Webster’s Dictionary defines ethos as “the distinguishing character, sentiment, moral nature, or guiding beliefs of a person, group, or institution.” Ethos is one of the pieces of the rhetorical triangle, which includes ethos, the appeal to character and credibility; logos, the appeal to logic and rational argument; and pathos, the appeal to emotions. All three of these are used in an effort to persuade a person or a group of people.
Often, the first thing a writer or speaker will do is explain why they are qualified to discuss the subject they are writing or speaking about. People also refer to their own credibility in conversation by mentioning what they did to deserve the right to have an opinion. Saying “as a doctor, I think” or “with my experience in the field” are examples of the use of ethos in conversation.
The Purdue Online Writing Lab says that “ethos is frequently translated as some variation of ‘credibility or trustworthiness,’ but it originally referred to the elements of a speech that reflected on the particular character of the speaker or the speech’s author. Today, many people may discuss ethos qualities of a text to refer to how well authors portray themselves. But ethos more closely refers to an author’s perspective more generally.”