Writing

Rhetoric in Writing (Definition, How To Write + Examples)

Posted: October 15, 2022
Word count: 1,379 (5 min)

We often hear the phrase, "It was a rhetorical question." But what is "rhetoric" anyway?

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Tomas Laurinavicius

Co-founder & Chief Editor, Best Writing

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In simplest terms rhetoric is the study of effectively using language to attain different goals. These goals can be of various nature.

One may try to persuade using the art of rhetoric, another may just try to make a point.

What is Rhetoric?

Rhetoric is the art of molding language to present persuasive arguments.

Oxford English Dictionary defines 'rhetoric' as: "The art of using language so as to persuade or influence others; the body of rules to be observed by a speaker or writer in order that he may express himself with eloquence."

What are Examples of Rhetorical Writing?

Rhetoric can be used in many ways, not just in writing. It can be, and widely used in speech, visual medium, literature, daily conversation, academic discourse, and politics.

Examples of Rhetoric in Literature

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.” – A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;” – Sonnet 18, William Shakespeare

“I am assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London; that a young healthy child, well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food; whether stewed, roasted, baked or boiled, and I make no doubt, that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or ragout.” – A Modest Proposal, Jonathan Swift

“Thou ‘art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy ‘or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?” - Death be not proud, John Donne

Examples of Rhetoric in Politics

“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.” – I Have a Dream, Martin Luther King

“The conditions which have told for our marvelous material well-being, which have developed to a very high degree our energy, self-reliance, and individual initiative, have also brought the care and anxiety inseparable from the accumulation of great wealth in industrial centers. Upon the success of our experiment much depends, not only as regards our own welfare, but as regards the welfare of mankind. If we fail, the cause of free self-government throughout the world will rock to its foundations, and therefore our responsibility is heavy, to ourselves, to the world as it is to-day, and to the generations yet unborn.” – Inaugural speech of Theodore Roosevelt

“It was we, the people; not we, the white male citizens; nor yet we, the male citizens; but we, the whole people, who formed the Union. And we formed it, not to give the blessings of liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people - women as well as men. And it is a downright mockery to talk to women of their enjoyment of the blessings of liberty while they are denied the use of the only means of securing them provided by this democratic-republican government - the ballot.” – On Women's Right to Vote, Susan B. Anthony

What are the 3 Types of Rhetoric?

The concept of rhetoric dates back to Greek philosopher Aristotle.

Aristotle, puts forward some very intelligent arguments. In his argument, he talks of three appeals (or three division of rhetorical appeals) that are very effective for public speaking, and persuasion. These are logospathos, and ethos.

Logos (or Logic)

This is what Aristotle claims to be the logical appeal of the argument. It tries to use cause and effect, data, facts, evidence, to substantiate a claim. In Philosophy, logic has a separate branch where premises are created and substantiated by supporting arguments. These are called syllogisms.

Pathos (or Emotion)

This is the emotional appeal of the argument. It draws on the audiences' emotions, sentiments and morality to make a persuasive argument. Pathos help readers connect with the content on a deeper level and is often used by advertisements to sell a particular product. It is mostly used by writers and media to help the reader or viewer to invest themselves.

Ethos (or Credibility)

Ethos is establishing credibility for the writer. Why will the readers read you? What makes you master in the topic you are writing on? Ethos is building or stating your reputation as an expert of the field. This may include stating your higher education, personal experiences, work background, and any other additional resources that will authenticate you as a credible writer.

What are the 5 Rhetorical Devices of Writing?

Writers may use rhetorical devices to make persuasive arguments. Literature uses the tradition of using several tools to ornament the key concepts.

Metaphor

Metaphor is a rhetorical device that compares two dissimilar objects.

If one says, "You're the Marie Antoinette of the house.", they mean, that person is unaware and ignorant.

Euphemism

Euphemism is softening a blow with the use of figurative language.

For example, saying "passed away" instead of "died".

Sarcasm

Sarcasm is a satiric remark which is supposed to be humorous and insulting in nature. It is a rhetorical device used in everyday conversations.

  • "That's the amazing news I needed today." - when something bad happens;
  • "Wherever do you keep all that intelligence?" - when someone is being silly;

Hyperbole

This is exaggerating something to the extreme to communicate one's feelings. Hyperbole overstates a fact to its highest degree.

  • That is the most disgusting thing I have ever heard.
  • I died of laughter.
  • She has sonar hearing.
  • Mondays are the worst.

Personification

Personification is attributing human characteristics to non-human objects.

  • Every morning the alarm yells at me.
  • I could not convince my alarm to shut up.

What is the Effect of Rhetorical Writing?

Rhetorical writing aims for persuasion, information, or a simple good argument. It can be the persuasion of the writer's point of view, or a political agenda, or an appeal for justice. Using rhetoric makes the writing process effective, reflects your capabilities as a writer, persuader, and logician. Using rhetoric is an art everyone should master. This rhetorical tradition was started in Ancient Greece by the philosophers.

Rhetorical Analysis

A rhetorical analysis is curating your content according to the needs of the rhetorical situation. There are a few steps in making this analysis.

  1. Find the purpose of your writing;
  2. Research your idea well;
  3. Practice logical reasoning;
  4. Organize your content;
  5. Make a proper structure of thoughts;
  6. Figure out your target audience;
  7. Make use of proper diction;
  8. Watch the tone of your writing;
  9. Use credible sources for research;
  10. Back your arguments with authentic evidence;
  11. Play with your words!

Books to Read Further on Rhetoric

People Also Ask (FAQ)

Is rhetoric deceitful?

No, but it often bends the words into reaching very specific conclusions.

Does rhetoric have a negative connotation?

In recent times, rhetoric has gained some negative connotation due to its excessive use in politics and dubious political agendas.

However, rhetoric is a serious literary discourse use by greatest writers to produce the best literary content and knowledge. Poetry is heavily dependent upon the art of rhetoric.

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