On rhetoric

I have no idea why certain words go in certain places, but if certain people do it just right, they make a little bit of literary magic, creating a new thing with meaning, persuasion, tropes, metaphors, and maybe clarity, but maybe not. Rhetoric may or may not be many things, but it is almost always a strategy for some kind of argument, even when the strategy is to make no argument at all. Good rhetoric never shows its hand, running in the background of the text like a silent partner in a big financial deal, and bad rhetoric clumsily runs roughshod over its subject, trampling reason, logic, and beauty, leaving the text full of bomb craters, burned jungle, and ruined temples. Some writers like to get to the point with topic sentences and/or a thesis, while others tend to circle around for a few paragraphs as if they were a hungry panther preparing to strike. The sure sin of bad rhetoric is to be both obvious and boring because if you are boring, then no one finishes reading what you have written. Rhetoric is essentially a mystery that has little to do with good writing, good argumentation, or good organization, although all of those elements might sometimes be a part of good rhetoric. Perhaps rhetoric is about balance, but balancing what? From what I can tell, good rhetoric seems to shun complexity and obscurantism, but simplicity is certainly not the key either. Brevity and clarity may be key elements to good rhetoric, but one doesn’t get anywhere unless they finish what they are saying. Perhaps the key is knowing when to quit.