What beats a good argument every time? Pathos.

ethos pathos logos

According to research, we’re bombarded by 2,904 media messages daily. We notice 52, and positively remember only 4 (SuperProfile 2010).

Boy, are we swamped!

Add to that our deluge of emails, phone calls, social media and meetings, and is it any wonder we feel overwhelmed?!

Your reader is in the same boat. If you can’t cut through their clutter, you’ll be ignored and waste your time. With their attention so scarce, how can you get them to read your board report? To notice your budget request? To action your group emails?

One sure-fire way is to appeal to their emotions.

I just did exactly that. I appealed to a common sensation for most people — the feeling of drowning in a sea of information.

Through our shared experience, I built empathy, understanding, and a sense of familiarity between us. We connected. You felt I cared.

As Captain Kirk of the Starship Enterprise once said: ‘Sometimes, a feeling is all we humans have to go on’.

Captain Kirk, Star Trek


Of course, appealing to a reader’s or listener’s emotions is as old as time. It was Aristotle who divided the means of persuasion into three categories — Ethos, Pathos and Logos — of which Pathos, your emotional influence on an audience, is critical.

How Pathos draws your audience in

Think of communications that appeal to you emotionally:

They’re all harnessing Pathos — evoking positive feelings of love, sympathy and compassion, or negative feelings of greed, fear and envy.

Feeling first. Thinking second.
Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio said we’re not thinking machines that feel; we’re feeling machines that think. Emotions are powerful motivators for your audience. They grab people’s attention, and make them want to act.

Using Pathos is a wonderfully effective technique to use in your writing. It helps you appeal to your audience’s sense of identity and self interest.

So, here are five simple ways to engage your audiences with Pathos:

1. Sharing breeds caring

Find a connection through shared experiences.

Writing a report due on Friday? Share the fact that it’s been a long week, but ‘here’s something to make next week a bit easier’.

We all share common issues: time, money, health, relationships, the work/life balance. Harness your understanding of those issues, and you’ll provoke empathy in your reader.

As influence expert Cialdini noted, we like to say ‘yes’ to people we like and know on a personal level. Shared experiences can achieve that.

2. Once upon a time … 

Stories are a great way to generate positive emotions.

If the project’s floundering, tell them the story of Walt Disney, fired early in his career because he ‘lacked imagination and had no good ideas’.

Perhaps you’re working on the 5,127th prototype (it took James Dyson that many before he perfected his bagless vacuum cleaner).

Stories of historical challenges cause us to reflect on current issues, and see them for what they are: a stepping stone, not a disaster.

3. No-one is perfect. Not even you!

Admit to your mistakes. Nothing is more off-putting that someone who passes the buck, or hides bad news in business buzzwords.

The only emotions you’ll evoke there are anger and frustration.

Come clean, and you’ll be amazed how often your reader will sympathise.

In fact, try a little MDA: Minor Damaging Admission. Admitting that not everything to do with your proposal is perfect (as long as it’s a minor issue) helps your audience trust you.

4. A picture’s worth a thousand words

Hey, I know we’re talking about words, here. But let’s not forget the power of an image to evoke emotions.

You can say the project is going well. Or you can show a rocket taking off.

Many more emotional pathways are opened when you see the image than when you say the words.

5. Make ‘em laugh!

Humour, especially in a business context, evokes joy and surprise. It also makes the reader like you, which is a key component of influence.

JB Hi-Fi

Sharing a funny quote or experience shows you’re human. We can all empathise with that. Just be careful about the style of humour and your audience. Know the limits of taste.


To recap, Pathos is one of three key persuasion elements Aristotle identified: Ethos and Logos being the other two. Combine them seamlessly and you’ll get your way more often than you could have imagined.

What about you? How do you use Pathos to engage your audience’s emotions? We’re keen to hear your experiences: Comment below to see how happy it’ll make you!


Paul and the Magneto Team

P.S. There’s something you should get emotional about, and that’s your writing ability. Your career depends on it. Check out our next online course, starting 3 March 2015!

Is your character convincing? The role of ‘ethos’ in influence

ethos pathos logos

What’s the most important part of an email?

If you said, ‘The subject header!’ you’d be wrong.

When you get an email, you don’t look at the subject header first. You look at the sender. You’ll open an email with NO subject header if it’s from your boss.

And when you’re arguing for something (a proposal, a request), your success depends on your reader’s perception of YOU.

As Deepak Chopra said, ‘WHO you are speaks louder than anything you can say.’

But he didn’t say it first. Aristotle did, 2300 years ago.

