Appeal to sympathy


“I was only nine years-old when my mother was brutally murdered.”

Effect on reader

An appeal to sympathy is an attempt by the writer to make the reader feel sorry for an individual, group or thing. Emotional appeals such as this can often be effective at making the reader care about the issue through evoking an emotional response. Their sympathy may lead to feelings of empathy, guilt, outrage or anger which can motivate readers to align themselves with a certain group, or prove emotionally persuasive. In the above example, the reader’s sympathy is being directed towards the writer herself, perhaps making them more likely to accept the writer’s suggestions of policy changes regarding murder.

However, if the writer appears overly emotional their credibility may be negatively affected, especially if their audience is a logical one. For example, if the writer tries to persuade a person to donate money simply by talking about the suffering of the children who the money would go towards, and not the cost of the donation or the effectiveness of the program, the argument is reliant on purely emotional appeals and probably not very persuasive.

Appeals to sympathy are often presented in conjunction with emotive language, as seen in the example above, and their cooperativeness as techniques means they can be analysed together.