ENGL 106 8101
13 October 2005
Using Rhetorical Strategies
Many elements can collectively make a piece of writing more persuasive. The structure of the document and the formation of the arguments can be crucial to its overall effectiveness. The article “Why Louisiana Matters”, from The Washington Post, is a good example of an article using
rhetorical strategies to increase the overall effectiveness. The author has a clear purpose and knows her audience; therefore, she can shape her arguments to be most persuasive. She claims that Louisiana is vital the U.S. economy and needs to be rebuilt with strength. The three elements of the rhetorical triangle, ethos, pathos, and logos, work well together in the arguments in this article. The author, Mary Landrieu, does a good job using these elements because she builds the logos with vital statistics; she builds the pathos by drawing on the emotions of her audience; and she builds her ethos by showing her intelligence and displaying good character. She also uses induction to introduce her conclusion and then logically show why it is true. Within her arguments, Landrieu uses deduction as well. Because Landrieu is a published author, she does not use many logical fallacies, and therefore, has a more effective article.
The Purpose of the article, “Why Louisiana Matters,” is to show the need to rebuild Louisiana and the need to rebuild it with strength. The author, Landrieu, also wants to let her audience know that they have miscalculated the effects of the disaster and need to understand the future implications. The audience for this article is primarily people in America. She addresses national concerns about the disaster which directly affect people in this country. More importantly, she is trying to write to Americans who don‟t feel that Louisiana should be built up to what is was, nor should the government spend so much money rebuilding it. For example, Landrieu says, “The
September twenty-seventh editorial, „Louisiana Looters‟ displayed a profound ignorance of the
regional and national miscalculation of this national disaster” (1). She is writing in response to Americans who think Louisiana should not be rebuilt and have the money poured into it. Because of this, she has a targeted audience. Later she adds a point to her audience by saying, “Let us be clear: Louisiana will be rebuilt by Louisianans. New Orleans will be rebuilt by New Orleanians. And the rest of the southern Louisiana will be rebuilt under the leadership of the people who it home” (Landrieu 2). Clearly, this is a message that is basically telling her audience that they are going to rebuild their home, and anyone against it doesn‟t need to help. The main idea of the article is that Louisiana cannot afford not to be rebuilt. Landrieu says, “The question is not whether
Americans can afford to raise up Louisiana‟s economy; it is whether America can afford not to” (1). She provides data to explain the needs of U.S. commerce, security, and energy from the region; at the same time she implies the nation‟s dependence on this region. Her main claims are the statistics she uses for the trades in the area and the energy supply which supports her main idea. In addition to having a clear purpose and knowing the intended audience, the rhetorical strategies that are used are very effective in this article.
The rhetorical triangle is used in this article to make the arguments more effective. Logos is one of the strongest elements of her case because it is used most frequently. There are many statistical data points that work together to show the reader the importance of U.S. commerce and energy within the region. Landrieu states, “South Louisiana is the anchor of America‟s Energy Coast, securing more than three-quarters of U.S. offshore oil and gas production—a greater share of
our nation‟s energy supply than even the kingdom of Saudi Arabia accounts for” (1). This quote makes the area‟s energy supply seem very large and relates back to her main idea of the importance of energy in the region. She expands on the activity of U.S. commerce at the ports stating,
“…handling more than 20 percent of U.S. imports and exports each day, including more than 70 percent of all grains as they move from farms across the nation to markets overseas. And 40 percent of the seafood….” (Landrieu 1). This is another quote that shows how vital the area is to our nation both from the commerce and energy standpoints. In today‟s society, facts must be present to give a case validity; as opposed to the ancient times, where rhetoricians relied more on opinion and reasoning (Ancient Rhetorics 17). Because of our dependency on facts, these statistics prove to be a very convincing aspect of the article.
Another way to increase overall effectiveness in an article is to have historical examples. Historical examples are used in logos as well. These set precedence and can also make readers draw on experiences (Ancient Rhetorics 148). Landrieu references a levee that was created in the Netherlands. She explains that the world‟s strongest levee system resulted from the flood in 1953. She uses this example in comparison to Louisiana and future possibilities.
Another part of logos is the type of reasoning used whether it is induction or deduction. The organization of arguments and the types of arguments used can also make an article more effective. In this article, Landrieu takes the inductive reasoning approach. She moves from specific to general and backs up her claims with data and facts (Ancient Rhetorics 140). In the very first paragraph, she mentions the implications of the disaster and says, “It‟s that an entire region vital to our national energy supply, security and commerce has been devastated” (Landrieu 1). The article then moves to explain this with statistical data and evidence.
The overall structure of the article is based on inductive reasoning; however, some specific arguments use deductive reasoning. Deductive reasoning moves from general to specific and is often based on assumptions (Ancient Rhetorics 137). One example is when she says, “We must
provide the infrastructure and appropriate incentives for businesses and industry that are positioned
to accept the risk of reopening their doors amid their unprecedented losses and the destruction around them” (Landrieu 1). Often, deductive arguments have a degree of certainty with them. In rhetoric, these arguments are called enthymemes and they are based rhetorical probability (Ancient Rhetorics 141). Within this complex sentence, Landrieu states a condition and moves to a conclusion. However, the fact that the businesses and industry will return and reopen their doors is based on a probability of behavior. There is no guarantee that all of the businesses will reopen their doors even after Louisiana is completely built back up.
While the logos in the article refer to facts of the use of the region, Landrieu uses pathos to draw on the emotions of her readers. She transitions from explaining the region‟s use to the effects of the disaster. These effects make up the pathos of the article. Her most effective pathos argument shows how her claim directly affects her readers and people all over the country. In reference to the way Louisiana should be rebuilt, Landrieu adds:
“The people of Louisiana do not share this simplistic view. Nor would an Iowa
farmer unable to bring his grain to market, or a Virginia mother who can‟t keep up
with rising gas costs for the family car, or a Chicago seafood restaurateur trying to
expand his business even as supplies are constrained” (1).
