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The Holy Grail to Writing Great Content – Rhetoric

A Guest Post by Patrick Riddel from Must Know Investing.

Darren has debunked the myth that great content markets itself. There are countless blogs that produce quality content that don’t get read. Why is that? Because no one knows about them.

He followed up with a post on 9 things you can do so that your next blog post is read by more than your mom. In other words, 9 things you can do to promote your content … or as he says, “seed” rather than “force” your content.

But, what if you’re stuck at square one … writing great content.

You hear it all the time …

“Content is king! If you want to attract a massive loyal following to your blog, there is no substitute for great content.”

Well, if that’s the case, what makes certain content great? How does one go about writing great content?

This may surprise you but it’s not as much about what you write but how it’s written. Sooooo, it’s the context of your content that makes the difference. Forget “content is king” … “context is king!”

To illustrate this point, let’s take a look at one of Leo Babauta’s recent guest posts here at Problogger.

You see, Leo’s someone who can teach us a thing or two about writing great content … the kind of content that piques a readers interest quickly and effectively, the kind of content that becomes like a virus and spreads over the Internet like wildfire, the kind of content that inspires a reader to take action, the kind of content that creates a loyal following. That’s what great content is all about!

Leo wrote his first blog post in February of 2007. And today, his blog, Zen Habits, has over 130,000 subscribers and is ranked 66 in Technorati’s top 100 blogs. AND he’s in an extremely competitive niche … personal development.

So what is it that makes Leo’s content so great?

Just a few months ago, I wouldn’t have even noticed … but my quest to become a better blogger led me to the seemingly forgotten lost art of rhetoric. And rhetoric is, simply put, the effective use of language … the art of writing or speaking persuasively.

It’s obvious Leo knows about rhetoric … as you’ll see in a moment.

There are many rhetoric techniques, or rhetorical devices, that can be used to make your reader pay more attention, give a greater understanding, make your content more memorable, in an interesting and entertaining way. These techniques, these rhetorical devices are the context of your content. That’s what turns “average run of the mill content” into “exceptional I can’t put this down content”!

Let’s analyze Leo’s most recent guest post, How Passion Can Transform Your Blog, to see how he uses rhetorical devices to make his content irresistible …

“Many of the problems that many bloggers face — not drawing enough readers, not knowing what to write about, not writing well enough, not finding the time to blog — can all be solved with one solution.”

Here, Leo uses anaphora, a rhetorical device, which is the repetition of the same word(s) … as in “not drawing”, “not knowing”, “not writing”, “not finding”.

“Passion is the exact opposite: it will infuse your writing with excitement, make it more interesting, compel people to read.”

Asyndeton, or what I like to call “don’t-use-a-conjunction-ton”, he omits the use of conjunctions.

“It’s not the answer to all problems — you still need to be a decent writer, and share really useful information, and help people solve problems, and write great headlines.”

Leo uses the opposite of asyndeton … polysyndeton, or what I call “over-use-of-conjunction-ton”. He says, “and share”, “and help”, “and write”.

How does Leo write such great content?

One major reason is because he uses simple rhetorical devices to enhance and improve the effectiveness of his writing. The same rhetorical devices that you can use to write great content.

Here’s a killer free resource that lists 60 rhetorical devices. Check it out at http://www.virtualsalt.com/rhetoric.htm

Now for your homework: Commit to studying rhetoric and making it a part of your writing. Pick 3 rhetorical devices that you WILL use in your next blog post and put them in the comment area below.

Cheers to Writing Great Content!

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Another great post…I really can use this and all of the links.

  2. Tory says:

    That’s definitely one aspect of great content. I think what makes content so great for me is it’s usability – content that I can apply to my personal development, content I can act on – and that’s what keeps me coming back. This is also what I try to apply to all of my blog posts, not just information, but information people can use.

    Thanks Patrick, I will try out your homework assignment for my next post. Thanks.

  3. Steven Rossi says:

    This kind of post is the reason I read ProBlogger. What a great idea — each of those rhetorical devices would take about 2 seconds to learn, and each would improve a writer’s skills. Thanks for the great thought.

  4. Thanks for sharing the Handbook of Rhetorical Devices. It seems like, it will be very useful resource to improve my writting skills.

