The Three Levels of an Appeal

  1. Logical: an appeal to the reader’s mind and sense of reason.
    • This is the most heavily used appeal in argumentative essays. We want our readers to trust our opinions because they trust not only our evidence but our interpretations of it.
  2. Emotional: an appeal to the reader’s emotions.
    • Use this type of appeal most sparingly and be especially careful to avoid using an unfair appeal. When writers employ inappropriate emotional appeals—to prejudice or fear for example—to influence readers, they destroy their own credibility and authority.
  3. Social/Ethical: an appeal to the reader’s sense of right and wrong.
    • We want our readers to view us as good, trustworthy people; therefore it is important that we establish a shared sense of ethics and we establish our credibility.

Beware the Inappropriate Appeal

Again, of the three, the emotional appeal is the most dangerous and should be used the most sparingly. Why? Because writers with little concrete support for their claims often resort to manipulating readers with fear tactics or to exploiting readers’ insecurities. Skeptical readers—your college-level audience—will always be alert to such manipulation. An inappropriate appeal always renders your argument ineffective because it makes readers question your credibility and your ethics.

Though argumentation emphasizes logical appeal and rational reasoning, that does not mean that it cannot involve the other levels of appeal.

Description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s.

Stephen King