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What Is a Rhetorical Statement?

G. Wiesen
G. Wiesen

A rhetorical statement is typically an assertion that uses devices or methods often found in rhetoric to become more meaningful or persuasive. This can include the use of different devices that establish connections between various ideas, such as allegory or metaphor, or that create an impact through exaggeration. There are certain concepts often found in this type of statement, including the use of ethos, pathos, and logos in an argument. A rhetorical statement can also refer to a type of question that is not meant to elicit a proper answer, often called a “rhetorical question.”

The use of rhetoric is quite common with regard to the formation of a cogent and powerful argument, or proposition of ideas. A rhetorical statement often includes the use of different devices that can strengthen an argument or give greater weight to the point someone makes. For example, the use of allegory and metaphor are quite common in a rhetorical statement. Allegory is the use of one story or idea to represent another, such as a fable in which animals act in ways that represent the personalities of different people. Metaphors compare one thing directly to another and can be found in a statement like “This war is a plague upon the Earth.”

Rhetorical appeals that focus on logic may be used in academia.
Rhetorical appeals that focus on logic may be used in academia.

A rhetorical statement can also use other devices such as hyperbole and anaphora to construct a more persuasive and powerful argument. Hyperbole is the use of exaggeration in order to make a point, such as a common phrase like “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.” Anaphora, on the other hand, is a particular structural device in which a phrase is repeated at the beginning of consecutive sentences. This creates a parallel organization for these statements, and makes the overall connection and meaning between them clearer.

There are also three common aspects of an argument that can often use a rhetorical statement to express each one. “Ethos” is a term that refers to the ethical or moral character of the person speaking, and is usually established through statements about the background and worth of the speaker. This often moves into “pathos,” which is an appeal to emotion made by a speaker to connect to an audience on a more subconscious level. Once these connections are established, then a speaker commonly transitions into “logos,” which is the use of logic and reason to provide final proof for an argument.

The term “rhetorical statement” can also be used to refer to an expression that is posed as a question but which is not meant to be answered. These types of questions are often used in arguments to indicate a particular idea. Someone responding to a question with “How should I know?” is typically not actually asking a question. This is a rhetorical statement that is meant to indicate, “I do not know,” but uses the form of a question to frame the response in a more defensive manner.

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Discussion Comments


I would just like an example, please?

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    • Rhetorical appeals that focus on logic may be used in academia.
      By: michaeljung
      Rhetorical appeals that focus on logic may be used in academia.