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Rhetorical modes (also known as modes of discourse) describe the variety, conventions, and purposes of the major kinds of language-based communication, particularly writing and speaking. Four of the most common rhetorical modes and their purpose are: narration, description, exposition, and argumentation.[1] The first codification of these rhetorical modes was by Samuel P. Newman in A Practical System of Rhetoric in 1827.[2]



The purpose of narration is to tell a story or narrate an event or series of events. This writing mode frequently uses the tools of descriptive writing (see below), but also exposition. Narration is an especially useful tool for sequencing or putting details and information into some kind of logical order, traditionally chronological. Working with narration helps us see clear sequences separate from other modes.

Examples of narration include:

Fiction-writing modesEdit

Each fiction-writing mode has its own purposes and conventions. Literary agent and author Evan Marshall identifies five different fiction-writing modes: action, summary, dialogue, feelings/thoughts, and background.[3] Author and writing-instructor Jessica Page Morrell lists six delivery modes for fiction-writing: action, exposition, description, dialogue, summary, and transition.[4] Author Peter Selgin refers to methods, including these six: action, dialogue, thoughts, summary, scene, and description.[5]


The purpose of description is to re-create, invent, or visually present a person, place, event, or action so that the reader can picture that which is being described. Descriptive writing can be found in the other rhetorical modes. Examples include:


Expository writing is a type of writing where the purpose is to explain, inform, or even describe.[6] It is considered to be one of the four most common rhetorical modes.[7]

The purpose of expository writing is to explain and analyze information by presenting an idea, relevant evidence, and appropriate discussion. In narrative contexts (such as history and fiction), exposition provides background information to teach or entertain. In other nonfiction contexts (such as technical communication), the purpose is to teach and inform. Examples include:[1]


The purpose of argumentation (also called persuasive writing) is to prove the validity of an idea, or point of view, by presenting sound reasoning, discussion, and argument to thoroughly convince the reader. Persuasive writing/Persuasion is a type of argumentation with the additional aim to urge the reader to take some form of action. Examples include:

Another form of persuasive rhetoric is satirical rhetoric, or using humor in order to make a point about some aspect of life or society. Perhaps the most famous example is Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal".

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Rozakis 2003, p. 271.
  2. ^ Connors 1981, p. 445.
  3. ^ Marshall (1998, pp. 143–165)
  4. ^ Morrell (2006, p. 127)
  5. ^ Selgin (2007, p. 38)
  6. ^ Ball, Arnetha F. "Expository Writing". Stanford University.
  7. ^ Nordquist, Richard. "Expository Writing".


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