Truth in Modern Rhetoric

Throughout history, rhetoric has been argued and studied by philosophers and educators.  This has led to the general acceptance of rhetoric being a form of communication. It is an art of using words or language to gain trust and to persuade. Rhetoric is considered effective through the way it is applied which means that it is not only how it is written but also how it is arranged (Brooks). The description of rhetoric is the concept of effective, persuasive and eloquent writing or delivery of a communication (Brooks). Aristotle, a Greek philosopher describes rhetoric was used in the invention of an argument. According to Aristotle, the purpose of arguments is to appeal to reason, ethics, and emotion.  However, Plato another Greek Philosopher argues rhetoric can only be beneficial and considered commendable when it was a manifestation of the truth (Rapp). This paper aims to explore the truth in modern rhetoric and its significance in career development.

Today, the term rhetoric is used in obscuring the truth whereby when someone asks a rhetorical question they do not expect an answer. Rhetorical questions are therefore a figure of speech and are used to make a point and not elicit a response. Importantly modern application of rhetoric is intended to make a point (Rapp). In an attempt to apply rhetorical principles today, different strategies are used such as metaphors, imagery, sarcasm, emphasis, simile, and exemplification. However, for these strategies to be effective, it is paramount to understand and fully grasp Ethos, pathos, and logos in relation to the context, the audience, and the writer (Rapp). This means that while the rhetoric has changed with modern times, classic principles are still applicable and important to contemporary rhetoric.

The Rhetoric Triangle Approach

The application of the principles of rhetoric assists in structuring the argument so that the truth becomes evident to the audience. By means of the rhetoric triangle approach, there are three components which have a significant impact on an argument. These elements include the writer/author, the audience and the context or background. The three components form the rhetoric triangle. According to the methodology, the three components determine the persuasion of the argument. This means that the form of communication whether spoken or written needs to consider all the elements.

The Writer

It is essential for the writer to make the audience aware of the motives. Failure to do this would make the audience think that the writer is hiding something thus raising a lot of questions. Still, it is also essential for the writer or the speaker to identify themselves to the listeners or audience and also make known their competence and their authority. All this information assists the audience determines the writer’s credibility and decides whether the writer/speaker is sincere.

The audience

When communicating with the audience, the writer should understand the audience. This understanding is vital because it assists in knowing the language to use for an instant, avoiding jargon or technical terms when talking to lay people. Here the writer or the speaker should consider the expectations of the audience, how the information the writer provides will be used; why the writer will be communicating with the audience and what the audience will take away after listening. This part of the triangle appeals to the emotions of the audience. Connecting with the audience is especially important to gain their support and trust.

The Context

This is the third part of the triangle. The audience will analyze the message by putting it into context whereby they will consider various things. One thing they consider is the events that preceded the communication, the types of the arguments used, how the message is delivered; whether the communication is necessary and is the message logical and well thought out (Hart, and Suzanne). This mostly shows that the logic and reason behind the message is what the audience looks for. They need to comprehend and follow what is written or said for it to be believable. This means that the writer should check whether their argument is well constructed and the claims in the argument well supported. The evidence is always good when used in an argument (Hart, and Suzanne).

For any communication to be considered persuasive and overly effective, it has to appeal to all the three components of the Rhetorical Triangle. This means that communication that is founded on emotions only won’t last for an extended period (Hart and Suzanne). Also, when an argument only has facts and figures, the writer risks losing the interest of the audience. They may also not relate to the message if it was just facts and figures (Hart and Suzanne). For this reason, a speaker or writer may use the Rhetorical triangle as follows:

Step One: Establish Credibility

The writer or speaker should consider what impact their credibility has on the message. This is because lack of credibility would leave the audience unconvinced. Therefore, the speaker should consider the purpose for communication, is it to educate, persuade, entertain, call for action or provide information? With this in mind, the speaker should establish who they are, their beliefs, values, and assumptions as appropriate (Hart and Suzanne). They also need to determine where their expertise comes from and what makes them qualified to provide the information.

Step Two: Appeal to the Audience’s Emotions

The writer should consider the audience by appealing to their emotions where appropriate. The speaker or writer should seek to answer the question, “Is this person trying to manipulate me?” To do this the writer or speaker should consider who the audience members’ are, their expectations, why they are listening or reading, how the audience will use the document and what the writer wants them to take away (Hart and Suzanne). The writer should also consider what emotions they want to invoke in the audience. This can be done through the use of personal stories or anecdotes.

Step Three: Consider the Context

The writer should ensure that the message should be delivered with a solid appeal to reason. The writer should seek to answer the audience’s questions in terms of whether the message is logical. First, the writer should look into how they plan to present the information, the type of reasoning they will use, how they plan to support their position whether it is through statistics or observations; the tone used in delivering the message (Hart and Suzanne). Secondly, the writer or speaker should consider the background information they can supply to support the message; what else can be used to ensure the points are clear and the counter arguments that they can bring up and how able they are to dismiss these counterarguments. All these are the events that surround the communication that would assist the writer make the message logical.

