How to Use Ethos

Posted by Splice, Essay Tips Chief Writer

How to Use Ethos. The basic approach behind using ethos as a mode of persuasion is that it is an appeal that focuses on the character of the writer or speaker. In other words, the very character of the writer or speaker is the basis for agreeing or disagreeing with what he is arguing. With that in mind, the writer should be able to show that he is a credible person whom his readers can believe and leave doubts behind. Establishing the ethos of the writer can be attained through several steps.

One step is for the writer to show at the onset that he has wide knowledge on the topic. Before actually writing down his arguments, the writer should first indicate that he knows the topic very well or that he has read many resources about the subject. He may impress upon the mind of the reader that he has actually researched carefully. On the topic of Utilitarianism, for example, the writer may begin with:

Jeremy Bentham says that the foundation of what is good rests on those which bring the greatest happiness to the greatest number. Picking up from where Bentham left, John Stuart Mill further argued that, more than mere happiness, spiritual and intellectual pleasures outweigh physical pleasures. But as far as the philosophy of Utilitarianism is concerned, things do not simply end there. Act Utilitarians contend that the consequences of our actions should be the determining factor of what is good. On the other hand, Rule Utilitarians argue that the rules governing our actions should be the ultimate guidelines for identifying what is good from otherwise.

Another step is for the writer to show that he has close association with the topic. For example, if the writer is arguing that secondhand smoking should be banned in public places, he may tell his readers that although he is a non-smoker he has developed emphysema after having been exposed to secondhand smoke in bars for more than five years. This will show that the writer has actual experience that directly relates to his contention, thereby giving his readers that what he is saying has substance.

In some cases, the use of ethos may also be shown by simply telling the readers that the writer is an authority on the topic. For example, if the topic is related to health and medicine, the writer may inform his readers that he is a medical practitioner for more than ten years. Or if the topic is about the law, the writer may tell his readers that he has previously worked for the city prosecutor's office.

The most important thing to remember in knowing how to use ethos is that this approach focuses more on the character of the writer or speaker rather than the actual content of his arguments. To a certain degree, the weight of the writer's arguments will depend on his character.

You may also want to read how to use Pathos, or how to use Logos, or know what a Rhetorical argument is.

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