What Does Delivery Mean in Speech and Rhetoric?

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

Businesswoman addressing auditorium

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One of the five traditional parts or canons of rhetoric , concerned with the control of voice and gestures when giving a speech. Known as hypocrisis in Greek and actio in Latin.

Etymology: From the Latin de "away" + liber "free" (to give away)

Pronunciation: di-LIV-i-ree

Also Known As: actio, hypocrisis

Examples and Observations of Delivery

  • "It should not be surprising that it was professional actors who gave a special impetus to a study of delivery, for all the spell-binding orators in history (men like Demosthenes, Churchill, William Jennings Bryan, Bishop Sheen, Billy Graham) have been, in a sense, great actors." (Edward P.J. Corbett and Robert J. Connors, Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student, 4th ed. Oxford University Press, 1999)
  • "[Aristotle] compares rhetorical delivery to theatrical performance and emphasizes the effect of delivery on different audiences; the effectiveness and appropriateness of delivery make a speech successful or not." (Kathleen E. Welch, "Delivery." Enclopedia, 2001) of Rhetoric
  • "All these parts of oratory succeed according as they are delivered. Delivery . . . has the sole and supreme power in oratory; without it, a speaker of the highest mental capacity can be held in no esteem; while one of moderate abilities, with this qualification, may surpass even those of the highest talent." (Cicero, De Oratore)
  • "Before you can persuade a man into any opinion, he must first be convinced that you believe it yourself. This he can never be, unless the tones of voice in which you speak come from the heart, accompanied by corresponding looks, and gestures, which naturally result from a man who speaks in earnest." (Thomas Sheridan, British Education, 1756)
  • "The behavioral biologists and psychologists call [delivery] 'nonverbal communication' and have added immeasurably to our knowledge of this kind of human expressivity." (Richard Lanham, A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms, 2nd ed., 1991)

Senator John McCain's Delivery

"[John] McCain moves awkwardly through complex phrases, sometimes surprising himself with the end of a sentence. He regularly leaves his audience without any cues to applaud. Despite years in public life, he makes bumpy transitions from personal anecdotes to broad policy pronouncements...

"'McCain needs all the help he can get,' said Martin Medhurst, a communications professor at Baylor University and the editor of Rhetoric and Public Affairs, a quarterly journal...

"Such a weak delivery affects viewers’--and voters’--perceptions of the speaker’s sincerity, knowledge, and credibility, Medhurst said. 'Some politicians just don’t understand that they must devote a certain amount of time to their communications, or it’s going to hurt them.'" (Holly Yeager, "McCain Speeches Don't Deliver." The Washington Independent, Apr. 3, 2008)

Regendering Delivery

"[A]lthough the physical and vocal concerns of delivery initially appear relevant to all public speakers, closer scrutiny of the canon soon reveals masculinist biases and assumptions. Delivery has not pertained equally to both men and women because, for millennia, women were culturally prohibited from standing and speaking in public, their voices and forms acceptable only in the spectator role (if at all). Thus, women were systematically discouraged from the very actions that constitute delivery, a matter unrecognized in the traditional fifth canon. . . . Indeed, I would argue that when researchers' attention is focused too narrowly on the voice, gesture, and expression of the good woman speaking well, much that is germane to her delivery is overlooked. Clearly, the traditional fifth canon is in need of renovation." (Lindal Buchanan, Regendering Delivery: The Fifth Canon and Antebellum Women Rhetors. Southern Illinois University Press, 2005)

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Nordquist, Richard. "What Does Delivery Mean in Speech and Rhetoric?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/delivery-speech-and-rhetoric-1690430. Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 27). What Does Delivery Mean in Speech and Rhetoric? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/delivery-speech-and-rhetoric-1690430 Nordquist, Richard. "What Does Delivery Mean in Speech and Rhetoric?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/delivery-speech-and-rhetoric-1690430 (accessed March 27, 2023).