How to use Ethos in food blogs


During the recent years, many food blogs exists in order to help their audiences learn new recipes or promote new eating strategies. One of the most important ways that food bloggers can be successful is that they use ethos to establish the credibility. They use charts, data, definition, quotes and pictures to demonstrate they understanding and being expertise in the topic. However, the food bloggers those are more knowledgeable than their audience also write the conversations in more colloquial language and make it more relatable to the audiences. I will take TED talks as one of the food blog forms to compare in order to illustrate how to use ethos appropriately to establish authority and communicate well with the audiences.


Ted Talks

People who has food blog usually use TED talks to promote their ideas and new eating strategies. They use video as an communicative way to communicate with the audiences well and attract them. TED talks represent the new styles in the field of digital rhetoric that spread ideas without writing, but through talks and videos. Because the only two tools used in the talk videos are words and PowerPoints, the exact rhetorical strategies like ethos should be used frequently to make audiences understand the ideas the author wants to promote Two videos illustrate the ethos use frequently are “What’s wrong with what we eat” talks by Mark Bittman and “Why I’m a weekday vegetarian” talks by Graham Hill. Mark Bittman is a bestselling cookbook author, and he mentions some of the problems that exist in our diet habit that can lead to a global crisis. According to the situation that most Americans eat too much meat and fast food, but consume little vegetables as well as seldom cook at home. People should realize both their fate and fate of all of humanity are intertwined. Graham Hill is the founder of and he talks the similar topic as Mark’s but he not only talks about the environment problems caused by eating too much meat, but also shows audiences a diet strategy that allows a modern city dweller can have freedom to choose what to eat while caring about environment at the same time. A comparison between the two videos is comparing the frequency ethos use and its effect. For the purpose of talk videos spreading food ideas to audiences, Bittman is more rhetorically effective because he uses ethos frequently to not only make audiences understand his ideas, but also promote them to agree with him. For example, he shows the food pyramid invented by the authority to represent his idea that people should eat less meat and more vegetables. (Sorry, I can't understand why you talk about Ted videos, I don't think it belong to food blogs, I hope you can explain it, how the two videos involved in food blogs, your topic is how to use ethos in food blogs, not ethos in Ted videos, maybe you can think of my advice.)

Definition of Rhetorical Analysis and Ethos

Every text is written by someone who directs it toward some audience to achieve some purpose.-Stephen Wilhoit, Professor of English at the University of Dayton

Before understanding the meaning of ethos, food bloggers should understand what is rhetoric at first. According to Wilhoit's claim in the article “Rhetorical Analysis”, “Rhetorical analysis is based on certain assumptions about how writers write and the way writing works.” and “writers make a series of strategic choices” to make sure that “every text is written by someone who directs it toward some audience to achieve some purpose.” (Wilhoit, 117) In other words, the effective use of ethos help authors achieves their purposes. In the case of two TED talk videos, audiences can not read text repeatedly to get the ideas, but can only can hear talks and see pictures on the screen, ethos is effectively used only if it is used repeatedly and frequently to deepen the impression of the audiences and get recognition from them. For example, it is effective to quote from different authority to make the audiences trust the idea. In the article “Rhetorical analysis”, the definition of ethos is a specific rhetorical strategy authors use to “establish their own credibility as an authority on the topic.” (Wilhoit, 122) Ethos allows authors use charts, data, definition, quotes and pictures to demonstrate him understanding and being expertise in the topic.

How these Two Ted Talks use Ethos?

Mark Bittman VS. Graham Hill

The two videos approach ethos in different ways. The food blogger that realizes how to translate the glossary into easy words and make it relatable to the audience without losing credibility, should be considered as using ethos appropriately. Bittman firstly gives a definition of the livestock and the word “locavore”. He argues, “Livestock is the second-highest contributor to atmosphere-altering gases” and also “one of the biggest culprits in land degradation, air and water pollution, water shortages and loss of biodiversity.” (Mark Bittman) Bittman gives audiences a clear definition to show he is professional and to explain the glossary into easy words that make sure alls can understand. Otherwise, Bittman uses lots of data and charts during the talk show. For example, he repeats the number “10 billion” during the video. It is the number of animals people killed a year and it makes the truth credible and give audiences a directly impression about they consume too much meat. Moreover, Bittman also makes quotes from president Bush, Ann Cooper and Dan Aykroyd. Take Ann Cooper as an example, Bittman prompts audiences to eat less meat and care about the environment by quoting the words from Ann Cooper “we need to start acting. And this is not only an issue of social justice.” (Mark Bittman) He illustrates his idea is as same as the ones of Ann Cooper in order to makes his ideas credible to audiences. Finally, Bittman use authoritative tone from the beginning to the end. He uses “we have to” for many times and he also asks questions frequently and then gives audiences clearly answers. For example, Bittman says, “We need to start acting. And this is not only an issue of social justice, but it is also one of global survival.” (Mark Bittman) His tone is so strong that leaves no room for others to give a different answer.

Compared with Bittman, Graham Hill seldom uses ethos during his talk. He talks about his own experience to be a person care about environment instead of talking about the fact most people has. He only introduces himself as the founder of to establish authority. Otherwise, he uses some statistic like “10 billion animals were raise each year for meat” and “beef production uses 100 times the water that most vegetables do” (Graham Hill) without pictures to point out the environment pollution caused by meat manufacturing industry at the very beginning of the video. The audiences can hear the data but not see the facts directly on the screen. Overall, in terms of ethos, though both authors use it during the videos, the first video is more rhetorical effective because Bittman uses ethos frequently and explain the definition in easy words in order to create a consensus with audiences while Graham seems to focus on his own experience and individual opinion. (Your purpose is to talk about the ethos in food blogs, not the ethos in Ted videos, I hope you can revise it. Because I think that the Ted videos not involved in food blogs.)


Compared with the two food videos, Bittman’s video is more effective in using ethos and more successful in communication with audiences, because he uses ethos frequently during the talk to achieve his purpose. Because of his humorous style and authorial tone, the emotion of the audiences are easily aroused and then agree with his argument. It is exactly the purpose of Bittman. In this case, the video of Mark has the rhetorical success with effective ethos. Therefore, food bloggers should use ethos efficiently and appropriately in their blogs not only to communicate with their audiences but also to establish their authority and make audience trust their new receipts, rate of the restaurants or the new eating strategies.

Otherwise, the pathos is another important rhetorical strategy food bloggers should learn in order to attract their audience. Pathos is a way in which one can engage his or her audience, sparking both interest and believability. Using pathos can appeal to the emotion of the audience, such as joy, surprise, or pleasure so that they get motivated to become an active participant of the blog. In addition, Using pathos effectively supports bloggers to communicate with their audience much better.

1. What's Wrong with What We Eat? By Mark Bittman. Perf. Mark Bittman. TED: Ideas worth Spreading. TED, May 2008. Web. 14 May 2013.
2. Why I'm a Weekday Vegetarian. By Graham Hill. Perf. Graham Hill. TED: Ideas worth Spreading. TED, May 2010. Web. 14 May 2013.
3. Wilhoit, Stephen. "Rhetorical Analysis." A Brief Guide to Writing from Readings. Boston: Pearson, 2012. 117-35. Print.
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