How Ethos impacts your influence

Aristotle said the character of the arguer — Ethos — is critical. A dodgy used-car salesman might have the arguments (Logos) and passion (Pathos), but he fails to persuade because people don’t TRUST him.

I can hear you now: ‘But Paul, I’m a great guy/girl. Of course my reader/listener trusts me!’

I’m sure you are. But perception is reality. Do they, deep-down, know you’re trustworthy? Are you omitting things that could help them trust you more? Are you doing or saying things in ways that make them doubt you?

The infobesity epidemic we’re in makes your readers incredibly time-poor. They make snap judgments constantly, including about you and your cred — your ethos.

So how can you boost your ethos? Here are 5 ways:

1. Specifics sell

Mealy-mouthed salespeople spout generalities: ‘Our system is the best on the market!’ Really? By what standard? Is it the best quality? The most efficient? The highest selling?

Readers trust you more when you quantify: ‘System X is twice as fast as its nearest competitor.’ More credible. Stronger ethos.

2. Immaculate data

Years ago I ran a networking group called the Last Thursday Club. One day I wrote excitedly to my database to say I’d secured a New York Times best-selling author to speak to our group. Many wrote back and said, ‘Great, Paul! … When is he coming?’ I’d forgotten to include the event date. Hardly immaculate data.

So help readers trust you more by showing you’ve covered all their likely questions. (Another reason why it’s important to know your audience, and their reactions, well.) Like a journalist, answer the ‘5 Ws & H': Who, What, Why, When, Where and How.

3. Worst first: Go ugly early

A pharmaceutical company CEO once told me he can sense when his staff are hiding bad news. When they try to butter him up, dwell on minor good news, or evade questions, he calls them on it. He wants the worst news first so he knows where he stands, rather than have it drip-fed to him.

People are more likely to respect and trust you if they know you’ll tell them the truth instead of what you think they want to hear. It’s about being a trusted advisor. And it boosts your ethos.

4. Tell them who, not just what

One of the most common errors we see in our course attendees’ writing samples is passive voice. That’s where you say WHAT was done, but not WHO did it.

For example, ‘It is suggested that …’ is passive voice. But, ‘The legal team suggests that …’ is active voice, because you now know the ‘actor’ and not just the ‘action’.

Clarity and trust take a quantum leap with active voice. So does your ethos.

5. Near enough is bad enough

Nothing says ‘I’m average’ more than sloppy work.

I once trained a telco sales team. Their sales manager submitted his proposal for feedback (we do this for all course attendees). He and his team had worked for months to win this account, and he’d already sent the proposal to his prospect. But it was full of typos; he hadn’t run spellcheck over it before sending it. And worse, he’d left the previous client’s name in it — twice! 

Oversights like that drop your ethos and credibility to your ankles. Proofread with fresh eyes. And with Credosity (which we’re about to release as a beta!).

I could add more to the list, but your scrolling finger is tiring. What else do you think is critical for building ethos? Go on, boost your cred by sharing your thoughts in the comments.


Paul & the Magneto team

P.S. Here’s how to build trust in your intimate relationships, from psychologist and author John Gottman.

P.P.S. If you haven’t ‘followed’ or ‘liked’ our LinkedIn or Facebook pages, you’re missing out on a LOT of extra tips and offers! Check them out.

Flying Solo interview: Influence for Small Business

I was honoured to be interviewed recently by Robert Gerrish for Flying Solo‘s podcast.

We delved into Dr Robert Cialdini‘s six influence principles and how small-business owners can apply them to their writing.

Whether you’re a solopreneur or run a micro or small business, you’ll get insights into persuasion and influence you can apply to your proposals, website copy, and client emails.


Weird Al’s hilarious grammar lesson: 9m views in 5 days – #WordCrimes video

I'll try to educate ya

A grammar intervention


If you love decent writing and grammar, this is for you.

If you don’t know your “you’re” from “your”, this is for you.

Weird Al Yankovic’s “Blurred Lines” parody called #WordCrimes made our week. I promise you’ll love it, like the other 9 million people who watched it in the last few days.

We need to hire this guy!

Watch #WordCrimes by Weird Al Yankovic

What do you think? Add your thoughts below!



Webinar: Tame the Email Beast


Limited seats: Book now

Date and Time

Friday, July 18, 2014 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM AEST


(Attend this for FREE! To receive a discount code to attend ALL our webinars as our guest, just subscribe to our free writing tips.)

JOINT WEBINAR: Paul Jones (copywriter & corporate writing trainer) with Dermot Crowley (email-productivity expert)

Far from enhancing productivity, half your day can easily slip down your inbox’s throat. Email should make you more productive, not less. But is that your experience? If you’re like most people, email rates high on your ‘scourge of humanity’ list.

