Three tips they stopped teaching at school

Rhetoric: the lost art of persuasion

In all my years of education refining my wordsmithery – from GSCE to Masters – nobody ever mentioned rhetoric. It wasn’t until a chat down the pub with a stonemason that it popped up.

Rhetoric gets bad press. Probably because, like an inverted Midas touch, anything a politician touches turns to mud. But rhetoric isn’t bad. It’s what the Greek philosophers used to get their ideas across. It’s about proper communication.

So I had a gander. And there’s a lot we can learn from the Greeks. They knew their stuff.

1. Prove your credibility (ethos)

Your character is extremely important.

Why should someone believe your words? Do you have experience? If you’re a professor of physics, I’m going to believe what you say about the space-time continuum. But I won’t ask you which stocks to invest in.

2. Appeal to emotion (pathos)

Your reader needs to feel.

It doesn’t matter which emotion. It might be joy. It might be nostalgia. It might be pride. But feelings keep us interested. They help us remember what you’re talking about. They let us know you’re human.

3. Give reasons (logos)

Give evidence and be logical.

It sounds so obvious. But you need reasons for everything you say. Your reader needs to follow your thought process – so they can decide if they agree with you. All claims need evidence to back them up, not just wild ones.

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