The Elements of Rhetoric
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What are the elements of rhetoric?
we wish to persuade then what things do we need to consider?
codification of the elements of rhetoric in the first century CE
spoke of five cannons: invention, arrangement,
memory and delivery. They have served as a basis for analyzing
rhetoric and for teaching rhetoric ever since the classical period.
- Invention concerns the process of discovering
what to say. In particular it is about the understanding of argument
and the recognition
the common categories of thought and patterns of reasoning.
- Arrangement is about how best to order the elements of the speech. One might
begin by establishing one’s personal
credentials to argue on the topic, then move on to consider
the reasons why the
position one is advocating are compelling and finish with
a rousing emotional appeal to action. Monroe’s motivated
sequence is a classic example of an approach to arrangement.
about it here.
- Style is about how best to deliver the meat of what one wishes
to say in order to persuade. It is what is often
to be the whole of rhetoric – i.e. “mere style”.
- Memory is about two things. First,
it is about ways to memorize one’s material. Second, it is
about memorizing the information needed to supply the building
This is not just about memorizing relevant facts but also
relevant patterns of argument.
- The Greek word for delivery is “hypokrisis” – “acting”.
It is about how best to deliver the argument. It differs
from style by being more about the pragmatics of delivery – projection,
breathing and so forth.
Although the classical cannon is
a useful reference point it emphasizes the abstract concepts
that underlie rhetoric.
that we can
conveniently divide up the elements of rhetoric in a
different way – one
which puts the focus on what needs to be considered in
each particular instance of rhetoric – consider
these three categories:
First, the environment – under
this we need to consider, for example, the nature of
the tribunal, the
the target audience,
the nature of the advocate, the nature of the opposing
advocate and the prevailing prejudices.
Second, the topic – what
is the position that is being argued for? Is it a rational
position or an emotional
one for which considerable evidence or authority exists?
Is it complicated
In the third category are the things
that connect the first two categories. Under this topic we need
inter-relate and how we can use our understanding to
make our position the more persuasive. This is largely
Some examples will make the relevance of
these three categories clearer:
a) I have to persuade a judge
of the High Court of England and Wales that my patent is valid
and infringed. The
experienced. It will give me due time to develop
my arguments. The judge is intelligent and humorless, my opponent
is bellicose and
simplistic and I am senatorial but prone to over
presentation. The nature of the judge and the dry,
dictates an approach that is somber, heavily fact
based and which preferably
allows my opponent to become over-excited and thereby
alienate the judge. I must avoid being over flowery
b) I have to persuade a mob not to lynch a
man that they believe is a rapist. The tribunal is informal
unlikely to be interested in complicated arguments
or overly regardful for
high principle. I am unlikely to be given the
time to develop my arguments. I have no opponent but
of the mob
am senatorial but prone to over flowery presentation.
Here the nature
of the tribunal dictates against a somber, fact
based approach. Far from allowing my opponent to become
must calm its
passions. I need to play down my senatorial stance
since this may alienate the mob and similarly
my over flowery
to make my arguments seem only wordy.
Many of the
considerations that arise in these three categories are common-sense
and obvious once
It is only necessary
them and bring them out in order to have them
in mind the next time one debates.