It’s time to tame the email beast!

This practical, interactive seminar reveals a professional copywriter’s insights into how to write more effective, more persuasive emails.

You’ll also learn powerful keys to efficiently managing your email from productivity expert, Dermot Crowley of Adapt Training.

Paul will cover:

1. Get Opened: How to write irresistible “Read me!” subject headers; use the Preview Pane to your advantage; what to know about your reader before clicking “send”.

2. Get Actioned: Get more kick from your keyboard (persuading via email); structuring and presenting emails for clear, fast communication; a good email’s a short email (how to be brief).

Dermot will cover:

3. Get Control: How to master your inbox and time; key strategies to help you get to Inbox Zero and stay there (yes, it’s possible); the systems you need to do the right work at the right time.

Award-winning copywriter & corporate writing trainer, Paul Jones, and email-productivity expert, Dermot Crowley, whose clients include Deloitte, KPMG and CBA.

This webinar is for anyone who uses email at work. Um, yes, that’s a lot of people. Okay, more specifically, it’s for you if you’re:

  • sick of sending emails and being ignored,
  • tired of wasting time chasing people for replies to your emails, and
  • stressed because your inbox is out of control.

100 seats only — Book now.

If you miss out on a seat, email us and we’ll add you to the waitlist.

Please only book if you intend to join us — don’t block others from attending.

Grab your seat now!



Webinar: Trim the Fat – Keep Decision-Makers Engaged!


Limited seats: Book now.

Date and Time

Friday, August 29, 2014 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM AEST


(Attend this for FREE! To receive a discount code to attend ALL our webinars as our guest, just subscribe to our free writing tips.)

Those with the power to say ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ to your projects are extremely time-poor.

That means your project is going nowhere unless you can get — and keep — decision-makers’ attention.

In editing 4000+ writing samples for our course attendees over the last seven years, I’ve seen the same readability problems in almost every attendee’s sample. It’s unbelievably consistent.

In this webinar, you’ll learn what these issues are, and how to correct them to make your writing a pleasure to read, not a pain.

You’ll learn:
1. Tricks to writing concisely
2. The ideal average sentence length
3. Keys to deleting redundant words
4. What ‘plain English’ really means (it’s not what you think)
5. The two biggest factors that affect readability
6. Why nouns cross-dressing as verbs make your writing ugly
7. And more!

Award-winning copywriter & corporate writing trainer, Paul Jones. Paul is a dynamic presenter whose copywriting and training clients include NAB, Westpac, BHP, Fairfax and IBM.

The more educated you are, the more you need this webinar. At school and university you had to write to a word count. You therefore likely developed bad habits such as waffling on, not getting to the point, using big words to impress, and writing in long, complex sentences — everything that turns off readers.

If you want specific tools to trim content to make your writing more engaging and readable, here’s your chance!

100 seats only — book now.

If you miss out on a seat, email us  and we’ll add you to the waitlist.

Please only book if you intend to join us — don’t block others from attending.

Grab your seat now!



Research shows poor communication kills projects

Sinking ship

Research: Half of all failed projects die due to poor communication


If getting more projects over the line is important to your career and business, this is for you.

Research from the Project Management Institute (PMI), the world’s biggest not-for-profit project-management association, shows quality communication is crucial to projects succeeding. One in two failed projects die because of ineffective communication.

PMI says: ‘Consistent success of projects … stems from mature project management practice that is rooted in sound fundamentals, including effective stakeholder management, transparent communications, engaged project sponsors, and strong alignment of projects and talent development to high-level strategy.’ (emphasis mine)

Here are some tips to help you with the bolded ‘communication’ points above:

Effective stakeholder management
Adapt to your readers. Once size doesn’t fit all. Consider their:

  • Personality type, e.g. more detail for Analyticals, less for Drivers; be friendly to Amiables;
  • Seniority — focus on their interests, e.g. senior managers want higher-level ‘strategic’ content, not lower-level ‘operational’ content; and
  • Values — emphasise what will resonate with them; e.g. some are tuned in to getting stuff done, some to what the ‘right’ thing is to do, and some to career advancement and visibility.

Transparent communications
Naturally, the best currency is trust. You build more trust by:

Engaged project sponsors
To keep your readers engaged:

  • Communicate regularly, concisely and in the mode they prefer, e.g. some prefer phone calls to emails, or PowerPoint decks to Word docs;
  • Lead with their need, and tell them what’s in it for them (WII-FM);
  • Use your reader’s name and personal pronouns, especially ‘you, your, yours';
  • Ask questions and listen to their answers — don’t make all your communication one-way.

