Aristotle and the Rhetoric Triangle

Classical discourse has three components: Rhetoric the art of persuasion; Grammar the art of speaking and writing clearly, and Logic (or analytics) the art of thought and reason.  Rhetoric explores the ability to inform, persuade, or motivate a particular audience. Aristotle defines rhetoric as “the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion.”


Rhetoric Triangle

Logos, ethos, and pathos are three central components of rhetoric.  All good arguments, written, spoken or debated depend on them. Don’t worry if you have never heard of them before, they are easily learned.  In themselves they are not new concepts, it was Aristotle who educated his students to appeal to their audience on three distinct levels: logos, ethos, and pathos. When taken together they are the three corners of the rhetoric triangle.

  • Logos is the intellectual appeal.  Consider the fundamental text of your argument and think about your use of logic and reason and ask yourself if you have proved your point
  • Ethos is the ethical appeal. Consider your role as the proponent of the argument or the writer of text.  Do you exude credibility, engender trust and hold allure.
  • Pathos is the emotional appeal. Consider the role of your audience in the argument. You want to bond to their sympathetic imagination, as well as to their beliefs and values.
This illustrates Aristotle's Rhetoric Triangle
Aristotle’s Rhetoric Triangle

Art of Rhetoric

The art of rhetoric is persuasion or the innate ability to recognise, use and then fully embrace logos, ethos, and pathos in writing, particularly when constructing an argument.  The more you appeal to them on all three levels, the more you hook them in.  When constructing your argument or editing your work the probes below will help you think about how logos, ethos, and pathos permeate it.



  • Is your argument clear and specific?
  • Is your argument logical?
  • Does it contain credible evidence?
  • Does it have a clear structure?


  • Have you shown some personal connection to or belief in the topic?
  • Have you demonstrated the ability to accept and argue multiple viewpoints?
  • Are you using credible sources? (Are they referenced / documented when appropriate)
  • Is your tone and diction suitable for your audience/purpose?
  • Is your argument / document presented in an appropriate manner?


  • Are you using vivid examples?
  • Have your revealed engaging details?
  • Have you created images to capture the imagination?
  • Is your argument imbued with values and beliefs?
  • Are there examples that the listener can relate to or care about?


Using the Rhetoric Triangle

Finally, here are seven questions to help you get the best out of the rhetoric triangle.

  1. What is the purpose of your message?
  2. Why should you be listened to?
  3. Who is your audience?
  4. Have you connected emotionally?
  5. Have you delivered your content?
  6. Is there any other information that will strengthen your argument?
  7. Does it make sense?