, it means they are using logic, structure and evidence to appeal to their audience. Strong uses of Logos includes the use of facts and explanations. An author can appeal to an audience’s sense of logic by using strong facts and explanations. Facts that can be fact checked (checked using multiple sources) are excellent ways to convince an audience. Additionally, providing a solid and non-biased explanation of their argument is a great way for an author to invoke logos.
For example, if I were trying to convince my students to complete their homework, I might explain that I understand everyone is busy and they have other classes (non-biased), but the homework will help them get a better grade on their test (explanation). I could add to this explanation by providing statistics showing the number of students who failed and didn’t complete their homework versus the number of students who passed and did complete their homework (factual evidence).
To explore the misuse of logos, please visit the following link from WritingCommons.org: Logical Fallacies