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Disciplines Argument > Five canons of rhetoric > Arrangement

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Arranging an argument is like structuring an essay (which is, of course, arranging an argument).

1. Introduction (exordium)

Start with an introduction that positions both your argument and, if appropriate, yourself. Provide the context in which you are speaking, including some background information. Grab their attention, showing that this argument is important to them. Ask them to listen carefully, as this will be to their advantage.

Also show that you are the best person to be talking with them on this subject. Establish your credibility. Show that you are really on their side and can be trusted.

2. Statement of fact (narratio)

Present the basic facts of the case, clearly and with enough information that they can be accepted as independent facts, and not just your observations. Be neutral in your presentation, taking the part of a witness or a concerned bystander, rather than a person with a passionate interest in one side of the argument.

In Classical Greek arguments, this stage is also used to demonstrate the speaker's ethos, or ethical standing.

3. Confirmation (confirmatio)

The next stage is to give the case for your position. Construct a persuasive argument as to what should be believed and done. This is where the full power and methods of rhetoric are employed. Use various types of reasoning, create yourself an unassailable position.

In confirming your position, do take care to align it carefully with the needs, values and goals of your audience. If you do not do this, they may well ignore you and be building their own refutatio rather than listening to your case.

4. Refutation (refutatio)

After building up your own castle, the next stage is to attack the stronghold of any opposing arguments. Using similar reasoning methods, you now take apart any alternatives to your confirmatio, one brick at a time. When opposing arguments are but rubble, there is nothing else left to believe but your original argument.

Refuting other arguments need not mean being unkind or unpleasant. You can show how much you accept and respect the other person or people involved. You can start with appreciation of them as people and of their reasoning for their case. Then show how they are sadly mistaken. If possible, show how they can better achieve their needs through your preferred choices.

5. Conclusion (peroratio)

End your argument with a summary of what you have said, reminding your audience of the key points along the way. If you want them to do something afterwards (rather than just agree with you), describe these carefully and ensure you get their full agreement.


This is a classic way of arguing: build your position and knock down that of the opposition, albeit with attention to ethical concerns. It still is relevant today, but can easily suffer from a them-and-us battle. The most effective way to use this approach is, as far as you can, to blend in respect and concern for people who oppose you. Seek to expand the pie so everyone gets more, rather than assume a fixed amount 'I win-you lose' situation.

In the original Latin text, this is 'dispositio'.

See also

Pros-vs-cons reasoning, Toulmin's argument model


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