AP English Notes

Rhetorical Terms - Writing Material

aesthetic reading - Reading to experience the world of the text.
Ex: One often reads John Steinbeck's novels, like The Grapes of Wrath, to experience his detailed settings.

aim - The goal a writer or speaker hopes to achieve with the text -- for example, to clarify difficult material, to inform, to convince, to persuade.  Also called intention and purpose.
Ex: In Pride, Dagoberto Gilb's aim is to define pride and what it means to him.

Anglo-Saxon diction - Word choice characterized by simple, often one- or two- syllable nouns, adjectives, and adverbs.
Ex: Words include "thinking," "kingly," "bridge," "stone," and "early."

apposition - Two nouns that are adjacent to each other and reference the same thing.
Ex: I know the dog Toto.

arrangement - In a spoken or written text, the placement of ideas for effect.
Ex: In essays, writers often strategically arrange their essays into paragraphs and order their points from most convincing to least.

assonance - The repetition of vowel sounds in the stressed syllables of two or more adjacent words.
Ex: "Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies" (John Keats)

assumption - An opinion, a perspective, or a belief that a writer or speaker thinks the audience holds.
Ex: "We think a problem is weakness, mental laziness, intellectual inflation, but an issue is deep-rooted, interior, and personal." (Allison Amend)

attitude - In an adapted dramatistic pentad created by a speaker or writer in order to invent materials, the manner in which an action is carried out.
Ex: "Truth be told, we have replaced problem with issue in our vocabulary.  And issue is a euphemism." (Allison Amend)

auxesis - Magnifying the importance or gravity of something by referring it with a disproportionate name.
Ex: Calling a scratch on an arm a wound.

begging of the question - The situation that results when a writer or speaker constructs an argument on an assumption that the audience does not accept.
Ex: This painting is horrible because it is obviously worthless.

causal relationship - The relationship expressing, "If X is the cause, then Y is the effect," or, "If Y is the effect, then X caused it."
Ex: If the dog runs away, then the boy will be sad.

character - A personage in a narrative.
Ex: Romeo was a character in Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare.

complex sentence - A sentence with one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses.
Ex: As long as it isn't cold, it doesn't matter if it rains.

compound-complex sentence - A sentence with two or more independent clauses and one or more dependent clauses.
Ex: The package arrived in the morning, but the courier left before I could check the contents.

context - The convergence of time, place, audience, and motivating factors in which a piece of writing or a speech is situated.
Ex: Kate Chopin lived in the late 1800s in Southern America as a feminist.  This background formed the foundation of The Awakening.

contradiction - One of the types of rhetorical invention included under the common topic of relationships.  Contradiction urges the speaker or writer to invent an example or a proof that is counter to the main idea or argument.
Ex: "If war is the cause of our misery, peace is the way to promote our happiness."

denotation - The "dictionary definition" of a word, in contrast to its connotation, or implied meaning.
Ex: A house is literally a dwelling usually for a family.

descriptive writing - Writing that relies on sensory images to characterize a person or place.
Ex: "so much depends/ upon/ the red wheel/ barrow/ glazed with rain/ water/ beside the white/ chickens" (William Carlos Williams)

dialect - The describable patterns of language--grammar and vocabulary--used by a particular cultural or ethnic population.
Ex: A Caribbean dialect is often "sing-songish" and leaves out words from sentences.

dialogue - Conversation between and among characters.
Ex: "Jim, I don't get it," Blair said.                   Jim raised an eyebrow. "Don't get what?"

diction - Word choice, which is viewed on scales of formality/informality, concreteness/abstraction, Latinate derivation/Anglo-Saxon derivation, and denotative value/connotative value.
Ex: Using "issue" instead of "problem."

double entendre - The double meanings of a group of words that the speaker or writer has purposely left ambiguous.
Ex 1: "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!" (Shelley).
Ex 2: "West Egg especially still figures into my more fantastic dreams" (Fitzgerald 185).

drafting - The process by which writers get something written on paper or in a computer file so that they can develop their ideas and begin moving toward an end, a start-to-finish product; the raw material for what will become the final product.
Ex: For the research paper, we will have to revise and draft many times to perfect our papers.

dramatic monologue - A type of poem, popular primarily in the nineteenth century, in which the speaker is delivering a monologue to an assumed group of listeners.
Ex: In "My Last Duchess," by Robert Browning, shows off a painting of his late wife and reveals his cruelty to her.

