The Creating of Rhetoric Memes: Shookoric

Two children looking at a smartphone

“Rhetoric is the art of influence, friendship, and eloquence, of ready wit and irrefutable logic. And it harnesses the most powerful of social forces, argument.”

Jay Heinrichs, Thank You for Arguing

In his novel, “Thank You for Arguing,” Jay Heinrichs shows how the art of persuasion is a part of almost every decision we make. It’s almost impossible to interact without subconsciously using it. In his own experiment to attempt to live a day without persuasion, Heinrichs failed within the first hour.

Once made aware of rhetoric, students may often be shocked at how often they recognize its use. These shocked (or “shook”) students have learned to notice rhetorical appeals and their impact. Now educated, the newly enlightened are empowered to use rhetoric in their lives. These pupils are also able to prevent falling trap to the rhetoric being used against them daily. The following meme captures these student’s reactions to rhetoric.

Shookoric Student

Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The woman in this meme showcases an expression of extreme surprise and awe. This reaction is because she just learned about rhetoric and now hears it everywhere she goes. Rhetoric scholars experience this phenomenon, called “shookoric,” when noticing how apparent rhetoric is in daily interactions. Rhetoric is commonly used in politics, advertisement, and in business.

While rhetoric is infamously used in certain fields, one may not realize how common it is in their life as well. Rhetoric is frequently used in education, for example. Teachers and professors may appeal to pathos by striking fear into their students with large assignments and strict due dates. At other times, these same professors may use a logical argument to convince students to work hard on certain assignments by making that work worth a larger percentage of the course’s final grade.

All in all, rhetoric is everywhere! Whether someone realizes it or not, they are most likely witnessing and using rhetorical appeals and devices every single day.

Plato’s Rhetorical Canon


“Invention is the process of coming up with what to say. Its root is the Latin word invenio, meaning ‘to find or discover.'”

Andrew Pudewa, Memoria Press

This meme was assigned for a college course. At first, creating a rhetoric related meme was a bit of a daunting task for me. The example meme provided was incredibly creative and witty, and I could not think of something equally as smart for the life of me. In many of my writing courses, students will complain that they can’t think of what to write or that their life is too boring to write about, etc, etc and often our professors will advise these students to write about THAT then. Write about not knowing what to write about or write about being boring. Remembering that advice is what brought me to this meme. I decided to write about the process of learning about rhetoric!


“Arrangment is fairly simple, but it is often despised by modernists.”

Andrew Putewa, Memoria Press

Arrangement is interesting when it comes to memes. Most memes follow the same structure: white bolded text on top of an image. Typically, there is a short line of text at the top of the image and a short line at the bottom, but that may vary based on what frames the photo best. The text is often also in all caps. Many memes that are based on the same photo are even more similar in structure because creators keep the same text in the same place but change one to a few words. When creating my meme, I wanted to follow the most common format in order to make my work automatically register as a meme to viewers. Because I wasn’t using a popular meme photo, I was able to choose where to put my text. I decided to place the meme’s text above the image subject so that the viewer read the text first, and then saw the reaction made by the woman in the photo.


“[Style] basically means the way something is said. The vocabulary, sentence structure, and expressions used will affect the reader’s perception of the ideas.”

Andre Putewa, Memorial Press

Determining the style for this meme required me to appeal to my audience (my professor and classmates) and align with the general meme style. Because this assignment was for a rhetoric class, this allowed me to use certain terminology that I would normally never use for a meme. I was able to include language learned in our class to appeal to my audience. In addition, I had to make sure I did not get too academic with my meme and remain faithful to the structure of memes. Therefore, I included rhetorical appeals in my text but kept the text short and simple at only five words long.


“Memory, of course, is where it all begins and ends. If, as was most often done in ancient times, one’s rhetoric was spoken rather than writte, it was critical that such speeches be memorized and practiced for a powerful delivery.”

Andrew Putewa, Memoria Press

Memory is complicated to apply to this meme, which was created digitally and meant to be viewed rather than heard. Where memory does come in to play is when our class presented these memes. In presenting my meme, I memorized the title and content of my work. I also had memorized the material learned in class that was applicable to my meme, such as the rhetorical appeals ethos, pathos, logos, and kairos. This memorization allowed me to make a smoother presentation and appear more knowledgable about my work.


“Delivery pertains to the mechanics presenting the created speech or composition.”

Andrew Putewa, Memoria Press

As mentioned in the previous subsection, this project was delivered via a presentation in class. It was as delivered by being written as a blog post. When it comes to my class presentation, my delivery was very casual. I stood in front of the class and stood in the corner where the computer was. In retrospect, I could have put more thought into my physical gestures, voice inflections, and the words I used. As for digital delivery, I copied similar formats and structures to that of a normal blog post. I started off with a catchy quote, wrote a few paragraphs before presenting my image, pasted the image, and wrote some more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *