Organized by Cicero, the Five Canons of Rhetoric are a system of creating powerful speeches and writing. 150 years after Cicero, Quintilian explored the Five Canons in greater depth. A couple of thousand years later, here we are still examining these words, albeit in a small blog and an even smaller blog post. 🙂

What is rhetoric? I have heard it referred to as the great subjectless subject.  A quick search online yields definitions such as: the art of discourse, or the study of effective speaking and writing.  Aristotle’s definition of rhetoric is viewed as the ability in any particular case to see the available means of persuasion (source: Wikipedia). I provided a brief explanation of each of these means of persuasion, which can be found by clicking each one individually: ethos, pathos, and logos.

Why study this “subjectless subject”? The study of rhetoric can help us to become more effective writers or speakers.

The Five Canons of Rhetoric are:

  • Invention – the process of developing arguments
  • Arrangement – the process of arranging and organizing arguments
  • Style – the process of determining how to present arguments, using figures of speech
  • Memory – the process of learning and memorizing your speech (and also storing up quotes, stories, or facts to use impromptu)
  • Delivery – the process of practicing delivery using gestures, pronunciation, or tone of voice

These steps apply to both writing and speech communication. In the next five days, we will examine each one of these steps separately. Understanding each step and deliberately practicing this process will result in more precise and effective communication.

Question for you: What writing process do you generally follow?   


Participating in a 31 day writing challenge for the month of October; this is day 6.