BASIC RHETORIC: VOCABULARY LIST WITH DEFINITIONS
*Not all of these terms may come up in class, but students should be familiar with all definitions.*
Active Voice: The English verb form, in which the actor (the person, place or thing doing the action described in the verb) is the subject of the sentence (e.g., "A shark ate him," as opposed to the passive voice: "He was eaten by a shark.") Strongly prefer active verb forms over passive in Rhetoric, because audiences almost always perceive passive verb forms as "weak" and even "deceptive." However, in some forms of writing (e.g., scientific writing), active voice is discouraged and passive voice is preferred.
Allegory: An extended image or metaphor (E.g., Plato's Allegory of the Cave).
Antagonistic rhetoric: In antagonistic rhetoric, the rhetor tries to accuse, discredit, indict, convict, defeat, neutralize, eliminate or even bring about the death of the opponent. Sometimes called "polemic" rhetoric. This is the opposite of nonantagonistic (cooperative) rhetoric. Antagonistic rhetoric divides. Cooperative rhetoric unites. The task of the rhetor is to distinguish between situations in which antagonistic rhetoric is necessary, and those in which nonantagonistic rhetoric is appropriate.
Antithesis: The opposite of your own standpoint or thesis; your opponent's standpoint. In the classical arrangement, this is part of the "division," the 3th section of the text: a brief summary of the opponent's standpoint, presented in a manner favorable to your standpoint, but which the opponent cannot deny. (Antithesis also refers to a specific parallel structure in writing, where contrasting words or ideas are presented in parallel).
Argument: Appeal or verbal persuasion from reason (facts), emotion or reputation (character). In Rhetoric, unlike everyday English, "argument" does not mean fighting, yelling (i.e., "having an argument") or fussing. As one textbook says, "Everything is an argument."
Aristotle: Ancient Greek philosopher, 4th century BC. Wrote The Art of Rhetoric.
Arrangement: The order or format of your writing. In this class, all papers should be written in the six-part classical arrangement, unless I ask you to do otherwise. Other common arrangements include the various four and five-part essay formats (the three-point essay, SWOT, SOAP, IMRAD, IPPPC, etc.) that are expected and used to construct knowledge in different academic and professional disciplines, and which you may have learned already elsewhere. You, the rhetor, are the builder, and the arrangement is the schematic, framework or blueprint. The arrangement serves you and the audience, you do not serve the arrangement.
Artistic persuasion: Verbal persuasion by means of reason (facts), emotion or reputation, the function of Rhetoric. "Persuasion" by force, bribery or threat (as well as mathematical-type strict proof from facts and figures) is "inartistic."
Audience: Writing works only when it meets the needs of a definable collective of readers--the audience--and serves them obsessively. One of the first tasks of the writer is to decide who the intended audience is, and what distinguishes them from other groups. Failing to carefully define an audience, writing for those who are not audience, or trying to please different conflicting, irreconcilable audiences means trouble. (ref: Albert, Tim. A-Z of Medical Writing. London: BMJ Bks, 2000. 40.) [See also "Universal Audience."]
Classical Arrangement: The six-part essay. Goes back to Cicero.
Content: What is being communicated in a text (also "Message").
Conclusion (Peroratio): The last part of the text. In the classical arrangement this is the 6th paragraph or section. Conclusions can take various forms; Aristotle suggests using appeals from pathos. Modern academic conclusions often include a discussion of exceptions and unanswered questions remaining for further study, implications and practical consequences of your standpoint, plus an explicit statement of what you want the audience to do. In a conclusion, sum up, never repeat, what you said in the text. Never begin any conclusion with "In conclusion" or similar phrases. You do not have to tell the audience you are concluding; they can see that already! Just conclude.
Delivery: Originally, the way in which oratory (speechmaking) is spoken, gestures to be used, etc. In contemporary written rhetoric, "delivery" can also mean the method and media used to get the rhetoric into the hands or before the eyes of the intended audience, and the form in which it arrives to the audience. More generally, the presentation of rhetoric. Delivery is critical for the persuasiveness of rhetoric--if a very persuasive message arrives in an unattractive, sloppy or disreputable form, if the audience cannot understand the message, if they do not pay any attention to it, or if never arrives before the audience's eyes at all, it cannot persuade and may be considered a waste of time.
Dialectic: Generally, the art of logical argument, the simple recognition that every question has two sides, or discovering or arriving at a truth through the clash of opposing ideas. Sometimes (as in philosophy) "dialectic" also refers to the eternal clash of opposites in the actual world or an ideal world.
Division: In classical arrangement, this is the 3rd paragraph or section of a text. The Division is a discussion of the stasis or point at issue in the question at hand--underlining precisely how and at what point you stop agreeing and start to differ with your opponent. In this section, you should include the Antithesis (a brief statement of your opponent's standpoint, stated in terms that the opponent could not deny). See also Stasis.
