Style pp 58-71 | Cite as

Traditional rhetoric

  • Dennis Freeborn
Part of the Studies in English Language book series (SEL)


The word rhetoric is sometimes used to describe what we have up to now been calling style. In the Middle Ages, Rhetoric was one of the seven ‘liberal arts’, the first of the three parts of a university education with Grammar and Logic — the Trivium — and so an important area of study. The meanings of rhetoric changed over time, and the word may now carry either favourable or unfavourable connotations, so that you can use it pejoratively — to express an unfavourable response to someone’s style, an artificial rather than an elegant way of writing — or positively, to commend a style. Its various meanings have included,
  • Elegant language; eloquent speech or writing (now obsolete)

  • The art of using language so as to persuade or influence others

  • Speech or writing expressed in terms calculated to persuade (often in depreciatory sense)

  • Language characterised by artificial or ostentatious expression

  • Artistic style or technique


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Copyright information

© Dennis Freeborn 1996

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  • Dennis Freeborn

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