A Brief Guide to Understanding How Rhetoric
Can Help You As a Business Communicator
What Is Rhetoric?
• The term rhetoric
refers to the use of
language to present
ideas, information, &
• Rhetoric is often
associated with
persuasive speech,
oration, or a particular
style of speaking or
• Rhetoric can also be
defined as a form of
verbal or written
communication or
• According to Aristotle,
rhetoric is "the ability,
in each particular case,
to see the available
means of persuasion"
Rhetorical Triangle
Consider the relationship between communicator, message,
and audience. How can understanding this relationship help you
as a professional communicator?
Primary Rhetorical Forms
• Logos is an appeal based on logic or reason. Documents
distributed by companies or corporations are often logosdriven, as are scholarly or academic books & articles.
• Ethos is an appeal based on the character or crediblity of
the speaker. An ethos-driven document relies on the
reputation of the author.
• Pathos appeals to emotion. Advertisements tend to be
See handout on course website under Unit One titled “Understanding Ethos, Logos,
Pathos” for examples. Also review the video “Rhetoric in Advertising.”
Rhetorical Sensitivity
• Rhetorical sensitivity occurs
when writers “determine the
most effective ways to
communicate with readers”
(Ede p. 40).
• As business communicators,
you must develop rhetorical
sensitivity. You achieve this
by adopting an audiencecentered approach. (Review
pgs. 10-16 in your course
textbook for more
Other Rhetorical Appeals
• Rhetorical appeals can also be achieved through:
• Visual Information Structure—this includes how the
text looks and is presented. Examples: titles, headings,
navigation, etc.
• Color—this includes the color of the text, background,
and graphics. Color contrast is also important.
• Graphic Images—this includes other information in
the document aside from the text. Examples: icons,
buttons, and photos.
Analyzing Rhetoric
• When you rhetorically analyze a text you study
the ways and modes through which a
communicator uses language and other rhetorical
devices to convey ideas & information
• Consider the following:
Word choice
Narrative Structure
Appeals (ethos, logos, pathos)
Image of gecko
is well-known
and reinforces
ad’s ethos or
design is
and visually
Tone of ad is
humorous, yet
Word choices like
“24-hour service”
and “low downpayment” appeal to
viewers’ desire to
save money.
Logos or logical
appeal—i.e. you
will save money!
Ad uses
complimentary, yet
contrasting, colors.
Green & blue are
“trustworthy” colors,
which boost the ad’s
ethos. (Perhaps
more so than bright
pink or neon yellow,
for example.)
Ad is genreappropriate—i.e. it
meets audiences’
expectations for
how a car ad should
look and what
content it should
• What are some examples of texts you have read in this
class or others that use one or more of the rhetorical
appeals we just reviewed?
• Why is rhetorical analysis important for professional
• How might studying rhetoric help you become a critical
reader and writer?
• Which aspects of rhetorical analysis do you have
questions about? Post them to our discussion forum for
further conversation!
Works Cited
• Aristotle. Rhetoric.
• Ede, Lisa. (2011). The Academic Writer.
• Bovee, Courtland and John Thill. Business
Communication Today. (2012).

A Brief Guide to Rhetorical Analysis