Knowledge of rhetoric is a form of power. Understanding rhetoric is crucial to developing persuasive arguments that make the world a better place.
Rhetoric concerns perception, interpretation, and communication Rhetoric concerns perception, interpretation, and communication

Rhetoric Definition

Rhetoric refers to

Related Concepts: Critical Literacy; Rhetorical Analysis; Rhetorical Knowledge

Related Rhetorical Terms


Rhetors are writers, speakers, knowledge workers . . . who engage in rhetorical analysis and rhetorical reasoning to interpret and compose texts.


Rhetoricians refers to people who study or practice rhetoric.


Techno-Rhetoricians are rhetoricians who focus on investigating digital matters, such as the effect of new writing tools on composing, interpretation, or literacy.


Rhetoricity is the degree to which a rhetor’s written, spoken, and visual language is appropriate given the rhetorical situation. Texts with a high Rhetoricity Score are those that are written and designed in ways that most effectively appeal to their readers. Texts with low scores are ones that ignore what the reader, listener, or user thinks, feels, and knows about the topic.

Rhetrickery, Sophistry

In modern discourse, the term rhetoric may be used disdainfully. In everyday conversations, people may say That’s just rhetoric! or Oh, ignore that guy. He’s just being rhetorical to suggest a statement is facetious or manipulative. This perception of rhetoric is sometimes called rhetrickery or sophistry.

Never attempt to win by force what can be won by deception.

. . . .

Although the use of fraud in every action is detestable, nonetheless in managing war it is a praiseworthy and glorious thing, and he who overcomes the enemy with fraud is praised as much as the one who overcomes it with force.

Niccolo` Machiavelli

But focusing on rhetrickery is only a partial view of what rhetoric is and can do. The truth of the matter is that you need rhetorical knowledge to navigate difficult circumstances and stakeholders.

Historically, it is also important to note that rhetoric has also been conceptualized to be a heuristic, a tool of invention. Rhetoricians (aka, writers, speakers, knowledge workers . . .) engage in rhetorical analysis in order to under analyze the rhetorical context. They try to understand the needs, values, and concerns of their audience. They plan. They reflect on the exigency, the occasion, that calls for discourse—some sort of text, some act of composing. They evaluate the kairos of the situation. They consider, e.g., whether silence is the best response–i.e., if it’s the wrong time to respond to a situation.

Loyd Bitzer, The Rhetorical Situation

Rhetoric is so integral to reading and writing that the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) identifies rhetorical knowledge as a core outcome of postsecondary education:

“The assertion that writing is “rhetorical” means that writing is always shaped by a combination of the purposes and expectations of writers and readers and the uses that writing serves in specific contexts. To be rhetorically sensitive, good writers must be flexible. They should be able to pursue their purposes by consciously adapting their writing both to the contexts in which it will be read and to the expectations, knowledge, experiences, values, and beliefs of their readers.”

Principles for the Postsecondary Teaching of Writing …

Rhetoric & the Writing Process


  1. analyze a rhetorical situation by engaging in rhetorical reasoning
  2. Adopt a rhetorical stance that is appropriate given the situation

When facing an exigency, an occasion, that calls for some sort of response, take a moment to analyze rhetorical context.

Consider your

Works Cited

Aristotle, Aeterna Press (2015). “Rhetoric”, p.25, Aeterna Press.

Adler-Kassner, Linda; Sandie Barnhouse; Michele Eodice; Heidi Estrem; Lennie Irvin; Diane Kelly-Riley; Sharon Mitchler; Mike Palmquist. 2015. Principles for the Postsecondary Teaching of Writing …, Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC).   https://cccc.ncte.org/cccc/resources/positions/postsecondarywriting.

Bitzer, Lloyd. (1968). “The Rhetorical Situation.” Philosophy and Rhetoric 1:1: 1-14.