In one of my very first writing classes, I introduced my students to the word ‘rhetoric.’ Starting with term recognition, I asked the students-what usually comes to mind when we hear the word rhetoric? Where, and in what context, do we usually hear that term being used? The anticipated response that was voiced cautiously by one brave student was in politics. I am sure I am not the first blogger to rant on and on about how erroneous that association is.
If you are reading these blogs of mine, you either already know the word entails more complexity, or perhaps, you suspect that it’s probably mostly showcased from a specific angle. Referencing Aristotle’s infamous treatise on the “Art of Persuasion,” rhetoric is defined as the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing. Narrowly associated with politics, rhetoric is most often misunderstood, to be the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing that is insincere or meaningless.
In my writing class I try to reinforce that rhetoric is not meaningless, it is rather a very powerful concept that when used effectively, helps us to bridge gaps of misunderstanding. In regards to writing, rhetoric helps to them understand their rhetorical context, and it provides them with a tool kit of rhetorical appeals that when used correctly, helps their audience best understood what they-the writer-is trying to convey.
The rhetorical contexts of purpose, audience, and genre– help the writer to identify the elements needed to make their writing recognizable to themselves, and to their prospective audience.
The Rhetorical Appeals of ethos, pathos, and logos are tools the writer should use to strengthen their understandings of each element that exists within the rhetorical context
Therefore, when faced with a writing assignment, if we examine our 1) purpose for writing, 2) identify who our audience will be, and 3) recognize how best to convey our message within a specific genre, them we can more persuasively use the tools of ethos, pathos, and logos. Within this understanding, ethos is the conveying to the reader the credibility and trustworthiness of the writer, pathos is the figuring out of what emotional appeals your audience will understand and accept. In addition, logos, refers to the use of eternal information to support your writing, and/or structuring your ideas logically. All three help us to ensure that out writing is recognized in the way that it is intended to be understood.