Effective and Persuasive Forum Language

Once forum users have spent time learning the technicalities of forums, and become comfortable finding and posting the content they are interested in, they may feel they have learned all there is to know about using forums. Although this is a common conception among newcomers, forum users can further develop their skills by learning how to write well on topic forums and connect emotionally with other forum users through language.


Using Ethos Language for Credibility and Persuasion

After reading First-Time Users- Values and Beliefs you have a good start in order to begin conversing within a forum. However, to improve the quality of conversations between users, a user must not only contribute content that he/she is knowledgeable about, but the words must sound like the user knows what he is talking about. When a user writes in order to assure other users that he/she is knowledgeable on the topic, it is called using ethos. Ethos is more specifically defined as the trustworthiness or credibility of the writer. In the forum community Reddit there are many “subreddits” or smaller forums that are topic-specific. These “subreddits” can be searched for, and one such subreddit is r/zombies. This particular subreddit, which focuses on zombies in pop culture, as well as the zombie apocalypse, features many users who use ethos in their forum language. By doing this, the users attract other members to their discussion, and encourage feedback and continuation of the topic.

An example can be found in one thread titled, “You will love my new backpack.” The user TonyDiGerolamo comments on another user’s submission of a fake blood covered backpack with the words “Zombie Outbreak Response Team” on it. TonyDiGerolamo comments on the authenticity of the backpack based on shared knowledge of all things zombie saying:

Y’know, if Z-day actually happens, you’ll have to watch out for zombies and people who may have been infected. People who have been infected are usually covered in zombie blood. Since you’ll look like you’re covered in blood, you might get popped running to a shelter. Just a thought.

This user writes with zombie apocalypse terms and spends ample time explaining why he finds fault in this zombie fan culture piece, and genuinely seems to know what he is talking about. This would persuade other users to follow other posts of his, or continue the conversation in this thread with confidence in the legitimacy of the conversation.

When trying to incorporate ethos into forum posts, it is important for users to remember to write with relevant terms for the conversation. User TonyDiGerolamo is able to contribute meaningful material to the discussion and encourage it continuity because he uses terminology like “Z-day” and relates a popular zombie scenario in his post. Users can be assured he is knowledgeable about what he is talking about based on his terminology use, and his description of a zombie scenario. Another great way to establish ethos is to provide links or citations to reputable sources that back up the content users have contributed. In the subreddit r/pets user smallspark offers advice on how to combat cat allergies and posts a link to a reputable web page that provides remedies to cat allergies while using appropriate terminology to lend ethos to her advice.

A teaspoon of Braggs apple cider vinegar in a glass of water sipped throughout the day seems to decrease asthma symptoms - which may be related to GERD, which ACV does address for sure. I read that most asthma sufferers tend to have GERD. My reference here is livestrong which is usually just basic info, but I'm sure you can correlate that elsewhere.

Using Pathos (emotional) Language to Persuade Your Readers


Establishing pathos with other users on forums is another great way to contribute to forum conversation, connect more deeply with other users over shared interests, and enrich the user experience when discussing interests. Examining again the subreddit r/zombies, users establish pathos with other users, creating an emotional connection over a picture and the discussion that surrounds it. Clicking on a link titled “Umbrella Corp spotted outside of Denver” with i.imgur.com next to it tells users that this post will feature a pciture of something pertaining to the video game Resident Evil. The photograph features a black SUV with the symbol of this fictional corporation on the side of the vehicle, driving supposedly on a freeway in Denver.

The image spurs reactions from gamers who feel delight in finding a beloved fictional element come to life, and those interested in imagining an actual zombie apocalypse also find the image interesting because they get to feel for a minute that their imaginings have found a place in the actual world. Other users establish pathos in the conversation surrounding the image by quoting the fictional corporation’s slogan in the thread. Another user, Barefoot4x4 comments that the city is in danger of existing much longer because of the presence of the menacing corporation.

Sorry about your luck Denver, but you’re f***ed. It’s too bad cause I visited you once and really liked it there. Gonna miss you.

These comments allow members to share the feelings the content causes in them, while also playing on the pathos of the users who have some knowledge of a zombie attack, either through the game Resident Evil, other aspects of popular culture, or their own imaginings. In order for users to incorporate pathos into their forum posts, they can think of something like an image or a phrase that relates to the topic and would cause an emotional response within themselves if they saw it in the forum. If a user is participating in a forum on marriage equality, posting images of same-sex couples at demonstrations, or inserting quotes by politicians who express their views on marriage equality legislation can cause negative or positive emotional response in other users. Users may remember where they were upon hearing such news, or this pathos-infused content may cause them to examine how the issue relates to them. These emotional reactions can offer a beginning to a deep conversation, or encourage a long continuation of a conversation that may take many turns. Emotional forum language enriches the quality of forum discussions and may help users find the information they are seeking.

Blending Ethos and Pathos to Set Forum Conversation Tone


Often times users will find ethos and pathos will work together in creating the tone, or overall feel of the forum they are participating in. Setting a particular tone in a forum can also determine the inclusive or exclusive aspect of the community. When incorporating ethos and pathos in forum posts to establish credibility and share interests on an emotional level, the direction of the conversation can narrow and exclude possible contributions by other users. When this happens, users can be in danger of not following the values and beliefs of the writing community by diverting from topic. It also causes difficulty for other users to find the information they are looking for if the original topic takes a different turn. For more on writing community values and beliefs see First-Time Users - Values and Beliefs.

However, at other times blending ethos and pathos to create a specific tone within a forum can create a fun and inviting place to share interests.

Preserving the health of the people
Quote by user Barefoot4x4 in reference to an image of r/zombie

In the case of the post mentioned before by user Barefoot4x4 and his use of the Umbrella Corp. slogan, ethos (his knowledge of the topic) and pathos (emotional connections) are both incorporated into the post. The user is incorporating pathos to elicit feelings other members may connect to these references, but these comments are also evidence of users’ repeated attempts to casually express their interests in or emotions about the topic. It is a way for users to express how much of an interest they have in a topic, while also finding amusement and camaraderie among other users. Often times, comments, and the general tone of a thread or subreddit feel very tongue-in-cheek about a topic. User Barefoot4x4 is incorporating his knowledge of the topic and his emotional response about the photo, while still staying on topic within the forum. When using ethos and pathos to set the conversational tone, it is important to examine language and make sure it still focuses on the topic, while keeping the writing community an inviting and interesting place to read and contribute content.
For more information about topic focus see Ranging Focus of Forum Topics

Smallspark. "R/Pets." Crating a Cat? How Completely Inhumane Are My Thoughts Here? :. N.p., 25 June 2013. Web. 25 June 2013. <http://www.reddit.com/r/Pets/comments/1h1cwg/crating_a_cat_how_completely_inhumane_are_my/>. Wilhoit, Stephen. "Rhetorical Strategies." Rhetorical Analysis. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 123. Print. ToniDigerolamo. "You Will Love My New Backpack." Reddit/r/zombies. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 June 2013. <http://www.reddit.com/r/zombies/comments/1g77ys/you_will_love_my_new_backpack/>. "Umbrella Corp. Spotted outside Denver." Reddit/r/zombies. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 June 2013. <http://www.reddit.com/r/zombies/comments/1fyi4h/umbrella_corp_spotted_outside_of_denver/>.
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