Aristotle, way back in the 4th Century B.C., identified three branches of rhetoric (also known as the three branches of oratory). These three branches–deliberative, judicial, and epideictic–cover some of the most common ways we communicate, even today. Check out the diagram of the three branches of rhetoric (and read below for more detailed description):


Deliberative rhetoric refers to communications  that are intended to persuade or dissuade a person to think or act in a certain way. Deliberative rhetoric is about the future–its goal is to persuade people that if they do or think something now, things will either be in their favor or against them. You will hear deliberative rhetoric in political speeches, in proposals, in presentations, and in social justice campaigns. You might even consider some advertising as a form of deliberative rhetoric since advertising is often trying to either persuade someone to buy or do something or dissuade them from buying other products or brands.

Examples of Deliberative Rhetoric:

  • Political speeches
  • Formal presentations
  • Proposals
  • Social justice campaigns
  • Advertising


Judicial rhetoric refers to communications that are intended to accuse or defend someone. Judicial rhetoric is about the past–its goal is to deliberate about what someone did or said and whether or not their actions were justifiable. We often think of judicial rhetoric as the kind of discourse that happens in a courtroom–where lawyers, judges, defendants, plaintiffs, and juries deliberate over whether actions were legal or ethical. Lawmakers use judicial rhetoric to determine laws and best practices. More broadly, though, judicial rhetoric is really about justifying someone’s actions, so it could be as simple as trying to convince your mom that your decision to stay out late actually kept you safer.

Examples of Judicial Rhetoric:

  • Courtroom proceedings
  • Lawyer statements
  • Jury deliberations
  • Written laws
  • Personal justifications


Epideictic rhetoric is the kind of communication we use to praise (or sometimes blame) a person for their actions or accomplishments. Epideictic rhetoric is about the present–its goal is to highlight and identify the qualities and characteristics of a person or thing that make them great (or, sometimes, not great). When we talk about epideictic rhetoric, we’re thinking of times when we praise or laud individuals, like in nomination speeches or even at funerals.

Examples of Epideictic Rhetoric:

  • Obituaries
  • Eulogies
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Nomination speeches