Rhetorical Devices: Introduction

Rhetoric is the art of using language with persuasive effect. Aristotle wrote the classic book on the subject, On Rhetoric, in the 4th century BC. For centuries, the study of rhetoric—the ability to speak in public and to move audiences with logic, emotion and credibility—was an important component of many educational systems.

The word “rhetoric” comes from the Greek word ῥητορικός (rhetorikos), which means “oratorical”. “Rhetorikos” is derived from ῥήτωρ (rhetor), meaning “public speaker”, which in turn comes from the verb ἐρῶ (ero), meaning “to speak” or “to say”.

Simply put, a rhetorical device is a speaking technique that is used to persuade an audience to consider a subject from the speaker’s point of view. When used properly, rhetorical devices can have both logical and emotional appeal, and thus be very effective. Public speakers should know how to use them, and should endeavour to incorporate them into their speeches and presentations. 

This post marks the start of a series on rhetorical devices. Each subsequent post will examine a single rhetorical device, explain its meaning and use, and look at examples from speeches, presentations and literature.


About John Zimmer

International speaker, presentation skills expert, lawyer, improv performer
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7 Responses to Rhetorical Devices: Introduction

  1. Jonah Crockett says:

    Loved it

  2. Pingback: Persuasion for fundraising entrepreneurs: help with pitching and convincing investors « GrowthTimes

  3. Ryan Sutherland says:

    Hi John,

    I think this is a brilliant idea, thanks for sharing it! This is exactly the kind of information that can really put the spark in a speech, both in the speaking and in the listening. I’m looking forward to reading through the series!


    • John Zimmer says:

      Thanks, Ryan. Much appreciated. As there are dozens of rhetorical devices, the series could keep me busy for a long time! I hope that you find the posts informative.



  4. Natã Oliveira says:

    It’s awesome, John Zimmer!

    I do really hope that this series on rhetoric continues.

    I’m a law student from Brazil and as I have to speak in public your website makes part of my favourites ones.

    Thank you so much, John!

    P.S. I’d like to know what you really thing about rehearsed gestures. I’ve been reading some advice on Nick Morgan’s site as well, and he says that is much more important to focus on our intent, instead of focus on our gestures.

    All the best for you, man!

    Brazilian Friend.

    • John Zimmer says:

      Ola Natã e muito obrigado. I very much appreciate your taking the time to write. Don’t worry, I will definitely continue the series.

      As for your question, I agree with Nick. Focus on your message and focus on the audience. That way, your gestures will be much more natural, which is how they should be.

      Best of luck with your legal studies. I remember my law school days very well. Lots of work but good times as well.



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