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Structuring a Persuasive Speech using Techniques from Classical Rhetoric
The art of speaking well in public, known as Rhetoric, took shape in the civilisations of ancient Greece and Rome, and the great orators of those societies developed a wide range of techniques for using language to create very effective speeches. These were often used in courts of law, in political debates, or when persuading the people of the validity (or otherwise) of a course of action. These techniques are still of great value to us, as they provide us with structures that help us make the most of our ideas. In this guide, I will use the term “Speech” throughout, as classical oratory concerned the skills of public speaking. However, you may be asked to write in a wide range of different forms, including letters, articles and brochures. A classical speech followed a fixed pattern. There were six parts to the speech, the Latin and Greek names of which I have included for you, just for reference: Arrangement of a Classical Oration Latin Appeals Name to 1 Introduction exordium Ethos The introduction of a speech, where one announces the subject and purpose of the discourse, and where one usually employs the persuasive appeal of ethos in order to establish credibility with the audience. The second part of a classical oration. The speaker here may provide a narrative account of what has happened and generally explains the nature of the case. Here the speaker outlines the points to be covered in the speech. This may be extended (to aid memory when speaking without notes) or relatively short (good for exam essays) Following the division / outline or partitio comes the main body of the speech where one offers logical arguments as proof. Following the the confirmatio or section on proof, comes the refutation. This section of a speech was devoted to answering the counterarguments of one's opponent. The speaker summarises his arguments, and appeals to the feelings of the audience (pathos) to conclude his speech.
Statement of Facts
This may all seem a bit heavy, so for those of you whose heads are a little dawsled (a Middle English word which describes that feeling you have just after you've woken up), here's a simplified summary: 1. Begin your speech by stating the case and establishing your credibility (Ethos) 2. Set out the logical, factual arguments to support your case (Logos) 3. Conclude your speech with a powerful appeal to the listener's emotions (Pathos).
A Short, Annotated Example: You have been invited to the a meeting of the school governors, and have been asked to argue the case for or against abandoning school uniform.
The speech begins by establishing the topic to be discussed. The nature and importance of the topic are made clear
Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for this invitation to offer my view on the proposal that Nottingham High School should abandon its school uniform. As the head of the Year 11 year council, I come to you representing the views held by a great many boys who have made their voices heard to me throughout this year. At present the battle to get boys to wear their uniforms properly is raging more fiercely than ever, and boys' appearance has become a source of great disharmony and tension between teachers and their pupils. To continue this strife is senseless: in its present state the uniform does nothing but stifle the boys, anger the teachers and waste otherwise useful time. It must be abandoned. The chief problem with school uniform is that it has become for many an article of faith whose truth cannot be questioned. It is assumed that, if they are to behave appropriately for school, boys must wear uniforms, yet the uniform merely inspires disobedience because of what it stands for. Of course, we are here to work, and should dress appropriately for that, but must we all be forced to wear the same clothes merely to achieve that end? Many other countries – whose education systems are, if international studies are to be believed, much better than ours – abandoned uniforms long ago, yet we persist simply because “it's what we've always done.” Tradition is, I grant, important, but is it worth perpetuating if it is bought at the price of needless arguments and senseless conformity? Nottingham High School claims it wants its pupils to develop into independent young men, yet it insists that everyone should look identical. One of our greatest strengths as a school is our diversity, but our uniforms go to ridiculous lengths to mask any difference between us as individuals. Allowing us to make choices about our dress for school would challenge us to make wise decisions, rather than simply to conform to decisions already made by others. Of course, it will be claimed that uniforms foster a sense of shared identity, but do you really wish the principle feeling of that identity to be one of resentment? Uniforms, it will also be said, are democratic, in that they remove differences in class and wealth. Yet this is merely to paper over the cracks and the divide between rich and poor remains as great as ever: we all know who has the latest ipod, or the most expensive cricket bat. Are these differences not better dealt with out in the open, than left unspoken, yet apparent to everyone? The school uniform in its present state must be abolished, of that there is no doubt. This is school: where we should be growing into young men we are shackled in a pointless uniform, where we should be making choices, we are taught only to comply, and where
The speaker establishes their credibility as someone whose views should be taken seriously.
The points to be covered are outlined (here very briefly) Logical points, supported by evidence form the main body of the speech.
