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The Three Persuaders

Wayne McMaster

25 July 2013

Aristotle unearthed three key principles to inform better persuasive communication.

The meaning of Ethos, Pathos and Logos

Ethos, Pathos and Logos each have a different meaning:


Ethos is an appeal to ethics, and it is a means of convincing potential customers by way of your brand's character, your values or your credibility — that is, the reason people should believe what you're saying. This type of appeal should draw on experiences and expertise as a way to claim why your audience should believe you. Ethos is the Greek word for “character.” The word “ethic” is derived from ethos.

A strong ethos will demonstrated by:

  1. Trustworthiness
  2. Authority
  3. Expertise


Pathos is an appeal to emotion, and is a way of convincing potential customers by creating an emotional response, though metaphor, emotional hook or fundamentally through story-telling. This is the type of appeal is communicated through your tone-of-voice. Engaging with emotions — whether fear or love, pity or anger — are powerful motivators for your audience. Pathos is the appeal most likely to get the audience to actually do something, after putting them in the right disposition. Pathos is the Greek word for both “suffering” and “experience.” The words empathy and pathetic are derived from pathos.

Ways to deploy pathos:

  1. Tell Stories
  2. Use Humor
  3. Connect through Images
  4. Use Vivid, Sensory Words
  5. Be Authentic



Logos is an appeal to logic, and is a way of persuading an audience by reason. This is the type of appeal is a way of convincing potential customers by presenting facts clearly.

Ways to deploy logos:

  1. Understandable
  2. Logical
  3. Real
  4. Use plain language
  5. Make it explicit
  6. Use case studies and anecdotes

These three elements of communication reinforce one another. You may rely heavily on (logos) data and case studies to make a point and in so doing create a perception of expertise and authority on a topic (ethos). And while all three are necessary to excellent communication, improving your ability to do any one of them will help you become a better communicator.

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