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Learn about rhetoric with online courses and programs

Rhetoric is a form of communication dating back to ancient Greece that seeks to persuade, motivate, inspire, or inform an audience. Learn the elements of rhetoric and ways to improve your rhetorical skills in speech and writing with courses on edX.

What is rhetoric?

Rhetoric refers to the art, techniques, and strategies used to persuade, inform, or motivate an audience. The result is effective communication through the deliberate use of language, style, and structure as a means of conveying ideas and achieving a specific goal.

Classical rhetoric originated in ancient Greece and Rome, where the discipline was divided into three categories:

  • Logos: Logical reasoning and the use of evidence and arguments to persuade.

  • Pathos: Appealing to the emotions and values of the audience.

  • Ethos: Establishing credibility, trustworthiness, and ethical character from the writer or speaker.

Individuals skilled in rhetoric can use it for shaping opinion, influencing decisions, and conveying messages effectively. It plays a significant role in public speaking, political speeches, advertising, journalism, and other means of communication in which persuasion is a central objective.

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Rhetoric course curriculum

Theories of rhetoric provide guidance for fields dealing with people and those who want to improve their communication skills. Students in all disciplines can use rhetoric theories to strengthen communication and soft skills employers look for in their ideal candidates.

With edX, you can learn valuable skills that you can apply to your personal and professional communication. Courses can cover topics such as:

  • When and how to employ a variety of rhetorical devices in writing and speaking

  • How to differentiate between argument and rhetorical technique

  • How to write a persuasive opinion editorial and short speech

  • How to evaluate the strength of an argument

  • How to identify logical fallacies in arguments

edX offers online courses that allow learners to study a variety of topics. ‌Sign up for an accelerated boot camp or enroll in a full degree program and start working toward a bachelor's degree or (for more advanced learners) a master’s degree in a relevant subject. You can also explore executive education programs specifically designed for busy professionals.

Explore jobs that use rhetorical skills

Effective communication is important in many industries and professions. Here are just a few career paths that can benefit from strong rhetorical skills:

  • Lawyer: Argues legal cases with the objective of persuading a judge and jury.Footnote 1

  • PR specialist: Crafts persuasive messages, handles crises, and influences public opinion.Footnote 2

  • Marketing specialist: Crafts compelling campaigns, creates persuasive advertisements, and influences consumer behavior.Footnote 3

  • Journalist: Conveys ideas in a clear manner, engages readers, and develops compelling stories.Footnote 4

  • College professor: Engages and inspires students, delivers captivating lectures, and conveys complex information clearly.Footnote 5

Each of these roles will have different education and skills requirements. For example, you may be able to build relevant skills in a digital marketing boot camp. However, some employers may seek candidates with a bachelor’s or master’s degree depending on the role. Before deciding on a specific learning path, research the positions you hope to pursue and align your coursework with your career goals.

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