Types of Rhetoric By The Numbers

Aristotle, Plato, Socrates - types of rhetoric

The art of rhetoric (or persuasive communication), rooted in Ancient Greece and the works of Plato and Aristotle, continues to shape discourse in modern-day society – from the eloquent speeches of Shakespeare to the political oratory of our leaders.

Rhetoric encompasses various techniques and strategies used by rhetoricians to influence and sway their audience. From persuasive speeches to literary devices, rhetoric is an artful tool that utilizes word choice, alliteration, and onomatopoeia to captivate listeners.

This article explores the key types of rhetorical devices, from logos and ethos to pathos and beyond, uncovering the power behind each approach and its impact on persuasive communication.

What Is Rhetoric?

The word “rhetoric” originates from the ancient Greek term “rhētorikē” (ῥητορική), which refers to the art of public speaking and modes of persuasion. In his influential work Rhetoric, the Greek philosopher Aristotle defined it as the ability to discover and utilize the available means of persuasion in any given situation.

Types of rhetoric


The term itself is derived from the Greek word “rhētōr” (ῥήτωρ), meaning “orator” or “speaker.” Rhetoric played a significant role in ancient Greece, where public speaking and persuasive discourse were highly valued skills in the realms of politics, law, and philosophy.

Over time, the term “rhetoric” has evolved to encompass a broader range of persuasive techniques beyond oratory, encompassing written communication and various forms of discourse.

Key Aspects

Rhetorical Situations And Analysis

One key aspect of rhetoric is the understanding of the rhetorical situation. Rhetorical analysis involves evaluating the context, purpose, and audience to craft a compelling message. Rhetoricians strategically employ techniques such as anaphora, the repetition of words or phrases, and chiasmus, the reversal of sentence structures, to create impactful statements that leave a lasting impression.

Another important element of rhetoric is ethos, pathos, and logos—the three modes of persuasion. Ethos refers to the credibility of the speaker, pathos appeals to emotions, and logos relies on logic and evidence. By skillfully combining these elements, rhetoricians effectively strengthen their arguments and address counterarguments.

3 pillars of persausive speech
3 pillars of persuasive speech

Rhetorical Devices

In addition to these techniques, rhetorical devices add depth and creativity to communication. Such devices include hyperbole, an exaggeration for emphasis, and metonymy, using a related term to represent another. Rhetoric is also known for its use of personification, attributing human qualities to non-human entities, and epithets, descriptive phrases used to characterize individuals or objects.

Moreover, word choice plays a vital role in rhetoric. Connotation—the emotional or cultural associations attached to words—shapes the audience’s perception. Euphemisms are employed to soften harsh expressions, while the deliberate use of consonant sounds creates a rhythmic and memorable effect.

Cause And Effect

Understanding cause and effect is essential in rhetoric. Rhetoricians utilize this concept to establish logical connections between ideas, persuading the audience of the consequences that may follow a particular course of action. They also employ fallacies, false or misleading arguments, to exploit common reasoning errors and strengthen their position.

Timing, known as kairos, is another crucial aspect of rhetoric. Recognizing the opportune moment to deliver a persuasive speech can significantly impact its effectiveness. Rhetoricians harness kairos to exploit situations where their message is most likely to resonate and sway the audience.

What Is A Rhetorical Question?

A rhetorical question is a figure of speech posed as a question but not meant to be answered directly. Instead, its purpose is to make a point, emphasize an idea, or engage the audience in thought-provoking ways.

Rhetorical questions are often used in persuasive writing, speeches, or everyday conversation to stimulate thinking, create emphasis, or challenge the listener’s perspective. By posing a question that doesn’t require a response, the speaker or writer can guide the audience’s emotions in a particular direction or highlight a crucial point.

Rhetorical questions can be powerful tools in communication, enabling the speaker to convey their message effectively and engage the audience’s attention.

Rhetorical question - types of rhetoric

Rhetorical Terms By The Numbers

In the field of rhetoric, much of the material is arranged in lists that are enumerated the concepts

3 – What Are The 3 Types Of Rhetoric?

  1. Ethos: Ethos appeals to the speaker or writer’s credibility, authority, and ethical character. It focuses on establishing trust and credibility by demonstrating expertise, integrity, and reliability.
  2. Pathos: Pathos appeals to the emotions and feelings of the audience. It seeks to evoke an emotional response that will resonate with the listeners or readers.
  3. Logos: Logos appeals to reason, logic, and evidence. It appeals to the audience’s intellect and critical thinking, making a persuasive case through well-structured arguments, clear evidence, and logical deductions.

These three concepts are called the rhetorical triangle and are sometimes listed as the 3 types of rhetorical appeal or as the 3 kinds of rhetorical persuasion.

3 – What Are The 3 Categories Of Rhetoric?

