Rhetorical Reasoning*

Consider these rhetorical options (i.e., rhetorical principles, techniques, devices, and features) to assess the most appropriate response to a rhetorical situation.

Rhetorical Reasoning is the process writers, speakers, knowledge workers . . . work through, even if tacitly, in order to figure out how to best respond to a rhetorical situation. This process involves considering a range of rhetorical choices when facing the situation. By consciously considering these options, writers can “observ[e] in any given case the available means of persuasion” (Aristotle 350 BCE).

Some of the intellectual strategies associated with rhetorical reasoning include

[ *Alternative Title(s): Rhetorical Options ]


Rhetorical Reasoning is the process of evaluating how best to respond to a rhetorical situation. This process follows analysis of the rhetorical situation. In order to engage in effective rhetorical reasoning, writers, speakers, knowledge workers first need to understand their audience, occasion, exigency & kairos, and purpose.

An occasion, an exigency, calls for a response. Perhaps the best response is to say nothing. Or, perhaps written discourse, text is required.

But what should you say? Should you be tough? stuffy? sweet? What medium is the best channel for response? (an infographic? a video? a blog post?). Should you use the first person? What level of diction is expected?—these sorts of questions reflect reasoning processes.

After analyzing their rhetorical situation (Audience, Medium, Occasion (Exigency), rhetors have a number of options to choose from, including how they compose, what they say, and their style.

Rhetorical Options @ Writing Commons

Point of ViewIs 1st person, 2nd person, or 3rd person most appropriate?
Rhetorical AppealsWhat appeals to Ethos, Logos, and Pathos are needed?
Rhetorical ModesWhat Rhetorical Modes will help me achieve my aims? Can the modes inform how I write an entire document or just a paragraph or section?
Rhetorical StanceWhat Persona, Tone, and Voice will be most effective?
GenreRhetors (writers/speakers) identify the most appropriate genre to deploy by considering their rhetorical situation.

Caution: This page is under construction. It is a rough draft. Pls ck back in a bit.

Reasoning refers to the many ways we think through problems and create solutions. Reasoning may be based on

  • evidence—empirical observation
  • logic
  • emotion, intuition, felt sense.

Key Concepts: Composing Processes; Critical Literacy; Information Literacy; Organizational Schema & Logical Reasoning; Pathos; Purpose (The CRAAP Test); Research


Typically, reasoning is conceptualized to be a logical process, involving organizational schema & logical reasoning—and especially deductive reasoning and inductive reasoning. Yet it’s a mischaracterization of reasoning to limit its scope to logic and commonplace organizational schema. People are, after all, emotional beings. Sometimes we reason with a mixture of feelings, an intuition, and logic (see Felt Sense). To be human is to be subjective. And some people prefer drama and chaos to logic and reasoning.

The notion that we reason with our emotions and intuition is not a new one. Aristotle theorized that intuition and universal truths are intertwined and function as a method of reasoning. Since then, the notion of universal truths or archetypes has come under considerable scrutiny and debate.

Reasoning is important. When teachers in school settings grade for content, they typically mean reasoning. And in workplaces, well, if you don’t have good reasons for your actions that make sense to your audience, you may find yourself out of work. You avoid reasoning at your peril. It’s job #1.

Professionalism, a core workplace competency, values logic over emotion.

Reasoning, interpretation, and composing are intertwined processes.

People can adopt a rhetorical stance, a persona, and the values associated with that stance epitomizes the ideological platform of a politician, corportation

Reasoning, Interpretation and Composing

Reasoning is integrated into all aspects of composing. In fact, many writers say that good writing is good thinking. Reasoning plays a pivotal role in all composing processes. Reasoning is how we sort through life, make priorities, and decide what we want to do with our lives.

Rhetorical Appeals; Rhetorical Devices; Rhetorical Modes; Rhetorical Stance; Tone; Voice—these rhetorical tools are a mode of reasoning.