Using a Variety of Appeals to Sell Your Idea, Service, or Product

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    Contributed by Deane Gradous, Twin Cities consultant

    Readers are rational, emotional, and spiritual beings. If you write to change readers’ opinions or to get them to accept your point of view, you could decide on appealing sales strategies for their minds, their hearts, and their souls:

    · Minds through reason (logos)
    · Hearts through emotion (pathos)
    · Souls through ethics (ethos)

    Logical appeals rely on evidence, such as research data or examples. Use reason to convince a skeptical reader of the truth or validity of your argument. Use reason to ask someone to take a new view of a situation.

    Pathos. Emotional appeals attempt to arouse the feelings of the reader. Daniel Goleman, Author of Emotional Intelligence, says that such appeals rely on tapping the energy associated with basic feelings of fear, enjoyment, anger, surprise, or disgust. Two other basic feelings seem generally less applicable in writing to persuade in a business setting: sadness and shame. Emotional appeals are most effective when the reader can be expected to agree with your argument and you want the reader to act.

    Ethos. Ethical appeals rely on the reader’s sense of right and wrong. Such appeals depend on the writer’s credibility as
    a respected expert, reliable contributor, or well-informed observer whose opinions are believable because they are ethically sound. Ethical appeals are most effective when the reader can be moved by what is said and by who is saying it.


    A writer seeks to increase the budget for new computers in her department. She could use:

    Logic–“A new computer would increase our productivity by 5 percent. Since our combined salaries are $300,000, that’s a productivity increase worth $15,000. Subtract the cost of $7500 for the computers, and you have a net gain of

    Pathos–“Our old computers are so inadequate that we are feeling super cautious (fear) about tackling the biggest barcoding job.”

    Ethos–“It’s only fair that our department gets new computers at this time. Our present computers are five years old. The neighboring department got new computers two years ago.”

    Know your reader and choose logic, pathos, ethos, or all three–whatever works.

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