Definition of Rhetoric:Small Group


In this assignment, I was paired up with three classmates from Rhetorical Theory and Practice. We combined our individual definition of rhetoric papers into one. In addition to defining rhetoric, we provided and example to help our audience better understand how rhetoric works. This is the final result. My portion of the writing is in bold.

Original Writing

Definition of Rhetoric: Classroom Writing Project

It seems like every year it grows harder and harder for students fresh out of college to find work in the careers they dreamed of. The job market is so flooded with new talent that it might seem impossible for anyone to find positions in their desired fields. However, there is a tool or rather a set of skills that could potentially make this seemingly insurmountable feat more accomplishable. This arsenal of analysis, persuasion and preparation is known as rhetoric. How can rhetoric, which seems like such a vast array of methods and abilities, be defined? It is an ancient practice originally described by Aristotle as “the power of finding the available arguments suited to a given situation” (Crowley & Hawhee, 2012). Although that is a beautiful definition for this subject, a lot of time has passed since that brilliant, yet ancient philosopher, died. These days the terms being thrown around about rhetoric involve words such manipulation and deceit, which is not accurate either. The best way to describe rhetoric would be as a means of creating a strong impression through communication and discourse, in order to change your audience’s perspective on reality. In order to accurately represent this definition of rhetoric, it is important to describe some of the primary tools employed by this trade and how they can help someone during a job interview achieve their dream position.

The first of the rhetorical tools that can establish a powerful impression on the interviewer is how you present yourself or rather ethos. Ethos is an important part of conveying a message effectively to any audience that you might encounter. Ethos is an appeal to ethics, and it is a means of convincing someone of the character or the credibility of the persuader or rhetor. Ancient Greeks believed that establishing good ethos was a life-long task but this is only true in certain situations. If you were trying to persuade an audience using invented situational proof then your moral and ethical past wouldn’t be as important as it would be if you were using situational ethical proof. Creating a credible ethos in ancient times involved conditioning your moral code, and it was believed that character was created by good habits, which then formed a good reputation. Having a credible ethos is most important when you’re trying to convey a message to an audience that isn’t going to listen to you or what you have to say based on their prior beliefs and positions on the topic. If a rhetor has no background in a topic and has no valuable knowledge, their argument won’t be very effective. Establishing ethos allows a rhetor to be able to gain the trust of their audience. Once you have the audience’s trust, they will be more likely to believe you and what you have to say.

Another factor that comes into play that not only helps you to maintain your ethos, but it also allows you to focus on other parts of your rhetoric is memory. If you are able to memorize your message and you are well versed in it then you will be more confident and prepared for contingencies as well as stylistic aspects of your message like posture and making eye contact with your audience. The use of memory is valuable and most rhetors find it easy to memorize their platform when the topic is one that they are involved or feel very strong in agreement or opposition to it. Some rhetors have the ability to memorize information without training, which is natural memory. But for those rhetors that aren’t blessed with exceptional memory, there’s artificial memory, which is training to recall information over a period of time. Memory can be the difference is leaving a great impression or being dismissed because the audience thought that you didn’t know your material.

Aside from the aforementioned factors that are important, another that comes into play is kairos, which is being able to recognize when the opportune time is to say information that will help you to gain leverage or to sway the audience in your favor. Most times kairos comes unintentionally, but there are occurrences where rhetors use recent events or newfound information that they didn’t plan to incorporate into their platform that contribute to their rhetoric for the better.

After leaving a strong first impression by establishing your ethos and monopolizing on a kairotic moment your argument is the next most important aspect of this process. Logos refers to the appeal to logic. With this rhetorical strategy, the rhetor focuses on using facts and rationality to gain the audience’s confidence and attention. If what the rhetor is saying doesn’t make any logical sense, the audience is not likely to understand or be swayed by their argument. That is unless the rhetor has a well-established ethos. People listen to and believe the facts because like the old saying says, “numbers never lie”. When a rhetor uses facts and truths that have been proven or that are widely accepted, it does nothing but strengthen their argument. When what you are arguing has facts to back it up, your audience will be more apt to believe you. An argument without any logical reasoning is purely opinionated.

