What is Rhetoric?

Everyone uses rhetoric.  Rhetoric is the way that we talk to convince people of what we want them to believe.

Rhetoric is not only a formal persuasive speech.

Each day we live, every moment we communicate we are attempting to convince others to believe us.  We try to convince them to believe that we are who we think we are by the way we speak, dress, and behave.  If we believe that we are kind people, we will speak kindly to people, we will dress nicely, and treat people with kindness and generosity.

We believe something about ourselves and the world and want other people to believe that, too.

In this world, we can’t believe that we are kind, say that we are kind, but at the same time treat people badly and convince people that we are kind.

We are who we say we are, act like we are, and look like we are through our facial expressions and other nonverbal communication.  If we do not have all three of these aspects to prove what we want people to believe about us then people will be skeptical.

Have you taught your students to write a Rhetorical Presis yet?

This is the Ethos, Pathos, and Logos of Persuasion

Ethos is the speaker’s credibility.  If we want to be perceived as a kind person, we must be credible as a kind person.  We must treat people nicely, be generous and patient.  The moment that we don’t do one of these things, our credibility goes down and people begin to question whether we really are who we say we are.

Pathos is the emotions that we create in our audience.  In this case, our audience is anyone that we want to believe that we are kind.  Do we make people feel good when we are around them? Do we do things intentionally to make them feel that way? We know that if we want them to feel a certain way then we will do and say certain things.  When we are aware of the feelings that our words and actions create in people, we can adapt to create the outcome that we intend.

Logos is the proof that we provide for what we want our audience to believe.  For example, we cannot claim to be kind over and over again and convince someone of this without any proof.  We must show proof through our actions, words, and through consistency.

Though this is a simplistic description of what these Rhetorical Appeals are, we will start in the simple and move to the more advanced description.

You might notice that all of the rhetorical appeals overlap.  The proof you give (logos) gives way to the emotions that you create in your audience (pathos).  The proof and emotions that you induce in your audience provides the credibility you need for people to believe you (ethos).  They all build on one another to make your audience believe what you are saying.

Now let’s look quickly how an author does this.

An author always has a purpose for writing with an intention for you to believe whatever they are saying, even fiction authors.

An author builds credibility (ethos) first by being a published author, but that is not it.  The author has to gain your attention, show you that they have done their research and they aren’t just making things up.  Have you ever watched a movie or read a book where there was a detail that you knew a ton about that was portrayed completely wrong?  Since the author made this mistake, the audience can question him/her.  They lose credibility if they do not have the correct facts (logos).  Or if you read a story and what the intended emotion (pathos) that they wanted to create completely fell flat, then their pathos was off?  On the other hand, if the book made you cry then the pathos was on point.

Rhetoric isn’t the easiest thing to teach, but I have created a few lessons that make it easy for you and your students. Write a Rhetorical Presis is one of Thrive Write’s most popular lessons. Check it out HERE!

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