Dealing with Appeals and Audience

The early rhetoricians divided persuasive appeals into three categories:

The ethical appeal attempts to persuade using arguments based on the audience's sense of justice and fairness. Philosophers considered this a high-level appeal.

The pathetic appeal attempts to persuade using arguments based on the audience's sympathies and sense of pity. This appeal is sometimes the most effective, but it is considered a low-level appeal.

The appeal to logic attempts to persuade the audience using rational arguments. It depends on the audience's ability to perceive the rationality of the argument, and the writer's ability to frame an argument in truly rational terms. It is considered a high-level appeal.

The effectiveness of any one or all of these appeals depends on a number of variables:

1. Your relationship with the reader.
2. Your estimation of the reader's personality and reaction to different types of appeals.
3. Your purpose for persuasion.
4. Your shared context with the reader.
5. Your projected goals (the desired outcome)
6.The reader's education.
7.The reader's cultural background.
8.The reader's opinions toward the subject, initially.

In rhetoric, we label these levels of language: low, medium, and high.

In other words, we speak more casually to our friends than we do to our parents or our senators.

What different kinds of voices do you use to communicate? Do you speak differently to your friends? family? me? Why? What would your tone sound like if you were writing a letter to your senator regarding the clear cutting of forests? What information would you include? And what information would you leave out?

For this class assignment we are going to be looking at how different individuals have used these appeals and styles of voice and the Rhetorical Situation to effect change in the minds of their audiences. The main topic for this lesson deals with the debate surrounding Forestry and Clear Cutting.

Go ahead and follow the links listed below, read them with the above listed criteria in mind, and be prepared to discuss them during our MOO session on the River's Edge. Guidelines for MOOing can be found here.

National Wildlife Federation
NFW Action Page
Portland Press Herald
Timothy J. Ream's Daily Journal
A Photo Essay by Glynn Wilson and Doug Murray
Daniel Westneat
TIME Magazine

last updated 5 April 2002