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What Is the Role of Rhetoric in Writing?

Rhetoric is used to persuade.
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  • Written By: Lily Ruha
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 21 October 2014
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The role of rhetoric in writing is to persuade, inspire or impress the reader. Writers typically gain trust by establishing credibility with readers through conveying an understanding of prevalent needs and issues. Common rhetorical devices that are used in writing include storytelling, metaphors, satire and humor. Conducting extensive research is a requirement for establishing expertise and gaining credibility in certain types of written communication. The organization and structure of a written piece also is an important part of holding the attention of readers.

Effective use of rhetoric in writing often requires first gaining readers' trust. If the goal of the written communication is to sell an item, for example, the writer might employ a sincere tone that communicates an understanding of clients' needs. When campaigning for political office, candidates typically write in language that communicates knowledge of prevalent issues. A community member's written appeal to a local government official might have a greater impact if it conveys suggestions that will potentially benefit all city residents.

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Rhetoric in writing typically draws on numerous language devices. Storytelling, humor, metaphors, simile and irony are common rhetorical devices. A marketing writer might tell a story that illustrates the reason why a particular product or service is useful. When writing a press release, a business writer might use quotes from business leaders to impress upon readers the leaders' commitment to meeting their customers' needs. Commentary writers often use irony or humor to illustrate why a particular policy or political candidate is ineffective.

The persuasive impact of rhetoric in writing generally depends on the strength of arguments. A point of view's validity often rests on how well it addresses the facts and nuances of particular issues. Some writers engage in extensive research to understand multiple perspectives and counterarguments. Statistics and quantitative data are often used by writers to support arguments and convey an understanding of complex issues. With thorough documentation and facts, the possibility typically is greater that readers will be convinced to take action or change their opinions.

Effective rhetoric in writing also requires appropriate structure and organization. Establishing an argument at the outset of the written work to clarify the purpose of the discourse is a common approach. Breaking down a complex topic in writing by highlighting its most salient aspects is essential for leading readers through an argument or thought. Providing sound supporting arguments for the main appeal or thesis also is important for persuading or inspiring readers.

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Discuss this Article

whiteplane
Post 3

How can I strengthen my rhetorical skills? Are there books I can read, classes I can take, online games or modules that I could play? I am willing to try just about anything to be better at winning arguments.

profess
Post 2

@disciples - I know exactly what you mean. I write book reviews for a living, and I read books all the time that are fun to read but leave you completely unconvinced of their thesis by the end.

One big problem that I see is straw man arguments. It is really easy to argue against a weak argument. But if you give your opponent's arguments all the credit they deserve, it obligates you to refine and strengthen your own argument.

disciples
Post 1

In the case of non-fiction, rhetoric is everything. Ultimately, it doesn't matter so much how beautiful or creative your writing is. What matters is how logically reasoned and persuasive your argument is.

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