Rhetoric, Part Two: Logos
Episode #8 of the course How to write a great speech: Linguistics, drama, and rhetoric by K.C. Finn
Depending on the kind of person you are, you’ll either have a ton of notes and drafts for a speech by this point in the course, or some small sections that you’ve worked on that might be missing core bits in between. Wherever you sit on this spectrum, you’ll likely reach a point in the writing process where you sit down and think: does my speech make sense yet?
For Lesson Eight, we will employ the next stage of Rhetoric to alleviate your worries about the logic and reasoning behind your speech. The aptly named Logos teaches us how to give our audience a reasonable story that they can follow, understand, and believe in.
What Is Logos?
When Aristotle first discussed the idea of logos, he explained it as a way of helping your audience reach the same conclusions that you have, but without directly telling them to do so. Logos relies on building your storytelling, knowledge, or ideas and letting them follow a sensible, logical pattern that eventually reaches a concluding point. Whilst your ethos shows off your authority and credentials in a subject area, is the element of logos that proves you are worthy of those credentials in the first place.
What’s My Point?
Every speech should tell a story, even if it doesn’t appear to at first. A best man’s speech might lead to the conclusion that the groom has had an eventful life with some mishaps up to this point, but that he’s an excellent man whom the best man hopes will find happiness in marriage. A scholarly speech on learning about Civil Rights might lead the audience on a journey to discover that injustices from the past are still alive and present today. A personal speech for a university entrance exam could tell prospective course leaders about a shy young person who has grown through their experiences in education and wishes to continue to do so.
Whatever your final point is, make sure you are leading towards it, and giving relevant information along the way that keeps your story moving forward.
Exercise: When you first started working on your speech in Lesson One, there was an intent and a purpose that we stated clearly. Look at your draft now and see if your arguments and information are driving you towards the original intent.
Making It All Make Sense
In natural conversation we often go off on wild tangents from our original point, discussing many different things and eventually arriving back at a point where we ask ourselves and others: “What was I saying?” This is due to the fact that conversation is a two-way street at a minimum, and other people are likely to step in and change our direction as we go. The key difference in a speech is that you are in control of everything, ideally without interruption, so you need to be sure that you don’t lose your logos in the middle of what you’re trying to say.
It’s important to be aware of potential tangents and diversions in your speeches. That’s not to say that they can’t be present, but if they are, you must ask yourself “Is this still relevant?” If it looks like it might not be, it’s time to employ some logos and explain to your audience how this point ties back in with the overall direction of your speech. And if you can’t find a way to tie it all back in, well, that probably means you ought to cut that part out entirely!
Exercise: Can you identify areas where you might have missed the original point you were trying to make? Have you gone too far off-topic? Do you arrive back at your conclusion, and is that moment correctly placed at the end of your speech? Now’s the time to shift your paragraphs around, cut and paste until it all makes sense.
In Lesson Nine, we’ll wrap up the Rhetorical triad of techniques with an examination of Pathos, where we let our emotions run free to touch the hearts and souls of the crowd.
Before that, make sure you’ve got your logic straight.
Logos can be a tricky skill to master, and there’s more in-depth information to read about at this excellent site.
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