Doyle Online Writing Lab

Analyzing a Rhetorical Argument

The three main parts of rhetorical argument are:

Invention includes the subject matter, with identifying the matter at hand, and the ability to persuade the audience. "The means of persuasion include, first direct evidence, such as witnesses and contracts, which the speaker 'uses' but does not invent; second, 'artistic' means of persuasion, which include the presentation of the speaker's character as trustworthy, logical, logical argument that may convince the audience, and the pathos or emotion that the speaker can awaken in the audience. The artistic means of persuasion utilize 'topics', which are ethical or political premises on which an argument can be built or are logical strategies, such as arguing from cause to effect" (Kennedy 4-5)

Arrangement means the "organization of a speech into parts, through the order in which the arguments are presented, whether the strongest first or toward a climax, is sometimes discussed." The arrangement should include an introduction, narration, proof, and conclusion (Kennedy 5).

Style is how the speaker says the material. Kennedy notes that "there are two parts to style, 'diction,' or the choice of words; and 'composition,' the putting together of words into sentences, which includes periodic sentence structure, prose rhythm, and figures of speech." Theophrastus (Aristotle's student) identified four virtues of style: correctness (of grammar and usage), clarity, ornamentation, and propriety (Kennedy 6).

For Practice: Make a list of the rhetorical moves made by Cleon and Diodotus. What tricks do they use? Who is the more impressive rhetorician? How does this help us determine whom Thucydides favors? You should analyze their rhetoric by paying attention to the three most crucial aspects of classical rhetoric: invention, arrangement, and style. (Obviously we are somewhat hindered in determining how well the speeches were memorized or delivered--the final two aspects of classical rhetoric.)


Kennedy, George. A New History of Classical Rhetoric. Princeton, NJ: Princeton U.P., 1994.