Primary Education is Lacking!

We spend a lot of time persuading others. Whether it is what kind of take-out food we want, what to watch at the cinema, or just exactly what to think of Donald Trump. One thing is certain, a lot more time than we think is spent trying to persuade. For most, persuasion is part of their daily routine. For some, their job is built entirely around it. We often see politicians persuading people that their party is the best, celebrities persuading the public to give to charity, lawyers persuading an audience of someone’s innocence or guilt.

So, it’s safe to say that the ability to persuade is pretty important, which is why my focus has been on classical rhetoric of late. If you’ve been following my blog recently, you may have noticed that I have been writing a lot about classical rhetoric and how it can improve writing. I have talked about structure and techniques, but – apart from some small quotes from literature – have provided very little in the way of an example of how it could be used. With this in mind, I have decided to give an example of a polemic I wrote a month or so before Christmas as a piece of coursework for my Master’s degree.

So what exactly is a polemic? It is, in the briefest terms, a strong verbal or written attack on someone or something. Politicians are often seen delivering these. The idea of a polemic is to persuade the audience, often by creating an emotional response or call to action.

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Classical Rhetoric: Schemes of Repetition

You like repeating yourself, I like repeating myself, we all like repeating ourselves right? Wrong. At some point, we have all found repetition to be a bugbear. Whether it’s repeating your drink order again and again at a noisy bar, rereading the same line of a book over and over, or your partner’s mother asking you to put your shoes in the shoe cupboard for the eightieth time, repetition can be annoying. So, what would you say if I told you that repetition (when used in the right way) can be a very powerful tool in written or verbal communication?

Repetition comes in many more forms than just the exasperation of a parent who has continually asked their child to tidy the bedroom for three weeks. The best known, and most commonly used, is called anaphora. Anaphora has been utilised in writing for as long as people have been engaging with the craft. Look at speeches and literature, and you will see this technique used liberally; Shakespeare used anaphora in many of his poems and scripts, Churchill’s famous speech ‘we will fight them on the beaches… .’ is filled with it, even John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath uses this technique. The beauty of anaphora is that it is easy to use, all you have to do is repeat the same word (or group of words) at the beginning of successive clauses.

Following on from last week’s post, in which I introduced you to the structure of Classical Rhetoric, this article will present you with a (by no means exhaustive) list of some schemes of repetition that you can use to enhance your writing. Here we go.

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Classical Rhetoric: An Exordium

An introduction to a new series on the figures, tropes, and techniques of Classical Rhetoric.

While writing a post for this blog last week, I had a lightbulb moment (while writing about not neglecting ideas) that I decided not to ignore. That idea has led to me start this ongoing series on classical rhetoric. I am very much still learning about it but would like to share with you some of the information I have found in the hopes that it will help you as much with your writing as it has with mine.

I stumbled upon classical rhetoric as part of an assignment set during the first semester of my Master’s Degree. The assignment was to construct a polemic. The polemic was to be constructed from the structure, figures, and techniques of classical rhetoric. We were supplied with a basic overview of the subject and left to construct the best argument we could. Long story short, I did pretty well with both the construction and delivery of the piece. It was this short foray into classical rhetoric that really piqued my interest. Rather than being another thing I’ve learnt, it has become something I wish to explore further. I hope that some of you want to come along on this journey with me.

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