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30 November -0001


Rhetoric is a great way to look at how language is used for effect. Rhetoric is the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, especially the exploitation of compositional techniques.

A workshop group might look at a well known speech and discuss the use of rhythm and repetition, or the active and passive voice. Clearly these techniques are relevant to all forms, but through the lens of rhetoric the relationship between device and effect is brought to a sharper focus.

There are a lot of useful blogs listing rhetorical devices, but long lists can overwhelm a group. In a workshop it’s good to have a small group of related ‘devices’ which the group can discuss more easily.

So, for example, we looked at the ‘If By Whiskey’ speech and discussed it in terms of Appeal:

  1. The appeal to authority (Ethos)

  2. The appeal to emotion (Pathos)

  3. The appeal to logic (Logos)

  4. The appeal to urgency (Kairos)

  5. The appeal to doubt (Aporia)

You can listen to the speech here: If By Whiskey, Noah S. 'Soggy' Sweat Jr.

Our discussion of these techniques moved easily between politicians, sales people, advertising, public relations, celebrity, social media and storytelling narratives.

A writing exercise around these five devices might use ‘satire’ - imagine a politician delivering a speech in a ridiculous space, and using props from that space to make their point (Nigel Farage in a cheese shop).


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