Classical Rhetoric, Part 2

The Rhetorical Triangle

Rhetoric is situational. That is, you can’t take the same cookie cutter speech and successfully apply it to every possible speaking situation. In order to be most persuasive, you must understand and adapt to the context in which you are speaking. We can use a tool called the Rhetorical Triangle to help us analyze each situation. Watch this video and stop at 6:50, the end of the Rhetorical Triangle section. (I suggest setting the playback speed to 1.25x)

The Five Canons of Rhetoric

Building on Aristotle’s theories, later Roman thinker Cicero pinpointed five “canons” or elements that impact the persuasiveness of  a communication. Watch the section of this video pertaining to the Five Canons. Stop the video before the section on Artistic Proofs.

Refer to this PDF for more detail about the Five canons of Rhetoric and how to use them to speak persuasively. Next week you will be composing a persuasive speech, so keep these in mind.

Style and Rhetorical Devices

This third video speaks to one specific canon of rhetoric – style. Style refers to the vocabulary and specific figures of speech that can help us be more persuasive. These are called rhetorical devices. Likely you have already studied some of these in school. This video gives a simple overview of how to use rhetorical devices to add impact to your communications. You will want to become familiar with these key tools and incorporate them into your speaking and writing throughout your career. After studying rhetoric you will automatically have an edge over others in your workplace who don’t know these secret techniques!

There are over 100 identified rhetorical devices that will help you to be a more persuasive speaker and writer. We can’t possibly memorize them all but you can look them up online. For example, this handbook explains 60 rhetorical devices!

Optional, but Recommended, Video

This video features a public speaking coach describing 10 of the most-used rhetorical devices in more depth and provides examples of how they have been used in speeches, film, literature and popular culture.

Alliteration Rhyme




Amplification Hyperbole





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