The speaker offers counterarguments and shows why they are invalid
The speech concludes with a passionate appeal to the audience's emotions.
Who is this guy? The Appeal to Ethos
It is very important, early in your speech, to make sure your audience trusts you and your judgment. It's important to think about how you want your audience to see you. Do you want them to think you funny, thoughtful, fair, modest or impressive? Judging the impression you want to make is important, especially because different audiences will respond differently. Here are some techniques you can use: The empty column is for you to create your own example of the figure of speech, using the School Uniform speech task as a stimulus.
Posh Name Qualification and status Description Establishing that you are qualified, either through experience, professionally or academically, to comment on the matter in hand. Employing an anecdote which relates a saying or deed of someone well known. Example I have been chairman of the Parish Council for fifteen years, and am also the village G.P. Your example
chreia (very similar to anamnesis)
At the height of the Battle of Britain, Winston Churchill spoke to the nation and told them “we will never surrender.” That same fighting spirit, that bulldog tenacity inspires us in our fight today. In 1940, Britain stood alone in the world, seemingly at the mercy of an implacable foe, yet we stood firm and won a great victory for liberty and all mankind. Today, we face the same struggle. I may not know much about the great affairs of international politics, but I do know it is wrong to build a fast food restaurant on the school playing fields.
Calling to memory past matters. More specifically, citing a past author from memory.
Deliberate understatement, especially when expressing a thought by denying its opposite.
What's the problem here? The Narratio
This is a short, but important part of the speech, and requires you simply to explain the matter in hand. You might, for example, be recounting the events that led up to a murder (if you were a barrister in a criminal trial), or simply stating that a corporation had applied to build a fast food restaurant on the local playing field. In either case, keep it short and sweet. These six prompts will help you cover all the aspects, but I suggest you avoid using all of them (two or three are usually sufficient). • • • • • • Who did it What was done When it was done Where it was done How it was done Why it was done
What happens next? The Partitio
In classical Greece and Rome, speeches were often very lengthy affairs, yet orators spoke entirely from memory. The partitio was that part of the speech where they set out the points they were going to make in detail later in the speech. This had a dual benefit: firstly the speaker could remind themselves of where they had to go later; secondly, the audience knew what to expect and could listen more effectively. When you write a persuasive speech, it is good to conclude your first paragraph by setting out the points you are going to cover (it shows the examiner that you can structure your writing), and you might even want to use a partitio again later in the speech. For example: “We have seen the reasons why school uniform should be abolished. It remains only to address those concerns which will be raised about this proposal.” This is an optional extra, but is certainly flags up the clear structure of your speech to its audience.
Is this stuff true? The Appeal to Logos
The only way to truly convince someone that you are telling the truth is to give them evidence to support your points, or to prove by logic that you are correct. There are a great many techniques to use, but even if you ignore those set out below, you must remember these two points: 1. Provide evidence of some sort to support your points 2. Use logical reasoning to give your points weight A big list of ideas. If you feel overwhelmed, just experiment with the techniques on this page. Once you feel braver, try looking at the next couple of pages.
Description Use statistics to support your argument. Citing experts or authorities to bring credibility to one's argument.
Example Seventy-three per cent of nineteen year-olds support the legalisation of controlled drugs. In a recent article in The British Medical Journal, Professor Michael Smith argued that “we cannot wait any longer when it comes to childhood obesity.” We might ask Catherine Jensen about the need for new safety measures at NASA. She is not an engineer, nor a rocket scientist. She was simply one of the many spectators in that elementary school classroom who saw both the space shuttle explode and the empty look on the children's faces as they realized their teacher was killed Mr. Simpson admits to having beat his wife in the past. Is it so unreasonable that this pattern of violence would have continued, even escalated?
Calling upon a person or persons who have personally seen or experienced something to lend credibility to one's argument.
making reference to a past judicial decision or (more generally) referring to the past to substantiate a claim or interpretation in the present. The use of a remark or an image which calls upon the audience to draw an obvious conclusion. Juxtaposition of
Look at that man's yellowed fingertips and you just tell me if he's a smoker or not.
It can't be wrong if it
contrasting words or ideas (often, although not always, in parallel structure).
feels so right
This invites us to consider how something compares and contrasts with others. We can use the logic that if two things are similar in one or two ways, they are likely similar in another characteristic.
