Rhetorical Knowledge

Rhetorical Knowledge is

Key Words: Epistemology; Rhetoric; Rhetorical Analysis; Rhetorical Situation


Rhetorical Knowledge is one of the four core competencies gained from writing, according to The Council of Writing Program Administrators, The National Council of Teachers of English, and The National Writing Project (2011).

“Rhetorical knowledge is the ability to analyze and act on understandings of audiences, purposes, and contexts in creating and comprehending texts. Rhetorical knowledge is the basis of good writing. By developing rhetorical knowledge, writers can adapt to different purposes, audiences, and contexts. Study of and practice with basic rhetorical concepts such as purpose, audience, context, and conventions are important as writers learn to compose a variety of texts for different disciplines and purposes. For example, a writer might draft one version of a text with one audience in mind, then revise the text to meet the needs and expectations of a different audience.”

The Council of Writing Program Administrators 2011, p. 6

The Council of Writing Program Administrators argues teachers should create ample opportunities for students to

  • “learn and practice key rhetorical concepts such as audience, purpose, context, and genre through writing and analysis of a variety of types of texts (nonfiction, informational, imaginative, printed, visual, spatial, auditory, and otherwise);
  • write and analyze a variety of types of texts to identify the audiences and purposes for which they are intended, the key choices of content, organization, evidence, and language use made by their author(s), the relationships among these key choices and the ways that the text(s) appeal or speak to different audiences;
  • write for different audiences, purposes, and contexts;
  • write for real audiences and purposes, and analyze a writer’s choices in light of those audiences and purposes; and contribute, through writing, their own ideas and opinions about a topic to an ongoing conversation” p. 9).

Rhetorical Knowledge is a foundational competency–that is, a skill that is required for successful communication to take place.