Balaghah is generally understood to be the art of managing speech or writing so that it is persuasive. If the speaker or writer consciously chooses and arranges words so as to produce in the listener or reader the meaning and impact in their own mind of the thoughts they want to convey, then speaker or writer are practising the art of balaghah. As an art or technique, balaghah is usually translated in English as “rhetoric”. Because how people respond to rhetoric is well understood, experts in balaghah recommend a number of basic rules which can be applied when preparing speech or text.
The qualities of a good speech or writing:
1- It should be ordered and coherent, with a clear direction of argument. The listener or reader should be able to make sense of, to understand, the speech or writing as it moves along. (That is one reason why specialised terminology and technical subject-matter are not compatible with balaghah.)
2- (a) It should be as brief as is compatible with the subject matter, the argument and the occasion; and (b) it should have a point, something the speaker wants to convey, and which the listener needs to hear. (The effort of balaghah has failed if the listener feels that the point is only to display the speaker’s art.)
3- It should be varied in intensity, not always very loud or very soft, neither over decorated with colour and emotion, nor too bare.
4- It should capture and hold the interest and attention of listener or reader – this means (a) using surprise and charm by, for example, making unexpected connections, or using familiar expressions in unfamiliar ways and contexts; and (b) assuring the listener or reader that the subject-matter of the speech or writing is important for them, and that by paying attention they are benefiting.
5- While good speech is often informative – that is, listeners feel that they have learnt something they did not know before or did not know that they knew – it is not so necessarily. What distinguishes it as balaghah is its memorability: what is said is (a) worth remembering and (b) easy to remember because the words used are the right words with the right weight and colouring. Proverbs and sayings, found and handed down in every culture, are examples of the kind of memorability that balaghah aspires to: the sayings are remembered long after their first speaker has been forgotten.