The Techniques of Persuasion in W.J. Reeves’ “College Isn’t For Everyone”

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Effectively communicating an idea or opinion requires several language techniques. In his study of rhetoric, Aristotle found that persuasion was established through three fundamental tools. One is logos, which is used to support an argument through hard data and statistics. Another is ethos, which is the credibility of an author or speaker that allows an audience to conclude from background information and language selection a sense of knowledge and expertise of the person presenting the argument. The impact of pathos, however, is the most effective tool in persuasion due to the link between emotions and decisions. Although each of these tools can be effective individually, a combination of rhetorical devices when used appropriately has the ability to sway an audience toward the writer’s point of view. In an article originally published in May 2003 in USA Today called “College Isn’t For Everyone,” by W.J. Reeves combined these rhetorical devices to make a compelling argument that although colleges are easily accessible, higher education lacks students with the capabilities of academic success. To validate this claim, Reeves uses persuasive appeals to convey an effective argument by influencing the audience, however, he limits his reach because of the excessive pathos and condescending tone used to present his argument. The hard, logical proof used to persuade is called logos. Authors use this technique to support their propositional statements in an argument. By supporting an opinion with a sufficient amount of data, an audience is able to find the argument believable. Logos, however, goes beyond the abundance of information geared toward swaying an opinion into agreement. Presenting facts also includes decisions such as which ... ... middle of paper ... ...n the author diminishing the strong persuasiveness afforded by the logos and ethos in his argument because of his excess of pathos and tone, which is perceived as condescending. In the argument that college is not for everyone, Reeves establishes his ethos through both extrinsic and intrinsic support while maintaining clarity using the logos approach. Pathos, however, lacked the same amount of control. By using an excess amount of pathos while approaching rhetoric with a condescending tone, the author diminished the persuasiveness achieved by combining the techniques. This resulted in a limited audience due to the insulting nature of the closing remarks geared to the very audience he was trying to reach. Works Cited Reeves, W.J. "College Isn’t For Everyone." Conversations: Reading for Writers. Ed. Jack Selzer. New York City: Longman, 2005. 128-133. Print.

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