All successful writing boils down to the writer's ability to wield the rhetorical tools in her or his arsenal. If a writer cannot eliminate her or his own weaknesses and emphasize strengths, then she or he will not be able to tackle his adversary's argument. Maybe this discussion sounds a bit warlike, but sometimes the use of rhetoric can appear to be such because rhetoric is your only method for convincing someone else to consider the legitimacy of your point of view or opinion. If you think you can simply say, "Well, that's my opinion," and think that reasoning sufficient to prove your point, you are wrong; I could return the favor and say, "I just don't like your paper; that's my opinion," but you have no way of knowing how to improve your draft and you will feel cheated by your grade. Likewise, if you do not defend your point of view successfully, then you readers will feel cheated by your lack of concern for your topic.
No, rhetoric must be employed correctly, adequately, and efficiently so your writing will present the most effective argument. Consider the three roots of rhetoric: ethos, logos, and pathos. Ethos involves the ethical side of your argument, in short, the credibility or believability of your voice, your line of reasoning, and your support. Ethos provides a balance between logic and passion, reason and emotion. Logos involves the logical side of your reasoning, not merely in making sure that your points and sources relate to your main idea but also that the points used to support your main idea (usually found in the "thesis" or "promise" statement) make logical sense. Logos is the Greek word for, well, "word," so the use of logos involves your use of words and rational thought to make your points. Pathos, on the other hand, involves the appeal to emotion. Most commercials appeal to our emotions to convince us we need to buy whatever the ad or commercial is selling. Typically, such ads appeal to our need to be accepted and considered attractive, but other ads capitalize on fear--"Worried the stock market will plunge again? Buy Gold!" Your writing must strike a balance between logic and emotion. Too many students think they can write emotional, lyrical essays and think they are doing college level work; they weep and wail when they discover their writing earned a low grade, too. Again, your writing must rely on a mix of the two to evoke the most ethical, most effective means of argument possible.
Argument? Yes. Not the presentation of two diametrically opposed viewpoints which can never reach a middleground or common area of agreement. Instead, an argument is the primary type of writing you will produce in college because at the least you will write to convince your audience of the validity of your perspective and at the most to convince your audience to convert to your way of thinking. Rhetoric is the chief tool for presenting arguments to get people to take action on your behalf. Think about letters or emails of complaint to a business or company, or emails to your professor when requesting an extension on a deadline, or phone calls home requesting more money from Mom and Dad.
Search online or in your grammar book for more about Rhetoric, or ask a Writing Center tutor, or ask me.
PowerPoints: Rhetoric-Ethos Rhetoric-Logos Expository Writing (OR) Logos-Expository Rhetoric-Pathos (See MEDIA page)