|Aesthetica Preprint, 41 (August 1994)
Formatting a diskette: something we often operate when availing of a personal computer. It seems very promising to make of such a notion a metaphor for the setting up of communication units, since the locutor has to prepare an over-all atmosphere, to instill into his hearer(s) or reader(s) a definite attitude towards what will be the crucial points of the communication attempt to follow, to set up a suitable agreement about what speakers would like to be held as appropriate, crucial, satisfying. To format an interlocutor is, properly speaking, to try to re-format his/her mind in order to ensure that the communication unit be received as intelligible, worth of the attention and, all in all, convincing. It is therefore a matter of a pointed sensitivity to be aroused, of prejudices and refractoriness to be prevented, of an imprinting which marks the whole communication event as a seal and works as a key to its success, or failure.
Therefore no wisdom in (mainly verbal) communication could take place without suitable formatting procedures. On the other hand, rhetoric should pay the greatest attention to what is essential before (or: instead of) indulging in the classification of "topoi" and tropes as it is still common practice.
Whence this booklet and its attempt to outline how formatting procedures take place, how they come to open an avenue in the other people's minds, how they function, which is their "ratio", which their snares, how some one may try to analyse them and, what is more, dispel, if advisable or needed, their effects.
The present approach to the rhetoric of verbal communication implies a dynamical, function-oriented reshaping of rhetoric, as well as the idea that rhetoric is at work in a specially effective (and cunning) manner in works of science much more than in works of fiction or advertising, i. e. in communication units which purport to be taken very seriously, because when this is the case receivers (e. g. professional readers) hardly pay attention to formatting procedures, and therefore experience their force in a very unconscious manner (what is not exactly the case with fiction or ad).