V. Rhetorical Terms

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

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.

  • What claims are made by the text? What facts are ignored?

  • What kind of evidence is there in the text to support 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.

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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

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Boone, NC 28608-2033

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