Rhetoric Definition

Rhetoric is using language in an effective manner with the aim to persuade or motivate an audience. Rhetoric is applicable to both speaking and writing.

In high school, the ELA Common Core State Standards require students to develop formal writing skills, creating essays and arguments that are well-thought-out and syntactically varied. They also require students to effectively use persuasive writing strategies to defend a claim or point of view.

A great way to enhance students' understanding of effective arguments is to teach the Aristotelian concepts of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos. This requires a basic working knowledge of rhetoric. A key to strong persuasive writing is the ability to dissect and validate, or debunk, the rhetoric of other arguments.

Create a Storyboard

The Rhetorical Triangle: Ethos, Pathos, Logos


Ethos is the credibility of the speaker or writer. To engage an audience on a particular topic, the person presenting the information must first establish themselves as someone who can be trusted, or as someone who has a lot of experience with the topic. This is also known as ethics.

Ethos appeals to:

  • Intelligence
  • Virtue
  • Morals
  • Perception of trustworthiness


Pathos accesses the emotions and deeply held beliefs of the audience to draw them into the subject matter. Pathos often makes audiences feel like they have a personal stake in the provided information and is often the catalyst to drive them into action.

Pathos appeals to:

  • Emotions and feelings
  • Biases and prejudices
  • Senses
  • Motivations


Logos uses logic, reasoning, evidence, and facts to support an argument. Logos appeals to the more rational side of the audience’s minds, and provides support for the subject matter. Logos strategies can often strengthen the impact pathos has on the audience.

Logos utilizes:

  • Evidence
  • Testimony
  • Statistics and Data
  • Universal truths

Rhetorical Strategies and Devices

The successful implementation of ethos, pathos, and logos in writing or speech depends on the effectiveness of different rhetorical strategies. There are many different rhetorical strategies (and rhetorical fallacies!) that can strengthen or weaken an argument. A few of the more familiar strategies to students include:

Rhetorical Questionsencourages audience to think about an obvious answer
Analogyestablishes a more familiar concept to explain a more complicated or remote subject
Rebuttaldisproves or refuses an assertion
Antithesisuses strongly contrasting words, images, or ideas
Parallelismrepeats a grammatical structure to emphasize an important idea
Repetitionrepeats a specific word or phrase to ensure that the audience pays attention
Loaded Wordsuses the connotations of words to play on the audience’s emotions
Restatementexpresses the same idea but in different words to clarify or emphasize
Understatement or Overstatementuse to be ironic, call attention to an idea, or to emphasize an idea through exaggeration

Rhetorical Strategies in Action

By recognizing the tactics of a persuasive argument, students learn to use it themselves and recognize these tactics in daily life. One excellent way to teach and review the concepts of ethos, pathos, and pathos is through a storyboard.

In the following example storyboard, each concept is briefly explained and then shown in action. When students create a definition or example board like this, classroom concepts are reinforced, and students have the chance to demonstrate them creatively.

By incorporating the visual elements of a storyboard as well as text, even students who struggle creating organized written thoughts can demonstrate mastery of the subject. Additionally, teachers can immediately see and respond to inaccuracies, allowing them to use class time to assess and correct, rather than handing back graded work a day or two later.

Using Storyboards In Your Classroom

  • Use storyboards to create advertisements for products using Ethos, Pathos, or Logos to convince potential buyers.
  • Use a storyboard to create an “argument diagram” of a famous speech. Students can break the speech up into tactics, then show an example of those tactics in each cell.
  • Ask students to create a persuasive storyboard about a topic that is important to them. Require them to use one, or all, of the tactics in the rhetorical triangle.
  • Have students collaborate and promote an unpopular school rule, consequence, homework, or even cafeteria food. Have them utilize rhetorical tactics and strategies in their promotion. Having to flip a negative idea into a positive one is also a great way to teach propaganda.
  • Give students an empty storyboard as part of an assessment and ask them to explain and give an example of each: ethos, pathos, logos.

More Ethos Examples and Activities

Use the following activities in your own classroom with the examples below! Use the template with your students, and assess their progress with Quick Rubric!

Tracking Ethos, Pathos, and Logos
As we read and discuss, identify the different examples of ethos, pathos, and logos you come across in the text. Depict these examples in a storyboard with appropriate and accurate art content. Then, provide the quote or a brief summary of the example you are depicting. Your scenes need to be neat, eye-catching, and reflect creativity and care. Please proofread your writing and organize your ideas thoughtfully.
33 Points
25 Points
17 Points
Ethos, Pathos, and Logos
The elements of ethos, pathos, and logos are correctly identified and depicted, and an appropriate quote or summary is provided. There are at least 2 examples provided for each rhetorical element.
Most of the elements of ethos, pathos, and logos are correctly identified and depicted, and an appropriate quote or summary is provided. There are at least 2 examples provided for each rhetorical element.
The elements of ethos, pathos, and logos are incorrectly identified and depicted. Quotes and summaries may be missing or too limited. Only one example may have been provided for each rhetorical element.
Artistic Depictions
The art chosen to depict the scenes are accurate to the work of literature. Time and care is taken to ensure that the scenes are neat, eye-catching, and creative.
The art chosen to depict the scenes should be accurate, but there may be some liberties taken that distract from the assignment. Scene constructions are neat, and meet basic expectations.
The art chosen to depict the scenes is inappropriate. Scene constructions are messy and may create some confusion, or may be too limited.
English Conventions
Ideas are organized. There are few or no grammatical, mechanical, or spelling errors.
Ideas are mostly organized. There are some grammatical, mechanical, or spelling errors.
Ideas may be disorganized or misplaced. Lack of control over grammar, mechanics, and spelling reflect a lack of proofreading.

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