Modes of Persuasion

As described in the Rhetorical Styles, the modes of persuasion you are about to learn about on the following pages go back thousands of years to Aristotle, a Greek rhetorician. In his teachings, we learn about three basic modes of persuasion—or ways to persuade people. These modes appeal to human nature and continue to be used today in writing of all kinds, politics, and advertisements.

These modes are particularly important to argumentative writing because you’ll be constantly looking for the right angle to take in order to be persuasive with your audience. These modes work together to create a well-rounded, well-developed argument that your audience will find credible.

By thinking about the basic ways in which human beings can be persuaded and practicing your skills, you can learn to build strong arguments and develop flexible argumentative strategies. Developing flexibility as a writer is very important and a critical part of making good arguments. Every argument should be different because every audience is different and every situation is different. As you write, you’ll want to make decisions about how you appeal to your particular audience using the modes of persuasion.

The video below provides you with an excellent example of how these modes work together, and the pages that follow will explain each mode in detail, focusing on strategies you can use as a student writer to develop each one. If you need the transcript, just click on the CC button at the bottom right of the video.

Neill, C. (2013, Jan. 14). What Aristotle and Joshua Bell can teach us about persuasion. [Video file]. Retrieved from

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