Week 8: Rhetoric & Argument

This week, you will learn more about rhetoric, specifically rhetorical analysis, which will help you understand how a writer sways her readers or listeners. You will also learn more about the structure of an argument — not a disagreement, but information presented as claim, support, and conclusion that is meant to persuade.

Rhetoric and Argument

Rhetoric, as we saw last week, is the way we use language and images to persuade, often by using words called euphemisms and politically correct language, or their opposites. Some politicians favor blunt, almost rude language to appeal to certain voters. Often writers use poetic devices and language like metaphor and simile, which compare two unlike things — My love is like a red, red rose. As we saw last week, writers and speakers also use Rhetorical Devices that appeal to a reader’s emotions (pathos), ethics (ethos), and logic (logos). In short, rhetoric is the use of language and literary devices to persuade readers and listeners.

Our saturation in media and its images is one of the reasons why it is important to learn how to analyze rhetoric. The more we know about rhetorical analysis, the better we become at making savvy judgments about the media, situations, and people we encounter. Think of all the media you see and hear every day: Twitter, television shows, web pages, billboards, text messages, podcasts, political campaigns and more! You probably are more skilled at analyzing rhetoric than you think simply because you are surrounded by it.

Rhetorical Analysis

One of the most important tools of rhetorical analysis is checking a writer or speaker’s logic. When you analyze a text rhetorically, you look at its claims, support, and conclusion, as well as its language, its tone and the appeals used. You also consider the author’s possible biases, as well as your own biases. A word about our biases: When we hear or read something that agrees with views that we already hold, we respond enthusiastically. This is called Confirmation Bias. When we hear something that disagrees with our views, we feel uncomfortable. This is called Cognitive Dissonance. Watch the video below for an explanation of these processes.


Go to the website mentioned in the video project implicit.harvard.edu. Take one or more of the tests. At the top of your document for Ex. 8.1, briefly respond to your results. Were you surprised at the results? Do you think they were accurate? Why/why not? Implicit, by the way, means something that is not expressly stated; it’s not obvious. In other words, it is a view that we may not see in our own thinking; it is beneath the surface of our consciousness. As you go on with this lesson, be aware of your own biases. In Ex. 8.1 you will analyze a passage, looking for ways that the writer uses language and appeals to persuade you.


Exercise 8.1 (10 pts)

  1. Type your response to project implicit.harvard.edu.
  2. Try using what you have learned about the use of language and rhetorical devices to analyze the argument below. Type an analysis of the argument.
  3. Next, on the same page type answers to Ex. 8.2 below. Submit using the link. Include in your analysis:
    • Claim (write as a sentence)
    • Support — Does the writer use facts, statistics, common knowledge, expert opinions, personal stories? List and label them.
    • Conclusion — What conclusion does the writer make?
    • Word use (euphemisms, blunt language, politically correct language)
    • Tone (angry, amused, upbeat, serious, and so forth)
    • Bias (What biases does the writer have? What biases about the internet do you have?)
    • Appeals used (Pathos, Ethos, Logos?)
    • Respond. Do you agree with the writer? Why/why not?

Facts Versus Opinions

We all have opinions about all sorts of things, from the internet to homelessness and asylum seekers to legal marijuana and free tuition. Our opinions are usually based on personal experience, as well as facts that we have encountered. But do you recognize the difference between facts and opinions used in your thinking?  Writers use both facts and opinions to persuasively support claims in an argument. The best way to critically evaluate an argument is to know which is which.

A fact is a statement based on actual evidence or observation. It can be verified. An opinion is simply a personal judgment or feeling. Writers often mix both fact with opinion in subtle ways to persuade their readers. Read the following list of statements and determine which is fact and which is opinion.

(NOTE to instructor: Use a current opinion essay from the news for this assignment. Add additional analysis of the piece by questioning at what is fact, and what is opinion.)

Outside Reading Journal Assignment

Personal Dictionary Word Assignment

Latin Roots Quiz #7

Latin English Words
en- in encircle, enemy, energy
re- again replace, recycle, relive
fore before forehead, forewarn, before
lus- light illustrate, lustrous, luster
-ist one who dentist, contortionish, machinist
civ citizen civic, civilian, civil
anima spirit animal, animation, animosity


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Developing Reading Skills by Grace Richardson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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