Readings about Rhetorical Foundations

19 Rhetoric is Just Empty Speech

Patricia Roberts-Miller

Patricia Roberts-Miller’s essay refutes the popular notion that “Rhetoric is Synonymous With Empty Speech.” Instead, she demonstrates the use (and periodic) abuse of rhetoric, an understanding which is central to effective communication. This text is the first chapter of Bad Ideas About Writing, and its placement is notable since the association of rhetoric and empty speech is so pervasive, since it is a prevalent bad idea with broad implications for reading and writing.

Read Patricia Roberts-Miller’s “Rhetoric is Synonymous With Empty Speech.” 

Listen to Kyle Stedman’s audio-version of this text..


Keywords from this chapter in Bad Ideas about Writing

, , public argumentation,


Author Bio from Bad Ideas about Writing

Patricia Roberts-Miller is a professor in the Department of Rhetoric and Writing at the University of Texas at Austin, where she also directs the writing center. Her scholarly and teaching interests include the history and theory of public argumentation. As she likes to put it, she’s a “scholar of train wrecks in public deliberation.” More about Trish can be found at


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