Persuasive authors support their argument in many ways. What are some ways a persuasive author can support an argument?
Beyond formulating claims, drawing clear connections between claims and evidence, and addressing counterarguments, there are three different types of persuasive tactics one can use. We base our understanding of persuasive writing off of Aristotle, who defined persuasive writing in terms of three different appeals, meaning invocations: ethos, logos and pathos.
Ethos is an appeal, or invocation, of one's sense of ethics. We believe those we feel we can respect and trust, and we develop our sense of respect and trust based on peoples' own display of ethical conduct. Therefore, ethos establishes the trustworthiness of a speaker/writer through his/her character. Ethos can especially be displayed in any sentences that establish the speaker/writer as a credible authority on the subject. The Literary Devices dictionary gives the following example among others: "Doctors all over the world recommend this type of treatment" ("Ethos"). This example shows us that if we know the majority of doctors are in favor of the speaker's/writer's recommended treatment, then we are likely to believe in his/her authority on the subject and feel safe in the ethics of his/her reasoning.
Pathos translates from the ancient Greek to mean emotion and refers to an emotional appeal, or an invocation of emotions. In using this appeal, speakers/writers convince a person of an argument by getting that person to respond to the argument emotionally. Many examples of pathos can be found in literature. The Literary Devices dictionary gives us the following example from Mark Twain that clearly depicts the speaker's emotions and therefore invokes an emotional response from the reader:
He had meant the best in the world, and been treated like a dog--like a very dog. She would be sorry someday--maybe when it was too late. Ah, if he could only die TEMPORARILY! ("Pathos")
Logos is an appeal to one's logic. In using this technique, the speaker/writer uses logic to persuade a person through his/her own sense of logic. Logos will be the most frequently used appeal in persuasive speaking/writing. There are also two types of logos: inductive reasoning and deductive reasoning. When we use inductive reasoning, we use specific data to reach a generalized conclusion. When we use deductive reasoning, we use generalizations to reach a more specific conclusion.
Let me explain the different ways that a persuasive writer could support his/her claims:
- Find evidence to support your claims: When you are trying to convince someone of something, it's important that you prove to them that you are correct. The best way to do this is to find supporting information from other sources. You could use a variety of types of evidence, including interviews, quotations from written works, pictures, data - really anything!
- Be sure that you explain your evidence: A pitfall for many persuasive writers is simply showing their readers some evidence and then expecting readers to magically believe the author's argument. Make sure that when you show your readers evidence, you carefully explain how/why this evidence makes your arguments true.
- Be organized: Don't just throw all of your evidence at your reader at once, followed by a huge chunk of explanation. Consider which elements of evidence are the most important or the most surprising, and carefully build up to them. Nobody likes being overwhelmed or confused, and an ill-constructed argument can lead people to ignore or outright disagree with you.
- Don't ignore the other side: An unfortunate truth in life is that ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away. If you pretend that your side of an argument is the only one that exists, people are more likely to question you. However, if you present the other side's argument, that gives you the opportunity to then explain why that side is in fact wrong. This is a vital and often forgotten step in persuasive writing that can result in more vehement support from your readers.
- Be confident and clear: Language matters a lot in a persuasive argument. The best way to avoid sounding unsure is to use specific language (ex: "beneficial" instead of "good"; "vague" instead of "bad") and to avoid the first-person voice ("I", "me", "myself", "we", etc.). To achieve the latter, simply get rid of statements like "I think" (ex: Change "I think iPhones are better than Androids" to "iPhones are better than Androids"). This makes your argument sound less like opinion and more like fact - which means that people will be more likely to agree with you and believe in you.