Key Concepts

Multimodal Rhetoric: a text that uses any combination of information that has sound, text, or visual elements (whether they are static and unmoving, or dynamic and moving)–including music, sound effects, spoken word, color, camera angles, varied fonts, etc. 

Multimodal rhetoric is any text that combines more than just written language. This can include images, video, sound, color, speech, and a whole lot more. In the truest sense of the word, “multimodal” rhetoric combines multiple modalities–so images and text; video and sound; spoken language and video; etc.

Multimodal rhetoric is often discussed as something that is an alternative to rhetoric that is purely written; however, as the information we look at each day is increasingly on screens–tablets, phones, laptops, even smartwatches–it’s on the table for discussion whether or not purely written (i.e. non-multimodal) rhetoric even exists anymore, except for in a few isolated instances. And while it’s not incumbent on us to resolve the debate about what multimodal rhetoric even is and whether it can exist separately from written rhetoric, it does speak to the fact that rhetorical analysis can involve consideration of not only the message (i.e. the way that written rhetoric is used to communicate a purpose) of an argument, but also the medium (i.e. the manner in which it is communicated).

For more on multimodal rhetoric, consider this reading titled “Breaking Down an Image” from Writing Commons in which Jenna Pack Sheffield discusses ways that a visual text can be broken down to analyze its individual components.

Equally, here is a reading (also from Writing Commons) by Jennifer Janechek titled “Language for Analyzing Ads” in which she provides some terminology that can be used to analyze a multimodal text. Equally, here is another reading titled “Ad Analysis” by Jessica McKee (also from Writing Commons) that provides some questions we can consider when analyzing a visual advertisement.

Lastly, here are three brief readings (all from Writing Commons) that discuss how an advertisement can be evaluated through the lenses of gender, race, and socioeconomic status.

  1. Ad Analysis: Gender by Angela Eward-Mangione, Emma Brown, and Susan Gail Taylor
  2. Ad Analysis: Race by Jessica Masari Eberhard, Sam Corbett, and Susan Gail Taylor
  3. Ad Analysis: Socioeconomic Status by Susan Taylor and Mary Kay Madden


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College Comp II Copyright © 2019 by Jude Miller is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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