epistrophe - The repetition of a group of words at the end of successive clauses.
Ex: "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny compared to what lies within us" (Emerson).

erotema - Asking a question to assert or deny something obliquely not for an answer.
Ex: "How much longer must our people endure this injustice?"

ethos - The appeal of a text to the credibility and character of the speaker, writer, or narrator.
Ex: If you don't graduate from high school, you will always be poor.

exaggeration - An overstatement.
Ex: The Matrix is the best movie ever made.

example - An anecdote or a narrative offered in support of a generalization, claim, or point.
Ex: Animals have more intelligence than imagined. "On human IQ tests, she [a gorilla named Koko] scores between 70 and 95" (Rifkin).

exordium - In ancient roman oratory, the introduction of a speech; literally, the "web" meant to draw the audience in the speech.
Ex: Julius Caesar's speech begins with an exordium.

extended analogy - An extended passage arguing that if two things are similar in one or two ways, they are probably similar in other ways as well.
Ex: In "Grant and Lee: A Study in Contrasts," Catton argues some similarities between Grant and Lee.

extended example - An example that is carried through several sentences or paragraphs.
Ex: In "Pride," Dagoberto Gilb extends an Ex of pride in the form of an anecdote through two paragraphs.

fable - A narrative in which fictional characters, often animals, take actions that have ethical or moral significance.
Ex: Animal Farm, written by George Orwell, is a fable.

figures of rhetoric - Schemes--that is, variations from typical word or sentence formation--and tropes, which are variations from typical patterns of thought.
Ex: "When I first saw her, my soul began to quiver."

flashforward - A part of the plot that jumps ahead in time and returns to the present.
Ex: Oedipus is told he will sleep with his mother and kill his father by a prophet.

heuristic - A systematic strategy or method for solving problems.
Ex: Lawrence Lessig has argued that patents in different industries should be given different amounts of time, using this strategy.

house analogy - In ancient Roman oratory, the method that speakers used to memorize their speeches, connecting the introduction to the porch of a house, the narration and partition to the front foyer, the confirmation and refutation to rooms connected to the foyer, and the conclusion to the back door.
Ex: Julius Caesar most likely used this method to memorize his speeches.

hyperbaton - Unusual or inverted word order.
Ex: "Size matters not. Judge me by my size, do you?" (Yoda).

imagery - Language that evokes particular sensations or emotionally rich experiences in a reader.
Ex 1: Edgar Allan Poe uses imagery in The Fall of the House of the Usher.
Ex 2: "…ran for a huge black knotted trees whose massed leaves made a fabric against the rain…" (Fitzgerald 93).

implied metaphor - A metaphor embedded in a sentence rather than expressed directly as a sentence.
Ex 1: "John swelled and rustled his plumage." (John was a peacock.)
Ex 2: "Something was making him nibble at the edge of stale ideas as if his sturdy physical egotism no longer nourished his peremptory heart" (Fitzgerald 25).

inductive reasoning - Reasoning the begins by citing a number of specific instances or examples and then shows how collectively they constitute a general principle.
Ex: This ice is cold. Thus, all ice is cold.

intention - The goal a writer or speaker hopes to achieve with the text.
Ex: One of John Steinbeck's intentions in The Grapes of Wrath was to end humans' inhumanity to fellow humans.

jargon - The specialized vocabulary of a particular group.
Ex: Bilateral periorbital hematoma (a black eye).

konnoi topoi - People's topics; ordinary patterns of reasoning; also called basic topics.
Ex: Topics include justice, peace, rights, and movie theaters.

Latinate diction - Vocabulary characterized by the choice of elaborate, often complicated words from Latin roots.
Ex: Words like "deviate," "aqueduct," and "insulate".

limited narration - A narrative in which the reader or viewer has access to the unspoken thoughts of one character or partial thinking of more than one character.
Ex: "Murgatroyd met Madeline on New Year's Eve in 2002. He attended a party and she opened the door. Her hair! Only a goddess could have hair so fine."

litotes - Understatement.
Ex 1: "This is no ordinary city" rather than "this is an impressive city".
Ex 2: "I lived at West Egg, the--well, the less fashionable of the two, though this is a most superficial tag…" (Fitzgerald 9).

logic - The art of reasoning.
Ex: All humans are mortal. Socrates is human. Thus, Socrates is mortal.

logos - The appeal of a text based on the logical structure of its argument or central ideas.
Ex: "If there really were such strong evidence of racial bias in the justice system it would be newsworthy. . ." (Taylor 6).

