I used to teach engineers how to write. I loved it, but it was challenge; engineers are infamous for arguing a point into the ground.
Whenever I taught them Plain Language and urged them to use it, the hair would bristle on the backs of their necks. Generally, the course of events to follow went something like this.
• Using Plain Language would be writing down to their readers
• Making their writing understandable wasn’t necessary, because their audiences already understood the subject matter
• Writing technical documents has always been done this way
• This wasn’t the way they were taught to write
After which, I stand in front of them. I look at them. I finally speak. I say, “Your teachers were wrong.” And, just short of rending of garments and gnashing of teeth, all hell breaks loose. (Did I mention that engineers love to argue?)
Nevertheless, I continue. “It’s all because of a bunch of ancient Roman rhetoricians...
One of my guitar students majored in Drama in college. As I progress with her lessons, it is increasingly apparent that many approaches to playing music have a lot to do with what she knows as an actor. One example would be that, much like how any script contains lines more expressive or, arguably, more representative of the plot's importance, musical compositions beg that certain notes, phrases, or harmonic motion be brought to the fore. Much of the responsibility of both the actor and musician, then, is to study how lines and music may contain human emotion. Not only that; the artist must make an evaluation of how the work means to create a sense of discourse and then, of course, adhere to those rhetorical conclusions. I would be happy to discuss this and many other ideas over email and, hopefully, in private lessons. Thanks!
Good morning, lovely learners! Time to rise and shine and, well, learn.
Today's post is the last in three I've done on Aristotle's Rhetoric Trifecta. We've done pathos--persuasion by emotion--and logos--argument by logic--but now it's time to end this with a final powerhouse punch:
Ethos is persuasion by authority. A little strange, sure, but if you tilt your head and squint your eyes a little, you'll see why I think this is the most important strategy of the three.
See, you can have the cutest, big-eyed puppies campaigning for you, and dozens of scientists out spouting statistics and studies, but unless you yourself come across as someone who knows what they're talking about--as
a reliable, trustworthy source of information--no one will listen to you. So appearing to your audience, whether in writing or in person, as someone worth paying attention to must be a top priority.
Let's take this blog and my...
Good morning, writing minions! It’s time for more lessons from a dead white dude.
In my last post, I discussed the power of pathos as one of three primary rhetorical techniques Aristotle developed to persuade an audience—techniques that still work today, whether for campaign speeches, college essays, or talking Mom and Dad into a later curfew.
Today, it’s time to talk about logos, or the logical argument. And to explain it well, allow one of my favorite television characters of all time take the stage: Abed Nadir, of Dan Harmon’s
Abed, a socially awkward young man in community college, offers a piece of chocolate to the female members of his study group whenever they become agitated. This goes unnoticed until his agenda book is opened and the study group sees the calendar marked on certain dates with the female members’ names. It’s alarmingly obvious that he’s been charting the women’s menstrual cycles.
Horrified, they ask Abedwhy...
I have a thing for old, dead guys. Sure, they're a little dusty, but you just wipe off their tomb--er, tome--and you'll see they can breathe fresh life into your writing.
There's this particular old dude Aristotle whose advice I've taken to heart for myself. He used to be a tutor himself to Alexander the Great in ancient Egypt. He taught biology, physics, geography, oration, and--most importantly for us!--rhetoric.
There's a fancy definition for rhetoric, but the basic idea is this:
There're a series of ways to sway an audience to your own opinion and view, be they in person or on paper. The art--and yes, it's an art--of doing this well is called rhetoric.
According to Aristotle, there were three ways to go about convincing people that your way is the right way. He called them "logos," "pathos," and "ethos." You can use one, two, or even all three in combination. In order to use them, however, you have...