Aristotle’s Appeals: Incorporating Ethos, Pathos, Logos in Your Persuasive Writing

by Anastasia Pestova

On the path to writing a winning proposal or grant document, it is essential to find a way to establish a persuasive argument so that you can convince the client, company, or granting agency to offer up their funding resources in your favor. In constructing a specific proposal you as a writer are putting forward an idea that stands on promised research, work, prototype, or service that will address the client’s needs. Oftentimes, your proposal will be in competition from other bidders and as a result, needs to create a clear and concise argument to convince the client that you have the best plan for meeting their specific needs or requirements. Ethos, Pathos, and Logos are three artistic proofs coined by Aristotle that are meant to act as methods of persuasion for your audience.

Here are some tips on how to incorporate them into your writing:

Establishing Ethos

We can all agree that we as humans are more likely to believe people that we know, trust, and respect. By and of themselves, credibility and personal branding are important elements in writing because they establish a level of trust between the reader and the writer. When writing a proposal or other persuasive document these elements are key to your success because they will act akin to a curriculum vitae(CV) or cover letter that show how you, or your client, will use resources of the funder or granting institution. Likewise, in planning the proposal draft, it is a good idea to find a space to map out the researchers’, client's or firm's, resumes, years of experience. This is your space to really brag about the level of expertise that they will bring to the project. The same goes for academic essays or project proposals; it is vital for you as a researcher to cite credible sources, provide clear information, and have confidence in your delivery of your facts.    

Creating Pathos

Your choice of language, style, and tone also play an essential role in the creation of a winning persuasive document. These elements must all appeal to the reader’s own emotions, while inciting a certain feeling. When addressing a review committee for a funding opportunity, one potential method is to carefully articulate how one will speak to the solution while maintaining that one’s team is the best qualified for this purpose. In any document or assignment, it is important to provide specific examples that directly address the issues that the agency/ reader/ reviewer is concerned about. For example, one can write about safety concerns for a company who values a high ethical and environmental standard in their research or, when soliciting for funding for charitable causes, one can use graphics that help convey the images that pull on heart strings.

Including Logos

One of the most effective ways to create a convincing argument in your proposal is to persuade the reader on your behalf by both deductive and inductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning occurs when an individual reaches a general conclusion given specific patterns, while, deductive reasoning occurs when one draws a specific conclusion that is backed by a general theory, rule, or property. In this way the heart of argumentation centers on one’s ability to create a consistent message with clear and logical evidence. A high impact method to include logos is to use easily understandable tables, graphics, and visuals. It is imperative to have clear and concise information that gets the viewer’s attention but does not distract from the main argument. For this reason, it is also good to avoid using different font colors and styles with overly garish colors. It is important that the document looks polished, creates proper context, and showcases the attributes of a high-quality product.

Hopefully these tips are good starting points when you are considering specific strategies or themes when mapping out your next persuasive writing assignment or proposal document.

Good luck!