Rhetors are symbol analysts. Rhetors are authors, speakers, artists who use symbols (e.g., an alphabet, sign language, computer code) or oral language to communicate.
Rhetors are rhetoricians. They analyze their rhetorical situation
engaging in rhetorical analysis, rhetors reflect on
In ancient Greece, the term rhetor referred to a rhetorician–i.e. someone who taught rhetoric. Since then, the term rhetor or rhetorician or technorhetorician (someone with expertise in both rhetoric and technology) has fallen a bit out of favor.
At Writing Commons, we use rhetor to refer to writers and speakers who are engaged in communication. For that matter, we believe rhetor can also be used aptly to describe the work of artists. Although artists may work in non-alphabetical mediums (e.g., paint or clay), they nonetheless may use symbols to communicate, even if that communication is with themselves.
Your personal history, your identify, influences not only what you write about but how you write. Your mindset and ways of responding to rhetorical situations and employing genres is invariably tied to your educational history and personality.
Just as you have personal history that influence what you write about and how you writer, your readers have personal histories. Those readers’ personal histories will influence whether they read your writing. Just as listeners make assumptions about your personality and thoughts about a topic by observing how a person might dress and act and by listening to the tone of their voice, readers make judgments about a rhetor’s personality and feelings about a topic based on how they write texts.
For example, readers make assumptions about how clever and fair a thinker you are by noting the quality of your reasoning, the words you choose, and the way you format your text. Problems such as spelling and punctuation errors or pronoun agreement errors might cause readers to wonder whether the writer is careless.
Because composing, information literacy, and research can be so incredibly time consuming and complex, self-reflection about the process can be daunting. Trying to communicate your subject in a coherent way can be so overwhelming that you forget to consider the sort of tone, persona, or voice you are projecting or the reader may be inferring.
However, the vitality of a writer’s voice, tone or persona often has a tremendous influence on readers’ responses. Sometimes readers say they enjoy a text because an author seems straightforward and personable or funny and satirical. In contrast, readers may dislike a text because the author seems stuffy or cold-hearted.