Wilson, Douglas, and Nathan D. Wilson. The Rhetoric Companion: A Student's Guide to Power in Persuasion. Moscow, Idaho: Canon, 2011.
Lesson 9, “Ethos” pp. 47-52.
“Ethos and pathos are greatly neglected and disparaged in our day” (Wilson 2011, 47). Yet Wilson affirms that appeals to ethos are a good and valid tool in rhetoric. “Ethos refers to those proofs that rely upon the orator’s character, personality, or reputation” (Ibid., 47). Wilson views development of ethos as an important element of Christian character. Having a positive character that is genuine and known in the community is a valid aid to effective communication (Ibid., 48).
Wilson then discusses Aristotle’s concept of “invented ethos” (Ibid., 48). This is the practice of presenting the audience with information which allows them to build an opinion. The audience should be able to see “practical wisdom, virtue, and good will” (Ibid., 48). Wilson identifies shrillness, discourtesy, slovenliness, and ignorance as four areas that speakers should consider as they seek to invent their ethos.
Finally, Wilson discusses the idea of a “rhetorical voice” or “rhetorical distance” (Ibid., 50). The speaker needs to consider how much formality or informality is appropriate to the setting. He goes on to discuss very briefly the person (1st, 2nd, or 3rd), the use of verb tenses, active or passive voices, whether the speaker uses big words, or uses qualified statements. All influence the perception an audience develops of a speaker.