ForumsWEPRAn Introduction to Rhetoric

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Before reading this thread, I would suggest reading [url]An Introduction to Logic[/url] by
Moegreche. Thanks.
First, we need to understand justs what Rhetoric is. Heres a quick definition:

Rhetoric: [Noun] The usage of language to please or persuade.

Rhetoric, delivered by Rhetorical Devices, is the fleeting impressions or influences that a word, or group of words, has on a person. The use of such devices' influence may occur beneath the very level of conciousness. The Positive or Negative impressions made by Rhetorical Devices, while they may seem trivial, can have powerful and lasting effects.

Now that we understand what Rhetoric, and Rhetorical Devices are, lets move on to the vehicals that will deliver your Rhetoric.
-----Euphemisms and Dysphemisms-----

Euphemisms and Dysphemisms are words or phrases that are substituted for other words or phrases to put what is being discussed in a more positive or negative light.

Euphemisms put a more positive light on a word or phrase, while a Dysphemism puts a more negative light on a word.

'She has passed away' is a Euphemism of 'She has died'. Alternately, 'She has died' is a Dysphemism of 'She has passed away'.

-----Rhetorical Comparisons-----

A Rhetorical Comparison is a way of speaking that departs positive or negative view froma fair or neutral position. Here, the problem is content, not form:

"The American Revolutionaries used tactics similar to those of the VietCong" This statement, depending on your own views, can do one of two things. Either it cast the 'American Revolutionaries' in a negative light, by comparing them with the 'VietCong', or it puts the 'VietCong' in a positive light by comparing them to the 'American Revolutionaries'.

"Religion - the opiate of the people" This definition appears to come froma fair, or neutral, stance, but it actually sheds Religion in a negative light. An opiate refers to opium, or any thing derived from opium. Opium is a drug, and this definition is suggestion that Religion 'drugs' a person, and clouds and muddies their vision and mentality.


A Sterotype functions as an enexamined assumption behind a premise or explanatory action. When directly expressed, it takes the form of a generalization. There are many types of Sterotypes (most famously, Racial Sterotypes), but also hide in many other forms. Observe:

"All roaches carry diseases". THis statement is a generalizaion. I am making the assumption that ALL roaches carry diseases. In order for this to be true, I would have had to meet all roaches, and confirmed that they do indeed carry diseases. I have made the assumption that all roaches are 'bad', and this is a fallicious statement.


An Innuendo is an indirect suggestion. Ussualy an Innuendo carries a negative impression. Innuendos can also take the guise of falso praise:

"Student X? Yes, she passed the minimum requirements of the course". This is an Innuendo, specifically, an Innuendo operating under the guise of a compliment. *Technically*, this statement is a compliment. However, it is leaving you with the suggestion that the nicest thing I could say about Student X is that they passed the minimum requirements. Therefore, you will start to make *negative* assumptions about Student X, because a Dysphemism of this same statement is: "Student X? Yes, she barely passed the course".

*A great example of Innuendos are 'Thats What She Said!' jokes.

-----Loaded Question-----

A Loaded Question is a Yes or No question, or a false dilemma. In order to answer a Loaded Question, you would be required to accept a presumption, which ussualy isn't true. For example:

"Are you openly gay, or have you just kept it a secret?" In order to answer this question, you would first have to affirm the assumption that you are indeed gay, even if you are not. Professional Politicians use this all the time. The only way to defend against such is to first recoqnize it as a Loaded Question, and then reply that you will only answer fair questions. This is an expecially nasty device, if I do say so for myself.


A Weasler is a word or phrase that deceptively weakens a claim, though it is not to be confused with Careful Qualification. Weaslers are often used in advertising:

"Save up to 30%!" The Weasler in this sentence is the words 'up to'. The sentence leaves you with the expectation that you will save 30%, though in reality, you'll probaly save less.

-----Sarcasm/Horse Laugh/Ridicule-----

Sarcasm weakens an arguments credibility by ridiculing it. Sarcasm often gives off the appearence that the user holds a higher position, or is mocking the argument. Behold:

"Our debt is only 14 trillion" The verbal stress would be on the word 'only'. This is sarcastic because its making a mockery of the US' National Debt. Most people know what Sarcasm is, and its easier to observe than explain, so I won't delve into it too much further.


Hyperbole is the use of an exaggertaion to make an impression of greater importance or deviate from expectations. Often shows up in other forms, such as Slippery Slopes.

"I'm so hungry, I could eat a horse" This is a Hyperbole, because its an unreal exaggertion of just how hungry you really are. Yes, you are hungry, but you can't physically eat an entire horse.

-----Proof Surrogate-----

Proof Surrogates are assumptions or strong suggestions that give evidence that exist somewhere out of reach to support a claim. They make use of listed, but unchecked, unverified references. On the internet and in advertising, these are expecially common:

"4 out of 5 dentist agree, ACME Toothbrushes are the best!" This leaves much to be desired. For starters, which dentist, and where? These dentist could have been payed, or live in a location where ACME Toothbrushes are prefered.

"Well, according to my Mom..." Seriously? Pops up so often on the internet. You could get your Mom to say anything, and we have no idea if you're being truthful or not.
And thats just about it for the major Rhetorical Devices. I hope this helps a lot of people out there, and makes debate in the WEPR much more lively and entertaining.

  • 32 Replies
257 posts

I guess I'm also a bit guilty of mostly choosing the "correct people about things" path to the detriment of giving "your opponent a charitable interpretation and move on".

Just because someone has an opinion does not mean that it is correct, nor should they presume to 'correct' others beliefs.

8,212 posts


Just because someone has an opinion does not mean that it is correct, nor should they presume to 'correct' others beliefs.

Says the one who claims I'm blind for not adhering to his spiritual beliefs

Seriously though, I'm always willing to debate opinions, but I know better than to expect others to change their beliefs. I would not do that. In the example of abortion, I would not expect you to like it. In fact, I don't think anyone 'likes' it. But I will defend the legality of the procedure because I think it is objectively justifiable.
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