To understand how the rhetorical transaction (the interaction between Speaker, Text, and Audience) works,
we must understand writers/speakers pay careful attention to the role audiences play in constructing a
meaningful, purposeful, effective text. We must also understand audiences are equally aware of
writers’/speakers’ roles in creating meaning.
Rhetorical analysis involves finding and analyzing the choices speakers make to appeal to their audience in
a meaningful, purposeful, and effective way. Rhetorical analysis involves the following:
All the ways speakers appeal (or attempt to appeal) to an audience
The way those appeals affect the audience
o This includes the use of Ethos—establishing credibility by establishing skills & wisdom,
virtue & goodness, and goodwill; the use of Logos—logically proving an argument
through induction, deduction, syllogism, Toulmin-method, or other proof; and the use of
Pathos—direct or indirect attempts to influence an audience’s emotions.
o This also includes diction, syntax, selection of detail, figurative language, tone, and
organization (all of which may contribute to any or all ethos, pathos, and logos) that
contribute to the meaning, purpose, and effect of a text.
Appeals: A writer understands an audience will contribute to the construction of meaning in a text, so the
writer appeals to the audience in a variety of ways to attempt to guide or coerce the audience into creating
the desired meaning. Think of appeals as sign-posts and directions toward a meaning. The more frequent
and the more varied the appeals, the more likely the audience will arrive at the desired meaning.
(Remember: sometimes people misread what appear to the “speaker” to be the clearest of directions.)
Ethos appeals attempt to persuade an audience to trust the speaker. Ethos appeals establish credibility.
Aristotle defined 3 kinds of ethos appeals: Skills & Wisdom, Virtue & Goodness, Goodwill toward
audience. Ethos, for the most part, cannot be honestly changed by the speaker for the purpose of argument.
Look for places where a speaker introduces him/herself or offers examples based on personal experience,
education, or action.
Pathos appeals attempt to influence an audience’s emotions. These can be direct appeals, through the
choice of specific examples, the use of figurative language, and the creation of tone and mood; or indirect
appeals which occur because of an audience’s personal connection to language in the text. A wide variety of
pathos appeals exist. Look for words which incite emotional responses; identify commonalities in these
words and the responses.
Logos appeals connect directly with the subject of communication; the connection between evidence and
the conclusion. Standard logical approaches: inductive, deductive, and syllogistic proofs; as well as the use
of facts, statistics, definitions, analogies and other kinds of evidence comprise logos appeals.
Any sentence, clause, paragraph or other part of rhetoric will make use of several appeals simultaneously. A
personal example which establishes ethos will likely make use of diction which contributes to pathos and
serve as part of a logical proof, ergo: logos.
A speaker doesn’t use everything available to her/him just as a mechanic doesn’t use every tool in the shop
to fix a car. A speaker carefully considers audience and purpose and makes specific choices, grabs the most
appropriate tools for the job. The speaker’s choices contribute to the effectiveness of the piece. When
doing rhetorical analysis, your job is to identify the choices (tools) a speaker uses and explain why. An
important part of this is asking “why not something else?”
Analysis requires you to explore how
contribute to the effect of a text.