  5. Dan says:

    Ok, I’m going to give this a try. I pick:
    Metaphor: Surely I can think of something to relate to in disease research. After all, it’s a disease that affects my daughter!
    Alliteration: I think this could help me focus a reader’s attention on something I want to matter in the post.
    Climax: I think this would allow me to use more excitement and show my passion!

    Now to try them out! Thanks for the great resource!

  6. Gin says:

    I read his ebook and must also add the simplicity is great too. Very easy on the eyes. :)

  7. That really is an excellent resource for writers. I can see how they would make the content different which makes it more memorable with readers. I used amplification, anaphora, asyndeton, and polysyndeton in my last blog post. Thanks for sharing that Patrick.

  8. Dave Doolin says:

    I’m not uninclined to litotes and chiasmus, favoring the latter as it’s considerably less stuffy than the former.

  9. Glad you guys enjoyed the post :)

    Let me know if you have any questions …

    ~ Patrick

  10. I love it! It really compels you to read more.

  11. Using rhetoric techniques are a great way to improve your writing.

    I’ve recently posted an article at my blog with 10 other criteria that you should keep in mind while writing your articles.

    http://www.whenigetrich.com/10-steps-to-not-making-a-list-post-but-still-be-interesting/

    A great, inspiring post. Thanks a lot.

  12. Julie says:

    Fabulous post!! I really like the examples. Each quote you selected from Leo’s writing clearly demonstrated why using rhetoric will make your writing more compelling and interesting to read. Thanks for sharing this article – now I have to go and practice my writing!!!

  13. Vasili says:

    Wow, what simple techniques to use, yet so effective. I’ll be sure to try some of these out (and will continue to use them for the rest of my blogging/writing life).

    I found a huge list of 80 rhetorical devices over at Wikipedia. :)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Rhetorical_techniques

  14. As a teacher of speech and rhetoric, I am beyond excited to see rhetoric being put forward as an important tool for good writing – without trying to disguise rhetoric as something else more “trendy”. Thank you!!!

    Another good way to think about quality blog posts is to think about Aristotle’s three cornerstones – logos, pathos, ethos – content, passion, and credibility. If posts have those three elements, they will carry the day.

    Thank you for your thoughtful and intelligent approach to writing.

  15. Sudeep says:

    A well researched post .. wohh.. nice examples .. surly I am looking for this new attempt for using such rhetoric in my blog post and see how is the result .

  16. Patrenia says:

    Thank you so much for giving us this great resource. Believe it or not, I have two children in elementary school. They are learning all about metaphors and simile’s. I have found them so helpful in making my writing come alive. This gives me what I need to go even farther.

  17. Ronblogger says:

    Agree with this,there’s really no substitute for great content if we want to attract massive loyal following to our blog

  18. Great tips. It seems that rhetoric technique give strong feel to reader.

  19. Ryan says:

    Another very useful post. Rhetoric is a powerful tool. Content by itself won’t pique the reader’s interest. It needs that extra something.

  20. Jhay says:

    Eloquence, as one of President Obama’s defining attributes, finds its foundation on a good command and understanding of rhetoric.

    Imagine if Obama had been a blogger. :P

  21. Alex Lim says:

    I just recently bumped into Leo’s blog, maybe, few weeks ago. The first post I read was really meaningful that I found myself wanting more of his words, so I read most of his old post there. Aside from the articles’ content, what I like about his writing technique is his conversational tone. I can easily get connected to his messages because of his tone. I find it sincere and tactful. Not to mention, how useful his content and his shared experiences.

  22. Dan says:

    Wow, some people really overemphasize their posts. That’s why so many blogs are so stale. Leo’s writing is good because he is a good writer and he is passionate about what he writes about. End of story.

  23. Jenny says:

    Great post – I’m really enjoying reading through all of the different rhetorical devices. Man, who came up with all those names? Makes me happy it’s self-learning and not a list I have to regurgitate in a few hours.

  24. work at home says:

    I have see the page of Rheotic Device, I think by using of these device can really help us for better writing.

    I want to improve my writing skill. May be this device can improve my writing skill.

  25. ‘Command of the language’ has been a mantra of mine for years. I have seen so many marketers (gurus) diminish the use of ‘writing skill’. And of course, I vehemently disagree!

    I grew up respecting language and today more than ever, I constantly seek to improve on methods & techniques to take better command of the language,captivate an audience and move them to action.

    Great post. Very useful content. Well done.

  26. Another very useful post. Rhetoric is a powerful tool. Content by itself won’t pique the reader’s interest. It needs that extra something.