In your statement you assert that our actions, even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn't this like condemning a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the evil act of robbery? Isn't this like condemning Socrates because his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they made him drink hemlock? Isn't this like condemning Jesus because his unique Godconsciousness and never-ceasing devotion to God's will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed, it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber. —Martin Luther King, Letter from Birmingham Jail In Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal, he argues from effect, indicating what the results would be if his ironic proposal to sell Irish children for food were to be accepted: For first, it would greatly lessen the number of papists, with whom we are yearly overrun, being
Cause and Effect
A technique in which one considers the effects of a given cause or the causes contributing to given effects.
the principal breeders of the nation as well as our most dangerous enemies...etc.
A proof or composition constructed of contraries. They are useful in arguments because one can establish one's case indirectly, proving one's own assertion by discrediting the contrary
If war is the cause of our misery, peace is the way to promote our happiness
Put up some Signposts!
There are many other ways of using logic to argue your case, but above all, make sure that you signpost your writing. Conjunctions are vital to organise your thoughts and tell your audience where you are going.
You got a problem with me? The Refutatio
When you make a persuasive speech, you must always assume there are points of view different to your own. For example, in a criminal trial, there will be the opposing barrister, attempting to prove entirely the opposite case to yours. Therefore, when you make your speech, you should think about these counter-arguments, and, as the old saying goes, attack is the best form of defence. Prove your opponents wrong, and your job is almost done.
Posh name antirrhesis
Description Example Rejecting reprehensi vely the opinion or authority of someone. Rush Limbaugh is no political commentator; he's a two-bit showman whose political ideas are about as impressive as his humility. It has been accused of the green movement that we are enemies of progress, but surely it is those who would do nothing that are against progress, those who would let the waters rise and the crops wither that are enemies of mankind's future. Arguing that we can stop teenagers from hanging around in groups is like asking a dog to quit marking his territory by lifting his hind leg. Seeing that this land was mine, you must show that either you did possess it, being empty, or made it your own by use, or purchase, or else that it came to you by inheritance. You could not possess it empty when I was in possession. Also, you cannot make it your by use or custom. You have no deed to prove your
Useful for Risks
anticategoria (also A retort in known as which one metastasis) turns the very accusation made by one's adversary back against him. diasyrmus Rejecting an argument through ridiculous compariso n. The rejection of several reasons why a thing should or should not be done and affirming a single one, considered most valid.
purchase of it; I being alive it could not descend upon you by inheritance. It follows then that you would put me from my own land before I am dead. —John Smith apodioxis Rejecting of someone or something (such as the adversary' s argument) as being impertinen t, needless, absurd, false, or wicked. Admitting what's charged against one, but excusing it by necessity. You tell me that smoking is healthy, sociable and pleasant, yet I see nothing but smallminded ignorance in your speech. You know nothing and seek only to spread lies through your ridiculous notions.
You say I would take away your human rights: that, I grant, is true, but would you not rather be safe than free?
Refuting It will of course be said anticipated of this proposal that it objections. does nothing more than fatten the wallets of the corporations and the waistlines of our children, but putting MacDonalds franchises into our schools will bring much-needed revenue to our ailing education system.
My heart bleeds! The Appeal to Pathos
Having battered your audience into submission with a barrage of logic, you have reached the final throes of the battle. However, up till now you've fought for the minds of your audience. Now you must win their hearts. Reason, logic and science are powerful tools, but your speech must end with an appeal to your audience's emotions. Think carefully about the emotions you wish to excite in your audience. These are some common responses that orators seek: − Pride (History will praise you for this decision...) − Guilt (Could you live with this man's death on your conscience? − Fear (Imagine yourselves, trapped, alone, cut off from all you know and love) − Urgency (We must act now! To wait another moment would fatal!) − Outrage (It sickens any decent person to witness such injustice...) − Unity and Strength (If we stand together, we can achieve greatness beyond our wildest imaginings) Posh name
A comparison made by referring to one thing as another. Very important! Metaphors take abstract ideas and make them real. The speaker manipulates personal pronouns to emphasises, unity or difference. Repetition of words with no others between, for vehemence or emphasis. A declaration of impossibility, usually in terms of an exaggerated comparison. Sometimes, the expression of the impossibility of expression. A form of metaphor where
Example No man is an island —John Donne This evil is a cancer which will grow and grow, silently corrupting our inmost beings.
