A photograph of two human figures. One is on its knees pleading with the other one

Source: "Pleeease can I keep it? Pleeease.", jeff o_o,

Whenever you try to persuade someone to your point of view, you are making an appeal. An appeal is the way you try to persuade your audience. Appeals may be anecdotes or stories to help your readers understand your point of view better. You might also choose to use illustrations, examples, case studies, facts, or combinations of these as evidence.

Let’s say you’re writing an article in the school newspaper to persuade your classmates to sell local discount cards for your class fund-raiser instead of having the annual car wash. They object, saying that the car wash is a fun, communal event that only lasts a day, while selling local discount cards is less fun and probably a lot of work. You strongly believe, however, that the discount cards will raise more money and create more support for the chosen charity, Environment Texas.

How do you argue your case? Let's use the following three arguments as three of many possibilities to argue your case: 

  1. Point out that a car wash wastes a lot of water and isn’t the best way to support Environment Texas. 
  2. Explain that competing to see who can sell the most discount cards can also be fun, and it is gratifying to raise more money.
  3. Remind students that you are an experienced organizer of fund-raisers and that, in your opinion, selling discount cards is the way to go.
A photograph of three discount cards with online discount codes visible

Source: moo-discounts_24nov2009_5565,
patrick h. lauke, Flickr

What appeal would help make each of the arguments stronger? Let’s think about it for a moment.

Using argument A, you could point out the lack of logic of wasting water to help the environment.

To strengthen argument B, you might include details of how exciting it is to meet local business owners and how rewarding it feels to raise more money for your cause. You also might use some case studies to show that competitions produce more funds than other kinds of benefits.

Using argument C, you could cite your experience as a successful organizer of fund-raisers and a good leader in other school activities. You could emphasize your personal qualities to add value to your opinion.

The philosopher Aristotle studied arguments and appeals. He identified three types, which are shown in the box below.

A marble bust of the Greek philosopher Aristotle. He is a middle aged man with a full beard and moustache wearing a toga.

Source: Aristotle Altemps Inv8575, Jastrow (2006),

Logos is an appeal to logic. Logical appeals contain facts and figures. You might say logos involves an appeal to the “head.”

Pathos is an appeal to emotions. Emotional appeals work best when strong emotions are involved. You might have seen the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) commercial with the sad song and the equally sad-looking animals. This commercial is designed to appeal to the viewer’s “heart.”

Ethos is an appeal to ethics. Ethical appeals work best on audiences who need to know the argument comes from a trustworthy source. For example, the evening news on each of the three major networks is basically the same, but audiences who watch regularly will often watch the same network every night because they have evidence that tells them that one particular anchor and news organization is more trustworthy than the others.

Many persuasive texts contain all three types of appeals. For more information about the types of appeals, watch this video in which a university writing center discusses the topic.

As you revise your persuasive essay, it’s important to analyze the appeals you use to make sure that they are appropriate to your audience and your subject. In this lesson, we will discuss strategies for analyzing and revising your appeals.