What isn’t rhetoric?


When I think of the definition of rhetoric, I always think back to Aristotle’s definition of “the art or discovering the available means or persuasion.” While this definition can seem problematic due mostly to the word “persuasion” it is one of the most straightforward definitions in my opinion.   We perform acts of rhetoric all of the time without sitting down to write out the cannons and applying academic methods of rhetoric. 


I dress a certain way because I want to be perceived a certain way.  When I go to work, I wear business attire so that that I will be taken seriously in a business setting.  Although no words are exchanged, I feel that I am persuading individuals that I come in contact with that I mean business.  Similarly to an individual who’s wardrobe consist primarily of athletic apparel.  This individual could be seen as someone who wants the world to know that he or she is active and lives a “healthy” life style.  In order to understand rhetoric we must understand that it is indeed a method of persuasion.  The type or persuasion could be as simple as dressing a certain was or as direct as creating a nonprofit organization.  These actions all have in impact on the way that others view us and ultimately persuade them to treat us in a certain manner. 


Social Aspects of rhetorical writing

Lester Faigley wrote “The social perspective [of writing], then, moves beyond the traditional rhetorical concern for audience, forcing researchers [and professional writers] to consider issues, such as social roles, group purposes, communal organization, ideology, and finally theories of culture” (Peeples 59).  This indicates that Faigley believes that the audience is more than just a listening ear for the rhetor.  The audience is comprised of unique individuals who have different social constraints and ideologies.  This is something very apparent in the public relations realm.

When a company makes the decision to lay off employees, for example, they would usually create some type of reasoning behind the decision to present to the employees directly.  While the individuals who are being let go all have to commonality of that unfortunate event that is about to take place they are all still individuals who will receive the message differently depending on different social factors.  An older individual may see the lay off as early retirement.  An person in his or her mid 30-40 may see the termination as a devastating blow, not knowing what to do after being released from a company that they’ve been with since graduation college.  A younger individual may not realize the impact fully and may brush off the layoff to begin searching for new work.  While all of the individuals involved directly with the layoff of the employees will have a different response to the reasoning behind it, the public relations department must also take into consideration that documents regarding the layoff could be released to the public resulting in a negative or positive effect on the public image of the company.

Three views of professional writing

Doak, Miller, and Slack outline the three views of writing professionally, transmission views, translation view, and articulation view.  There are positive and negative affects of each style.  This is something that the writer should take into consideration when attempting to relay a certain message. The transmission view takes the message and delivers it to the audience directly.  The writer who utilizes the transmission expects the majority of the work to be done by the audience without much aid.  The writer who utilizes the translator view takes a message that they believe they understand fully and interprets it into common language that they feel the audience can understand.  The writer who employs the articulation view focuses on things such as social or ideological issues.  This writer ultimately creates a fluid document and is always editing, adding, changing, and selecting meaning.  To effetely utilize these methods, the author should be aware of his or her audience. For example, a professor would not word a proposal document for an audience of his/her peers utilizing the transmission view, the professor would not feel the need to simplify the wording used.

What is verses what ought to be

Academic/instructional and nonacademic/professional rhetoric each have play an important role as far as rhetoric is concerned.  The academic/instructional rhetoric can be viewed as the building blocks for more advance forms of rhetoric.  Many individuals learn by understanding the theory of rhetoric and then applying said theory.  Transitioning the theory into real world application is the ultimate test.

Each type of rhetoric has a general group of instances where they are appropriate of not.  Nonetheless, they co-exist with academic/instructional rhetoric being the backbone for nonacademic/professional rhetoric. While nonacademic/professional rhetoric make academic/institutional rhetoric relevant to what it going on in the world today.  When individuals stop trying to force a divide between the to they are able to work seamlessly together providing the ultimate rhetorical experience.