mood - The feeling that a text is intended to produce in the audience.
Ex: In John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath, the mood is mostly dark and gloomy.

narrative - An anecdote or a story offered in support of a generalization, claim, or point. Also, a function in texts accomplished when the speaker or writer tells a story.
Ex: "A good man, gray on the edges, an assistant manager in a brown starched and ironed uniform, is washing the glass windows of the store...Good night, m'ijo! he tells a young boy coming out after playing the video game..." (Dagoberto Gilb)

omniscient narration - A narrative in which the reader or viewer has access to the unspoken thoughts of all the characters.
Ex: Our Town by Thornton Wilder.

parable - A usually short fictitious story that illustrates a moral attitude or a religious principle.
Ex: Ignacy Krasicki's "The Blind Man and the Lame."

paradox - A statement that seems untrue on the surface but is true nevertheless.
Ex: "Not having a fashion is a fashion."

paronomasia - To call with a slight change of name; a play on words.
Ex: "Independence is what a boy wants from his father when he wants to be let a loan."

partition - In ancient Roman oratory, the part of a speech where the speaker would divide the main topic into parts.
Ex: Julius Caesar used partitions to better communicate his argument.

pathos - The appeal of a text to the emotions or interests of the audience.
Ex: ". . . Helped feed a wave of national breast-beating over the unfairness of the juvenile justice system" (Taylor 1).

peer review - A system calling for writers to read or listen to one another's work and suggest ways to improve it.
Ex: In AP US History, we peer reviewed each other's take-home DBQs.

pentad - Kenneth Burke's system for analyzing motives and actions in communication. The five points of the pentad are act, agent, agency, scene, and purpose.

periphrasis - The substitution of an attributive word or phrase for a proper name, or the use of a proper name to suggest a personality characteristic.
Ex 1: "He was no Romeo; but then again, she was no Juliet."
Ex 2: "…I stared at it, like Kant at his church steeple…" (Fitzgerald 93).

persona - The character that a writer or speaker conveys to the audience; the plural is personae.
Ex: In The Great Gatsby, Nick Carraway is a persona.

personae - The plural of persona.
Ex: Nick Carraway and Jay Gatsby.

personification - The giving of human characteristics to inanimate objects.
Ex: The fall season has been personified as "sitting on a granary floor" (Keats).

persuasion - The changing of people's minds or actions by language.
Ex: Protect the environment, for it is what the lives of your children and the future of the world will depend on.

petitio principi - Begging of the question; disagreeing with premises or reasoning.
Ex: "The bible says god exists and the bible must be right since it is the revealed word of god, so god exists."

planning - Determining appropriateness of information for audience and for purpose.
Ex: I am in the planning and drafting stages of my research paper.

plot - Arrangement of events in a story.
Ex: In The Grapes of Wrath, Joe and his family meet up, go to California, search for jobs, and live in various camps. In the end, the only benefit the gain is unity.

plot devices - Elements of plot that operate to cause or resolve conflicts and to provide information.
Ex: Foreshadowing.

poem - Louise Rosenblatt's term for the interpretive moment when reader and text connect.
Ex: In The Grapes of Wrath, this occurs when Steinbeck first describes the surrounding setting with figurative language.

polyptoton - Repetition of words derived from the same root.
Ex: Repeating words like "strong," "skillful," and "strength."

polysyndeton - Repetition of conjunctions in close succession.
Ex: "We have ships and men and money and stores."

premise, major - The first premise in a syllogism. The major premise states an irrefutable generalization.
Ex: All men are mortal.

premise, minor - The second premise in a syllogism. The minor premise offers a particular instance of generalization stated in the major premise.
Ex: Some philosophers are men.

prosopopoeia - The giving of human characteristics to inanimate objects.
Ex: The window winked at me.

pun - A play on words. Types of puns include anataclasis, words that sound alike but have different meanings; paranomasia, words alike in sound but different in meaning; and syllepsis, a word used differently in relation to two other words it governs or modifies.
Ex: "I moss say I'm taking a lichen to that fungi."

purpose - The goal a writer or speaker hopes to achieve with the text. Also called aim and intention. In a dramatistic pentad created by a speaker or writer in order in invent material, the words the speaker or writer uses to describe the reason something happened or happens in a particular situation.
Ex: In Pride, Dagoberto Gilb's aim is to define pride and what it means to him.

