Rhetorical Triangle Labeling

Rhetorical Triangle Labeling

Lesson Overview: Practice identifying each part of the rhetorical triangle.


I should be allowed to get my drivers license.




Let’s take a look at the rhetorical triangle and label this argument before we write it.

Purpose of the Argument

The purpose of an argument is what you are trying to achieve with the argument. What are you trying to motivate the audience to do or believe?

For this argument, you are trying to obtain a driver’s license.

Let’s add our purpose to our rhetorical triangle


The appeal to Ethos is the appeal to the character of the audience. To appeal to ethos means the person giving the argument presents themself to the audience as a person who is credible and honest. In other words, the speaker or writer of the argument can be trusted to tell the truth and be ethical. An easy way to remember Ethos is to think of “Ethics.”

President Abe Lincoln is known as “honest Abe” when he was living. This nickname came about because they knew that he would tell the truth and do the moral thing. He is an example of a person with good character who follows a code of ethics like when he worked to free the slaves. 

While examining an argument, we use the rhetorical triangle to identify the speaker. In this example, the speaker is YOU!


The appeal to Pathos is the appeal to the feelings of the audience. To appeal to Pathos means to appeal to the listeners emotions or feelings. This is the appeal that kind of tugs at the heartstrings of the reader to convince them of your argument. An easy way to remember Pathos is to think of “passion.”

When you think about the commercials from organizations asking for donations for animal shelters and they show pictures of sad puppies out on the street alone and hungry, this is an appeal to pathos. 

While examining an argument, we use the rhetorical triangle to identify the audience. In this example, the audience is your parent or guardian. 


The appeal to Logos is the appeal to logic of the audience. To appeal to Logos means to appeal to the audience’s sense of what is logical or “what makes sense.” An easy way to remember what Logos means is to think of “logical.”

Ads for medications where the narrator says, “9 out of 10 doctors choose our brand” is an appeal to logos. Companies that make medicines know people know that their doctors and nurses have education in the medical field and can trust the medicine they recommend will be safe and effective.

While examining an argument, we use the rhetorical triangle to identify the subject. In this example, the subject is a driver’s license.

Let’s add the rhetorical appeals of ethos, pathos, and logos to the rhetorical triangle.

The Rhetorical Situation, Tone, and Style
Rhetorical Situation a.k.a Context

This is also known as the Context. THese 2 terms are typically used interchangeably. When you think of context, or the Rhetorical Situation, you are thinking what is currently happening or what has happened in the past. 


For this example, if you are a straight A student for the last 12 years. This would be the history and the current situation.


When you think of tone, think of tone of voice. This is the way you as a speaker or writer will express you attitude in the things you say. 


For this argument, you can choose to be pleading, cautious, or hostile. Let’s say you are excited.


Style can be defined as they way the writer writes. This is syntax, word choice and works closely with tone. 

As we don’t have all of the text of this argument in front of us to look at, let’s label this with a high level of detail and expect that when you give this argument to your audience, you will have lots of details included to convince them. 


It is important to know, 


There is a lot of information to still be learned to fully use the rhetorical triangle

Let’s add the context, style and tone to the rhetorical triangle.

Above, you can see we have completed labeling the rhetorical triangle for this argument. It is essential that everything you write for this argument keeps these ideas in mind.

If you were to change the way you write this and instead write in a style of language you would use when speaking to a friend rather than a parent or guardian, it may not be as effective. Remember to keep the ideas of the rhetorical triangle in mind when when you are crafting your argument.