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The Role of Exigency in Writing: Identifying the Driving Force Behind Your Work

Every piece of writing has a purpose, and it all begins with a motivating need known as exigency. This term refers to the requirements that must be addressed in order to solve a problem, address an issue, or convey a message. As a writer, it's crucial to understand the exigencies that drive your work in order to have a clear and effective purpose.

What is Exigency?

Exigency, also known as exigence, is the compelling need in rhetoric to address a problem or issue. It comes from the Latin word "exigere," meaning "to demand," and was coined by rhetorician Lloyd Bitzer. Originally, it referred to the needs that arise from such demands, but it's now commonly used as a synonym for "needs" in modern English. Bitzer describes exigency as the reason for writing, stating that every rhetorical situation has a controlling exigency that specifies the audience and desired change.

Rhetorical vs. Non-Rhetorical Exigency

Rhetorical exigency pertains to the needs that drive a rhetorical situation and can be addressed through rhetoric, the practice of effectively speaking or writing to influence others. Rhetoric is often used to effect change, instill an opinion, or evoke emotion. For instance, if you need to demonstrate your understanding of a subject to your teacher, this is a rhetorical exigency that can be addressed through an essay. On the other hand, non-rhetorical exigency refers to needs that exist outside of rhetorical situations and cannot be addressed through rhetoric. An example of this would be needing to drive your child to school because they missed the bus.

Difference Between Exigency and Emergency

While they may sound similar, exigency and emergency have distinct meanings. An emergency is a pressing and possibly dangerous situation that requires immediate action, while exigency refers to the needs that arise from a situation. In other words, exigency is about what is needed, while an emergency is about the situation itself. Exigency is directly related to rhetoric, whereas an emergency is not.

The Impact of Exigency on Writing

Exigency plays a crucial role in determining the subject, audience, and purpose of your writing. As stated by Bitzer, every rhetorical situation has a motivating reason, which influences the audience, desired effect, and subject matter of the writing. For example, if your teacher assigns you an essay about a historical figure to showcase your understanding, this need becomes the exigency that shapes your choices. These may include which historical figure to write about, the intended audience, and the purpose of your essay.

How Exigency Shapes Writing Choices

Exigency also affects the decisions made in writing. For instance, if you have a personal interest in Eleanor Roosevelt and want to educate others about her legacy, this becomes an exigency that influences your subject, audience, and purpose. You may choose to write for those who are unfamiliar with Eleanor Roosevelt in order to educate them on her greatness. In this way, exigency serves as a guiding force in writing, helping writers have a clear purpose and effectively reach their intended audience.

The Concept of Exigency: Understanding Its Importance in Writing

Exigency, also known as exigence, is a crucial element in effective communication and writing. It refers to the driving force behind a rhetorical situation, the necessary action or response needed to address a problem or situation. Understanding the concept of exigency is essential for any writer, as it plays a significant role in shaping the content and purpose of their work.

Exigency can be observed in various situations, such as a YouTuber apologizing to improve their public image, a celebrity addressing rumors of a breakup, a politician making promises to gain trust, and a mother lecturing her child after staying out late. It can also be found in different types of writing, including a political satire by a novelist, a journalistic report on a crisis, an essay prompt created by a teacher, and a sonnet written by a poet to express their emotions.

Moreover, exigency also influences a writer's own work, whether it is an essay to showcase their passion for a topic, a letter to advocate for a cause, an email requesting an extension, or a presentation to demonstrate understanding. It is essential to identify the exigencies in one's writing by considering the motivation behind it and the needs of the audience. This can be done by asking questions such as the essay prompt, personal interests, specific problems or issues to address, target audience, and desired emotional response.

Exigency, as a rhetorical concept, requires the use of effective language and strategies to address and respond to a situation. It is not to be confused with an emergency, which pertains to potentially dangerous situations. To identify the exigencies in one's writing, it is crucial to understand the motivation and purpose behind it and ask important questions to stay on track.

  • Lloyd Bitzer's influential essay, "The Rhetorical Situation" (1968), delves into the concept of exigence and its crucial role in effective communication.

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