The Power of Language
To be effective, a persuasive work should engage both the minds and the emotions of its audience. A writer may therefore use some words to arouse emotions and other words to develop sound reasoning. However, it is not the words alone that are persuasive, but how the words are put together that gives them power and strength. These persuasive techniques fall into three basic types.
• Logical appeals (logos) rely on logic and facts to support a claim. For example, “injuries and usurpations” committed by King George III are cited as evidence for the need for independence in the Declaration of Independence.
• Emotional appeals (pathos) present ideas and images that elicit strong feelings. For example, Jefferson’s statement that King George is attempting “to complete the works of death, desolation, and tyranny” would likely evoke a strong reaction from its audience.
• Ethical appeals (ethos) use values or moral standards that are widely accepted as a way to persuade an audience. For example, to call forth his audience’s sense of right, justice, and virtue, Jefferson reminded people that independence was a last resort, after the failure of other measures: “In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress, in the most humble terms; our repeated petitions have been answered only “by repeated injury.”
In addition to persuasive techniques, writers will often use rhetorical devices to enhance their arguments:
• A rhetorical question is a question that does not require a reply. Writers use rhetorical questions to suggest that the answer to the question is obvious or self-evident. In her letter to her husband, John Adams (page 254), Abigail Adams writes, “Shall we not be despised by foreign powers, for hesitating so long at a word?”
• Antithesis is a device in which contrasting ideas are expressed in a grammatically balanced statement. Notice the juxtaposition of ideas in this phrase from Thomas Paine’s “The Crisis” (page 244): “I call not upon a few, but upon all.”
• Repetition is the use of the same word or phrase more than once for emphasis. Parallelism, a form of repetition in which a grammatical pattern is repeated, is used effectively in this famous passage from the Declaration of Independence.
Rhetorical devices and persuasive techniques can be used to create arguments that are valid and sincere or artificial and insincere. It is up to the reader or listener to evaluate whether the argument is based on sound reasoning, and therefore credible and convincing, or whether the words and appeals are the sole strength of the argument.
Is perfection possible?
Do you think perfection is possible or at least worth striving for? If you think so, outline a self improvement plan that shows how you might achieve your goal. If you don’t think perfection is possible, write a paragraph in which you explain why you think it is unattainable.
Literary Analysis: Characteristics of Autobiography
An autobiography is the story of a person’s life, written by that person. As you read this excerpt from Franklin’s autobiography, notice the following characteristics of autobiography:
• First person: The author of an autobiography usually writes from the first-person point of view.
• Dual perspective: Often the author of an autobiography writes as an older person looking back on him- or herself as a younger person, providing opportunities for reflection.
• Significant moments: Autobiographies may vary from straightforward chronological accounts to impressionistic narratives. In either case, especially important
Reading Skill: Make inferences about the author
Making inferences means “reading between the lines”— making logical guesses based on evidence in the text to figure out what is not directly stated. As you read the Autobiography, make inferences about the values and motives that seem characteristic of Franklin’s personality. Use a chart like the one shown to record details from the text about the 13 virtues he hopes to acquire and how he goes about doing so. What inferences can you make about him?
from The Autobiography by Benjamin Franklin
Born: January 17, 1706 , Boston Massachusetts Bay, English America
Died: April 17, 1790 (aged 84) Philadelphia, PA