At Rhetoric 3.12 Aristotle describes differences between a “written”; style, which he associates with the epideictic genre, and a “debating”; style suited to deliberative and forensic oratory. This paper argues that this seemingly unproblematic distinction constitutes a crucial indicator of the orientation of Aristotle's style theory as a whole. Passages throughout Rhetoric 3.1–12 offer precepts oriented toward the medium of writing and the reading of texts‐that is, they describe a specifically “written ” style of prose. In contrast, Aristotle largely neglects the agonistic style of practical oratory, a fact that can be taken as another indication of the literary, and literate, bias pervading Aristotle's account of prose lexis. In addition to disclosing nuances in the text of Rhetoric 3, this study contributes to our understanding of the ways in which early rhetorical theory responds to and is constrained by the circumstances of written composition and oratorical performance.