What are rhetorical strategies
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What are Rhetorical Strategies?. What is rhetoric ? And why bother studying it?. “the art of effective expression (speaking & writing) and the persuasive use of language” We study rhetoric because: it helps us to better appreciate appeals to our ethos, pathos, & logos (more on this to come)

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What are Rhetorical Strategies?

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What are Rhetorical Strategies?

What is rhetoric? And why bother studying it?

  • “the art of effective expression (speaking & writing) and the persuasive use of language”

  • We study rhetoric because:

    • it helps us to better appreciate appeals to our ethos, pathos, & logos (more on this to come)

    • it helps us to become more effective persuasive speakers and writers


  • What are some of the techniques by which people use language persuasively?

  • Jot these down in your notes

Maybe you named some of these examples:

  • Formal diction leads readers/listeners to believe something is ethically or legally important

  • Emotional diction (sometimes called “sensationalism”) leads readers/listeners to recognize that ideas expressed are important to the writer/speaker

  • Allusion can associate a new idea to a traditionally respected source

Here is a real-life example of rhetoric in action…

  • If you were trying to persuade a student to get to class on time, you might say, “it is WHS policy that students serve detention after three tardies”. What makes this statement effective?

  • The statement sounds formal and authoritative!

Ethos, Pathos, Logos

  • Greek philosopher Aristotle argued that there are three basic ways to persuade an audience that you are right.


  • Persuasive appeal of one’s character. Tells us that the author is reliable and competent

  • Example: “I am a father, a taxpayer, and have served you as senator for 20 years. I deserve your vote to continue my service.

AK Senator Hollis French


  • Appeal to emotion (of course, meant to evoke emotional response)

  • Example: “Imagine for a moment a tragic collision on the Parks Highway. A family is killed and many others are injured. The cause is determined to be frost heaves. We must use more state funds to pay for road improvements.”


  • Appeal to reason (evokes a rational response)

  • Example: “Alaska’s roads are in a state of disrepair. Without quality roads, our transportation system will falter and hinder our economy. Hence, we must use more state funds to pay for road repairs.”

Rhetorical Strategies

  • The strategies that follow are just some of the ways to make your writing/speaking more persuasive…

Parallel Structure

  • Parallel Structure-repetition of grammatically similar words, phrases, clauses, or sentences to emphasize a point or stir the emotions of a reader/listener. Used to create a sense of rhythm, balance, and order in writing or speech.

    • Chiasmus=“inverted parallelism” (i.e. eat to live, not live to eat)

Parallel Structure

The coach told the players: “You will get some sleep tonight, you will not eat too much right before the game, and you will do some warm-up exercises before the game.”

Rhetorical Question

  • Rhetorical Question-question not answered by writer b/c the answer is obvious or obviously desired. Used in persuasion to encourage the reader/listener to reflect on what the answer must be.

  • “How much longer must our people endure this injustice?”


  • Short, informal reference to famous person, event, story. Relies on reader/listener to be familiar with the reference and hidden meaning. Used to stimulate ideas, associations, add extra information.

  • If I want to persuade you to wash your hands, I may say “thou shalt wash thy hands”. I am trusting that you respect the commandments and, hence, my statement.


  • Comparison between two things that are alike in certain respects. Used in persuasion to demonstrate the logic of one idea by showing how it is similar to an accepted idea.

    • (“Pupils are more like oysters than sausages. The job of teaching is not to stuff them and then seal them up, but to help them reveal the riches within.”-Sydney Harris)


  • Repetition of initial consonant sounds. Used to call attention to a phrase and fixes it in the reader’s/listener’s mind.

  • (i.e. “Let us go forth to lead the land we love.”- John F. Kennedy Inaugural speech)


  • Humor can be used to make you like the writer/speaker and “win you over”

    • Hyperbole-exaggeration for emphasis/effect (“at night she needs a paint scraper to take off her makeup”)

    • Sarcasm (“Obama doesn’t have the experience of being Miss Wasilla!”)

    • Irony (verbal, situational, dramatic) (“it is ironic that the window store had all of its windows broken by vandals”)

    • Understatement (From Monty Python: Army officer loses a leg, “Stings a bit.”)


  • When attempting to persuade, consider your audience.

  • For example, you would not use caustic satire to persuade a potential employer to hire you.

  • (“The food served here is great if you are a teenager with two dollars in your pocket.”)

Active Voice v. Passive Voice

  • Active Voice- The boyhit the ball. The subject of this sentence actively hits the ball.

  • Passive Voice- The ballwas hit by the boy. The subject sits passively, doing nothing while some outside agent performs the action.

Here’s why it is better rhetoric to use active voice…

  • Active voice sentences are shorter.

    • The fighter punched Ali and dodged the uppercut. (Active= 8 words)

    • Ali was punched by the fighter, and then an uppercut was dodged by him. (Passive= 14 words)

Active sentences are clear and to the point

  • When you use passive voice, you have to use boring phrases like “by so-and-so” or leave this out and let your sentence become unclear.

    • The airplane was flown to Bermuda (by the pilot).

    • My car has been driven to Dallas. (By whom? A car thief? The teletubbies?)

To Identify the Evil Passive Voice

  • Is there a form of the verb “to be” such as is/am/are/was/were/be/being/been? (Can’t create passive voice without this)

  • Could you insert “by so-and-so” after the verb? (the dog was fed (by the owner)

  • ID the subject and main verb. Is the subject “doing” the action? Or is it sitting passively?

Use inside of box to ID rhetorical devices

  • Metaphor

  • Symbolism

  • Rhetorical Questions

  • Emotionally “loaded words” (To advertise a new movie…”the most awe-inspiring display of artistry ever presented on the big screen.”)

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