I was buckling my kids into the car the other day. It struck me that my parents — not so long ago! — didn’t have to. As nippers, we were all thrown onto the bench seat, with a couple in the ‘boot’ of our station wagon (they had six kids). And that was the norm.
Then research showed that wearing seat belts reduced serious injuries by around 60 percent. So, in 1970, Victoria became the first government in the world to make the wearing of seatbelts mandatory. The rest of Australia followed in 1972.
It made sense. The evidence was clear. Now we take it for granted.
The same happened for smoking, drink driving, obesity, immunisation — and many other public-health initiatives.
Not much emotion involved in those. Just simple facts you can’t argue with.
Whenever you’re writing, it’s important to build your credibility (Ethos), and appeal to your audience’s emotions (Pathos).
But consider this: two politicians make a speech. One speech is full of passion, empathy and experience — but light on substance. The other is dry and boring but packed with reasoned argument, solid facts and figures. Who do you trust more?
Next time you sit down to write an email, report or presentation, ladle in an extra load of logic. It’ll be far more persuasive.
Here are seven techniques to boost your results with Logos:
1. Cause or consequence
Where you can, point out the clear consequences and cause. For example, ‘Greenhouse gases from humans cause global warming.’ Even better if you can then also back it up with an authoritative source (see point #7 below).
Analogies are a great way of making the topic you’re talking about sound more reasonable. Or poke fun at the opposition, as Al Gore did here: ‘George Bush taking credit for the Berlin wall coming down is like the rooster taking credit for the sunrise.’
3. Testimony & authority
Use the expertise, experience or opinion of another source. This gives your argument more weight. For example, ‘Four out of five dentists recommend sugarless gum to their patients’.
4. Use plain language
Simple language makes your argument seem more reasonable. If you need to use jargon and big words to get your point across, your audience may think you’re trying to fool them (the ‘baffle them with bulldust’ approach). Simple words. Clear language. Works every time.
5. Use charts & diagrams
More than half of your brain’s cortex is devoted to vision. Want to get attention quickly? Use a graphic.
A simple chart or diagram goes further — it gets attention and convinces. Think of the impact of a clear pie chart, or how effective an infographic can be. Just don’t make it too complex, or your point will be lost.
6. Personal stories & anecdotes
If you yourself are a credible source, then a personal story will bolster your argument. Your own experiences, when relevant, will be far more potent than someone else’s.
7. Cite your sources
It’s always powerful to include statistics, facts or quotes. But without the source, it means little. Naturally, your source should be credible, and up to date — research from 2013 beats research from 1973.
- Deductive reasoning generalises to begin with, then moves to the specific. For example: ‘All humans are mortal [generalisation]. Aristotle is a human. Therefore Aristotle is mortal [specific]’.
- Inductive reasoning moves from a specific to the general. For example: ‘All observed crows are black [specific]. Therefore all crows are black [generalisation]’.
What do you think? Do you agree with Aristotle that Logos is the most important of the three persuasive modes? I’d love to hear your views in the comments.
Paul and the Magneto Team
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