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Ethical Appeal: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 Definition
  • 0:39 What Makes You Credible?
  • 3:29 Which Appeal Is Most…
  • 4:02 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Mary Firestone
Find out what an ethical appeal is and the different ways it can make your persuasive writing more effective. Learn about all three appeals used in persuasive writing and take a quiz to test your new knowledge.

Definition

An ethical appeal is a method of persuasion that's based on the author's credibility. It's one of the three appeals that Aristotle identified as the most effective tools of persuasive writing or speaking. The other two are logical appeals and emotional appeals. The three are frequently referred to in the original Greek as ethos (ethical), logos (logical) and pathos (emotional). Essays and arguments of all kinds are more persuasive when all three are included.

What Makes You Credible?

The goal of persuasive writing or speaking is to convince, and your chances of success are greater if you make good use of the following aspects of credibility:

First, you can rely on personal authority. Your credibility increases if you're an expert on the topic you're writing about. For example, let's say you've never traveled outside of the United States, but you wrote a travel article about life in Russia. Your ethical appeal (or credibility) would be lower than someone who'd actually been to Russia.

Second is your character. Another source of your ethical appeal can be your role in your community; for example, if you're a life-long resident who's established him/herself among people who know you well. Certain professions, rightly or wrongly, demonstrate ethical appeal. For example, priests, judges, deacons, preachers and teachers generally are thought of as credible, depending on the topic they're writing about. Your reputation comes into play here as well. For example, if you're a known plagiarizer, your credibility would be seriously undermined, in writing or speech.

You can also turn to outside sources. If you want to persuade with your expertise, that's a good thing, but don't ignore facts and findings of other sources or your ethical appeal will be less effective. It's also important to use scholarly and other types of reliable sources, avoiding those with clear bias.

Fairness is also very important. Your credibility is influenced by how fair you appear to be. You might write passionately, but if you don't acknowledge opposing views or counterarguments, your credibility will suffer. For example, if you're writing about the importance of gun control and leave out the opinions of gun owners, readers will sense bias. When you've clearly considered other points of view and still hold to your original opinion, you're more credible.

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