Courtesy of solopreneursidekick

Boom! The Five Rhetorical Canons

When you think of the word canon, you probably think about the weapon with the big balls that tear limbs apart on a battlefield and sinks pirate ships. Though we are referring to canons as opposed to the weapon “cannon”, perhaps this is why the five rhetorical canons refer to things that you should consider if you’re intending to persuade someone, or to communicate an idea effectively. You don’t want to just hint at an idea and hope your audience gets the message. You want it to have maximum impact…BOOM! Like a well-aimed cannon. If you were at war and you knew that virtually everyone had access to cannons, you wouldn’t just sit around and hope to win the war without them. No! You’d fight to get your very own cannon, and I bet you’d want to learn how to use it. That’s what I’m going to help you with today. I’m going to present you with a brief summary of the five rhetorical canons so that you, my friend, can learn how to use them and win the war…I mean…better communicate with your intended audience. Ready?

1. Invention

The television didn’t just appear out of thin air. Someone had to dream it up, and dozens of people worked really hard to figure out how to make that vision a reality. We all know that these inventors were successful and that the television is still popular today, but it wasn’t without effort.

This idea can be applied to digital rhetoric and blogging. You can’t just wing it and hope to achieve your communication goals.  You have to brainstorm how to best communicate your message, and you may need a little inspiration in order to decide what is worth communicating in the first place.

For instance, if my blog were about healthy eating I might research what other similar blogs are doing. I might then analyze what works and what doesn’t, decide which tools would be best to use for my own blog, and gain ideas of what information I want to pass along to my own readers. I might decide that a combination of images and videos works best, or maybe I’ll lean more on narrative and enhance my blog with music. The possibilities are endless, but whatever the case, I need to make sure my idea and the way it is being communicated is logical and makes me seem credible.

2. Arrangement

Once you’ve figured out the tools you’re going to use to communicate your message, you can’t just use them all willy-nilly and pretend you’ve done something worthy of attention. You have to carefully plan how you’re going to use those tools.

Let’s say I decide that my argument could really be enhanced with some gifs. I can’t just put them all in a row and say Ta-da! My message may be communicated more clearly if I integrated them throughout the document. Or, let’s say that I want a new header image. I could always just pull a photo offline, but if I combined words and images to make a unique header it might better communicate my vision.

3. Style

Style quote

I’d argue that there are very few people who get dressed in the morning without putting an ounce of consideration into how they look. Even guys who wear the same band t-shirt and jeans every day are remotely aware of their appearance. I mean, they didn’t reach for their leg warmers, kakis, and Elizabethan collar. If you know enough to glimpse in the mirror before walking outside, you should know enough to make sure that your blog is attractive. Look at your blog from the perspective of someone who hasn’t just spent hours trying to get the darn content onto the page. Does that content work together visually? Do your color choices make sense? Are you consistently using the same style, or is it a bit weird that your featured song is death metal while the font that you’re using is a gorgeous, delicate cursive?

4. Memory

A memory is a recollection of something. In the case of blogging and digital rhetoric, it may refer to the actual storage of the information that you’ve been communicating on your blog (like making sure it is all backed up somewhere so that you don’t lose all your content when your computer flat-lines). This is extraordinarily important to look into if you are a serious blogger. A more modern approach to this cannon is to think about how to make your material more memorable. In other words, how are you going to ensure that your audience can recall what you’ve shared with them? To do this you may have to reconsider your delivery. For instance, if I really want you to take away from my blog that cookies are yummy, I will find creative ways to repeat that theme throughout my blog without it being in your-face annoyingly obvious. I might have a cookie header image with “Yum!” splashed across it, an article on how to make the world’s best cookies, a video of cookie monster eating a dozen cookies in less than a minute, etc. But please, for the love of Oprah, don’t literally say, “cookies are great!” fifty times in one paragraph.

5. Delivery

When you’re communicating a message, you have to think about how you’re communicating that message and through what means. For instance, if your mission is to teach teenage girls (or boys!) how to improve their make-up game, you shouldn’t write a research paper about it. It would make more sense to write a blog post. And if you’ve chosen to do a blog post, it shouldn’t contain only words. Because make-up is visual in nature it would make sense for you to have either still images that demonstrate your point, or a video! Maybe you would even deliver this message strictly via a Vlog (video blog). The point is, presentation matters! How do you know what type of presentation works best? Do your research! Check out the links below. Both are on the same topic, but compare them and see which you like better and why.


Watch this video tutorial of Audrey Hepburn inspired makeup by Niomi Smart.


Then Click here to view a step-by step blog post about Audrey Hepburn inspired makeup.


Which Canon do I find the most interesting?

As a highly visual person I’d say that I think that style is the most interesting canon. Even if the content of a blog isn’t the greatest, I’d be willing to look at it if it were visually interesting. Or, going beyond blogs, even if a restaurant doesn’t have the best food or service in the world, I’d be willing to go if its appearance is particularly special.

Having great style aides in the overall presentation or delivery of an idea, and it also helps with memorability. Think about your favorite brand. They most likely have a specific color scheme, logo, font, etc that contribute to its sense of style. If that same brand decides to utilize a completely different style, you may not buy into what it is selling you.


Header image courtesy of Solopreneursidekick

Disclaimer: I am not a blogging professional, or a magical guru that can solve all of your problems. I cannot be held liable for triumphs, failures, or anything else that occurred to you as a result of reading the content on my blog.



2 thoughts on “Boom! The Five Rhetorical Canons”

  1. I love your creativity in this post, especially the graphic you used as an example for style and the makeup video for delivery. The multimodality of the post really engages me as a reader. I can’t wait to see what else you incorporate for your future blog posts!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great work keeping everything concise. You didn’t ramble on for six paragraphs about the ancient Greek philosophers, which is a win in my book. You also do a nice job keeping the tone light throughout your writing.

    Liked by 1 person

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