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Rhetoric

Rhetoric can be defined as the way of choosing the most appropriate means for
persuasion in a certain context, namely the language choices that we make in order to
make our writing more effective. If we view our piece of writing as the process of making
an argument, we can define rhetoric as the available resources for making our reader
understand, believe or agree with our perspective.
Persuasion is brought on by proofs, or appeals, invented in each context by the
author (Drout 2006:43). The four main appeals are logos, ethos, pathos, mythos and the
most common mistake that we can make when writing a paper is engaging one of them
too heavily to the detriment of the others (usually the logos appeal tends to be our main
focus).
Logos implies appealing to logic using reasoning and it can be understood better
if we mark it down to two concepts:
thought = our ideas
action = the way we present our ideas
Considering that logos appeals to patterns and conventions, action matters as
much as thought, if not a little more.
Ethos refers mainly to our credibility and reliability as writers. We must pay
attention to several aspects in order to receive our readers trust, among which:
the logical structure of our writing, because it has to be easy to follow
the motivation of our topic choice and our previous experiences with it (if it is
appropriate for the assignment)
the particularization of both sides of the argument, in order to establish a
common ground with our reader
the usage of reliable sources and appropriate citations
proofreading, because we dont want a careless mistake to diminish our
reliability
Pathos focuses on our readers emotions and needs. We know that reason relies on
emotion; however, we should use an emotional appeal only if it infallibly supports our
claim, because otherwise it can become a distraction from the issues under examination
or it might misrepresent our topic.
Mythos relies on the assumption that people value their membership in a society
and share in its cultural heritage. Mythos is the sum total of stories, values, faith, feelings,
and roles that make up the social character of a people. Proof by mythos often calls upon
patriotism, cultural pride, and heroes or enemies as evidence (Osborn 1988:57).
Therefore, we try to prove our point by appealing to our readers feelings of kinship and
shared values.
There are a few rhetorical strategies we can resort to in order to make our writing
more powerful, but during the entire process we have to keep in mind what our purpose is
and make sure it is appropriately arranged, because not all of the strategies will be
applicable to a certain topic:
Exemplification (Are there any examples I could use to help me achieve my
purpose?) we can make use of any sort of examples, from articles, interviews, statistics
to personal experience or knowledge)

Narration (Would telling a story make my readers understand my point more


clearly?) we can recount or report an experience, an event, an anecdote, if it is relevant
to the topic
Description (Would the overall pace and purpose of my essay benefit from the
use of details?) used if we want to convey sensory perception: sight, sound, taste etc.
Process analysis (Would my reader be interested in receiving concrete
directions about a certain process?) we can separate various actions into progressive
parts, letting our reader know how something is done or how it works
Comparison and contrast (Do I need to establish the differences and
similarities of these elements?) we may try to explain and clarify one element through
the lens of the other
Division and classification (Would my paper be more easily manageable if I
divided it into parts of focus?) if we are trying to develop a broad and complicated
subject, division and classification (analysis) might prove to be very helpful
Definition (Are there point-making terms that my reader might not
understand?) if we use abstract, technical or new words that might require further
explanation, it would be best if we provided their meaning. If our papers purpose is to
define a larger concept, extended definition occurs.
Cause and effect (Why?) we may use this type of analysis if we want to
inform, speculate or argue about why something happened the way it did. It might be
used in a history paper, for example, to emphasize the importance of an event by
underlining its outcomes.
Argumentation (Am I advocating a specific point of view?) we try to prove
out point through reasoning. Argumentative essays are common to almost every
discipline.
In addition to these rhetorical strategies, there are several rhetorical devices that
can help us in making the content of our paper more interesting and persuasive:
alliterations, metaphors, metonymies, hyperboles, oxymoron, epithets, similes,
understatements, analogies or antitheses.
Although viewed by many as the science of trickery, manipulation and lying,
rhetoric aims to help people improve not only their persuasion skills, but also their
informing and motivating ones, placing the focus not only on our ideas, but also on
choosing context-appropriate means to express them.

CORBETT, E. 1998. Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student, Oxford


University Press
DROUT, M. 2006, A Way with Words: Writing, Rhetoric and the Art of
Persuasion, Recorded Books LLC