Rhetoric Defined, photo by Aga77ta
Earlier this year, I purchased two amazing classes that helped my editing immensely. Both were from Margie Lawson, a psychotherapist, writer, and international presenter who has developed innovative editing systems and deep editing techniques praised by thousands of writers, from newbies to New York Times bestsellers. One of Margie’s most popular offerings is her Deep Editing course, in which she teaches writers thirty rhetorical devices and how to use them (not all at a time, mind you…) to strengthen their scenes. Basic but powerful.
Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the capability of writers or speakers to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. I had learned many of these devices in my youth, but at that time I wasn’t yet a writer. As a result, the topic was interesting but not compelling. Not the way it is now.
Meanwhile, my son is in eleventh grade this year, and one of the classes he is taking is AP English Language. Both of my daughters had taken this course, as well as AP English Literature. I never paid much attention – any of the three times. I never bothered to look over the syllabus. I just assumed this was an advanced grammar class.
Imagine my shock when he was cleaning out his schoolbag the other day and pulled out a “cheat sheet” the teacher had created for the students naming and explaining all the rhetorical devices. I was blown away. He explained that they had started the course with the rhetorical strategies, then had recently moved on to incorporate the devices. I immediately asked for a copy for myself, and started to recount all the different ways I had used many of the points on the list. Even better: he matched me story for story.
I am so thrilled and proud that this is part of the education we offer our youth. The art of persuasive communication is a central element of culture, it should not be postponed until college or limited to students who join the debate club. It absolutely belongs in high school classes to improve students’ outcomes all their lives. Of course, we will all need reminding of some of the details from time to time, but the initial exposure makes all the difference. I only wish there were some way of expanding the class to encompass all high school students…