Unit 2 – Persuasive Speech

Objective: Analyze commonly used rhetorical devices and Aristotle´s Three Means of Persuasion

Virtue: Discipline

Welcome to the wonderful world of persuasive speaking.  What is discourse?  What is rhetoric?

Watch Obama´s very moving Yes, we can speech, and consider 1) How he carefully chooses the words that he uses.  2)  How he portrays his expertise.  3)  How he appeals to the audience´s emotions.  4) How he links his speech to reality and logic.


We are going to explore five Rhetorical Devices commonly used in persuasive speeches.

  1. Alliteration – a series of words in a row (or close to a row) that have the same first consonant sound. “I see also the dull, drilled, docile, brutish masses of the Hun soldiery plodding on like a swarm of crawling locusts.” –Winston Churchill on the German invasion of Russia
    • Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation…” — Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address
  2. Rhetorical Questions – Figure which asks a question, not for the purpose of further discussion, but to assert or deny an answer implicitly; a question whose answer is obvious or implied.

Can anyone look at the record of this Administration and say, “Well done”?  Can anyone compare the state of our economy when the Carter Administration took office with where we are today and say, “Keep up the good work”?  Can anyone look at our reduced standing in the world today and say, “Let’s have four more years of this”?  — Ronald Reagan, 1980 Republican National  Convention Acceptance Address Note: Reagan was a particularly effective user of  “stacked” rhetorical questions.

3.  Rule of Three – rhetorical device of organizing and presenting topics, words or phrases in groups of threes.  ¨There’s a few things, about three things to my account that I need each day. One of them is something to look up to, another is something to look forward to, and another is someone to chase.¨  – Matthew McConaughey Oscar Speech.

4.  Repetition –  a rhetorical device, it could be a word, a phrase or a full sentence or a poetical line repeated to emphasize its significance in the entire text. Repetition is not distinguished solely as a figure of speech but more as a rhetorical device.  ¨Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.¨ –  Abraham Lincoln.

5.  Anaphora – the deliberate repetition of the first part of the sentence in order to achieve an artistic effect.   (Epiphora is when the repeated word comes at the end.)

We shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender.”  – Winston Churchill.


Aristotle´s Three Means of Persuasion:

Ethos: The Appeal to the Speaker’s or Writer’s Character or Reputation

Pathos: The Appeal to Emotion

Logos: The Appeal to Reason


*Powerpoint on rhetoric:



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