Rhetoric can be categorized into three main categories:

  1. Deliberative rhetoric focuses on addressing matters of policy, typically in a political context. It aims to persuade an audience to take a specific course of action or adopt a particular policy or legislation.
  2. Forensic rhetoric, also known as judicial rhetoric or forensic discourse, is centered around legal or courtroom settings. It involves using rhetoric to examine past events, accusations, or disputes.
  3. Epideictic or Deliberative rhetoric, also referred to as ceremonial or display rhetoric, is primarily concerned with praising or blaming someone or something. It is often used in ceremonial or commemorative occasions, such as eulogies, graduation speeches, or inaugural addresses.

    It is focused on the present moment and aims to reinforce or transform the audience’s beliefs, values, or attitudes. Demonstrative rhetoric often employs storytelling, vivid language, and emotional appeals to engage and persuade the audience.

4- Components of The Rhetorical Square

When analyzing a written or verbal text, the Rhetorical Square consists of four elements that matter when trying to analyze a persuasive argument.

The four elements are: 

  1. Purpose: What is the reason the argument is being made. Is the author trying to encourage others ot buy something, do something, or think something? Do they want to prove or disprove something?
  2. Message: What is the obvious and subtle message the author is trying to convey?
  3. Audience: Who the message intended for?
  4. Voice: Depending on the audience, the language and tone will vary.
Persuasion and the rhetorical square

5 – What Are The 5 Rhetorical Elements?

The five rhetorical elements are also known as the five canons of rhetoric and are as follows:

  1. Invention refers to the process of developing persuasive arguments or ideas. It focuses on the content and substance of compelling communication.
  2. Arrangement involves organizing and structuring the content coherently and effectively. It ensures the message is well-organized, easy to follow, and engages the audience effectively.
  3. Style pertains to the language, tone, and rhetorical devices used to convey the message. It involves choosing appropriate vocabulary, sentence structures, figurative language, and other stylistic elements to make communication more engaging, memorable, and impactful.
  4. Memory refers to the art of remembering and internalizing the content of a speech or presentation. While modern communication allows for reliance on written scripts or prompts, the ability to internalize key points and deliver them naturally enhances the persuasive impact of the message.
  5. Delivery encompasses the physical and vocal aspects of presenting a persuasive message. It includes gestures, body language, facial expressions, voice modulation, and overall presentation skills.

6 – What Are The 6 Characteristics Of Rhetorical Discourse?

The six characteristics of rhetorical discourse are as follows:

  1. Intentionality: Rhetorical discourse is purposeful and intentional. It is crafted with the specific goal of persuading, informing, or entertaining the audience. Rhetorical address is not accidental or haphazard but is consciously constructed to achieve desired effects.
  2. Audience Awareness: Rhetorical discourse is tailored to the audience it seeks to address. The speaker or writer considers the audience’s values, beliefs, knowledge, and interests to engage and persuade them effectively.
  3. Persuasive Intent: Rhetorical discourse aims to persuade or influence the audience’s thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, or actions. It employs various rhetorical strategies and appeals to achieve a persuasive impact.
  4. Use of Rhetorical Devices: Rhetorical discourse often employs a variety of rhetorical devices to enhance its effectiveness. These devices include metaphors, similes, analogies, repetition, parallelism, and rhetorical questions.
  5. Stylistic Variation: Rhetorical discourse may exhibit a range of stylistic variations to suit different purposes and contexts. The style may vary from formal to informal, depending on the audience and the desired effect.
  6. Context Sensitivity: Rhetorical discourse is sensitive to the situational and cultural context in which it is delivered. It takes into account the social, political, historical, and cultural factors that influence the reception and interpretation of the message.
Rheorical discourse
Pieter Isaacsz, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

6 – What Are The 6 Functions Of Rethoric?

The six functions of rhetoric, as outlined by Aristotle, are as follows:

  1. Informative Function: Rhetoric serves as a means to inform and educate the audience. It provides knowledge, facts, explanations, and arguments to convey information and expand understanding.
  2. Persuasive Function: Persuasion is a fundamental function of rhetoric. It uses persuasive techniques, appeals, and arguments to influence the audience’s beliefs, attitudes, opinions, or actions.
  3. Expressive Function: Rhetoric serves as a means of expression and self-representation. It allows individuals to articulate their thoughts, feelings, values, and experiences to others.
  4. Evaluative Function: Rhetoric facilitates critical evaluation and judgment. The evaluative function of rhetoric encourages individuals to engage in rational and reasoned judgment and weigh up the merits of different positions.
  5. Ceremonial Function: Rhetoric plays a role in formal or celebratory contexts. It is used to commemorate, honor, praise, or celebrate individuals, events, or ideals.
  6. Collaborative Function: Rhetoric can foster collaboration, dialogue, and consensus-building. It facilitates constructive communication and encourages cooperative problem-solving among individuals or groups with different perspectives and interests.

Adam Howarth

Adam covers the topic of Public Speaking for Digital Authority. From his first experience of oratory with his school debating society to his more recent experiences of promoting the local business scene in Wrexham, Wales, he has always been involved in public speaking.

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