Rhetors may appeal to their audience with logos through the usage of several strategies, such as deduction and induction. Deductions and inductions are constructed with major premises, minor premises, and a conclusion. Premises are statements at the foreground of an argument. In a deduction, premises are arranged in the order of a general premise first, a particular premise second, followed by a conclusion. In an induction, premises are arranged in the reverse order, a particular premise, followed by a general premise, followed by a conclusion. If one was using deduction in a simple manner to reason why they would be fit for a position in a job interview, they might say that the company is looking to hire a qualified candidate (general premise). Then they would say that they are a qualified candidate (specific premise). Therefore, the job interviewer should hire them (conclusion). Working through induction, one might say they have a 4.0 GPA (specific premise), this company hires only hires candidates with a 4.0 GPA (general premise), and therefore this company will hire them.

Extrinsic proofs are rhetorical strategies that tend to go hand-in-hand with logos. Extrinsic proofs are those arguments that don’t have to be crafted by the rhetor because they already exist, although they do have to skillfully woven into the argument and shouldn’t stand on their own. Common examples of extrinsic proofs widely used are data, artifacts, and testimony. Extrinsic proofs relate to the appeal to logos in that both strategies are based on statements that have already been proven or can be proven to be true.

While ethos and logos appeal to the ethical and logical human states, pathos focuses on the appeal to the audience’s emotions. In modern culture, appealing to someone’s emotions seems strange as a way to make a valid argument. It is believed that reason and emotion has a very strong difference. Reason is associated with the mind, whereas emotions dealt with the body, the vessel that held the mind in tact. Because of this, emotions were believed to have the ability to derail reason. However, this is false and is now understood that humans are unable to think without emotion. Ancient Greeks understood from the beginning that appealing to emotions were effective in any rhetorical argument. This concept is based off of the notion that humans have the ability to share and alter emotional responses. With the assistance of the rhetorical situation, kairos, when one is presented with the correct situation, Gorgias believed that a rhetor had the ability to alter an audience’s emotional beliefs. Aristotle believed that “emotions are communal in the sense that they are usually excited by our relations with other people” (Crowley & Hawhee, 2012).

            This relates to the interview processes example. It is simple to appeal to pathos when treading through an interview. Having the ability to appeal to your audience, the interviewer, will pan out favorably. Aristotle believed that this could be accomplished by three various criteria. The first is that the interviewee needs to understand the mental state of their interviewer; the second criteria is that the interviewee must know what can excite emotions in their interviewer; and the third criteria is that the interviewee must understand why and for what reasons people may become emotional (Crowley & Hawhee, 2012). Humans are beings with complex emotions. That is what separates us from other species. If a rhetor can “pull at the heartstrings” of their audience, they will be more likely to persuade their interviewer.

            Another way pathos can enhance an interviewee’s chances with an interviewer is through the rhetorical appeal enargeia. Enargeia is the method of making the audience vividly paint a mental picture to the point where the audience believes the event is taking place before their very eyes (Crowley & Hawhee, 2012). For example, the interviewee can appeal to the interviewer by describing how they would perfectly fit into the company’s team. How well they would get along with their coworkers and how well they will perform their jobs. These vivid images helps the interviewee give the interviewer an insight as to how they are the perfect candidate for the job and just why they should be hired.

Clearly rhetoric is a very diverse and effective set of skills that when applied correctly can yield impressive results. For instance, when the interviewee arrives with memorized techniques such as deduction and extrinsic proofs, they can then use skills such as style and arrangement in order to strengthen their position. Now armed with an arsenal of persuasive skills giving them an unseen advantage they can unleash a spectacular presentation with a magnificent delivery.  From that point on, the use of clarity and audience appropriateness helps to boost the outcome of their interview. If during that instance they can then monopolize on a rare and fleeting kairotic moment, they instantly set themselves apart from the crowd and hopefully have achieved the goal they set out to accomplish. In this case, the goal would be to have created a strong impression on the interviewer, through communication and discourse, in order to get the job. If they managed to accomplish this feat by changing the interviewer’s perception on who this applicant is in reality, then they have effectively employed this definition of rhetoric.  

Special thanks to co-authors: Jaclyn B., Paul B., and George M.


Crowley, S., & Hawhee, D. (2012). Ancient rhetorics for contemporary students. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.



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