Advanced Business Writing
Rhetoric and Narrative


In addition to patterns of words, we can use patterns of thought, especially when we want to argue about an issue for our readers. All cultures developed patterns like these, but in Western societies, the Greeks and the Romans get most of the credit.

Paromologia - Concede a weak point then immediately state a strong point to make it look even stronger in comparison.

The project is ahead of schedule even though there is a delay in the current phase.

True, this phase is delayed, but keep in mind that the entire project is still ahead of schedule.

Expeditio - List possibilities, then eliminate all but the preferred one, which is best stated last.

We must decide what to do about the problem with our supplier in Brazil. First of all, we could find a new supplier. Second, we could do nothing and hope it resolves itself. Third, we could send our consultant's team to Sao Paulo to fix things. Unfortunately, it would take a year to find and integrate a new supplier. And doing nothing could leave our production line at a standstill for months. Fortunately, our consultant is available; it will cost us, but we will be back up and running in a week or two.

You may see a pattern here. Often, the important stuff is positioned last. There is a very good reason for that. People remember best what they read most recently.

Recency - In the mind of your reader, the idea presented first has primacy and the idea presented last has recency. The ideas you state first and last have a better chance of being remembered than do the ideas placed in the middle. Generally speaking, a good primacy message is, "I am one of you," and a good recency message is, "here is something to think about."

The example below shows a few lines from a rather famous document written by Thomas Jefferson.

All men are created equal.
The history of the King is a history of repeated injuries.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, standing armies.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly.
He has cut off our trade with all parts of the world.
He has imposed taxes on us without our consent.
He has plundered our seas and burnt our towns.
We declare that these colonies are free.
We pledge our lives.

From this small sample of the text, which parts do you remember?

Jefferson's primacy message: We are equal to you.

His recency message: We are deadly serious.

What does this have to do with the rhetoric of argument? For people to consider your argument, they first have to read it and remember it. So you might as well optimize your writing for their remembering.

Lesson: Argue
Module: Rhetoric and Narrative
Course: Advanced Business Writing