Emotion

Many people believe that emotional appeals by their very nature subvert reason and are therefore better left to TV hucksters than to writers who want their ideas taken seriously. Because this common view has some validity, emotional appeals must be used with restraint and discretion, or they may prove counterproductive. Nevertheless, while an argument founded mostly on feelings and emotions may be superficial and biased, an argument that is carefully reasoned and honestly presented probably won't be hurt by a bit of pathos. In fact, it may be helped.

... emotional appeals must be used with restraint and discretion, or they may prove counterproductive.

One way to build pathos is to illustrate or dramatize an idea. This may involve little more than folding short descriptive and narrative examples into the argument. Are you arguing that your city needs to take stiffer measures against drunk drivers? Why not find a place to include a description of the face of a child who was injured in an accident caused by drinking? Or you might want to tell the story of a driver who caused several accidents because the individual's license was never revoked. Including such narrative and descriptive passages can help readers feel the urgency of your proposition so that it gets beyond the level of abstract intellectual speculation and becomes a matter of immediate human concern.

Careful word choice also influences an argument's emotional appeal. With this in mind, you might review the discussion of The Best Word in Revising Your Writing. The point here is that the overall emotional texture of your argument is the result of many individual choices about which word to use.

Should I speak of "drunk" or "intoxicated" drivers?

Should I call them a "menace" or a "concern"?

Should they be "thrown into jail" or "incarcerated"?

Do we need to "teach them a lesson" or "make them aware of the consequences of their actions"?

Such choices, even though they must be made one at a time, can't be seen as independent of each other. Their force is cumulative. They communicate how you feel-and by implication think the reader ought to feelabout your subject. If you want the reader to identify with you emotionally, you'll choose words carefully, making sure they're appropriate for you as a writer, for your readers, and for your overall purpose in writing.

Activity

8.9 Read the following speech by Mark Anthony from William Shakespeare's play, Jubus Caesar. Do you think Mark Anthony is appealing to the emotions of his audience? If so, what is his purpose in doing so? What parts of the speech seem especially designed to appeal to the audience's feelings? Does the speech contain any appeal to reason? To character? Are the various appeals balanced and harmonious or unbalanced and contradictory?

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious;
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer'd it.
Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest--
For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men--
Come I to speak in Caesar's funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
He hath brought many captives home to Rome,
Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill:
Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man.
You all did see that on the Lupercal
I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
And, sure he is an honourable man.
I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke,
But here I am to speak what I do know.
You all did love him once, not without cause:
What cause withholds you then, to mourn for him?
O judgment! thou art fled to brutish beasts,
And men have lost their reason. Bear with me;
My heart is in the coffin there with Caesar,
And I must pause till it come back to me.