First and foremost, let’s get an understanding of the term rhetoric. Based on the context of the texts that will be discussed, rhetoric is a technique that is used to persuade an audience. This technique can be written, verbal, or visual in nature, however, because there is texts involved, the rhetoric we’ll discuss is written. When discussing rhetoric, it’s even more important to note that the person speaking, the way they are speaking, the emotional connection to the person message, and the logic used in their message all effects how the audience is persuaded and how effective the rhetoric is. Therefore, writers must make rhetorical choices that are effective in order to get others to listen, engage, and believe/be entertained by the messages they are sharing.
It’s also important to note that writing is a deliberate task with an intended purpose and an intended audience, whether it be a diary entry or a short story. The audience being the only difference between the two forms of writings, while the purpose for each is similar. For example, diary entries are personal written dialogue to often help the writer decompress from the day they’ve had. These entries are intended for the writer only and contain their raw, uncensored thoughts. Whereas short stories are crafted to entertain a specific target audience. With all that said, Kevin Roozen, an author of a concept in the text Naming What We Know: Thresholds, states plainly that “writers are engaging in the work of making meaning for particular audiences and purposes,” (“Writing Is a Social and Rhetorical Activity”). Therefore, for a diary entry, the audience is the writer and they’re making meaning of very intimate details important to them. For a short story, the audience is beyond just the writer and the writers intention is to connect with the audience emotionally. More importantly, the words have meaning for each audience, no matter how small, to engage/interact with the audience. The National Council of Teachers of English mention that rhetorical situations are chosen to “to be sure that [the writers] writing keeps their intended focus” (ncte.org). As writers, we make choices and decisions to help organize our writing that assist in connecting deeper with our audience.
Further, the brief mentioning of purpose and audience leads to the concept Lloyd Bitzer mentions in his work The Rhetorical Situation. He states that “a particular discourse comes into existence because of some specific condition or situation which invites utterance” (4). To connect to the example from earlier, a person writing in a diary needs to get all their thoughts out to either decompress or work through their emotions. There’s a specific purpose for that entry to exist. As for the short story, writers typically feel the need to entertain/share a story to provoke an emotional reaction in their intended audience. Therefore, they engage with the audience with a purpose and Bitzer highlights that their engagement is due to something that urges them to connect/reach out to the intended audience. (It’s important to note that an audience can be of any size. A diary entry being for the writer doesn’t change the importance of the words being documented. For instance, the diary entry could be used later for a conversation, a piece of written work, or a story scenario. Also, consider Anne Frank’s diary. She was the intended audience, however, her work is now read around the world).
Something else important to point out, Bitzer explains that “rhetoric is a mode of altering reality […] by the creation of discourse which changes reality through the mediation of thought and action” (4). So, rhetoric is the contextual elements that assist writers in changing and re-enforcing their own personal realities, and it’s in the context of the writing where the rhetoric persuades the audience to believe the writer.
As a creative writer, my rhetorical choices matter in order for me to entertain my audience. I must consider what they will believe and how they’ll interact, think, and connect with each element I add into my work. Therefore, when I write to invoke an emotional response, I have to ensure the words I write connect with that emotional state to pull the readers into the world and elements the characters are in. I have to persuade the readers that these individuals are experiencing happiness, pain, etc. However, as a future teacher, I want to re-enforce the importance of paying attention to how we address the audience and use our contextual techniques to engage and interact with our intended audience and beyond. Much like Marina Rodriguez mentions her her blog, “Writing with the audience in mind before the writing begins keeps the writer focused on purpose.” She expresses in her blog post that she wants the students to not only get comfortable in their narrative voice, but to also think about ways they can use their unique voices to connect with the material and the audience collectively, which further places the importance on having meaningful and purposeful connections in what we write whether it’s inside the classroom or out.
Adler – Kassner, Linda. Wardle, Elizabeth. Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies. E-book, Kindle, 2015.
Bitzer, Lloyd F. “The Rhetorical Situation.” Philosophy & Rhetoric, vol. 1, no. 1, 1968, pp. 1–14. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/40236733.
Rodriguez, Marina. “The Importance of Audience.” Two Writing Teachers, https://twowritingteachers.org/2020/01/09/the-importance-of-audience/.Accessed 24 January 2020.
“Rhetorical Situation.” National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). https://library.ncte.org/journals/CCC/issues/v61-3/9966
“What Is Rhetoric?: Study Hall Writing Composition #10: ASU + Crash Course.” Youtube. Uploaded by Arizona State University, 2 June 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpooxL-i5UI.