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The Rhetorical Triangle: How to Use the Three Types of Appeal to Write Killer Content

This may sound a little crazy, but here it goes.

Writing killer content isn’t as hard as you think. In fact, if you know what makes your audience tick, writing amazing content becomes rather enjoyable.

How come I know this?

I’ve been struggling to improve my content quality for over a year. I’ve tried every recipe in the content writing book: write longer articles, create emotional-based content, include visual aids, and so on.

And, yet, I’ve always felt like I have to battle to get people to pay attention to my content.

This is, until I discovered how to create content that people really care about by learning how to use the three types of appeal. This is a trick used frequently by experienced content writers.

Pathos, Logos and Ethos: The Three Rhetorical Appeals

Over 2,000 years ago, the Greek philosopher, Aristotle, argued that there are three elements to the art of persuasion (

• Pathos – the emotional appeal;
• Logos – the rational appeal;
• Ethos – the reputation appeal;

Pathos is used to describe the speaker’s attempt to appeal to the emotions of his audience. So, when you appeal to the pathos of your audience, you turn on their emotional side by using trigger words, sharing stories or by giving them a sense of belonging.

Logos means persuading by appealing to the audience’s rational side. When we appeal to logos, we appeal to our reader’s desire for logic and coherence.

Ethos is used to describe the audience’s perception of the speaker’s authority and credibility. When content writers appeal to ethos, they appeal to their identity and their reputation – their morals, values, past experiences and so on.

How to Write Killer Content Using the Three Types of Appeal

Mastering the art of appeal may seem daunting and challenging for most content writers. But, it’s not! In fact, you are probably already using the here types of appeals in your daily life. You appeal to your loved one’s pathos to make them watch a tearjerker movie, to your superior’s logos to convince him to implement a new strategy, and you use your ethos to find new clients for your freelance projects.

Here’s how to use the three types of appeal to write killer content.

The Emotional Appeal

We praise ourselves as being logical creatures that make decisions based on rational thought. However, Aristotle pointed out that our rational judgement is heavily influenced by emotions. This is the reason why political discourses, marketing and most forms of entertainment are directed towards our emotions.

Content written with a strong sense of emotional appeal gains more social shares, comments and subscriptions. Websites like Upworthy, Buzzfeed or Cracked often use emotional headlines to capture the audience’s sense of intrigue.

So, what emotions should you use to make your content more appealing? According to a study by, cited by, the top ten emotions used to create viral content are:

• Amusement
• Interest
• Surprise
• Happiness
• Delight
• Pleasure
• Joy
• Hope
• Affection
• Excitement

The Rational Appeal

You’ve likely heard that if you want to persuade your readers, you need to make them feel something. While this is true, there are some instances when you also need to appeal to your audience’s need for practicality and functionality.

Well-researched content can make your audience perceive you as an authority on a specific niche. For instance, let’s imagine you write a blog post claiming that a new found technique helped you increase your traffic by 147%. The headline alone appealed to your audience’s pathos, enticing their curiosity. Now, you need to provide proof to back up the claim and to appeal to the rational side of your readers.

The Reputation Appeal

If you want your articles to have an impact, you need to earn your readers’ trust. If they don’t trust you, they won’t care about your message.

Remember that trust is an emotion that needs building up. People don’t like to feel manipulated, so creating a sincere online identity is crucial. Don’t try to position yourself as authority in your niche if you barley started blogging or if your articles are spammy and poorly-written.

Take the time to build a trustworthy online presence through value-added content, optimization efforts and effective social media strategies.

One of the questions most content writers ask is what type of appeal they should use to make their articles more engaging. The answer is all of them. Try to infuse your content with a balanced use of the emotional, rational and reputation appeal.

Are you using the rhetorical triangle to write better content? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.

Guest post by:

Jitendra is the founder of RightlyWritten, a team of creative wordsmiths providing quality copywriting services to businesses large and small.



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