Rhetorical Hierarchy

Or how to write things good.

Not really.  This post isn’t supposed to teach you how to write with good rhetoric, it is to stress the importance of having it.  Rather hypocritical, I know.  Maybe I’ll write another post that actually helps people later.

I have always valued good rhetoric.  When I say rhetoric, I mean the effective word use, phrase and sentence structuring, and general organization of language in a way that is easy to read, concise when necessary, and, if possible, interesting to peruse.  Generally I like to think that I have pretty good rhetoric.  Read my blog and let me know if I actually do or not.  Regardless of my own skill, I tend to judge everybody else’s writing mostly based on rhetoric. It doesn’t matter to me as much if they have an amazing imagination or interesting things to say if they can’t say them in a way that I feel comfortable reading.

In a way, I have a hierarchy of reading.  The very first level, or requirement for me to read, is legibility: if a typeface or sample of handwriting is too difficult for me to read, I won’t even bother trying to do so.  Next is language: because I speak English natively, I may not be able to or not care to read any other language besides my own.  Third is design: if text is presented in a way that I am distracted by poor design such as the use of Comic Sans or poor color choices such as red text on a teal background with yellow links, I will ignore the text presented and move on to a more pleasant sample of writing.

If text has sufficiently satisfied each of these prerequisite requirements, each of which can be discerned by a quick glance, then I will proceed to read and judge a work based on rhetoric first, then style, and then character and setting development.  Rhetoric comes first because it is absolutely painful for me to read through text with typos, grammar fails, or other errors.  If poor rhetoric is used it may appear in every paragraph, sentence, or even line of text – not just once every chapter or page.  It can be found through the reading of just a short sample of the text.  Style, character, and setting development I can be more relaxed about because they involve more opinion, but I still list them in that order due to ease of perception.  It is much easier to recognize someone’s style than to identify I character they’ve made or setting they’ve described, especially if either was expressed through someone else’s style.

As you may notice, my blog exemplifies every one of my requirements.  My writing is legible, as it is a readable computer typeface.  It is in the preferred language of English, or at least for whatever part of my audience speaks English.  It is designed well, as I am using Helvetica. It is written with decent, albeit casual, rhetoric.  It displays a reasonably developed and interesting style, if I do say so myself, with random quirks which I hope are entertaining.  The character and setting, which are me and my life, are also somewhat interesting I hope, but I understand if they are not.  Even I am occasionally bored with my ordinary life, however safe and blessed I may be to have it.

That is why I like good rhetoric.  And now you know how I judge writing.

Until next,
–Brandon

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