Denotation refers to the dictionary definition of a word. Connotation on the other hand refers to words that carry secondary meanings, undertones, and implications. For example, if you were to ask a woman how she'd like to be described from the following list of words, what do you think her answer would be?
The answer to this is most likely the word slender. While all the words carry the same denotation (they all mean lean, and not fat), the word slender carries more positive undertones. A slender woman is graceful, elegant, and perhaps even sexy. Thin on the other hand is a fairly neutral word, and it leads women to prefer the word "slender" as it carries the more positive connotation. Finally, the word scrawny brings an unhealthy, overly thin, or bony person to mind, and women generally do not want to be described in this manner. Over time, words shift in their connotative meanings, and writers should be up-to-date on the current connotations of a word.
The BEST way to incorporate pathos (or emotional) appeals is by using words that carry appropriate connotations. Think back to the sample piece for the claims about fact/definition titled "A Case of Severe Bias"; the following is part of the first statement of that piece:
"I am not a crack addict. I am not a welfare mother. I am not illiterate..."
The words crack addict, welfare mother, and illiterate carry strong connotations. It makes the above statement (while already logical) more powerful. Imagine if the writer used words that carried weaker connotations:
"I am not a person who abuses substances. I am not a parent who needs government assistance. I can read."
Notice how the emotional appeal is weakened. Even though the logical appeal is present, the statement no longer carries the same strength.
Aristotle’s "modes for persuasion" – otherwise known as rhetorical appeals – are known by the names of ethos, pathos, and logos. They are means of persuading others to believe a particular point of view. They are often used in speech writing and advertising to sway the audience.
Meaning of Ethos, Pathos and Logos
Aristotle used these three terms to explain how rhetoric works:
"Of the modes of persuasion furnished by the spoken word there are three kinds. The first kind depends on the personal character of the speaker [ethos]; the second on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind [pathos]; the third on the proof, or apparent proof, provided by the words of the speech itself [logos]. Persuasion is achieved by the speaker’s personal character when the speech is so spoken as to make us think him credible."
Ethos (sometimes referred to as an appeal to ethics), then, is used as a means of convincing an audience via the authority or credibility of the persuader, be it a notable or experienced figure in the field or even a popular celebrity.
Pathos (appeal to emotion) is a way of convincing an audience of an argument by creating an emotional response to an impassioned plea or a convincing story.
Logos (appeal to logic) is a way of persuading an audience with reason, using facts and figures.
Examples of Ethos, Pathos and Logos
Here are some examples of using ethos, pathos, and logos to persuade.
- "As a doctor, I am qualified to tell you that this course of treatment will likely generate the best results."
- "My three decades of experience in public service, my tireless commitment to the people of this community, and my willingness to reach across the aisle and cooperate with the opposition, make me the ideal candidate for your mayor."
- "The veterinarian says that a German Shepherd will be the perfect match for our active lifestyle."
- "If my years as a Marine taught me anything, it’s that caution is the best policy in this sort of situation."
- "You know me – I’ve taught Sunday School at your church for years, babysat your children, and served as a playground director for many summers – so you know I can run your preschool."
- "Our expertise in roofing contracting is evidenced not only by our 50 years in the business and our staff of qualified technicians, but in the decades of satisfied customers who have come to expect nothing but the best."
- "He is a forensics and ballistics expert for the federal government – if anyone’s qualified to determine the murder weapon, it’s him."
- "Based on the dozens of archaeological expeditions I’ve made all over the world, I am confident that those potsherds are Mesopotamian in origin."
- "If my age doesn’t convince you that I know what I'm talking about, at least consider that I am your grandfather and I only want the best for you."
- "Doctors all over the world recommend this type of treatment."
- "If you’re still unsure, please consider that my advanced degree and field work speak for themselves."
- "If we don’t move soon, we’re all going to die! Can’t you see how dangerous it would be to stay?"
- "I’m not just invested in this community – I love every building, every business, every hard-working member of this town."
- "There’s no price that can be placed on peace of mind. Our advanced security systems will protect the well-being of your family so that you can sleep soundly at night."
- "Where would we be without this tradition? Ever since our forefathers landed at Plymouth Rock, we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving without fail, making more than cherished recipes. We’ve made memories."
- "They’ve worked against everything we’ve worked so hard to build, and they don’t care who gets hurt in the process. Make no mistake, they’re the enemy, and they won’t stop until we’re all destroyed."
- "Don’t be the last person on the block to have their lawn treated – you don’t want to be the laughing stock of your community!"
- "You should consider another route if you leave later. I heard that that street is far more dangerous and ominous at night than during the daytime."
- "You’ll make the right decision because you have something that not many people do: you have heart."
- "After years of this type of disrespect from your boss, countless hours wasted, birthdays missed… it’s time that you took a stand."
- "Better men than us have fought and died to preserve this great nation. Now is our turn to return the favor. For God and country, gentlemen!"
- "You will never be satisfied in life if you don’t seize this opportunity. Do you want to live the rest of your years yearning to know what would have happened if you just jumped when you had the chance?"
- "The data is perfectly clear: this investment has consistently turned a profit year-over-year, even in spite of market declines in other areas."
- "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury: we have not only the fingerprints, the lack of an alibi, a clear motive, and an expressed desire to commit the robbery… We also have video of the suspect breaking in. The case could not be more open and shut."
- "It’s a matter of common sense that people deserve to be treated equally. The Constitution calls it ‘self-evident.’ Why, then, should I have been denied a seat because of my disability?"
- "More than one hundred peer-reviewed studies have been conducted over the past decade, and none of them suggests that this is an effective treatment for hair loss."
- "History has shown time and again that absolute power corrupts absolutely."
- "Private demand for the product has tapered off for the past three years, and this year’s sales figures are at an all-time low. It’s time to research other options."
- "The algorithms have been run in a thousand different ways, and the math continues to check out."
- "You won't find any deer along this road. In 25 years of driving the same route, I haven’t seen a single one."
- "He has a track record of success with this company, culminating in some of our most acclaimed architecture to date and earning us Firm of the Year nine times in a row."
- "Research compiled by analysts from NASA, as well as organizations from five other nations with space programs, suggests that a moon colony is viable with international support."
Understanding the different aspects of rhetoric will make you more aware of what goes into creating a persuasive argument. The examples above should also help you construct your own arguments or appeals.