Chapter 2: How does Rhetoric Work?

More likely than not, you’ve seen a multimodal text at some point during your daily activities, and the ones that particularly catch your attention or seem most memorable are the ones that have effective designs, the kinds that you want to make. Writers have a number of techniques to make an effective text.

Rhetoric and Multimodality

Effective should be considered in terms of rhetoric — the study of making texts that effectively persuade an audience to change. They have a good purpose and persuade the audience to shift direction in some method. Think of it as a musician making a song. The more universal the message of their song is, or the more captivating their rhythm is, the more likely you will buy the song and play it again. The audience’s reaction depends on how effectively the author handles the rhetorical situation (the circumstances of the situation), which may include the intended audience, why they’re making the text (purpose), and what the text actually says (content).

Analyzing a Rhetorical Situation

Rhetorical analysis is thinking through the rhetorical situation. This can result in the creation of new texts including papers and presentations, but it can also be a means to improve the project being analyzed as well. During these analyses, the text is being described in terms of audience, purpose, context, and design.


This is the demographic intended to read the text, which can be very broad or very narrow. The main goal is to understand how the primary and secondary audiences will react.


What is this text meant to accomplish is the sole question being answered when analyzing a text for purpose. This sounds very simple, but it is extremely important to consider because although it may have a single overarching message, there can be numerous smaller ones that others can interpret, which should be noted.


This is the broadest of all the categories in which a text is analyzed considering it may be physical such as the location of publication. Is it online or is it in a public library? Moreover, how is the text suppose to be read? Does the reader need to focus throughout or does it only need a quick skim? Likewise, the time period when it is published impacts the socio-cultural beliefs held by the audience.

Analyzing Design Choices

There are 6 key design concepts: emphasis, contrast, color, organization, alignment, proximity.


Regardless of in speech or in writing, means stressing a word/ group of words. This places increased importance to some aspects over others which may guide the reading of the text.


The difference between elements when in combination makes one stand out. You can add contrast by differing color, size, placement, shape, and content. Contrast plays a role in emphasis.


Manipulating the color scheme creates visual emphasis. Warm colors create emotionally intense feelings while cool colors are calming and lessen the visual emphasis.

Organization is the way in which elements are spatially arranged to form a whole unit.


Alignment literally means the way the components line up. Composition accented with good alignment to control how the reader’s eyes move along the text make it an effective text. Centered alignment causes our eyes to move around the space with less determination. Justified alignment evenly stretches the text across the page, keeping the right and left margins equally. Strong left alignment gives something to follow visually, while strong right alignment makes a hard edge that connects separated elements, Grouping components can be very helpful in connecting ideas together.


Refers to closeness in space. In visual texts, proximity focuses on grouping and the relationship to one another. Proximity can apply to any visual elements, such as texts and images. This concept is relevant when managing multimedia elements in animated text.