The Office of Assertion

Crider, Scott. The Office of Assertion. Wilmington, DE: Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2005.

It’s risky writing a book on rhetoric.  One (perhaps unfairly) expects it to be a prime example of rhetorical flourish.  If it isn’t, then the book is seen as inadequate.  This volume is somewhere in the middle.  It has a weak beginning but ends quite strongly and covers the necessary points.

It cannot function as a stand-alone text on rhetoric, but in conjunction with other texts, which he does list, it is quite useful.

Rhetoric isn’t just pretty words masking a weak argument.  It includes the very structure of the argument, even its literary shape.  This is perhaps the main strength of the book.  Further, he guides you in how to write a good argument, as we shall see.

Questions to ask as you develop an argument:

(1) Can I define x? What are its general and specific characteristics?
(2) How do X and Y compare?
(3) What is the relationship between x and y?  This is analysis.  Sometimes students will ask, “What do you mean that we should analyze the text?”  Show the relations.


Classical Oration, the parts.

  1. Introduction

Types of introduction
Statement of circumstance

2. The outline

3. The proof

4. The refutation

5. The conclusion


We want to aim as something like a coordinating style, or what Richard Weaver calls an equilibrium of forces.  This is particularly achieved in the KJV of Ecclesiastes 2:4-11. Richard Weaver suggests a judicious use of the balanced compound sentence.

A subordinate clause introduces a level of complexity in your argument. If you want to see the compound-complex clause in its perfection, read Jane Austen.

In all cases, don’t be afraid to use parallelism, in which Samuel Johnson is the master.  And if you use a string of parallelisms in a paragraph, have the first be self-evident and the following as allusions upon the first (which Johnson does in his preface on Shakespeare).

The book isn’t perfect and towards the end it relies much on Richard Weaver.  That is no fault.  More people should rely on Richard Weaver’s writings on rhetoric.  The book is a quick read that addresses some basic concerns.



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