Rhetorical Triangle

All writing takes into consideration the three components: the writer’s intentions, the subject the writer is writing about, and the context and needs of the designated readers. However, different kinds of writing may focus more on one aspect of the triangle than others. Rhetoric: most textbook define rhetoric as “the study and the art of using language effectively.” It goes on to elaborate on the modern negative connotations of the term. However, the study of rhetoric is an essential component of many college-level composition courses. Rhetoric encompasses the art of analyzing the language choices authors and speakers (rhetors) use to create meaningful and persuasive texts, texts worth reading or hearing. Furthermore, rhetoric encompasses using those techniques to create meaningful texts. Simply stated, rhetoric makes persuasion possible. The Rhetorical Transaction: According to Aristotle, the rhetorical transaction consists of three basic components: logos – representing the author’s ability to reveal logic and reason in the text; ethos – representing the author’s ability to reveal his or her credibility in the text, and pathos – representing the author’s ability to appeal to the audience through the text.

The rhetorical triangle or Aristotelian triad suggests these components: The Ability to understand the attributes of the presenter and their audience is critical to the message being delivered. The objective and target audience are very closely intertwined, because of this they should be considered as coexisting. The Physical Properties of the setting and the constraints of the topic, also dictate key design and message decisions. The dynamic relationship between the speaker, the Audience and the Topic or Setting is knows as the Rhetorical Triangle. The Speaker Aristotle taught that a speaker’s ability to persuade is based on how well the speaker appeals to his or her audience in three different areas: ethos (ethical appeals), pathos (emotional appeals), and logos (logical appeals). “Ethos” refers to the writer’s “ethical appeal,” that is, how well the writer presents herself. Does she seem knowledgeable and reasonable? Does she seem trustworthy? Does she treat her opponents, people who might disagree, with fairness and respect, or does she take cheap shots at them? Does she try to establish common ground with the reader? Why do you think essays that lack this kind of appeal are likely to be unconvincing? What effect do you think it would have if a writer included nothing but ethical appeals? “Pathos” refers to the argument’s “emotional appeals,” that is, how well the writer taps into the reader’s emotions Many times, this appeal is how a writer will make an argument “matter” to readers. Advertisements do it all the time.

Perhaps a writer will offer an anecdote to illustrate suffering or appeal to readers as parents concerned for their children. Does the writer appeal to your emotions-feelings of sadness, pride, fear, being young, anger, patriotism, love, justice? On the other hand, is the essay loaded with facts, figures, and nothing else? Is the emotional appeal effective or overwhelming? “Logos” corresponds with the argument’s “logical appeals,” that is, how well the reader uses the “text” of his own argument and evidence. Effective arguments will probably include facts and other supporting details to back up the author’s claims. They may contain testimony from authorities and will demonstrate the writer’s carefulness in choosing and considering evidence. They are likely to be well organized, skillfully written, and well edited/proofread. Questions to consider: What is being argued here, or what is the author’s thesis? What points does he offer to support this idea? Has he presented arguments that seem logical, or does he seem to be jumping to conclusions? Can you think of kinds of writing that rely exclusively on logical appeals? Do they bore you? Note that this triangle is essentially equilateral. Why? Again, the equal sides and angles illustrate the concept that each appeal is as important as the others. It also suggests that a BALANCE of the three is important. Too much of one is likely to produce an argument that readers will either find unconvincing or that will cause them to stop reading.

The Audience It is necessary for a speaker to establish a positive speaker and audience relationship. In order to do this the Speaker must first determine the best way to interact with there audience. This is called Rhetorical Identification. Rhetorical Identification- involves bridging the gap between a speaker and their audience through the establishment of common ground. What this means is that a successful speaker understands who the audience is and what motivates them. Good Audience Analysis- Requires going beyond your initial assumptions and gathering more information about your audience. You will do this by asking questions like who is your audience. What do they know and expect? And What do they feel?. This in turn will help you to create a better presentation one that will connect with audience and make you a successful speaker.

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