Revision: Different from proofreading. Must be done separately from proofreading! revise for sound, sense and style, keeping your writing fat-free. The best way to begin revision is by reading your text OUT LOUD to someone else, or even better, having someone else read your text out loud to you, noting anything that does not sound good or makes no sense. Trust your ear. In general, ask yourself "How would you explain this to your intended audience face-to-face?" Never be afraid to go back and add, delete, correct or improve your text.
Ethos: Persuasive appeal from reputation, social position or personal character (your own or someone else's). Also refers to a collective or organization's reputation.
Form: How the content is being communicated. Includes style (tone) and delivery.
Introduction: The first part or paragraph of a persuasive text. Use this to present your thesis statement and to establish your ethos, your "right to write" on your subject. In contemporary rhetoric, this must contain a clear thesis statement, which is ordinarily at the very beginning of your introduction, that is, unless your thesis will be extremely controversial or hostile in the audience's eyes. (Some other formats place the thesis statement at the end of the introduction after a "buildup," but for persuasion this tends to be "weaker." In general, unless you are facing severe audience hostility, in your introduction "hit'em first and hit'em hard" with your thesis. Academic readers do not have time to diddle around with extra words or fun "teasers."
Invention: Brainstorming; methods for discovering, selecting or inventing the best available subjects, arguments and means of persuasion.
Kairos: The rhetorical moment (the "when" and the "where," the time, place and circumstances in which rhetoric takes place). The Kairos changes like the weather. And, it is critical for persuasion. E.g., many charities ask for money around the holidays, when people feel "generous," not after Income Tax day, when rich people feel "poor."
KISS: The KISS principle is "Keep It Short and Simple" (or, "Keep It Simple, Stupid!"). Follow this principle in all writing for this course, by eliminating any words or sentences that are not necessary or to the point. Imagine you are being charged by the word for your writing. This can also be described as "fat free" writing, or, in classical terminology, the "Attic" style of writing.
Logos: Persuasive appeal from facts, logic or reason. Logos may involve using facts, figures, numbers, graphs, examples, and different forms of reasoning from evidence or deduction. This is very useful for persuading intelligent, educated and mature audiences, as well as for negative or hostile audiences.
Metaphor: Comparison, referring to one thing as another. (E.g, "The El Paso sun glared down like a spotlight.")
Narration (narratio) Also: Statement of Facts. Telling the story. In classical arrangement, this is the 2nd paragraph or section of the text, telling the background, facts, characteristics and events of the issue at hand in a way that your opponent cannot disagree with.
Nonantagonistic Rhetoric: Rhetoric that tries to smooth over disagreements and to find cooperative ways to reach a common goal, even if rhetor and opponents have serious differences of opinion. This is the opposite of "Antagonistic" rhetoric ("polemic") that seeks to defeat, convict, neutralize or even bring about the death of the opponent.
Nonartistic persuasion (also "Inartistic persuasion): So-called "persuasion" by force, threat or bribery. Also refers to mathematical-type proofs. The opposite of Rhetoric, which deals with purely verbal, "artistic persuasion."
Passive Voice: The English verb form, in which the actor (the person, place or thing doing the action described in the verb) is the object of the sentence (e.g., "He was eaten by a shark.") Strongly prefer active verb forms over passive in Rhetoric, because audiences almost always perceive passive verb forms as "wseak" and even "sneaky" or "deceptive." However, in some instances (e.g., scientific writing), passive voice is preferred.
Pathos: Persuasive appeal from emotion (yours, the audience's, or someone else's)
Person (first, second, third): In English, the first person is I/me/us, the second person is you, and the third person is he/she/it/they. In academic writing, avoid using the second person (you) unless directly addressing the audience (e.g., you [readers of this statement] should write clearly and correctly). In some academic writing, e.g., science writing, or the Final Paper for this course, only the third person may be used. A college-level writer must never use "you" to mean "someone," "everyone," or "people." For example, do not write "Before you enter a mosque, you must take off your shoes," or "You need to have a CDL if you want to drive the big rigs." Instead, write something like "People must take off their shoes before entering a mosque," or "Anyone who wants to drive the big rigs needs to have a CDL."
Persuasion: Convincing an audience to agree with your standpoint. Rhetoric is the process of artistic persuasion. "Convincing" and "persuading" will be used as synonyms (the same thing) in this course.
Plagiarism: Cheating by stealing someone else's words or ideas without giving credit. Scholars constantly borrow and quote ideas and wording from one another--plagiarism occurs when one claims another's writing or data as one's own or fails to give proper credit when using someone else's work. Plagiarism is a major violation of academic rules.
Plato: Ancient Greek philosopher, 5th-4th century BC. Emphasized Dialectic over Rhetoric. Author of The Allegory of the Cave.
Polemic: Warlike or conflictive rhetoric. See Antagonistic Rhetoric.
Power: All writing takes place within situations of power (either cooperative or antagonistic). In this class it is vitally important to understand the relationships among language, knowledge, and power. Writing with power (using rhetoric) means writing to persuade in order to further goals that you or your audience want or need to accomplish. "Power" does not necessarily mean forcing or tricking other people to do what you want--it simply means being able to do anything or achieve any results at all! Rhetoric is a powerful nonviolent method of achieving personal and social goals.
