Etymology: Middle English rethorik, from Anglo-French rethorique, from Latin rhetorica, from Greek rhētorikē, literally, art of oratory, from feminine of rhētorikos of an orator, from rhētōr orator, rhetorician, from eirein to say, speak Date: 14th century 1 : the art of speaking or writing effectively: as a : the study of principles and rules of composition formulated by critics of ancient times b : the study of writing or speaking as a means of communication or persuasion 2 a : skill in the effective use of speech b : a type or mode of language or speech; also : insincere or grandiloquent language from Merriam-Webster
Context: the occasion, time, and place a speech is given or an essay/article is published Purpose: the goal that a speaker or writer wants to achieve Subject: what the speaker/writer will talk/write about; what they already know about it; what evidence they will need to sufficiently develop their position Thesis: a main idea or assertion; a claim Speaker: the persona a writer assumes depending on the context, purpose, subject, and audience Audience: who are they? what do they know about the subject? what is their attitude toward the subject?
Ethos: Writers/speakers appeal to character to demonstrate that they are credible and trustworthy. This can be an appeal to shared values between speaker and audience. It can be an appeal to a speaker’s reputation (e.g., an astronaut speaking about the need for more funding for NASA). Essentially, “the speaker’s ethos—expertise and knowledge, experience, training, sincerity, or a combination of these—gives the audience a reason for listening” (Shea, Scanlon, and Aufses, The Language of Composition: Reading, Writing, Rhetoric, [Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008] 5).
Logos: Writers/speakers appeal to reason by offering clear, rational ideas. The writer/speaker has a clear thesis supported by “specific details, examples, facts, statistical data, or expert testimony” (5). The thesis must be logical. Another key to logos is to acknowledge the counterargument and then refute it. In this way, a writer/speaker demonstrates that he/she has considered his/her subject before making his/her argument.
Pathos: Writers/speakers appeal to emotions. The writer tries to evoke emotions from an audience through the connotation of specific words, the use of figurative language, or a personal anecdote. While this can be effective if used in conjunction with ethos and logos, by itself, pathos generally makes an argument weak.
The Classical Model: introduction, narration, confirmation, refutation, and conclusion—the classic five part essay. The introduction introduces the subject and usually contains the thesis. The narration “provides factual information and background material on the subject” (13). The confirmation develops the proofs (evidence) needed to make the writer’s case. The refutation addresses the counterarguments. The conclusion “brings all the writer’s ideas together and answers the question, so what?” (14).
Narration: Writers tell a story or retell events either based on personal experience or from “knowledge gained from reading or observation” (17). Narration is typically chronological, includes concrete details, has a POV, and sometimes contains dialogue. Description: Though similar to narration, description emphasizes the senses (looks, sounds, smells, tastes, or touch).
Process Analysis: Writers explain “how something works, how to do something, or how something was done” (19). Exemplification: Writers use examples—facts, specific cases, or instances—to make a clear and more persuasive argument. Comparison and Contrast: Writers juxtapose two things to highlight their similarities and differences.
Classification and Division: Writers classify and divide materials or ideas into categories, helping both themselves and readers make “connections between things that might otherwise seem unrelated” (23). Defining: Writers define terms, ideas, or even redefine familiar concepts (e.g., what is a family?).
Cause and Effect: Writers analyze the causes that lead to a specific effect or vice versa. This type of knowledge requires clear logic.