The Five Canons of Rhetoric
In De Inventione, the Roman philosopher Cicero explains that there are five canons, or tenets, of rhetoric: invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery. Although these canons were originally created with a focus on oratory, or public speaking, most are also applicable to the writing process stages of prewriting, drafting, and rewriting.
Invention is the process of coming up with material for a text. In writing, this is the brainstorming or prewriting stage.
Before I present, I sit down to think about what I want to say.
Arrangement is the process of deciding how to order the material in a text. In writing, this is still part of the prewriting stage.
Before presenting, I create an outline to determine the order of the points I’ll make.
Style is the process of coming up with the actual words that will be used in a text. In writing, this canon is first approached in the drafting stage and continues in the rewriting stage.
I revise sentences I wrote in the passive voice into sentences in the active voice.
Memory is the process of committing a text to memory. Although this canon is not as applicable to writing as it is to oratory, there are still occasions when writers must memorize their texts in order to make the delivery (the fifth canon) more effective.
I memorize my presentation so I can deliver it at my exam defense.
Delivery is the process of presenting a text to an audience. Like memory, delivery is less prominent in writing than in oratory; however, there are many occasions when writers must think of how to best deliver their texts.
At my exam defense, I walk around the room to deliver my presentation.