There are three modes of persuasion—ethos, pathos, and logos—that are frequently used to appeal to audiences when making an argument.
Ethos makes an appeal to credibility, while pathos works at our emotions to get us to think, feel, or act in a certain way.
Logos, however, works its magic by appealing to logic and reason, making it an excellent asset for both written and spoken discourse.
Derived from the Greek for “logic,” logos is a rhetorical device that uses reason and logic to persuade an audience. It can be implemented using facts, figures, or logical statements.
Logos can be divided into two categories: inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning.
Inductive reasoning starts with specific cases to draw a more general conclusion.
I always leave for work at 7:15 a.m. I am always on time.
If I leave for work at 7:15 today, I will be on time.
Deductive reasoning, on the other hand, moves from general principles to a more specific conclusion.
All numbers ending in 0 are divisible by 10.
40 ends in 0, therefore it must be divisible by 10.
In some arguments, both deductive and inductive reasoning are used to persuade audiences.
How to Use Logos in Writing
Logos can be used to support arguments in persuasive writing, in rhetoric, and even in advertisements.
To appeal to logos, you can try the following strategies:
- Include statistics, factual information, or other data as support.
- Use personal experiences and observations when relevant and appropriate.
- Always present your arguments in a clear, logical manner. If your logic isn’t easy to follow, then the point is lost.
- Try to see things from your audience’s perspective. You need to anticipate their line of thought if you want to form a logical, effective argument.
- Check that your logic makes sense and doesn’t contain any major holes. Using faulty logic will significantly discount your credibility.
- Avoid emotional overtones. When appealing to logos, strive for an even tone and let the facts speak for themselves. Save emotional appeals for pathos.
While logical reasoning is perhaps most useful in nonfiction, it can also be used effectively in literature.
Examples of Logos
If you look closely, you can find examples of logos in everyday life, from TV ads to political speeches.
Logos in Literature
In William Shakespeare’s Othello, the antagonist, Iago, uses logos to plant seeds of doubt in Othello’s mind that his wife might be having an affair with Cassio:
“Oh, beware, my lord, of jealousy!
It is the green-eyed monster which doth mock
The meat it feeds on …
Who, certain of his fate, loves not his wronger,
But oh, what damnèd minutes tells he o’er
Who dotes, yet doubts—suspects, yet soundly loves …
She did deceive her father, marrying you …
She loved them most …
I humbly do beseech you of your pardon
For too much loving you …”
By reminding Othello that Desdemona betrayed her father to marry him, Iago is using an argument that he knows will seem logical in Othello’s mind.
Logos in Politics
Politicians often use all three appeals—logos, ethos, and pathos—in order to appeal to their constituents.
Former President Barack Obama’s 2016 State of the Union Address is an example that uses all three, but the excerpt below highlights his use of logos in particular:
“We’re in the middle of the longest streak of private sector job creation in history. More than 14 million new jobs, the strongest two years of job growth since the ‘90s, an unemployment rate cut in half. Our auto industry just had its best year ever. That’s just part of a manufacturing surge that’s created nearly 900,000 new jobs in the past six years. And we’ve done all this while cutting our deficits by almost three-quarters.”
By pointing to hard facts and statistics (like “14 million new jobs” and “unemployment rate cut in half”), audiences will be able to conclude for themselves that the state of the economy is strong.
Logos in Advertising/Marketing
While many ads rely more heavily on ethos and pathos (appeals to credibility and emotion), logos is often used to illustrate that buying or investing in a product is logical and in the best interest of the customer.
For example, many car advertisements highlight a car’s gas mileage as a logical way to save money in the long-term.
Use Logos to Improve Your Writing
Whether you’re writing to persuade or entertain, pathos can enrich your writing and help you gain the trust of your readers.
Start practicing with writing prompts today to see if you can apply the three modes of persuasion for more effective prose.
Which techniques have helped you improve your persuasive writing? Feel free to share in the comments below!