Three Rhetorical Appeals

While modern rhetoric seems like an improvement or evolution, there are still historical elements that apply to modern rhetoric. According to Aristotle, the art of persuasion there are three elements. Which include ethos, pathos, and logos. These three elements are known as rhetorical appeals.


This is considered as the ethical appeal, and in the rhetorical triangle, it would be where the audience perceives the writer as credible as explained above. Ethos is comprised of two kinds extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic ethos is the proficiency, education, skill, and character of the speaker while the intrinsic is how the speaker communicates (Higgins and Walker). Here writers or speakers are considered to have a robust extrinsic ethos, weak intrinsic ethos or vice versa.


The use of pathos is referred to as the pathetic appeal. This, however, is not similar to the usual comprehension of the word pathetic. This particular term refers to the writer’s attempt to call to the audience’s emotions or their sense of identity. A good example is when American politicians begin their speeches with “My fellow Americans.” Vivid imagery of people, places, and events often help the reader to experience those events. Sharing personal stories makes the reader feel empathy or connect to the person being described (Higgins and Walker). Still, the use of emotion-laden vocabulary can make the audience be in a specific emotional mindset.


This is an appeal to logic. It is the intellectual, calm and collective objective. Authors who can appeal to the audience’s intellect by use of information that is factual. Logical appeals can be used through modes of thinking such as a comparison between one thing related to the topic and another similar thing that helps support the claim (Higgins and Walker).

This comparison needs to be valid. Deductive reasoning can be used by starting with a general example and using it to support a specific claim. Inductive reasoning can be used where several models are used to make a broad generalization.

Rhetorical Awareness in the Workplace

Modern rhetoric has been used by professionals to create an effective workplace. When it comes to workplace writing, rhetoric awareness can be used to make it persuasive. For instance, an individual can use rhetorical awareness to be persuasive to get a job interview. This form of writing must consider the rhetoric situation through the following elements. The first element is the purpose which is why the document is being written (Winton 159). The second is the audience who will read the document and also the shadow readers who may be unintended audiences who may also read the document. The third is the stakeholders who may be affected by the material and finally is the context which is the background information from which the document is created.

Current Application of Modern Rhetoric

Modern rhetoric has been applied in various ways in today’s society. One way is a social movement where communication has been used in large sociopolitical issues facing society. Social movements occur when there is a need for social change as can be seen throughout histories such as issues affecting the status of women in society, African Americans and the LGBTQ community. Rhetoric leaders in such situations include Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Caesar Chaves among others who used rhetoric to communicate social change and gather a following in their audience.

Another application is through a public address which is concerned with politics and political oratory. Often people may gain a career in speech writing and designing of campaigns on behalf of politicians. When these happen, they get to utilize their skills in persuasion through modern rhetoric (Higgins and Walker). They get people to vote for the politicians through the way their materials are written or otherwise. Still another application is a popular culture where the critique is participated by a majority of people worldwide. However, some people work as professional critiques.

Logical Fallacies

When an author uses logical fallacies, they run a risk of losing the audience. For instance, using a false comparison where two things are similar to the author assumes they must be the same. Misleading comparisons would be easily spotted by the audience, and the author loses the audience (Winton 159). Still using a bad example which is false, unbelievable, wrongly interpreted and irrelevant would not be taken well by the audience. A lack of concrete example would prove to the audience that something does not exist (Winton 159). Still using false choices where the number of options given does not equal the number of choices that exist would make the author lose the audience since they would question the author’s credibility or the motives behind the communication.

In conclusion, it is evident that modern rhetoric is commonly used in the workplace and various ways. It is, however, paramount to understand how to use rhetoric to one’s advantage when it comes to written communication and spoken such as speeches. Throughout history, various rhetoric leaders have used rhetoric appeals to drive their agendas and gain support from the audience which eventually drove significant changes to the world.



Works Cited

Brooks, Cleanth. Fundamentals of Good Writing-A Handbook of Modern Rhetoric. Read Books Ltd, 2013.

Dlugan, Andrew. “Ethos, pathos, logos: 3 pillars of public speaking.” URL: http://sixminutes. dlugan. com/ethos-pathos-logos/Six (Retrieved January 24, 2010) (2010).

Hart, Roderick P., and Suzanne Daughton. Modern rhetorical criticism. Routledge, 2015.

Higgins, Colin, and Robyn Walker. “Ethos, logos, pathos: Strategies of persuasion in social/environmental reports.” Accounting Forum. Vol. 36. No. 3. Taylor & Francis, 2012.

Rapp, Christof. “Aristotle’s rhetoric.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2011).

Winton, S. (2013). Rhetorical analysis in critical policy research. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education26(2), 158-177.