LINGUIST List 32.3370

Wed Oct 27 2021

Books: Making messages memorable: Wackers

Editor for this issue: Billy Dickson <>

Date: 02-Oct-2021
From: Janacy van Duijn Genet <>
Subject: Making messages memorable: Wackers
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Title: Making messages memorable
Subtitle: The influence of rhetorical techniques on information retention
Series Title: LOT Dissertation Series
Published: 2021
Publisher: Netherlands Graduate School of Linguistics / Landelijke (LOT)

Book URL:

Author: Martijn Wackers
Paperback: ISBN: 9789460933776 Pages: 317 Price: Europe EURO 36

Ancient rhetoricians such as Cicero and Quintilian advised orators not to forget the memoria task and recommended strategies for remembering a speech. Instead of focusing on the speaker’s memory, modern public-speaking textbooks recommend speakers to make their message memorable for the audience. Although many rhetorical techniques are said to influence the audience’s information retention, their effect is sparsely studied.

This dissertation investigates how rhetorical techniques in speeches can enhance information retention by the audience. By connecting rhetorical theory, advice and practice to insights from memory psychology it comprehensively studies retention as a rhetorical function.

The thesis follows a three-way approach. First, eighty influential English-language and Dutch-language public-speaking textbooks were analysed to obtain an overview of modern retention advice. The findings show that frequently advised retention techniques are related to organisation, elaboration and visualisation of information, which are three encoding principles that contribute to long-term information storage. Authors prefer the conclusion of a speech for influencing retention.

Secondly, the study analysed how scholars, politicians and TED speakers use recommended organisation and elaboration techniques such as summaries and anecdotes in public-speaking practice. The results highlight discrepancies with textbook advice and show that speakers use technique variants depending on their public-speaking context.

Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis
                            Philosophy of Language

Written In: English (eng)

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Page Updated: 27-Oct-2021