Persona

The term persona refers to a rhetor’s use of a literary mask to hide his or her true opinion about a matter.


Right or wrong, readers made judgments about who you are as a rhetor. As an author, you may consider your tone and voice as reasoned, thoughtful, and intelligent whereas the reader might dismiss your text as biased, underdeveloped, or emotional. Communication is invariably a psychosocial process. At one level, you cannot control the interpretations of your audience.

However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try! At the very least, you must know your diction can have a profound effect on whether or not your intended audience considers your thesis with openness.

In rhetorical situations where you believe your audience may not be open to your thesis, genre, research methods, you may want to consider adopting a persona that they would be less likely to find threatening and more likely to consider.

A persona refers to a rhetor’s effort to project a certain sort of personality style or set of values. For instance,

  • a politician could pander by attempting to appear religious when the last time he viewed a church was watching the Exorcist or The Two Popes.
  • a self-assessed introvert could present herself as an extrovert when applying for a job as a salesperson or some other sort of role that involves dealing with the public.
  • a writer who views a topic to be deadly serious (e.g., environmental degradation) could use humor or satire to lighten the tone of his textl

Adopting a persona is not necessarily disingenuous. The politician could be deeply concerned about representing her constituents. The car salesman could really care that he finds the car that fits your needs and desires.