skip to main content

What is Rhetoric?

Rhetoric is the study and practice of effective messaging.

Word cloud with concepts associated with the word Rhetoric

“Rhetoric” by EpicTop10.com (CC BY 2.0)

Rhetoric shapes meaning, experience, identity, and culture. As one of the seven original liberal arts (grammar, rhetoric, logic, geometry, arithmetic, music, astronomy), rhetoric is foundational to critical thinking and a college education. Aristotle described a rhetorician as one who observes “in any given case, all available means of persuasion.”

In Rhetoric classes, students analyze all types of messages, from political speeches to grant proposals to websites to tweets, and compose and deliver their own effective oral, print, and digital texts. They learn to think logically while speaking and writing effectively.

Members of the UM Warren Debate Union and the Rust College Debate Team

Members of the Ty Warren Debate Union and the Rust College Speech and Debate Team in 2019

The Department of Writing and Rhetoric supports UM students’ rhetorical development at every stage. First- and second-year courses cover the fundamental writing, speaking, and analytic skills college demands. Upper-division courses focus on specific rhetorical contexts, media, theories, and audiences to develop skills in hearing, reading, composing, and delivering effective messages.

The Speaking and Writing Centers offer support and practice for student presentations and papers in any class. Co-curricular organizations, like the Ty R. Warren Debate Union, provide opportunities for students to collaborate and communicate about the issues that are most important in their lives.

Build the rhetorical skills that will shape your future.