You have it in your power to change the world, and if you use that power wisely, we will all be happier, wiser and more contented. Hamlet: Words, words, words...
Words cannot express the pain that this loss drives into the depths of my being
This proposal will thrust a dagger into the heart of
an abstract idea is described as if it were a person.
our community. (The proposal is personified as a murderer).
An adjuration or For the sake of our future, calling to change your minds! witness; or, the vehement expression of desire put in terms of "for someone's sake" or "for God's sake." Rhetorical exaggeration. Hyperbole is often accomplished via comparisons, similes, and metaphors.
I've told you a million times not to exaggerate. This is your chance to seize greatness, to step beyond the ordinary and become a true hero. All you must do is lend me a fiver. If your parents discover what you did, you will not see your next birthday. Could you live with the consequences of denying this course of action? History will not judge you kindly if you fail to act now. You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things! This course of action can bring only joy, happiness and delight to us all.
A statement designed to inhibit someone from doing something, often drawing on a sense of fear. Threatening or prophesying payback for ill doing. In general, the use of several synonyms together to amplify or explain a given subject or term. A kind of repetition that adds emotional force or intellectual clarity. figures aiming at vivid, lively description
synonymia (also known as congeries)
Should you let the defendant go free, consider how he will prey upon other hapless victims, perhaps even hunting in your own neighborhood.
Stirring others by one's own vehement feeling (sometimes by means of a rhetorical question, and often for the sake of exciting anger). Repetition of the same letter or sound within nearby words. Most often, repeated initial consonants Repetition of similar vowel sounds, preceded and followed by different consonants, in the stressed syllables of adjacent words endings of adjacent or parallel words.
Can I stand by and let the government trample on my rights? Is that safe? Is that right? Can any of us afford to allow this wrong to continue?
Why not waste a wild weekend at Westmore Water Park? Death, destruction and despair must surely come now. The sergeant asked him to bomb the lawn with hotpots.
homoioteleuton Similarity of
He is esteemed eloquent which can invent wittily, remember perfectly, dispose orderly, figure diversly [sic], pronounce aptly, confirme strongly, and conclude directly — Peacham Note the series of verbs followed by an adverb ending in "ly" How beautiful, peaceful and wonderful it must be to see your homeland again after years of war.
Using words that sound alike but that differ in meaning (punning).
A pun is its own reword. People who live in crass houses shouldn't stow thrones. A comment on the wedding ceremony of David and Victoria Beckham. We were given the chance to be great. The chance to
The repetition of the last word (or
phrase) from the previous line, clause, or sentence at the beginning of the next.
be great passed us by. Now it is your chance to grasp the torch of greatness. Miss America was not so much interested in serving herself as she was eager to serve her family, her community, and her nation. This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demiparadise, This fortress built by Nature for herself Against infection and the hand of war, This happy breed of men, this little world, This precious stone set in the silver sea... Shakespeare – Richard II Once we were happy men. Once we sang with joy like birds. Once we held our heads high. Now we are but empty shells, hollow vessels for others to beat upon.
Generally, the arrangement of words, phrases, or clauses in an order of increasing importance, often in parallel structure. Repetition of the same word or group of words at the beginning of successive clauses, sentences, or lines.
Ending a series of lines, phrases, clauses, or sentences with the same word or words. Similarity of structure in a pair or series of related words, phrases, or clauses. Repetition of the same idea, changing either
What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny compared to what lies within us." —Emerson Singing a song or writing a poem is joyous. Wearing a school uniform is hideous; making choices for yourself is heaven. Hear the right, O LORD, attend unto my cry, give
its words, its delivery, or the general treatment it is given.
ear unto my prayer... — Psalm 17:1
A sentence constructed only of nouns and adjectives (typically in a regular pattern). A series of successive, synonymous expressions.
A man faithful in friendship, prudent in counsels, virtuous in conversation, gentle in communication, learned in all liberal sciences, eloquent in utterance, comely in gesture, an enemy to naughtiness, and a lover of all virtue and godliness. —Peacham
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