kinds of appeals

There are three kinds of appeals you can make when trying to convince someone of something: the rational appealthe emotional appeal, and the ethical appeal. Let’s talk about what this means. It’s important when trying to write persuasively. 

The Rational Appeal 

The best persuasive writing focuses on the mind of the reader, appealing to his reason. That’s what we mean by rational appeal. This involves knowing why you believe what you believe and providing good, solid reasons for believing it.  

Appealing to someone’s reason involves giving careful thought to both sides of the issue, and judging both positions fairly before arriving at an opinion. The opinion you defend should be the result of thinking and carefully weighing the options.  

Evidence is a key word when writing persuasively. Just as in a court of law concrete evidence — a fingerprint, a DNA sample, a bloody glove — can make or break a case, so the evidence you present can make or break your paper. If you believe Huck Finn is a fool and not a hero, you need to provide quotations from the book itself that show it. If you think Dale Earnhardt is the greatest driver of all time, you need statistics to back it up. It doesn’t matter what you hope to argue — that dogs are better than cats, country is better than jazz, or Macs are better than PCs — the strength of your paper depends upon your ability to provide convincing, rational evidence.  

The Emotional Appeal 

Emotional appeals have a bad reputation. That’s because politicians and advertisers have been so successful at using emotional appeals to claim our votes and our money. Pure emotionalism can be effective, but it can also be dishonest and insulting. 

This doesn’t mean that you can’t try to affect your reader’s emotions. When confronted with truth, our hearts tend to respond. That’s okay. 

There’s nothing wrong with appealing to the reader’s feelings as long as that’s not the only appeal you make. This emphasis on emotion is the problem with many TV ads these days. Have you noticed how few commercials ever mention the quality of the product? They show images of happy, attractive people living exciting lives to catchy music. The scene may have little to do with the soft drink or blue jeans they are advertising, but the images stir our emotions and cause us to associate good feelings with the product being advertised. This is an effective marketing technique, but it’s not a convincing approach for persuasive writing. Don’t imitate this technique in your writing. 

As long as you support your opinion with sound, logical arguments, there’s nothing wrong, however, with appealing to the emotions of your readers. Illustrate your points with compelling examples or moving illustrations. Carefully choose your words to make your argument as appealing as possible. As long as your emotional appeal is supported by solid thinking, you are fine.  

The Ethical Appeal 

In order for readers to accept your opinion, they must believe you are an honest, informed authority. Showing yourself as trustworthy and intelligent is known as the ethical appeal.  

This is why it is important to be respectful and balanced in your approach and tone. If you come across as proud, angry, or prejudiced, the reader probably won’t trust your judgment and consider your point of view. Your writing will be more effective if you are able to show that you have considered both sides of the matter and tried to be fair.  

No writing is more difficult than persuasion. Keep in mind that your reader has both a head and a heart and wants to hear from someone he can trust. Establish yourself as a well-intentioned expert, make a sound, convincing case, and sprinkle your paper with words that stir the reader’s emotions and your paper is sure to be convincing.