She relates the commerce and energy problems to Americans all over the country and how it affects their everyday lives as well. When Landrieu ties the problems in one area of the country to people all over, it makes the argument hit closer to home for her readers. It involves the readers‟ emotions and causes them to think twice about the argument. According to Ancient Rhetorics, emotional appeals can be very powerful because they help people change their minds in order to feel better (Ancient Rhetorics, 208). Because Landrieu‟s purpose is to show the need to rebuild the region, the emotional appeal is a very effective way to reach out to her readers.
Landrieu uses pathos in addressing problems in the local community as well. In reference to education she says, “We must also build a better education system in the region, while figuring out a way to maintain the education of 200,000 displaced children and 73,000 displaced college students around the country” (Landrieu 1). Landrieu is considering the consequences of the disaster
and looking to the future. She looks on how to make society better by stating the problem that needs to be addressed. This argument draws from pathos because after stating the need to build a better education system, she adds the problems the children are facing now. This will catch the attention and emotion of her readers. In addition to education, Landrieu states, “We must build a better health care system in New Orleans and throughout south Louisiana, and we must figure out how to extend health care coverage to a million survivors whose employers are either gone, teetering on the verge of bankruptcy or dropping their coverage” (1). Again in reference to what needs to be done in the region, Landrieu throws in the emotional appeal of the people who need help now. Along with the facts, in terms of the number of people that are affected, the emotional appeal creates sympathy in the readers.
The ethos of the article is also a very important part of the rhetorical triangle. If an author has a bad ethos, the article is often dismissed and not taken seriously or given any thought (Ancient Rhetorics 171). That is not the case with this article. Landrieu is a senator from Louisiana which immediately builds her ethos because it establishes credibility. People know they are reading from a person her is educated and holding an established career. Another way she builds her ethos is by showing that she did her homework for the article. There are a lot of facts and statistics that show a certain degree of research went into this article. People like articles with facts because they think it holds more validity. When an article is based primarily on opinion, people can feel that they are being told to believe something, rather than able to draw their own conclusions.
Another way to build your ethos is to build your character. One way of doing this is by showing your audience how they are affected by what you are talking about (Ancient Rhetorics 175). That is exactly what Landrieu does throughout her article. She related problems in one area to people all over the country. She wants her audience to know the implications of the disaster with the hope that they will understand and support to build the region.
Logical fallacies, or mistakes in reasoning, can be detrimental to an article because they can negatively affect the ethos of an author. Although logical fallacies are less likely to occur in the work of a published author, such as Senator Landrieu, there are a few present in this article. Landrieu uses the false dilemma fallacy in her article. This is when an argument suggests there are only two choices in a complex situation. It‟s funny that Landrieu is a Senator because this type of fallacy is a favorite for politicians (The Fallacies 7). Landrieu states, “We must provide the infrastructure and appropriate incentives for businesses and industry that are positioned to accept the risk of reopening their doors amid their unprecedented losses and the destruction around them”
(1). This example was also used for deductive reasoning; deductive reasoning can often create fallacies. This example assumes that their needs to be a certain infrastructure and incentives in order for businesses to return. This either/or formula is what creates the false dilemma fallacy. Another example of a fallacy is when Landrieu calls New Orleans „America‟s gateway to the world.‟ The overgeneralization forgets the fact that America has ports on all of the coasts and not
just New Orleans. And later, Landrieu uses biased language when she is talking on the defense from a different editorial. She answers with, “But even a cursory amount of journalistic effort would reveal years of requests…” (Landrieu 2).
Overall, the article is very effective. The author knows her audience and geared her article in their direction. She is writing to America and shows her readers how people all over the country
are affected. Landrieu makes good use of her logos by including many descriptive statistics that easily draws a picture of the importance of the region. She talks about the commerce and energy statistics to make her claims stronger. In addition to providing logical facts, Landrieu does an excellent job on drawing the emotions of her readers through pathos. Pathos can sometimes be the most effective arguments because it is the only one that draws a physical appeal. It calls people into action by making them feel a certain way and getting them to think they want to change that feeling. Landrieu‟s ethos also plays a role in the overall effectiveness of the article. The fact that she is from Louisiana gives her an insight to what is going on that many Americans don‟t have. She is able to report to them with a clear view because it is close to home and she has inside knowledge just from being there. She understands the viewpoints of people in the area because she is surrounded by them and holds those viewpoints herself. She is also able to report on behalf of her fellow Louisianans. Landrieu explains that the area will be rebuilt by people in the area.
Based on Landrieu‟s purpose and audience and how she organized and explained her arguments, this article was very effective. Ethos, pathos, and logos, the three elements of the rhetorical triangle, work well together in this article. She uses descriptive statistics to build the logos; she draws on the emotions of her audience building the pathos; and she shows her intelligence and displays good character which builds her ethos. Introducing her conclusion and then logically showing why it is true is a good form of induction. With all the facts in her case, it is clear to follow the inductive reasoning. Because Landrieu is a published author, she does not use many logical fallacies, and therefore, has a more effective article. Landrieu organized and presented her arguments well according to her targeted audience. The structure of the document and the formation of the arguments can be crucial to its overall effectiveness. Many elements can collectively make a piece of writing more persuasive.
rdCrowley, Sharon, and Debra Hawhee. Ancient Rhetorics for Contemporary Students. 3 ed. New
York: Pearson Education, Inc, 2004.
Landrieu, Mary L. “Why Louisiana Matters.” Editorial. Washington Post. 1 Oct. 2005. 2 Oct.