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Writing for Direct Marketing? Get back to the classics.

When I was teaching the art of persuasive rhetoric to students in my introductory English composition classes, I relied on Aristotle.  A lot has changed since the fourth century B.C., but Aristotle still has much to teach us about persuasive writing.

In fundraising writing—like every other kind of argumentative writing—we are trying to persuade our audience to view our ideas as valid (or, even better, beyond reproach) and compelling—enough to dig deep and give generously.

When I sit down to write an annual fund or other appeal, I revisit Aristotle’s appeals, every time:
• Ethos (Greek for “character”) refers to the credibility of the author writing the argument
• Pathos (Greek for “suffering” or “experience”) refers to the emotional or motivational appeals
* Logos (Greek for “word”) refers to the logic used to support the argument

I’ll flesh out Aristotle’s appeals in future posts, but for now we can get started thinking about Ethos, Pathos and Logos as the Who, the How and the What to use in building winning fundraising arguments.

Aristotle wasn’t right about everything. The Earth isn’t flat; the universe isn’t geocentric. But he had persuasion down to a science. Perhaps if we study his methods we can too!

Rebecca Ruark

by Rebecca Ruark
Freelance Writer, Perrone Group