Screens, Research and Hypertext

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What Is Rhetoric?

An old-fashioned word for what we do when we write.

I’m quite fond of the term rhetoric, for all that it’s a bit old-fashioned.

Rhetoric refers to the way that content needs to work in order to achieve its goals.

It’s about knowing the best way to say things such that they inform, persuade, entertain, or make it possible for a person to do a thing.

It’s about knowing how to string words and ideas together in such a way as to have the desired effect on your readers.

It’s why we’re moved when Barack Obama delivers a speech and befuddled when Donald Trump spits out word salad.

Good rhetoric delivers the right information, in the right way, at the right time.

Rhetoric can take many forms, and many of those forms have a specific structure. But rhetoric isn’t simply about having a structure. Rhetorical skill means knowing which structure is most effective for your audience and then stringing together compelling sentences and visuals to enable that structure to work.

For more context

What does rhetoric look like for research products?

What to read next

What does this have to do with putting research online?

Other items of interest

The IMRAD report isn't a Platonic ideal. It's a product of print.

To understand structure is to know what things do, not just how they are formatted.

Why are you talking about rhetoric?

Referenced in

Entities and Rhetoric

Entities define the attributes that make up a piece of content. Rhetoric is about the actual data contained inside those attributes.

Link Types

What they don't do (but should!) is encode editorial (read: rhetorical) intent. Those could be as simple as a link type called reference or note. Or they could also be much more complex, with types like methodology or findings.