reader's repertoire - The collection of predictions and revisions a person employs when reading a text.

recursive - Referring to the moving back and forth from invention to revision in the process of writing.
Ex: In writing my research paper, I invent material and revise previously invented material.

refutation - In ancient Roman oratory, the part of a speech in which the speaker would anticipate objections to the points being raised and counter them.
Ex: Julius Caesar used this method in his speeches to better argue his point.

reliable narrator - A believable, trustworthy commentator on events and characters in a story.
Ex: In The Great Gatsby, Nick Carraway is a reliable narrator, though somewhat secretive.

repetition - In a text, repeated use of sounds, words, phrases, or clauses to emphasize meaning or achieve effect.
Ex 1: The dog ran, the dog jumped, and the dog whimpered.
Ex 2:"'Hot!' said the conductor to familiar faces. 'Some Weather! … Hot! … Hot! … Hot! … Is it hot enough … '" (Fitzgerald 121).

rhetor - The speaker who uses elements of rhetoric effectively in oral or written text.
Ex: F. Scott Fitzgerald is the rhetor in The Great Gatsby.

rhetoric - The art of analyzing all the choices involving language that a writer, speaker, reader, or listener might make in a situation so that the text becomes meaningful, purposeful, and effective; the specific features of texts, written or spoken, that cause them to be meaningful, purposeful, and effective for readers or listeners in a situation.
Ex: Diction, scheme, trope, argument, and syntax.

rhetorical intention - Involvement and investment in and ownership of a piece of writing.
Ex: F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby has rhetorical intention.

rhetorical question - A question posed by the speaker or writer not to seek an answer but instead to affirm or deny a point simply by asking a question about it.
Ex: "Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?" (Shakespeare).

rhetorical situation - The convergence in a situation of exigency (the need to write), audience, and purpose.
Ex: Before drafting my research paper, I had to analyze my purpose and how much background information to provide for my audience.

rhetorical triangle - A diagram showing the relations of writer or speaker, reader or listener, and text in a rhetorical situation.

romance language - A language that is derived from Latin.
Ex: French, Italian.

round character - A figure with complexity in action and personality,
Ex: Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

sarcasm - The use of mockery or bitter irony.
Ex: "That's so funny I forgot to laugh!"

scenic narration - Narration in which an event or a moment of a plot is stretched out for dramatic effect.
Ex: In The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the scene in which Myrtle is accidentally killed.

six-part oration - In classical rhetoric, a speech consisting of exordium, narration, partition, confirmation, refutation, and peroration.
Ex: Franklin D. Roosevelt's First Inaugural Address follows this structure.

slang - Informal language, often considered inappropriate for formal occasions and text.
Ex: "This is sick."

soliloquy - Dialogue in which a character speaks aloud to himself or herself.
Ex: "To be or not to be, that is the question: / Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer / The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, / Or to take arms against a sea of troubles / And by opposing end them" (Shakespeare).

speaker - The person delivering a speech, or the character assumed to be speaking a poem.
Ex: Franklin D. Roosevelt.

stance - A writer's or speaker's apparent attitude toward the audience.
Ex: Franklin D. Roosevelt embraced the audience in his First Inaugural Address.

static character - A figure who remains the same from the beginning to the end of a narrative.
Ex: Nick Carraway is essentially a static character in The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

style - The choices that writers or speakers make in language for effect.
Ex: Part of John Steinbeck's style is to focus on the setting in novels like The Grapes of Wrath.

subject - One of the points on the Aristotelian or rhetorical triangle; the subject matter a writer or speaker is writing or speaking about.
Ex: John Steinbeck was writing about the Dust Bowl in The Grapes of Wrath.

subordinate clause - A group of words that includes a subject and verb but that cannot stand on its own as a sentence; also called dependent clause.
Ex: After the dog slept, the dog ran.

summary narration - Narration in which a brief statement of events moves the plot quickly.
Ex: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon includes many summary narrations when they jump years in time.

support - In a test, the material offered to make concrete or to back up a generalization, conclusion, or claim.
Ex: "Recent studies in the brain chemistry of rats show that when they play, their brains release large amounts of dopamine . . ." (Rifkin).

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Aboukhadijeh, Feross. "Rhetorical Terms - Writing Material" StudyNotes.org. Study Notes, LLC., 17 Nov. 2012. Web. 21 Jun. 2024. <https://www.apstudynotes.org/english/rhetorical-terms/writing-material/>.