  27. Celeng Lewat says:

    As a teacher of speech and rhetoric, I am beyond excited to see rhetoric being put forward as an important tool for good writing – without trying to disguise rhetoric as something else more “trendy”. Thank you!!!

    Another good way to think about quality blog posts is to think about Aristotle’s three cornerstones – logos, pathos, ethos – content, passion, and credibility. If posts have those three elements, they will carry the day.

    Thank you for your thoughtful and intelligent approach to writing.

  28. Karen says:

    Diacope, antimitabole, Onomatopoeia. I am going to try these three. Although I cannot pronounce them.

  29. Ken Siew says:

    This post comes just in time for me, I’m writing a new blog post and trying to use several rhetorical techniques to improve my writing, although I haven’t really studied their formal names.

    This also reminds me of an article I read about President Obama using the 3-point technique he used in his victory speech. For instance, “If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer. ”

    He used it pretty often in his speech and I find it very effective and I try to do the same in my posts as well. I probably won’t remember the names of most of the rhetorical devices, but I’d do some testing and see which ones would stick with my readers better. Feel free to comment on my posts and see if any of them is more effective or the other way round.

    As for this guest post, I think it’s concise and has great content. Great examples are definitely good stuffs to include in writing. Keep up the good work man!

  30. Jenny … the names of the rhetorical devices are pretty ridiculous … that’s why I suggested my names for asyndeton (don’t-use-a-conjunction-ton) and polysyndeton (over-use-of-conjunction-ton) … aren’t they much easier to remember that way :)

    Karen … I had to look up “antimitabole” … that’s a good one … I’ll have to give it a try myself.

    ~ Patrick

  31. Anne says:

    As a home-schooling mom (for 20 years now) I found this interesting because a lot of home educators have been focusing on the rediscovery of the classical teaching methods including rhetoric. I am working on getting up my own home-schooling website; maybe I can incorporate this post some day!

  32. I think this could help me focus a reader’s attention on something I want to matter in the post.

  33. Rita says:

    This is interesting. I’ll check out the list. As a journalist, I use contractions. They’re supposed to make your writing less formal, more friendly.

    Rita blogging at The Survive and Thrive Boomer Guide

  34. Maya says:

    Another great post, so much for me to improve my writing.
    Thank you for the links too.

  35. Karla Heaman says:

    Thanks for this great resource! My formal training has been in nursing and natural health which do not focus on great writing skills. I am going to enjoy learning how to bring the information I research to my readers with greater writing style!

    Karla

  36. NeoTechie says:

    Writing useful and relevant content contribute to great content.

  37. Fitness says:

    That is some good advice. I have always been confused by the style of writing that is needed to make a mass following. First my thought was that top level English was whats needed. Then I soon realized that was not the case. I then switched on to plain English according to some blog tips I read on a blogging blog. That was not doing well for my affiliate business. This seems to be a good advice to increase my CTR and warm up my readers for an action like subscribing to my blog or getting a affiliate product

  38. Fotografi says:

    I believe that uou need a mix of 3 things when you write in a blog.
    1) Content
    2) How to write for the internet (Nielsen)
    4) A right mix of inspiratinal media (pictures, movie and so on)

  39. This is a really good article, but I was surprised there was no mention of keywords or SEO. In my experience, there’s a very big need for copywriters to learn the basics of SEO copywriting and infuse techniques into their work.

  40. Casey says:

    If you want to improve your writing & rhetoric, I highly recommend The Elements of Style by Strunk & White. It is less than 90 pages and has been the real “Holy Grail” for English rhetoric since the early 1900s. Plus, the book is super cheap.

  41. I suppose at first glance, some of my posts could be perceived as being not especially passionate, but they are in that I’m passionate in wanting people to engage in meaningful, reasonable dialogue and discussion, rather than doctrinaire talking-points and diatribe.

    I know the web and media in general often rewards sensationalism, but I’d rather elevate the discussion, and be content with more modest traffic levels.

  42. Paul Hassing says:

    Thank you, Patrick. I dug it! Best regards, P. :)

  43. Thanks for the suggestion Casey! It’s next on my reading list …

    Glad you liked it Paul!

    ~ Patrick

  44. SEO wrinting says:

    I agree that makes so much sense. It’s a way of persuasive writing thst is enjoyable to read. Thanks for youe tips.