A logo from an organization that supports the ethical treatment of animals It reads: “Support Zorro Help Animals.” Pictured is a cartoon cat in the middle of the logo.

Source: Support Zorro to Help Animals!, Elvis Pepein,

An ethical appeal, or ethos, depends on the author's establishing credibility with the reader. This means that the writer is perceived as being trustworthy and ethical in the way that he or she presents ideas. Ethical appeals work with logical and emotional appeals to make them stronger. When reading a logical appeal, the reader wants to know that the author’s factual information comes from a reliable source. When faced with an emotional appeal, readers want to know that the author is not trying to manipulate their emotions.

You can make an ethical appeal as follows:

A word cloud that has the following words in it: reliable, fair, credible, ethos, trustworthy, expert.

Source: Ethos, Anonymous Wordle

Let’s return to the class fund-raiser. How do you make an ethical appeal? To establish trust, you assure the audience that you have researched both selling local discount cards and holding charity car washes. You base that research on credible sources for facts to share about the impact of car washes on the environment. You research the amount of money that will be spent versus the amount of money that will be raised. All of this research will demonstrate to the reader that you know your subject and that you are ethical. Let’s look at a sample paragraph that uses an ethical appeal.

In my role as your class treasurer, I have researched many options for our class fund-raiser. I understand that many of you would like to continue with the annual charity car wash. However, I don’t believe a car wash suits our goals or the goals of our charity, Environment Texas. Because a car wash negatively impacts the environment and would probably raise less money, I recommend that we sell discount cards this year.

Notice that the author of the paragraph reminds the audience of a role as class treasurer and thereby establishes credibility. This author has also researched options for the fund-raiser and settled on a recommendation.

Your task in the activity below is to place a check by the appeals that are primarily using ethos. The examples come from a wide variety of situations.

icon for interactive exercise

A commercial for a certain detergent claims that you should use it because studies have shown that it leaves colors 20 percent brighter than other detergents and costs 25 percent less than other brands.
Try again. This statement contains quantifiable data, which is a hint that it appeals to people’s sense of logic and reason; this is an example of an appeal to logic.

While trying to keep Elmer Fudd from hunting him, Bugs Bunny gets down on his knees and pleads for mercy and points to his supposed children, a bunch of big-eyed bunnies (who aren’t really his kids).
Try again. Bugs Bunny is trying to make Elmer Fudd feel pity for him. Pity is an emotion. This is an example of an emotional appeal.

In a campaign commercial, a politician cites promises he has made and kept in previous offices and jobs, showing that he will make a reliable, trustworthy leader.
Correct! The politician is arguing based on his record and reputation. Like all appeals that emphasize a person’s credibility, this is an example of an ethical appeal.

One of the contestants on The Voice argues that the judges should choose her not because her voice sounds good, but because she has so much experience singing and knows everything required of her to be a top-notch rock star in today’s media.
Correct! Whether or not she is successful, this contestant is using an ethical appeal by pointing to her own fitness for the role of a star.

Another commercial for a detergent has a well-known talk show host who often has housekeeping tips on her show present the product as better than the competition.
Correct! When companies hire a celebrity to endorse their product, they are counting on the celebrity’s reputation and overall credibility to make their product look good, which makes this an ethical appeal.

As you revise your persuasive essay, determine whether you have established your own logos, pathos, and ethos by using and crediting reliable sources, drawing upon your own expertise and knowledge, and making genuine emotional connections that are not designed to manipulate the reader.