Improve Your Rhetoric
Sat Oct 22 2022
Words have significance. Words have power. And, contrary to the American principles taught to the youth, words can in fact hurt people. Let's explore the significance of good rhetoric and how to improve our own rhetoric.
What is rhetoric, and why should I improve it?
Rhetoric is, simply put, the art of communication. Rhetoric is words. Rhetoric is persuasion. Rhetoric is discussion. It is the words you speak when you try to convey an idea. It's how we communicate with one another. When I speak of improving your rhetoric, I am speaking of the quality of your communication: how you formulate ideas and how they are conveyed to and perceived by others.
Why should I improve my rhetoric? ¶
Communication is all we do as living beings. Talking, listening, reading, writing, music, and videos are all forms of communication. Everything you do is some form of communication exchanging ideas with someone else. If all we do is communicate, we need to learn to be better at it.
- helps you communicate ideas effectively. It means you can explain your ideas clearly without having to reiterate or defend yourself.
- gives you credibility. It means your words become more persuasive and influential to your audiences.
- hurts your reputation. It means people don't want to support someone whose ideas they cannot understand.
- leads to misunderstandings. It means people may not follow your directions properly.
How can I improve my rhetoric? ¶
Here are ways in which we can all improve our rhetoric and improve our communication.
Use all-inclusive language. ¶
If we want to effectively communicate our ideas with everyone, we need to forget about gender, sexual, political, mental, physical, and racial norms that separate our audiences into groups. Avoid using words that contain or once held negative connotation. For example, try using "unbelievable" instead of "crazy".
- instead of saying "he" or "she", try saying "they" or "them".
- instead of saying "mankind", try saying "humankind".
- instead of saying "master/slave", try saying "primary/replica".
- instead of saying "blacklist/whitelist", try saying "blocklist/allowlist".
- instead of saying "master", try saying "main".
- instead of saying "crazy" or "insane", try saying "unbelievable" or "surprising".
- instead of saying "dumb", try saying "boring", "terrible", or "disheartening".
Reduce or remove your usage of negative language. ¶
There are some words in the English language that have inherently negative connotation. This includes all curse words, swears, and many cultural phases or sayings. Regardless of how they are used or who they are said to, these words will always hold a negative meaning. For this reason it is best to not use these words at all to prevent harm towards anyone. We should aim for goodwill towards all.
Refrain from using "I believe" or "I think" statements. ¶
In many cases, using "I believe" or "I think" statements add a small level of uncertainty to your voice and opinions. Be confident in your own thoughts! It may be appropriate to use these kinds of statements so as to not hurt others with harsh truths but these requirements are far and few between.
- instead of saying "I think women are treated unfairly in most occupations", try saying "women are treated unfairly in most occupations". You should hold confidence in your convictions.
- instead of saying "I believe Harry is a good student", try saying "Harry is a good student." Most listeners can implicitly infer which statements are opinionated without "I believe".
Consume more content. ¶
Try reading more books and watching more videos. Immersion and observation of other creators' works deepens your understanding of how others think and speak, which helps you develop your own sense of self and communication style. You'd be surprised how much you can learn about good writing by reading. I recommend trying to read ten books every year. Reading has significantly improved my writing and idea formulation in the past few years. You can follow my book club reading schedule if you're not sure what to read.
Create more content. ¶
It goes without saying that practice makes perfect (or practice makes better). The more you write or speak, the more experience you will acquire in forming sentences, organizing thoughts, and making ideas more cohesive. Writing is additionally a great indicator of progress: I can read some of my writings from 2015 and see how much progress I've made with each subsequent year.
Write concisely. ¶
You'd be surprised how hard it is to fit your life story onto a single page resume. Building a resume, however, is a great exercise in brevity and learning to filter out irrelevant details in writing. Throughout our entire education we are taught that more words mean better arguments but that could not be further from the truth. When you write or speak, keep in mind that your audience has an extremely short attention span. It's why reels, shorts, and TikToks have grown so popular in recent years. Leave out unnecessary details and focus on your ideas rather than your word count.
Jeff Geerling on why conciseness is good
Study writing guidelines and techniques. ¶
There are various established guidelines and techniques for communication that are publicly available. Try studying some of these kinds of resources. I recommend the two below.
If all we do is communication in our daily lives, we should try to improve our communication. While bad rhetoric incites angry, biased speech, good rhetoric brings ideas to life and makes the world a slightly better place.