I'm writing a piece about how each move in a particular debate functions rhetorically, and I'd like to introduce my recap at the end of the piece as follows:

Because the debate is complex, it behooves us to recap the function of each move.

Is there a better word than "move"? Thank you!


The word move itself can indeed be used, though some rephrasing is needed. Instead of

Because the debate is complex, it behooves us to recap the function of each move.

let's go with:

The complexity of the debate behooves us to provide a recap for every move made by each candidate.

I personally think move is a bit too vague and all-encompassing. Something more specific like argument, statement, or response is more apt.

  • "Argument" was the first thing that occurred to me. – user184130 Jul 30 '18 at 14:33

Kris and Vth are both correct up to a point. rhetorical move is used in this way. However, there is an ambiguity involved: an ambiguity between type and token.

For example, in chess, we can speak of a bishop’s move (a type of move) and also of a player’s opening move or 6th move.

So in chess we might say that someone’s 6th move was clever or a fatal mistake. But we cannot make that sort of judgement about castling or pawn sacrifice, because it would depend on the state of the game at the time.

Similarly in rhetoric, a move might mean a type of move, such as anaphora, rhetorical question or exclamation. But it might also mean a particular move. Imagine I say “Does anyone here imagine that the world is no more than a few thousand years old?”. Whether this is a good or bad ‘move’ must depend on the audience: if it consists of earth scientists, it is pointless; if of creationists, it is ill-advised as well as pointless.

So there is an ambiguity worth avoiding. As it happens, there is a word that univocally refers to types of ‘move’, which is used by students of rhetoric. Books on the subject speak of rhetorical devices. This is what I suggest, so that the word ‘move’ can be reserved for a particular deployment of such a device.


Within the domain, it's simply referred to as a move most of the time, since the reader is expected to be familiar with structure.

However, in the OP's context, it is appropriate to use the full phrase rhetorical move: "... to recap the function of each rhetorical move."

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