Ethos is the hardest rhetorical approach to define, because it doesn’t translate well into English. John Gage, in The Shape of Reason, defines it as “authority.” Ethos does include authority, but it also includes something of charisma and individual character. It is whatever inspires trust in an audience. Basically, ethos involves three traits:
- Rhetors must show themselves to be honest individuals of good moral character who sincerely believe what they claim.
- Rhetors must show themselves be competent, intelligent individuals who know the material or subject-matter they are talking or writing about.
- Rhetors must show themselves to be open-minded individuals who write, not merely out of personal interest, but because they are also concerned about the audience’s best interest or well-being.
- Franklin’s Address
- Letter from Birmingham Jail (pdf version)
- Life Insurance
- “To His Coy Mistress” (pdf version)
- Awful Ethos–Student Bloopers
- What is Ethos? (pdf version)
Quick Tips for Ethos (Do’s and Don’ts)