Theory: Rhetorics

The three rhetorical appeals

In society, we negotiate a debate in structured and less structured forms. Our politicians debate in a controlled manner while a group of friends could erupt into a debate over dinner. Whether one side “wins” or not could have either significant impact on our lives, such as changing laws or policies which will control society, while deciding where to eat is less impactful.

Negotiations or debates decide what kind of ideas will rule and are thusly powerful decision makers. If the political climate changes, a friend might turn into foe and vice versa. Similarly, media can also execute powerful changes upon society. Media may decide what information is available to us, which is one way to influence a debate and have power over what we know about the world. As the American civil-rights activist Malcolm X once said:

In order to put these debates and negotiations in context, you will watch videos of debates. You will learn about the strategies that govern how they speak and present their arguments. One such strategy was described by the philosopher Artistotles from ancient Greece who wrote in his Rhetorics 4th century BCE about the Models of Persuasion, also called the Rhetorical appeals. These are:

  • Ethos. Credibility to the speaker and knowing the topic.

  • Pathos. Speaking to the audience’s emotions.

  • Logos. Using logical proof and reasoning.

These three appeals are ways that a speaker can persuade her audience to agree with her arguments, rebbutals or overall discussion. A rhetoric master will know how to use all three together to have the audience believe in her knowledge and prowess, in understanding the listeners' wills and to use fact to support her arguments. Simultaneously in a negotiation or a debate, it is also important to understand one’s own and your counterpart’s logic and attitude.

Figures of speech

Allow us to look at another topic related to rhetorics. Figures of speech, also known as rhetorical devices or literary divices, are ways of structuring your language to increase the persuasive effect. Fuerthermore, what you tell your audience also becomes more memorable.

Figures of speech are linguistical methods, strategies we can use in order to improve our language level. We can categorise the figures of speech into figures that rely upon repetition or that emplor comparision


  • Anaphora - Repetition of a phrase at the beginning of paragraphs.

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

  • Alliteration - Repetition of consonants in adjacent words.

She sells seashells by the sea shore.

  • Asyndeton - Deliberately remove conjunctions.

“I came, I saw, I conquered.” (Caesar, 47 BC)

  • Epistrophe - Repetition of the last words or phrase in a sentence.

I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth

  • Antimetabole - Repeating phrases but in the reverse order. A-B-B-A.

“Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” - John F. Kennedy

  • Epizeuxis - Repetition of a word in sequence.

Never give in — never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense."

- Winston Churchill, 1941


  • Simile. Compare two things using like or as.

Blind as a bat.

"Life is like a box of chocolates." (Forrest Gump)

  • Analogy. Compare two things - often more lengthy in order to give more information.

"What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other word would smell as sweet.

So Romeo would, were he not Romeo called…"

(William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Act II, Scene 2)

(Meaning: A rose will still smell sweet even if it goes by another name, her love for Romeo is the same even if he changes his name.)

  • Hyperbole. Exaggerating.

I am so hungry that I could eat a horse.

I died laughing!

  • Metaphor. Compare two objects - Compare things that are not alike. Direct statement..

"You have a heart of gold. (not literally)

Kirsi is a walking encyclopedia." (not literally)

  • Euphemism - To change a rude or unpleasant expression into another with a more agreeable or softer image.

Toilet = restroom

To die = pass away

You look unique = you are ugly

  • Antithesis - Contrasting two different or opposing objects or ideas.

To err is human; to forgive, divine. (Err = error)

Go big or go home.

No pain, no gain.

Although Artistotles rhetorical appeals might feel ancient they are formidable tools in any speakers debate or negotiation arsenal. You will encounter debates and negotiations in your everyday life. You will both be the speaker and the listener in situations where you will persuade or be persuaded. Whether it will be negotionations with your fellow man, debates or leading lectures, discussing ethical topics or conversations that feel like deal with the Devil, you will find these skills essential. Nevertheless, how much one tries to keep a debate or negotiation rhetorically correct, one must develop a flow to conversation.