So far, Heinrichs has been talking about the basics of offense and defense. Now it’s time to talk about Cicero’s five canons of persuasion: “invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery.” There’s a deliberate order to these canons: the persuader must first invent what they’d like to say, then decide how to arrange their speech, then think about how to spice up the speech stylistically, then memorize the speech, then deliver it to an audience.
Cicero’s theories of rhetoric are very important to Heinrichs; they help him structure his explanations of the art of rhetoric, and here they help him structure the speech itself.
Imagine that Heinrichs is trying to propose a noise ordinance in order to ban leaf-blowers from town. The town hall is giving him fifteen minutes to state his case. His first task is invention—and, notably, this doesn’t mean writing a speech. First, he tries to decide what his goals are, and what he wants his audience to do. In this case, his goal is to change his town’s mind about noise ordinances. Doing so will involve deliberative rhetoric, the language of future choices. Heinrichs will make an effort not to blame anyone for the noise (that would be forensic rhetoric).
Heinrichs’s speech will be about leaf blowers, but at a more basic level, it’s about a language of personal freedom. In order to persuade as many people as possible, Heinrichs finds a clever way to relate one specific topic—leaf blowing machines—back to a core value that people in the community will be likely to support: freedom.
Another important aspect of invention is imagining what one’s opponents will say. Heinrichs guesses that his opponents will stress the importance of freedom and rights (i.e., the right to use a leaf blower). Heinrichs also brainstorms his audience’s values, noting that, historically, his town has been proud of being a quiet, rural place, and that it’s also proud of being an individualistic place. Heinrichs determines that he’ll emphasize rights in his speech, thereby taking the rhetorical wind out of his opponent’s sails. He’ll argue that noise is preventing people from enjoying their own property.
Heinrichs establishes a firm connection between his own values and the townspeople’s, while also preempting his opponent’s argument in order to strengthen his own. Judging by the length of this passage and the previous one, planning is the longest and most detailed part of the rhetorical process— rhetoricians can’t deliver good speeches unless they first decide which core ideas to express.
The next step is arrangement. Traditionally, rhetoricians have suggested that a persuader begin with ethos, then logos, and then finish with pathos. Cicero further suggested that a speaker begin with a brief, ethos-laden introduction, laying out the issue and the importance of certain values, followed by a narration, a statement of the facts. Next, Cicero suggested, a speaker should emphasize their differences with an opponent—where they agree and disagree—and then offer a logos-heavy proof (i.e., the actual argument). Finally, Cicero suggested that a speaker offer a refutation of the opponent’s arguments, and then conclude by restating their strongest points, emphasizing pathos.
As Heinrichs has shown in previous chapters, there is a proper time at which to unleash a certain argument; as a general rule, it’s better to leave pathetic arguments for the end of a speech. Cicero placed logos at the center of his speeches, suggesting that he believed logos to be the most important, “meatiest” part of an oration. Nevertheless, Cicero recognized the importance of ethos and pathos, too—for this reason, he encouraged speakers to begin by stressing their good character.
In Heinrichs’ case, he has an ethos problem: he wasn’t born in New England, meaning that many townspeople will think of him as an upstart or a newcomer. He decides not to talk about himself too much, and to dress the way that most people in his audience dress. For the division, he’ll list some possible solutions to the problem, and stress that although he and his opponent agree about the increasing noise levels, they disagree about whether noise interferes with personal freedom. The division will help boost Heinrichs’s ethos by making him seem like a passionate defender of rural New England values.
Heinrichs’s careful planning sums up the points he made earlier in the book: a good speaker should emphasize character without trying to blend in with the audience too much. Instead of trying to mimic his fellow townspeople’s voices and mannerisms, Heinrichs will convey his connection with his audience through the content of his speech—by celebrating personal freedom and the quiet beauty of the New England community.
Heinrichs plans to argue that noise interferes with his town’s “quiet, rural character.” He’ll anticipate his opponent’s argument by stressing that this is a debate about rights—the right to enjoy one’s property in peace and quiet. He’ll conclude by talking about what makes his town unique—its beauty and peacefulness. In doing so, Heinrichs will appeal to his audience’s sense of pathos without being too sappy.
Heinrichs’s planning exemplifies the importance of balancing different rhetorical styles. If Heinrichs used a purely pathetic argument, he’d alienate his audience and risk seemingly overly manipulative. By balancing pathos, ethos, and logos, Heinrichs will come across as more nuanced, natural, and persuasive.
The next step is to decide what style to use. The key to style is proper language—words that the audience will understand and respect. It’s also important to be clear and concise, so that the audience can understand his argument. Heinrichs will also aim for vividness, or enargeia in Greek: he’ll use vivid examples, and try to tell a story to illustrate his points. He’ll aim for decorum in order to fit in with his audience, talking about the same places and things that most people in his community talk about. Finally, Heinrichs will ornament his speech with rhetorical devices and figures of speech: perhaps he’ll say, “we can control the noise, or we can let the noise control us.”
Heinrichs’s discussion of style alludes to many of the points he made earlier in Thank You for Arguing: people respond to vivid, first-personal examples, especially when the persuader tries to build a sense of connection with the audience, and uses clear, memorable figures of speech that the audience can remember very easily.
The next step is memory. Ancient rhetoricians developed many techniques for memorizing a speech. One of the most famous was the “memory house.” Rhetoricians imagined elaborate buildings, full of mental images, each one corresponding to a different space in the memory house. By memorizing the different spaces in this fictional dwelling, they learned to memorize their speeches, too. Heinrichs probably won’t use any complex memorization techniques for a fifteen-minute speech, but memory houses were particularly important for ancient rhetoricians, since they had to speak for hours at a time.
“Memory” is the briefest part of the five-step process as Heinrichs describes it in this chapter; however, for lengthy speeches (especially those delivered before the age of the teleprompter!) memorization was obviously of great importance.
The next and final step is delivery. Its not enough to write and prepare a great speech—one must deliver it with energy and gusto. Ideally, a good speaker’s voice will have volume (the ability to project), stability (the ability to make long speeches), and flexibility (the ability to change one’s tone of voice for different occasions). Heinrichs will use a softer tone at the beginning of his speech, and slow down when he emphasizes idyllic woodland imagery. Then, he’ll be able to build to a loud, pathetic finish. Heinrichs is nervous as he walks to the town hall to deliver his speech. He remembers that Cicero, the greatest orator in history, once got so nervous for a speech that he ran away—reminding future generations of orators that stage fright happens “to the best of us.”
Heinrichs emphasizes the importance of controlling one’s tone and volume, but he also reminds his readers that they shouldn’t be too intimidated by the prospect of having to make a speech, since even Cicero, the greatest orator in history, sometimes got stage fright. Crucial to successful rhetoric is the ability to relax and summon the courage to actually speak. By using humorous examples and examples from his own life, Heinrichs has tried to make rhetoric seem as fun and unintimidating as possible, encouraging his readers to get over any confusion or stage fright and give rhetoric a try.