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Essay 4 – Riley Gardner, guilty or not?

Unit of discourse

rhetorical part: assertion, support, explanation

analogy: pull out your gun, load, aim and shoot

An assertion is like a gun. Anyone can pull one out and start waving it around. By itself, an assertion is an opinion, all talk, lots of fervent belief, but nothing else. To make it more persuasive, all you can do it raise your voice, wag the gun more wildly.

The support is the bullets. It’s what you load your gun with. A loaded gun is a lot more threatening. It can, potentially, do a lot more damage than the gun by itself.

However, to effectively communicate, you need to pull the trigger. No matter how good your gun and your bullets, you’re never going to hit your target unless you pull the trigger. Your target is your reader. That’s a singular “reader” on purpose. You cannot shoot everyone with a gun. It’s pretty much one at a time.

Same with an essay. Don’t try to write to “everyone”. Write to one specific person, one reader. You need to explain what you want your reader to get out of the evidence. Then it’s not just your opinion against someone else’s. It’s your substantiated, explained opinion, which is more persuasive and carries more weight than the opinions of those wagging their guns at each other.


Write an essay that uses this unit of discourse to explain why you think Riley Gardner is or is not guilty.

Rhetorical situation: You are on the jury for Riley Gardner’s trial for vehicular manslaughter. Remember your jury instructions: base your conclusion on only the evidence. Some of it is contradictory. You have to decide whom to believe.

You audience is those on the jury who would vote the other way. You want to explain your thinking to them in order to convince them to vote your way.

Of the rhetorical modes, the most appropriate here is cause-and-effect. He is guilty BECAUSE ….. Or he is not guilty BECAUSE ….