Advanced Business Writing
Rhetoric and Narrative


Rhetoric includes methods for arguing, proving, memorizing, and public speaking. Teaching these methods often starts with a pyramid and three words: ethos, logos, and pathos.

Careful attention to the words ethos, logos, and pathos might have been appropriate 2,300 years ago in Aristotle's school for those trying to earn a 4.0 grade point average. But that was for school, in Greek. This is for work in English.

The concepts are timeless, so we might as well state them in English:

Gain trust. (ethos) Demonstrate expertise and credibility.

Show reasons. (logos) State facts and show logical connections.

Stir feelings. (pathos) Appeal to emotions that support your message.

We analyze them separately but most often apply them together to make our writing persuasive. Obvious, right? But how do we actually do it? Little by little. We'll try one rhetorical technique for each of the three methods of persuasion.

Gain trust: Demonstrate familiarity with the work of an authority figure that people recognize and appreciate. (epicrisis)

Conjuring novel designs is not for the faint of heart. James Dyson said, "Fear is always a good motivator."

We should not allow social inertia to keep us from dropping bad habits. Confucious said, "When you have faults, do not fear to abandon them."

Show reasons: State something, then question it, then justify it with an answer. (ratiocinatio)

Drinking coffee can help fight cancer. Who says? Scientists, who recently completed long research studies and are now touting the cancer-fighting properties of coffee because of the rich antioxidants it contains.

Being old can be more fun than being young. Why? Seniors dress for comfort, experience less stress, and get lots of discounts.

Stir feelings: Add extra, similar, evocative descriptions with different wording. (congeries)

We were stunned. Now, we're incredulous. Soon we'll be jubilant.

That offensive, repulsive email should never have been sent.

Lesson: Appeal
Module: Rhetoric and Narrative
Course: Advanced Business Writing