Rhetorical strategies are an important part of writing. These strategies help writers to convince their readers of their ideas effectively. It is common to use these strategies and possible to use them without doing it intentionally. In order to use them more effectively, and to be more effective at understanding the arguments other people are making, it is important to understand these rhetorical strategies better. The best way to understand rhetorical strategies, then, is to study how strategies like description and contrast are used by other writers in articles about a similar subject such as “Thinking Like a Mountain” by Aldo Leonard and “The Story of Stuff: Bottled Water” by Annie Leonard.
Description is a highly effective rhetorical strategy. It convinces readers of the writer’s point of view by making the story easy to understand, painting a portrait of the situation and by using techniques such as personification. “Thinking Like a Mountain” by Aldo Leonard is a good example of using the rhetorical strategy of description effectively. The writer of this article explains the concept of sustainability by painting a picture of nature that everyone can empathize with. “A deep chesty bawl echoes from rimrock to rimrock, rolls down the mountain, and fades into the far blackness of the night” (Leopold, 12). He describes what this sound means to different creatures that hear it, showing how diverse the eco-system is: the deer hears death, the tree hears violence and blood at its roots, the coyote hears a free meal, the rancher hears danger to his herd, and the hunter hears a challenge. “Yet behind these obvious and immediate hopes and fears there lies a deeper meaning, known only to the mountain itself. Only the mountain has lived long enough to listen objectively to the howl of a wolf” (Leopold, 12).
Now that he has the mountain personified, he is able to talk more about what the mountain sees as compared to what people see. Using his story, he is able to talk about how people are like the different creatures he describes in his first paragraph. By nature, we only see a small part of the picture. Leopold argues that people need to think more like the mountain and focus on the big picture rather than just the small part that they live in. When people see the big picture, instead of just a small part, it would be easier for them to understand the importance of sustainability. Anything people do will have an impact on the environment and on each other, but they need to be able to see the big picture before they can understand how deeply we are connected. After painting this picture of the mountain as a personified being that sees the big picture of the eco-system it is a part of, the writer connects this to the idea of humans, using the mountain as a metaphor for the kinds of people we should want to be.
Contrast is another effective rhetorical strategy to convince people of the author’s ideas because this strategy gives prominence to merits and faults. In the article “The Story of Stuff,” the writer criticizes the practice of selling bottled water and the companies that package it. In this article, the author makes her point by contrasting tap water to bottled water. Points that she make include the idea that delivery of tap water is cleaner than bottled water because it is much more sustainable. When a plastic bottle is produced and later disposed of, there are lots of harmful materials released into the environment such as PVCs. According to her article, Annie Leonard contends that “The problems start here with extraction and production where oil is used to make water bottles. Each year, making the plastic water bottles use in the U.S. takes enough oil and energy to fuel a million cars” (Leonard, 64). In addition to the harmful products in production, the bottles also create a problem after they’ve been used. “Eighty percent end up in landfills, where they will sit for thousands of years, or in incinerators, where they are burned, releasing toxic pollution” (Leonard, 64).
This is compared to simple tap water, delivered to your faucet through pipes that have already been laid and with nowhere near as much waste and damage to the environment. Leonard argues that we need to demand a return to tap water to protect the environment, stop using plastic bottled water and ban them if we can. Instead, we should insist that public water fountains are re-installed in places like public parks and government buildings so people can refill their own bottles that they carry with them. This means that the general people can lead public opinion to require healthy water and greater sustainability. In this article, the strategy of contrast is appropriate because it shows how two subject are contrasting each other, focusing on the negative parts of bottled water for the environment and the positive parts of tap water for the environment. Using the contrast strategy, the readers of this article feel like they have seen the pros and cons of bottled water versus tap water and they see that tap water is clearly better.
As a result of their effective use of these two rhetorical strategies, description and contrast, the authors of these articles are able to convince readers of their point of view. This is possible because the contents of the articles make the concepts clear and easier to understand. There are several other rhetorical strategies that can be used in writing and these strategies should be used in their proper subjects. For instance, it would be awkward if an article titled’ “Why Obama should seek reelection?” was argued using description strategy. To avoid this situation, the writer should carefully consider their subject and decide on an appropriate strategy to reach their audience. When the proper rhetorical strategy is used, it is much easier to convince people of the writer’s point of view.