Writer's WebThe Canons of Rhetoric: Disposition
by Kelsey Shields, Writing Consultant
(printable version here)

Disposition, also known as arrangement, is the organization of one's argument. Ancient Greek and Roman orators believed that there were six points to an effective argument, and that they must be arranged as such:

  1. Introduction
  2. Statement of Facts
  3. Division
  4. Proof
  5. Refutation
  6. Conclusion

Furthermore, Cicero, the great Roman orator, believed that it was important to establish one's authority within the introduction, typically by employing ethical appears, or ethos. Within the statement of facts, division, and proof-or simply, "the body"-mainly logical arguments (logos) are utilized. Finally, the conclusion is where emotional appeals should be made (Brigham Young University).

While this was an excellent template for well-learned Roman orators to use with one another, it is by no means universal. Instead, it is best to use this arrangement as a basis rather than a concrete template. When outlining your argument, ask yourself, "What arrangement will make the most sense? What sort of audience am I trying to appeal to? What type of language will appeal to them the most?"

The website Rhetorica.net provides a more flexible template for modern usage, and suggests asking yourself these questions while developing your argument:

  • Find a way to ingratiate yourself to the audience. Introduce your topic or issue. Why is your message important to them; why are you important to your message? What do you want your audience to do or think?
  • Explain the facts, denotations, and connotations of the issue.
  • Construct an argument appropriate for the issue and the audience
  • Challenge the opposition, which requires understanding the opposition
  • Explain what it all means and what you want your audience to do or think.








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