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Rhetorical devices

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Rhetorical devices

  1. 1. Rhetorical Devices
  2. 2. Introduction• An overly simple definition of ‘rhetoric’ is ‘the study of persuasion.’ I recommend persuading people with evidence; however, there are means of convincing people that are unrelated to evidence. In this slideshow, I’ll consider a few so that you can be on the lookout for them.
  3. 3. EuphemismsA euphemism is a mild phrase that’s been substituted for a harsher one. A few examples:• ‘Powder room’ for ‘bathroom’• ‘Passed’ for ‘died’• ‘Selective reduction’ for ‘abortion of one twin’• ‘fun size’ for ‘tiny’
  4. 4. DysphemismsA dysphemism is the substitution of a harsh phrase for a milder one. A few examples:• ‘Death Panels’ for ‘voluntary counselors for Medicare patients’• ‘Partial-birth abortion’ for ‘intact dilation and extraction’• ‘Pig’ for ‘police officer’• ‘Cancer stick’ for ‘cigarette’
  5. 5. HedgesA hedge is a way of trivializing a claim so that it still seems significant. Some examples:• ‘Some doctors recommend colon cleansing.’• ‘Possibly you’ve never had a better massage.’• ‘Get up to 50% off.’• You could earn as much as $15 per hour.’• Can You OPEN THIS ENVELOPE FOR a Chance at $25,000?
  6. 6. DownplayersA downplayer is a phrase added to a sentence that doesn’t change its literal meaning but does change the attitude listeners take to it.• She’s just another idealistic new hire.• He’s the so-called leader of the company.• It costs a mere $60 per month.
  7. 7. Implying Without Saying• There are many ways of communicating something without explicitly saying it. Sometimes this is obvious.• If you ask me how the class did on the midterm and I say ‘some of you did well,’ that communicates that some of you did not do well. However, what I said doesn’t logically imply that; I could deny it by adding something like ‘in fact, all of you did well.’• Some non-explicit communication comes from exploiting conventions of conversation. On the slides to follow, I’ll consider some other, less-obvious forms of insinuation.
  8. 8. Significant MentionMentioning something without saying it can leave the impression that it’s been said. For example:• A candidate in a debate: “At least I don’t have a drug problem.” (Insinuates that the opponent does)• On the package of a device not recommended for glassware: “Fits better in glasses!” (Insinuates that it is designed for use in glasses)
  9. 9. Loaded QuestionA question that presupposes something will seem to imply it no matter the answer to the question. For example,• “How long have you held that mistaken view?”• “Have you given up shoplifting?”• “What part of America do you hate the most?”
  10. 10. Hyperbole (or overstatment)An overstatement is a statement that’s not literally true but has been exaggerated to suggest something true. For example,• It’s hotter than Hell out here.• The calculus book weighs a ton.• That professor writes at a 4th grade level.
  11. 11. UnderstatementAn understatement is literally true, but is not the strongest claim that could be made. It is used to highlight the stronger claim. For example,• Newton was a decent mathematician.• Carlos Slim has made a few dollars.• Romeo didn’t dislike Juliet. (Litotes)
  12. 12. Proof SurrogatesA proof surrogate is a phrase used in place of evidence. For example,• There’s evidence that Libby leaked Plame’s name.• Studies show that reading aloud uses more of your brain than reading silently.• There’s every reason to believe that the investment will pay off.
  13. 13. Repetition• A claim repeated is more memorable (and can seem truer) than an unrepeated claim.• Advertisements frequently use the technique. Contrast the overt repetition from this famously annoying (and surprisingly successful) Head On ad with the more subtle repetition from this CarMax ad. Both repeatedly suggest that product is easy to use.• Repetition appears in some religious ceremonies. You needn’t watch all 18 minutes to notice the repetition in this presentation of the Roman Catholic rosary prayer.
  14. 14. Images• Pictures are often used as a substitute for evidence. Instances abound. Note that not every use of an image is a dirty trick. Many uses are appropriate (like two of the three instances below) but they are rarely evidence.

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  • gardnerke

    Aug. 24, 2015
  • GeneLouFecundo

    Feb. 20, 2018
  • AmitaUppal

    Feb. 11, 2021
  • GraziaAngelinaTelent

    May. 2, 2021

The pictures in the slideshow are copy-and-pasted from various webpages. Leave a comment below if you're concerned that I've used an image inappropriately.


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