So far, we have considered the first three canons of Rhetoric: Invention, Arrangement, and Style. Today, we will examine the fourth canon: Memory.

Memory simply refers to memorizing one’s speech.  By memorizing, you free yourself up to employ other parts of delivery (such as gestures). It also increases credibility with the audience.

It also refers to making one’s speech or essay “memorable”.  We have already discussed some ways of making your communication more memorable in previous canons (specifically Arrangement and Style).

Finally, do you know people who seem to have a ready supply of jokes, proverbs, or clever quips? Some of that material can be memorized. Having a few good stories or jokes can go a long way in establishing a connection with a group or audience. It is also helpful, as a writer, to keep “collections” of facts, quotes, or anecdotes on various topics. For example, I have a few folders of “quotes” on several subjects that I keep on my computer.

As a team policy debate coach, I tell my students to memorize their first speech of a debate round: the First Affirmative Constructive. It is the ONLY speech in a team policy that can be fully memorized; the other speeches are delivered and organized on the spot. Some rhetoric can be memorized and a closing statement can be memorized; but in debate, that is about all. Memorizing that first speech goes a long way in terms of persuasiveness and effectiveness with the judge. Nobody likes being “read to”- especially if the material is full of dry facts. Turn facts into stories, and memorize the material to fully engage your audience.

In fact, in speech and debate competition, speech students who do not have their speeches memorized are given penalties. In our forensic competitions, as a judge, I may listen to eight 10-minute speeches in a row, all memorized… and the vast of majority of them delivered excellently.  If high school students can do it… why not you and me?

Tune in tomorrow for the final canon: Delivery.

Question for you: What specific way you can utilize the canon of memory as a writer or speaker?