Be our guest: Winter Webinar Series

Our next two webinars tackle workplace communication that’s critical to your projects succeeding:

  1. Tame Your Email Beast - Get opened, get actioned, get control (joint webinar with productivity guru Dermot Crowley)
  2. Trim the Fat – Keep Decision-Makers Engaged! 

E-zine subscribers get VIP access to our webinars. Sign up now — each webinar is limited to 100 seats.

EOFY special

Book in-house training for your team before 30 June 2014 (for delivery any time this year) and your team will get free access to private recordings of our three most popular webinars so far:

  • Influencing Up (how to persuade senior decision makers)
  • Pitching on Paper (how to hike your proposal ‘hit’ rates)
  • CPR for PPT (how to revive your presentations)
Just mention this offer when you book. Why not get in touch now?


Win a $449 seat on our live, online writing masterclass!

Gospel singer believes in great writing


DID YOU KNOW that high performers are 5 times more likely to be great communicators? Time to lift your game!

Here’s your chance to win a seat worth $449 on our 3 June 2014 online writing masterclass. All you have to do is:

  1. Like this post (if you have a WordPress account),
  2. Follow our LinkedIn company page, and
  3. Comment below saying why you want to win a seat.

More about our online writing course is here.

We’ll pick the winner on 29 May. What have you got to lose? Lady Luck could be smiling on you!


P.S. Here’s what someone said about our last course:

‘This was the best writing course – and the best online course – I’ve ever done. I did your session after an all-night flight (awake 30 hours straight), and you still held my attention the whole time.’


To influence them, frame them

Paul presenting to Business Chicks

‘Writing to Influence’ workshops: What they loved

I’ve just finished running ‘Writing to Influence’ workshops in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne for Business Chicks. Great to see such interest in persuasive writing (500+ attendees!).

One aspect they loved was the concept of using ‘frames’ in your influence attempts.

What’s a frame?
Put simply, what you say first changes how a reader or listener perceives what you say second.

A key way you make sense of the world is through comparisons. If I tell you my widget is $5,000, you’ll immediately compare that to what you know about other widgets. You’ll think it’s either affordable or expensive based on your current knowledge; that is, compared to your frame.

But if I first frame it up by telling you we give you far more than the average widget (and I give you the specifics), you may think $5k is good value, and want to find out more.

The point is this: If you don’t apply a frame yourself, your readers will. So in your persuasive writing, do it purposefully to make it work for you. Here are four frames to consider:

Four ‘influence’ frames

1. Name frame

  • Warren Buffet doesn’t call his investors investors or clients; he calls them partners, generating a sense of equality and collegiality.
  • Instead of calling your new initiative at work an efficiency drive, calling it the XYZ Team Efficiency Drive may win it more support, especially from the XYZ Team.
  • Job titles: Is it taking it too far to call a receptionist the Director of First Impressions, or a nightclub bouncer an Eviction Technician? Have your say in the comments below!

2. Loaded words

Words have power. Choose them carefully.

    • NO: We can’t get it to you until Friday.
    • YES: We can get it to you as early as Friday.
    • NO: The price is $490.
    • YES: Your investment will be $490.
  • NO: What are your objections?
  • YES: What are your areas of concern?

3. Metaphors

Some of the world’s most influential leaders have used metaphors to persuade, e.g. Martin Luther King in his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech:
‘Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.’

But you don’t have to be giving a speech to frame with metaphors:

    • NO: It’s a high-quality system.
    • YES: It’s the BMW of systems.
  • NO: The needle will only sting a bit.
  • YES: The needle will only sting like an ant bite.

4. ‘Time’ frames

Research shows that people think about their future selves differently to their present selves. For example, they’re much more likely to agree to future pain than present pain. Ever signed up to run a marathon six months in advance, then, as the date approached, wondered ‘What was I thinking?!’

Consider this when influencing others. It’s easier to get people to commit to something well in advance rather than now. ‘Buy now, pay later’ works!

It’s even better if you can get them to commit publicly and in writing, invoking Cialdini‘s Commitment and Consistency).

Want some frame fame?

Would you like your team or company to be more influential? Would your conference benefit from a session on persuasion? Ask for my availability to present ‘Write to Influence’ for you. It’s a practical, interactive, high-energy session (2.5 hours). And Chicks dig it!

What frames do you use? Tell us in the comments below.

Now go frame someone!




‘Influence’ workshop sold out in Brisbane, Sydney — some seats left in Melbourne

Paul’s ‘Writing with Influence’ workshop for Business Chicks has sold out in Brisbane and Sydney, but some seats are still available in Melbourne this Friday, 21.3.14.

Run, don’t walk! Details here.