Substance

Substance refers to what a rhetor communicates. Substance is information, content, evidence. Substance may be quantitative or qualitative, visual or alphabetical.

Substance is the antithesis to vague language.

Critics may fault writers or speakers for lacking substance. Critics may say Your text lacks substance when they perceive it to be underdeveloped, superficial, a boring review of obvious information.


When employers, teachers, or the general public say someone’s ideas, texts, or presentations lack substance, that’s a harsh takedown. At such moments, writers, must assess and prioritize the critique(s).

The critique that a text lack of substance is often tied to

  • a lack of effort and revision or a failure.
    • Flushed with the fervor associated with self expression, especially when we are super busy, we may not look hard and critically at our language. We may not really dig deeply into the facts of the matter and identify the status of the thoughtful conversations on the topic.
  • a failure to carefully consider the instructions for the writing assignment.
  • a failure to properly assess the rhetorical situation.
  • a fixed mindset, especially rigid thinking about as matter of complexity.

People my have a variety of reasons for suggesting a text of yours lacks substance. To assess whether your text is well developed or needs development, ask

  1. Is my use of ethos, pathos, and logos balanced appropriately for my rhetorical situation?
  2. Have I overemphasized appeals to ethos and pathos, at the expense of appeals to logos? Did I engage in sufficient preliminary research and scholarly conversations surrounding this topic? Have I weaved the evidence I gathered (e.g., statistics, direct quotes, paraphrases or quotations) into the fabric of my text, so that it logically supports my thesis, purpose, and rhetorical stance.?

To develop substance, a rhetor can

Additional articles on Substance:

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