How To Write a Rhetorical Analysis

Unlike argument or synthesis, this is not a debate paper.
Task of the essay is to analyze the methods an author employs in his writing to convey his attitude, his opinion, or his conviction about some topic.
You must talk about how the author’s argument is created. What tools do they use to gain their reader’s agreement?

You are NOT being asked to write a movie review: “Twain wrote really well and that held my attention.”
It is not worth evaluating an essay if it was poorly written.
Something holding your interest is not an insightful comment, much less astute analysis.

What are Rhetorical Techniques?
The effective use of words to persuade or influence.
Includes ethos, logos and pathos.
Includes tone, diction, details, imagery, figurative language, humor, syntax, etc, etc, etc.
Anything used to deliberately create effect.

What is a Rhetorical Analysis?
Writing that separates the content (what the passage is about) from the methods (rhetorical strategies) used to successfully convey that content.
Prompt offers an effect; answer should identify and discuss rhetorical techniques used to create the effect.

Rhetorical Analysis = Why, How, So What
WHY = Are the choices effective and appropriate for the intended audience?
HOW = What techniques doe the writer choose to present the material?
SO WHAT = What is accomplished or created?
If you don’t do this, you don’t have analysis!!

How do I Write a Rhetorical Analysis?
Analyze the prompt to determine what kind of analysis and what effect to address.
Understand the passage!
Deal with “hidden” questions, such as: What IS the effect? Answer these in the first body paragraph.
Given the time, select three techniques to discuss. Keep in mind the type of essay presented by the passage and look for typical techniques for that rhetorical mode.

Compose a thesis that states BOTH the effect AND the techniques.
Be sure to avoid the trap of explaining meaning; no analysis should explain what the essay means
Focus on HOW a technique creates the given effect.
Rule of thumb: more than HALF your essay should be commentary.

How do I Write a Thesis for a Rhetorical Analysis?
The author’s name
plus an adjective (sophisticated, carefully crafted, flashy, inventive)
plus the rhetoric strategies (three specific rhetorical strategies used as topics of body paragraphs)
plus a strong verb (demonstrates, creates, emphasizes, generates, fulfills)
plus the function (what the rhetoric does for the piece)
Example: Douglass’s sophisticated use of diction, imagery and figurative language creates his unfavorable attitude towards slavery.

Use the SAME FORMULA to create your analysis…
Author’s name
plus adjective
plus the term “diction”
plus a strong verb
plus the function
plus examples from text.

Author’s name
plus an adjective (informal, light, impartial, simple)
plus the term “tone”
plus strong verb
plus the function
plus examples.
Author’s name
plus an adjective (short, simple, varied, repetitive, balanced)
plus the term “syntax”
plus the function
plus examples.

Some Things Not to Do…
Don’t use the author’s first name
Discourteous, sloppy, and unscholarly
Use the full name the first time you mention them, then the last name after that
Avoid fancy language (be direct and clear)
Bad: “The aphoristic asyndeton parallelism of the third sentence provided a syncretistic introduction for his thoughts.”
Better: “The simple and direct diction of the third sentence provided an effective preface to the complex ideas that were to follow.”

Some Things Not to Do…
Do NOT summarize the author’s essay. You must discuss strategies the author uses!!!

What You NEED to do…
Discuss the author’s attitude toward the topic and the strategies the author employed to achieve his purpose.”
Read to determine the author’s attitude
Identify techniques he used to develop his argument

What You NEED to do…
Word choice
Negative or positive
Don’t say “The author uses diction to convey his meaning.” That is like saying “The wind blows wind to make wind.”

What You NEED to do…
Short sentences are almost always abrupt, intense, and confrontational. They force a sudden stop in thinking.
Long sentences are more thoughtful and permit reflection.
Parallel syntax functions like a train gathering steam. It convinces by overwhelming the reader syntactically.

What You NEED to do…
Syntax, cont.
Rhetorical questions manipulate you to provide the answer the author wants you to accept. They are never meant as a genuine question, but are always coercive.
Repetition within a piece is meant to provide emphasis. Repetition provides emphasis. Emphasis.

Instructions for Writing a Rhetorical Analysis

The Task…
Your task in this assignment is to analyze the strategies the writer uses.
Essay should be 4-5 pages
Have one direct quote in each body paragraph.
Follow the steps that I have