RHETORIC AND WRITING
Rhetoric And Writing… Rhetoric as a means of information sharing dates back to the classical eras of Greece and Rome which was made popular by the development of democracy. Rhetoric was a system of word choice, presentation and a complex web of communication behaviour designed to move men to action. Emphasis was laid on the reputation of speaker and the impact made on the audience. Also see composition and communication theory
However, rhetoric has come to acquire pejorative meaning over the years. The term has come to connote Insincerity, deceit, dishonesty, verbalism, hollow bombast and artificial eloquence. In the communication parlance, we regard rhetoric, however, as that “body of knowledge and that Intellectual discipline which concern the effective expression” of thought. Originally, it was the art of effective communication in general. It is the particular responsibility of the educated man to honestly articulate, his thought pattern and rhetoric is the study of honest, effective communication”. Rhetoric has as its elements the Interplay of the communicator, message and audience.
A writer is required to know the skill of selecting and seending symbols in order to evoke a desired response from the people.
Through verbal symbols (or the use of language) the writer should structure or restructure the perception and attitude of the reader without force? Below is a rundown of the basic elements that constitute classical rhetoric as articulated by Aristotle. Rhetoric is divided into
- Verbal: Written and spoken communication by use of language. It includes labelling, naming and categorization.
- Won- Verbal: Communication without words such as manner of dressing, symbols and their associations, rhetoric of time and space, music, colour, preparation.elc. The writer is concerned with the verbal rhetoric. He devices how best to persuade or influence the behaviour of his reader, through written information. Mastering the rhetoric of writing is the acquiring the skills for effective writing.
The writer is also expected to provide rhetorical support in order to effectively, persuade the reader. Rhetorical support could be artistic or non-artistic.
- Mon-artistic proof or support is a pre-determined and expected course of action. These include evidence, exhibit, witness and oaths.
- Artistic proof is created by the speaker and it includes:
- Ethical proof: Effectiveness is based on establishing believability of the writer. Writer should prove that he is credible intelligent and truthful.
- Logical proof: Proof that a thing is so. This is usually done through enthymeme (the premise – conclusion relationship).
- Pathetic proof: Aims at audience feelings. The greater the feeling, the greater the arosal to specific action.
Rhetoric also operates in specific situations. Still going by Aristotle’s classification, there are three types of occasion.
- Deliberation: Ways and means of war or peace, legislation
- Epideictic: Praise and blame. Deals with happiness, virtue and vice, pleasure, honour, etc. Quite unlike deliberative discourse which emphasizes fact-future, epideictic discourse considers fact-present.
- Forensic: Past actions like prosecution and defence, justice and injustice.
Rhetoric also has situation that necessitated it. This is called exigency. Rhetorical stance refers to the rhetorician or rhetor’s attitude towards his audience. He could be communicator centered without considering the needs of the audience (pitance or rational person stance) or adjust his message to suit the peculiarities of the audience (psychological person approach).
Relevance of the Foregoing to Modern Communication, and Writing in Particular
What is the relevance of the foregoing to modern communication, and writing in particular?
To adopt Lutz (1974; 110)
Half of the business of rhetoric is making arguments reasonable enough to convince people of the truth of some proposition or of the validity of some conclusion deduced from a given set of propositions. The other half involves the technical business of making your case in an orderly, effective way.
This implies that rhetoric has implications for the writer who must see communication as a typical act of persuasion — an act designed to influence the behaviour of the audience. In the words of Eko (1987:17), in a every “issue you indicate which side you are on, and you try to persuade the reader that you are right’. The same principle can apply to other forms of writing — description, narration and exposition.
Implication of The Subject Matter of Rhetoric
From the foregoing, the subject matter of rhetoric implies the following to writing.
- Persuasion is a dialectical act that accommodates the views of both writer and reader. It is a reciprocal act that does out imply winning or losing, but adjustment of positions.
- The writer’s view is just a view, not the only acceptable view. The writer recognizes the view of his audience as good but tries to show that there could be a better way of looking at the same issue. He tries to coincide this other view with his view without sounding egoistic or self righteous.
- The writer should consider the peculiarities of his chosen mode and employ the devices of effective writing.
- He should make good audience analysis to determine the kind of material or information that should be included. He should realize that an accomplished writer is virtuous or to adopt Cicero (the accomplish Roman Orator), “a good man”.
- The writer should demonstrate the codes of ethics: “good sense, goodwill and good moral character” The concept of ethical appeal in specific terms implies projecting societal norms, avoiding taboo words, mastering one’s content identifying with the audience, etc.
- The concept of emotional appeal or pathos implies appealing to the hope, Indignation, fear, anger, etc. of the audience. Writer should show proper appreciation of the hopes and expectations of the audience in order to arouse them to specific or demonstrable action
- The writer should also recognize the fallacies or loopholes In reasoning and avoid them in order to make an effective and logical appeal. He should also maintain order and logic in his presentation of facts.
- Rhetoric also entails style in the choice of language. This involves devices like sentence construction, variation in sentence length, repetition, parallelism, symbols, imagery, etc. Style also involves using the level of language that suitable to the audience as well as using simple, clear and precise expressions. That is, rhetoric ensures that the writer writes effectively, by meaning exactly what he writes.