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Rhetorical training is instruction in the conduct and theory of how to express an argument in prose and speech. Such written or oral pieces are also known as rhetoric. Students who undergo rhetorical training learn how to craft arguments by learning the logical underpinnings of constructing arguments and rhetorical devices to improve upon the underlying structure of an argument. This training helps students express their ideas coherently in debates, academic settings and everyday conversation.
The word “argument” might have connotations of a heated and acrimonious disagreement between two or more individuals, but the academic sense of the word does not carry the same idea of conflict. In the academic sense, an argument refers to an individual presenting an idea and the reasons he or she believes it to be true. This argument can be written in essays or research papers, or it can be presented orally. Rhetorical training teaches students how to prepare and present these arguments.
Learning logical structures is a fundamental aspect of rhetorical training. By learning the patterns of the ways that different premises can combine to support a conclusion logically, students can construct logically valid arguments. When they learn how to support these premises with evidence, students are learning how to make arguments that can withstand having someone question the veracity of their arguments' premises. Students who have undergone rhetorical training can then use this knowledge to test the arguments that they will face, looking for logical flaws in the ways that certain premises support conclusions or the ways in which the supporting evidence proves premises to be true.
Although the fundamentals of logic and evidence are the core of rhetoric, rhetorical training also includes teaching students rhetorical devices that can serve a variety of purposes in an argument. One rhetorical device that helps give an argument a deeper structure is called antithesis, in which the author includes two seemingly opposing statements in the same sentence to emphasize the contrast between two ideas. Other rhetorical devices, such as alliteration, can help an argument sound more literary to an audience. Alliteration involves the author repeating the same sound at the beginning of words in a sentence.
All students receive a certain amount of rhetorical training in school, whether they are young or in college. When students learn to write persuasive essays, argumentative essays or research papers, they are learning the basics of supporting a conclusion with premises and supporting those premises with evidence. Students can choose to pursue additional rhetorical training through activities such as speech and debate clubs or to study the subject as a major or minor in college as preparation for postgraduate schooling or law school.