Persuasion, Audience, and Argument

Authored by: Carolyn R. Miller , Davida Charney

Handbook of Research on Writing

Print publication date:  July  2007
Online publication date:  March  2009

Print ISBN: 9780805848694
eBook ISBN: 9781410616470
Adobe ISBN: 9781135251116


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A writer writes in order to influence readers, to change their beliefs, attitudes, or behaviors. Readers make judgments about validity and plausibility; they ask questions about importance, relevance, and interest; and they decide whether action is warranted. The authors and readers who interact by way of a written text operate from specific sociohistorical contexts, contexts that may differ in time, location, and culture. Writing is thus a complex, dynamic, and situated mode of communication, and persuasion—the aim to influence—is a dimension of all writing, not a distinct type or genre of discourse that can be separated from “informative” or “expressive” or other supposedly nonpersuasive types. Researchers who seek to understand these dimensions of writing—the interactions of writer, reader, context, and text—enter the province of rhetoric, the classical art of choosing from among the available means of persuasion. As Kennedy (1998) describes it, rhetoric is “a form of mental and emotional energy” (p. 3) aimed at affecting a situation.

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