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Stuck on rhetorical writing? Here's how to do it well

The last time we spent time together, it was to talk about writing research papers.

 Go ahead. Simmer down from all the excitement. I’ll wait. 


 Rhetorical writing, which is also referred to as argumentative or persuasive writing, is a method of conveying an opinion on a subject, but without representing it as an opinion. I know, it sounds super weird. It can help to think of rhetorical writing as though it were a very well drafted debate. Each side is not only responsible for giving the best reasons for why their argument is the correct one, but also for being able to functionally explain why the opposing argument is wrong. 


 Rhetorical writing persuades the reader by using a combination of logic, credibility, and the emotional yanking of the reader’s chain. Technically, that combination is referred to as the rhetorical triangle. The rhetorical triangle is pompously labeled in Latin with ethos (the ethical point of view), logos (the logical point of view), and pathos (the establishing of the credibility of the author and the author’s supporting sources).


 I know, it sounds like a complicated metric ton of work. Okay, it totally is.  Often, more research will go into a rhetorical paper than an actual research paper.  This is due to the fact that when writing a research paper, the only research we use is dedicated to supporting whatever claim we’ve agreed with or asserted. 


 Although researching both sides may sound tedious, it is important to address both sides of the issue. That is, to look for sources that not only support your thesis, but also sources that refute your point. The only way to make sure that the most pertinent points of your topic are addressed is to find sources that both support and disagree with your stance, and then to use the sources that support your stance to show the reader how super duper wrong the other point of view is. 


 In fact, by the end of the paper, you can make people voicing an alternative point of view look like they spend their off time kicking puppies and stealing from saints. Of course, they probably don’t do that. But if you’ve done your job, that’s how right your point of view will look. 


 And who doesn’t love to be right?


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