Better understand why people say what they say and do what they do. Learn to critically analyze rhetorical situations and engage in rhetorical reasoning. Write and speak more effectively by developing substantive content that is responsive to your rhetorical situation. Develop point of view, rhetorical appeals, stance, persona, tone, voice, and style in response to your rhetorical situation.

Rhetoric is

  1. an interpretive lens that fosters understanding human communication.
  2. an academic field that studies how people use symbols, particularly language, to understand the world, to communicate, and to persuade.
  3. a theoretical perspective that provides people with a critical lens to analyze rhetorical situations. Rhetorical Analysis helps writers plan how to best respond to an exigency, an issue or problem in the world.
  4. a tool for developing, assessing, and testing knowledge claims.
  5. the ability to develop effective persuasive appeals and arguments.
  6. the ability to identify specious reasoning, harmful appeals to emotions, and inauthentic, manipulative appeals to ethos.

In popular discourse, the term rhetoric may be used disdainfully. In everyday conversations, people may say That’s just rhetoric! or He’s being rhetorical to suggest a statement is facetious or specious.

Given the incessant bombardment of Breaking News by news media (CNN, Fox, Huffington, etc.), we are well schooled in ways people use rhetoric to misrepresent narratives and manipulate audiences regardless of truth. Lately, in fact, people are calling our times as the Post-Truth Era. To support this proposition, note, for example, that by his 558th day in office, President Trump had lied 4,229 times according to the Washington Post (see President Trump has made 4,229 false or misleading claims in 558 days).

Clearly, rhetoric can be a tool of deception and dishonesty. The notion that rhetors can use rhetoric for disgenous purposes is not a new idea. In fact, Plato debated with the Sophists regarding the use of rhetoric for deceit. (For more on this, see Rhetoric, Post-Truth Politics, and Fake News at Wikipedia).

Thus, to avoid being duped, people need a grounding in rhetorical principles. Moreover, it’s important to recognize that rhetoric also informs people’s efforts to help people in positive ways. Knowledge of rhetorical principles is more than an antidote to bad actors. Knowledge of rhetoric–particularly the importance of crafting discourse in response to thoughtful analysis of the rhetorical situation–is essential to successful communication. For writers, Rhetoric is a foundational concern for any communication situation–whether the ultimate goal is to inform, persuade, or entertain. If knowledge of writing processes can be compared to having a road map for a journey, then Rhetoric can be compared to the having the GPS coordinates.

Rhetorical Terms

Rhetoricians (people who study rhetoric) are especially curious about the role of Rhetorical Situations, Rhetorical Appeals, Rhetorical Modes, and Rhetorical Stance on communication and interpretation.

Technorhetoricians focus on the effects of technologies on composing, and cognitive, intrapersonal and interpersonal competencies.

Rhetorcity is the degree to which rhetor’s discourse practice elements of rhetoric
Rhetoric is a balancing act–an effort to accomplish the aims of the discourse while accounting for the needs of the readers/audience.

Rhetorical theory holds that rhetors (writers and speakers), shape their discourse in response to

In summary, being a rhetorician is a way of perceiving the world, a way of reasoning, a way of critical thinking. Who we are, what we believe is, and what we believe is possible is shaped by rhetoric.

Evaluate your rhetorical situation
Analyze your audience’s knowledge and attitudes about your topic
Clarify your purpose (e.g., to inform? to persuade? to entertain?)
adopt a Stance, Persona, and Style appropriate to your audience and purpose;
Appeal to Logos, Pathos, and Ethos so readers can follow your logic,
Be personally engaged and inspired to act on your message, and trustful of you as a reliable source