Have you ever wanted to be more persuasive or found yourself wondering how someone convinced you to buy something or agree with their point of view?
Whether intentional or not, odds are we’re all tapping into the idea of rhetoric.
Rhetoric is an ancient system of persuasion that’s used in speeches, talks and written work and it’s got a bad rep because people often associate it with manipulation.
Used wisely, rhetoric has the power to move people towards worthy causes and it is useful to learn some techniques, especially for speeches, text or copywriting.
A master rhetorician worth studying is Cicero (Not for how he lived. He was a pretty shady dude). But for his perspective on this potent storytelling device.
Here are 5 rhetorical techniques from Cicero’s letters that can be used ethically for copywriting.
📜 1. Assonance
The repetition of vowel sounds within words. This repetition can have a positive effect when someone is listening or reading.
Example from Cicero: “Without toil or without trouble or without expense or even without the services of an advocate.”
Modern example: Sally sells sea shells beside the sea shore (repetition of the short e and long e sounds)
📜 2. Antithesis
Two contrasting ideas are set against each other with parallel phrases.
The purpose of this is to highlight the strong differences between competing ideas. Using antithesis in an argument makes it clear which idea is better.
Cicero example: “The point where they were more powerfully influenced by loathing for your licentiousness than by the awe in which they held the office of legate.”
Modern example: Go big or go home.
📜 3. Benevolentiae captatio
Latin for winning of goodwill.
Cicero used this technique to capture the goodwill of his readers at the beginning of his letters and speeches so they would sympathise with his points.
In a copywriting context, it’s addressing your target audience in language that appeals to them as soon as possible.
📜 4. Narratio
Laying out the facts.
Narratio was a classic rhetorical device where the writer or speaker provided a narrative account of what happened during a case or public hearing.
Cicero believed that a narrative had to be clear and to the point and said “a misty and confused narration casts its dark shadow over the whole discourse.”
📜 5. Climax
Repetition of words and phrases carefully arranged to build intensity, anticipation and emotion. Not to be confused with a conclusion.
Example: “Look up! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It’s Superman.”
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