A detour of rhetoric

Some essayists have rivalries in publishing their pieces, thus employment of rhetoric is important. They strive to apprise their pieces with the most persuasive rhetorical devices which would whet the appetite of the targeted audience. So, one needs to swot the significance of rhetoric, in order to compose a conspicuous piece of writing.

Aristotle, a rhetorician, defined rhetoric as “the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion.” Whilst Campbell identified rhetoric as “a tool that enlightens the understanding, the tool that pleases the imagination, that moves the passions, or influences the will.” Therefore, one could simply define rhetoric as the use of language as a symbolic means of inducing cooperation in beings that naturally respond to symbols.

Although definitions of rhetoric differ in minor ways, the fundamental concept remains: rhetoric is a practical art concerned with the study of the influential use of communication. Thus, considering these definitions, the writer has to use rhetorical devices in order to induce readers’ attention and have his/her inscription read.

There are five rhetoric cannons or articles (invention, arrangement, style, memory and delivery) that guide or help writers to compose their inscriptions. These cannons have an apt sense of persuading the targeted audience, hence their effective utilisation makes the inscription more appealing.

Invention (inventio) is the central, indispensable canon of rhetoric, and traditionally means a systematic search for the arguments. This cannon supplies rhetoricians and writers with sets of instructions that help them to find and compose arguments that are appropriate for a given rhetorical situation. This is one of the most crucial cannons as it helps writers draw on their memory and observation for the kinds of details that will add depth to their inscriptions.

Invention involves the three means or modes of effecting communication itself: the first technique ‘ethos’, is the ethical appeal to a writer’s credibility. The second ‘pathos’, involves much more than simply making the audience laugh, cry, or become enraged. Pathos is a proof that is an appeal to an audience, and entails sense of identity, their self-interest, and emotions. Because pathos appeals to the deepest parts of the audience, many essayists consider it as the strongest of the appeals as it involves the power of emotion to sway the minds of  audiences. The third ‘logos’, is the rational appeal through the speech itself as it demonstrates the argument. Logos make a sound argument, which presents audiences with a logical appeal with facts that cannot be denied or ignored.

Arrangement (disposition) is the system that is required by writers in order to keep their arguments organized and coherent. It is a nuisance reading an article that has a vague structure, thus, writers should select various arguments and organize them into an effective discourse. On the other hand, style (elocutio), the third of the five cannons, involves eloquent writing. Correctness, clearness, appropriateness and ornament are the four ingredients necessary in order to achieve an attention-grabbing style. This means, the writer should use words that are current and adhere to the grammatical rules of the language.

In addition, memory (memoria) involves recalling the argument of the discourse, which enables the writer to avoid a repetition of ideas. This cannon is mostly used when orating a discourse; and memory plays an imperative role in the pedagogical system. Delivery (pronuntiatio) is the discipline of delivering speeches. Nevertheless, to deliver a hierarchical coherent speech, the writer should be more conscious of spelling, punctuation and grammar. The writer should use visual rhetoric to produce mental images in the audience, which allows the writer to grab readers’ attention before actually reading the text based on the appearance of the text.

It amounts to this – for writers it is of utmost importance to acquaint themselves with the aforementioned rhetorical devices in order to produce a conspicuous and succinct piece of writing.

• Mathew Kamuja Kalimbo is a Master of Arts English Studies student at the University of Namibia (UNAM) in the Department of Language and Literature Studies. Email: mkalimbo@gmail.com

September 2016
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