Proof (Confirmatio): In classical arrangement this is the 4th paragraph or section of the text, in which you offer reasoned proofs for your own standpoint. These proofs can be facts, logic or evidence. Opinion, as such, does not belong in this section (although, of course, ALL rhetoric is opinionated!).
Proofreading: Different from revision, must
be done separately! (Proofreading is generally done last.) In proofreading,
check for problems in:
--spelling, typos and keyboarding
--grammar and punctuation
--citations (make sure all quotes are in quotation marks, and all wording and information quoted from outside sources is properly cited in the text).
--class rules (eliminating contractions, incorrect use of the 2nd person, etc.)
Purpose (exigency): WHY you are writing what you write, the need, purpose or demand for your writing. Writing with no purpose (or writing whose only purpose is "because it is assigned") is bad, useless writing. This class teaches "real world writing," and all writing in this class should be for a purpose beyond that of simply getting a grade. The purpose of good writing is to serve your own and your audience's needs.
Questions: Do not start your text with a question, unless you answer it immediately. A thesis statement normally cannot be a question, although sometimes a question that is immediately answered can be a thesis statement in some forms of English writing.
Quotes and references: Using someone else's words in your own text to support what you have written. Scholars (you are one!) constantly quote one another! Doing this is good scholarship, particularly when you are a beginning scholar, since quoting adds the strength of the other writer's ethos to your own. Quoting without quotation marks or without giving credit is cheating (plagiarism).
Refutation: Disproving or attempting to attack the credibility of an opposing view. In classical arrangement, this is the 5th paragraph or section of the text. Refutation has to do mainly with your opponent's standpoint, not your own standpoint or beliefs. Refutation overcomes your opponent's main arguments (or potential arguments), one by one.
Rhetor: Someone who creates rhetoric. In this class, this means you. "Know yourself, know your enemy; a hundred battles fought, a hundred battles won" (Anon. Chinese saying).
Rhetoric: The art of effective verbal or written argumentation and persuasion. Rhetoric is not simple logical argumentation! How, where, when and why one says something, and who is saying it are all just as important in rhetoric as what one says. Rhetoric has to do with the controversial, the unsure and the probable, rather than with the sure and certain (which is the realm of either mathematics or faith). Rhetoric is the nonviolent language of power.
Rhetorical analysis: Analyzing the rhetorical characteristics (style, content, arguments, kairos, delivery, etc.) of a given piece of writing.
Standpoint: Point of view, opinion or viewpoint (yours or someone else's). This can be stated (thesis) or unstated (hypothesis).
Stasis (Also, Point of Stasis, Division): Generally, the first point at issue in a debate or disagreement; the first point in the chain of logic at which you stop agreeing and start disagreeing with your opponent. Stasis is examined in the Division section of your essay.
Statement of Facts: See Narration.
Style (tone): In English, can be High, Medium, or Low. According to Hermogenes of Tarsus, good style can be judged on the degree of clarity, grandeur, beauty, rapidity, character, sincerity and force. According to the Rhetorica ad Herrenium, defective styles include "swollen," "slack or drifting," and "meager."
Summing up: Bringing together the main points of your text. Using parallel structures like accumulation and climax are excellent methods of summing up. Never begin your conclusion with a phrase like "to sum up..."
Text: Any piece of writing, not just a textbook.
Thesis statement: Statement of your standpoint, usually found in the introduction. Thesis statements must be specific, opinionated and deniable, and must (like all writing!) be addressed to a very specific audience. A thesis statement cannot be either an unquestioned fact (2+2=4) or an open question ("What is to be done?"), but should take the form of a "should-statement." This can be either explicit ("We should drill for oil...") or implicit, in the form of a controversial statement that you want to convince your audience of ("Beautiful Ciudad Juárez is a tourist's dream").
Tone: See "Style."
Topic sentence: In contemporary writing, a sentence determining the topic of a paragraph. A topic sentence is to a paragraph what a thesis statement is to an essay. Topic sentences branch from the thesis statement like branches on a tree.
Universal Audience: An imaginary audience consisting of all humanity. Audiences are always specific. Unless you are writing Holy Scripture, never write (intentionally or by default) for a "universal audience"--writing for "everybody" means writing for nobody, and writing for a universal audience (or for nobody in particular) is bad writing.
Voice: The rhetor's presence in a text. Texts do not fall from the sky, and to pretend they do in your writing is deceptive. Your persuasive writing must always have your "voice" in them in some way or another. For grammatical "Voice," see "Passive Voice," "Active voice."
"Who cares?" Test: When you are done writing a text, if you cannot answer the question "Who cares?," it is bad writing. Either fix it up or toss it out and start over, but never turn in anything that does not pass the "'Who cares?' test."
Source for links: http://humanities.byu.edu/rhetoric/silva.htm
Revised 1/08. O.W.
For educational purposes only.
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