18 Striking a Balance

Elizabeth Browning

Figure 2.3 An Unbalanced Argument

alanced Argument graphic 2

The foundations of rhetoric are interconnected in such a way that a writer needs to establish all of the rhetorical appeals to put forth an effective argument.  If a writer lacks a pathetic appeal and only tries to establish a logical appeal, the audience will be unable to connect emotionally with the writer and, therefore, will care less about the overall argument.  Likewise, if a writer lacks a logical appeal and tries to rely solely on subjective or emotionally driven examples, then the audience will not take the writer seriously because an argument based purely on opinion and emotion cannot hold up without facts and evidence to support it.  If a writer lacks either the pathetic or logical appeal, not to mention the kairotic appeal, then the writer’s ethical appeal will suffer.  All of the appeals must be sufficiently established for a writer to communicate effectively with his audience.

For a visual example, watch (https://tinyurl.com/yct5zryn, transcript here) violinist Joshua Bell show how the rhetorical situation determines the effectiveness of all types of communication, even music.

Exercise 5: Rhetorical Analysis

Step 1: Choose one of the articles linked below.

Step 2: Preview your chosen text, and then read and annotate it.

Step 3: Next, using the information and steps outlined in this chapter, identify the rhetorical situation in the text based off of the following components: the communicator, the issue at hand, the purpose, the medium of delivery, and the intended audience.

Step 4: Then, identify and analyze how the writer tries to establish the rhetorical appeals of ethos, pathos, logos, and Kairos throughout that text.

Step 5: Finally, evaluate how effectively you think the writer establishes the rhetorical appeals, and defend your evaluation by noting specific examples that you’ve annotated.

BBC News, “Taylor Swift Sexual Assault Case: Why is it significant?” (https://tinyurl.com/ybopmmdu)

NPR, “Does Cash Aid Help the Poor–Or Encourage Laziness?”  (https://tinyurl.com/y8ho2fhw)

The Washington Post, Op-Ed, “Michael Vick doesn’t belong in the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame” (https://tinyurl.com/yavxcmjl)


Key Takeaways

Understanding the Rhetorical Situation:

  • Identify who the communicator is.
  • Identify the issue at hand.
  • Identify the communicator’s purpose.
  • Identify the medium or method of communication.
  • Identify who the audience is.

Identifying the Rhetorical Appeals:

  • Ethos = the writer’s credibility
  • Pathos = the writer’s emotional appeal to the audience
  • Logos = the writer’s logical appeal to the audience
  • Kairos = appropriate and relevant timing of subject matter
  • In sum, effective communication is based on an understanding of the rhetorical situation and on a balance of the rhetorical appeals.



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