D. Rhetorical Terms

DISCOURSE is the common language of a specific discipline that includes similar ways that scholars communicate within that field of study. 

MULTIMODAL WRITING: Multimodal texts are pieces of writing that include but are not limited to traditional print alphabetic writing.  Multimodal composition uses more than just words and letters to communicate, including audal, visual (photographs, drawings, paintings,etc.), and moving images like videos.  These additional elements support text in a meaningful way. Some examples of multimodal composition include podcasts, blogs, collages, video or audio essays, comic strips, storyboards, and electronic portfolios.

  • DIGITAL MEDIA is any media that are encoded in a machine-readable (binary) format instead of traditional alphabetic text. Digital media are created, viewed, distributed, modified and preserved exclusively on computers.
  •  SOCIAL MEDIA is machine-readable (digital) tool that allows writers to communicate through the creation, sharing, and exchange of text in virtual spaces. This digital technology creates interactive platforms that differ from traditional alphabetic textual transmission because of the interactive component of composition that stems from many sources and many receivers instead of from one source to many receivers.  

RHETORIC is a tool a writer uses to appeal to his or her readers. There are three appeals writers can employ to persuade an audience: logos (logical, rational appeal), pathos (emotional appeal), and ethos (appeals based on the credibility or character of the speaker or writer). When approaching rhetoric, perhaps the easiest way to explain how it works is to use the rhetorical triangle.

When communicating, it is important to consider how each corner of the triangle influences the other. For example, when writing a lab report, students will want to consider the subject of the report as well as the audience reading it. The report will be objective to present the information; thus, the speaker/writer of the report may not have his/ her voice in it. Another example is in an English class where the writer may try to convince readers of something. The writer pays close attention to audience, the subject, and how the writer presents the subject. (For further information, see VOICE.)

RHETORICAL ANALYSIS examines text by looking at the rhetorical devices used by an author and assesses the text’s effectiveness. In creating a rhetorical analysis, a writer should perform the following:

  • Consider the rhetorical triangle (above).
  • Examine the ethos, logos and pathos of the text or author.

  • Analyze the style, tone, language, and/ or structure of the piece.

  • Examine the claims made by the text. Are facts or other information ignored?

  • What kind of evidence in the text supports the claim? 

  • What historical, political, social or cultural contexts are needed in order to understand the argument?

(See WAC’s handouts on RHETORICAL ANALYSIS for more information: Handout 1, Handout 2)

 A RHETORICAL SITUATION occurs when a speaker, audience, medium (such as a text or speech), and a context converge to create a rhetorical act, such as an act of writing or speaking. Rhetorical discourse often occurs in a rhetorical situation.

  • AUDAL RHETORIC: Traditionally digital writing, though live performances can also be considered audal rhetoric, that is composed or communicated through an audal medium like a podcast, a song, or audio essay.  
  • VISUAL RHETORIC: The term used to describe visual composition that demonstrates thinking and learning in a visual medium.  Visual rhetoric focuses on art, media, and aesthetics. (This definition was based on Sandra Moriarty's diagram in her essay, "A Conceptual Map of Visual Communication"). 

WICKED PROBLEM: A wicked problem is a problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete, contradictory, and changing requirements that are often difficult to recognize. The use of term "wicked" here has come to denote resistance to resolution, rather than evil (Wikipedia). Link to scholarship on "wicked problems". 

  • From Harvard Business Review

    "Wickedness isn’t a degree of difficulty. Wicked issues are different because traditional processes can’t resolve them, according to Horst W.J. Rittel and Melvin M. Webber, professors of design and urban planning at the University of California at Berkeley, who described them in a 1973 article in Policy Sciences magazine. A wicked problem has innumerable causes, is tough to describe, and doesn’t have a right answer.... Environmental degradation, terrorism, and poverty... are classic examples of wicked problems.... Not only do conventional processes fail to tackle wicked problems, but they may exacerbate situations by generating undesirable consequences."

Contact Us

For information about the Writing Across the Curriculum Program please contact Director Georgia Rhoades at (828) 262-2075 or e-mail at rhoadesgd@appstate.edu

Writing Across the Curriculum Program
Appalachian State University
253 Anne Belk Hall
ASU Box 32033
Boone, NC 28608-2033

(828) 262-2075 (office)
(828) 262-2032 (fax)

For more information about WAC

Vertical Writing Model

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