Monday, February 19, 2007

A rhetoric primer worth reading

In researching a book round-up article on communication effectiveness for Harvard Management Update, I got a chance to consider Alan Axelrod's newest book. Alan is a prolific business author. I'm a great admirer of his energy and his practical, accessible style. In fact, we borrowed the lessons format he put to such good use in books like Patton on Leadership for our book on Douglas MacArthur (which he graciously endorsed, nevertheless).

I didn't know that Alan was formerly an English professor who taught classical rhetoric until I read the cover copy on Getting Your Way Every Day. I'm just a couple chapters into the book, but it's already clear that the art and science of persuasion didn't start with Gerry Spence.

It's also clear that in addition to thoroughly understanding the great rhetorical thinkers, Alan has successfully translated their ideas into modern terms. For instance, if you had asked me what exordium, narratio, confirmatio, refutatio, and peroratio meant yesterday, I would have suggested it was a spell for curing a bad hangover. Turns out it's the Roman prescription, based on Aristole, for building a compelling argument, which Alan translates into: take a bow; give 'em the facts; confirm this; refute that; and, wrap it all up.

If you've ever struggled through the classics, a task I periodically and fruitlessly attempt in the vain hope of bettering myself, you'll probably find this a welcome addition to your reference bookshelf, too. (Sample chapter here.)

No comments: