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How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis | Key Concepts & Examples

Published on August 28, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.

A rhetorical analysis is a type of essay  that looks at a text in terms of rhetoric. This means it is less concerned with what the author is saying than with how they say it: their goals, techniques, and appeals to the audience.

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Table of contents

Key concepts in rhetoric, analyzing the text, introducing your rhetorical analysis, the body: doing the analysis, concluding a rhetorical analysis, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about rhetorical analysis.

Rhetoric, the art of effective speaking and writing, is a subject that trains you to look at texts, arguments and speeches in terms of how they are designed to persuade the audience. This section introduces a few of the key concepts of this field.

Appeals: Logos, ethos, pathos

Appeals are how the author convinces their audience. Three central appeals are discussed in rhetoric, established by the philosopher Aristotle and sometimes called the rhetorical triangle: logos, ethos, and pathos.

Logos , or the logical appeal, refers to the use of reasoned argument to persuade. This is the dominant approach in academic writing , where arguments are built up using reasoning and evidence.

Ethos , or the ethical appeal, involves the author presenting themselves as an authority on their subject. For example, someone making a moral argument might highlight their own morally admirable behavior; someone speaking about a technical subject might present themselves as an expert by mentioning their qualifications.

Pathos , or the pathetic appeal, evokes the audience’s emotions. This might involve speaking in a passionate way, employing vivid imagery, or trying to provoke anger, sympathy, or any other emotional response in the audience.

These three appeals are all treated as integral parts of rhetoric, and a given author may combine all three of them to convince their audience.

Text and context

In rhetoric, a text is not necessarily a piece of writing (though it may be this). A text is whatever piece of communication you are analyzing. This could be, for example, a speech, an advertisement, or a satirical image.

In these cases, your analysis would focus on more than just language—you might look at visual or sonic elements of the text too.

The context is everything surrounding the text: Who is the author (or speaker, designer, etc.)? Who is their (intended or actual) audience? When and where was the text produced, and for what purpose?

Looking at the context can help to inform your rhetorical analysis. For example, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech has universal power, but the context of the civil rights movement is an important part of understanding why.

Claims, supports, and warrants

A piece of rhetoric is always making some sort of argument, whether it’s a very clearly defined and logical one (e.g. in a philosophy essay) or one that the reader has to infer (e.g. in a satirical article). These arguments are built up with claims, supports, and warrants.

A claim is the fact or idea the author wants to convince the reader of. An argument might center on a single claim, or be built up out of many. Claims are usually explicitly stated, but they may also just be implied in some kinds of text.

The author uses supports to back up each claim they make. These might range from hard evidence to emotional appeals—anything that is used to convince the reader to accept a claim.

The warrant is the logic or assumption that connects a support with a claim. Outside of quite formal argumentation, the warrant is often unstated—the author assumes their audience will understand the connection without it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still explore the implicit warrant in these cases.

For example, look at the following statement:

We can see a claim and a support here, but the warrant is implicit. Here, the warrant is the assumption that more likeable candidates would have inspired greater turnout. We might be more or less convinced by the argument depending on whether we think this is a fair assumption.

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Rhetorical analysis isn’t a matter of choosing concepts in advance and applying them to a text. Instead, it starts with looking at the text in detail and asking the appropriate questions about how it works:

  • What is the author’s purpose?
  • Do they focus closely on their key claims, or do they discuss various topics?
  • What tone do they take—angry or sympathetic? Personal or authoritative? Formal or informal?
  • Who seems to be the intended audience? Is this audience likely to be successfully reached and convinced?
  • What kinds of evidence are presented?

By asking these questions, you’ll discover the various rhetorical devices the text uses. Don’t feel that you have to cram in every rhetorical term you know—focus on those that are most important to the text.

The following sections show how to write the different parts of a rhetorical analysis.

Like all essays, a rhetorical analysis begins with an introduction . The introduction tells readers what text you’ll be discussing, provides relevant background information, and presents your thesis statement .

Hover over different parts of the example below to see how an introduction works.

Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is widely regarded as one of the most important pieces of oratory in American history. Delivered in 1963 to thousands of civil rights activists outside the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., the speech has come to symbolize the spirit of the civil rights movement and even to function as a major part of the American national myth. This rhetorical analysis argues that King’s assumption of the prophetic voice, amplified by the historic size of his audience, creates a powerful sense of ethos that has retained its inspirational power over the years.

The body of your rhetorical analysis is where you’ll tackle the text directly. It’s often divided into three paragraphs, although it may be more in a longer essay.

Each paragraph should focus on a different element of the text, and they should all contribute to your overall argument for your thesis statement.

Hover over the example to explore how a typical body paragraph is constructed.

King’s speech is infused with prophetic language throughout. Even before the famous “dream” part of the speech, King’s language consistently strikes a prophetic tone. He refers to the Lincoln Memorial as a “hallowed spot” and speaks of rising “from the dark and desolate valley of segregation” to “make justice a reality for all of God’s children.” The assumption of this prophetic voice constitutes the text’s strongest ethical appeal; after linking himself with political figures like Lincoln and the Founding Fathers, King’s ethos adopts a distinctly religious tone, recalling Biblical prophets and preachers of change from across history. This adds significant force to his words; standing before an audience of hundreds of thousands, he states not just what the future should be, but what it will be: “The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.” This warning is almost apocalyptic in tone, though it concludes with the positive image of the “bright day of justice.” The power of King’s rhetoric thus stems not only from the pathos of his vision of a brighter future, but from the ethos of the prophetic voice he adopts in expressing this vision.

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how can you apply rhetorical when writing a persuasive essay

The conclusion of a rhetorical analysis wraps up the essay by restating the main argument and showing how it has been developed by your analysis. It may also try to link the text, and your analysis of it, with broader concerns.

Explore the example below to get a sense of the conclusion.

It is clear from this analysis that the effectiveness of King’s rhetoric stems less from the pathetic appeal of his utopian “dream” than it does from the ethos he carefully constructs to give force to his statements. By framing contemporary upheavals as part of a prophecy whose fulfillment will result in the better future he imagines, King ensures not only the effectiveness of his words in the moment but their continuing resonance today. Even if we have not yet achieved King’s dream, we cannot deny the role his words played in setting us on the path toward it.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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The goal of a rhetorical analysis is to explain the effect a piece of writing or oratory has on its audience, how successful it is, and the devices and appeals it uses to achieve its goals.

Unlike a standard argumentative essay , it’s less about taking a position on the arguments presented, and more about exploring how they are constructed.

The term “text” in a rhetorical analysis essay refers to whatever object you’re analyzing. It’s frequently a piece of writing or a speech, but it doesn’t have to be. For example, you could also treat an advertisement or political cartoon as a text.

Logos appeals to the audience’s reason, building up logical arguments . Ethos appeals to the speaker’s status or authority, making the audience more likely to trust them. Pathos appeals to the emotions, trying to make the audience feel angry or sympathetic, for example.

Collectively, these three appeals are sometimes called the rhetorical triangle . They are central to rhetorical analysis , though a piece of rhetoric might not necessarily use all of them.

In rhetorical analysis , a claim is something the author wants the audience to believe. A support is the evidence or appeal they use to convince the reader to believe the claim. A warrant is the (often implicit) assumption that links the support with the claim.

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Master the art of crafting an impactful rhetorical essay to captivate your readers.

How to write a rhetorical essay

When it comes to expressing one’s thoughts and opinions, the art of rhetoric plays a crucial role. Whether it be through verbal communication or the written word, the power of persuasive language has the ability to sway hearts and minds, making it a powerful tool in any communicator’s arsenal. In this article, we will delve deep into the world of crafting a rhetorical essay, a form of composition that requires careful analysis, insightful interpretation, and skillful persuasion. By following a thoughtful and systematic approach, you will be able to effectively convey your message and leave a lasting impact on your audience.

Understanding the Nature of a Rhetorical Essay

An essay of rhetorical nature seeks to analyze and evaluate how the author uses various rhetorical appeals and strategies to effectively communicate their message. By dissecting the text, the writer aims to identify the key components that contribute to the overall persuasiveness of the composition. This could involve examining the author’s use of ethos, pathos, and logos, as well as the rhetorical devices employed, such as metaphor, irony, or repetition. Through a close examination of these elements, the writer can gain a deeper understanding of how they contribute to the audience’s perception and interpretation of the text.

The Importance of Pre-Writing

Before diving into the actual writing process, it is important to engage in thorough pre-writing activities. This includes reading and analyzing the text, identifying the author’s intended audience, and understanding the context in which the composition was created. By doing so, you will be able to gather the necessary information and develop a clear understanding of the rhetorical strategies employed by the author. This will also help you establish your own stance and create a solid foundation for your essay.

Understanding the purpose of a rhetorical essay

Understanding the purpose of a rhetorical essay

Exploring the true essence and objective of a rhetorical essay is vital for any aspiring writer. This type of essay delves into the art of persuasion, dissecting various techniques used to convince an audience of a particular point of view or argument. More than just presenting facts, a rhetorical essay aims to evoke emotions, challenge preconceived notions, and provoke critical thinking in its readers.

Unlike other forms of writing, a rhetorical essay allows the writer to express their opinions and beliefs openly. It serves as a platform for individuals to analyze and evaluate the effectiveness of rhetorical strategies employed by speakers or authors in order to sway an audience. By carefully examining language choices, logical reasoning, and appeals to ethos, pathos, and logos, the writer can gain a deeper understanding of the intended message and effectively convey their own interpretations.

Moreover, a rhetorical essay acts as a tool for students and scholars to enhance their analytical skills. It encourages them to critically analyze texts and speeches to uncover the underlying motives, biases, and strategies used. By closely studying the rhetoric employed in various forms of communication, writers can sharpen their ability to identify persuasive techniques and employ them effectively in their own writing.

  • Recognize the goals and intentions of the speaker or author.
  • Analyze the rhetorical strategies employed to convey meaning.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of those strategies in achieving the intended purpose.
  • Develop and present a well-structured argument based on the analysis.

In conclusion, understanding the purpose of a rhetorical essay goes beyond examining the surface-level techniques and strategies employed by speakers or authors. It involves delving deep into the art of persuasion, exploring the intended message, and honing one’s analytical skills. By becoming proficient in this form of writing, individuals can effectively engage and persuade their audience while developing their own critical thinking abilities.

Analyzing the rhetorical situation

When it comes to dissecting a rhetorical piece of writing, one of the first steps is to analyze the rhetorical situation. This involves examining the various elements that make up the context in which the text was produced, such as the audience, the purpose, and the speaker. By understanding these components, one can gain valuable insights into the persuasive techniques and strategies employed in the text.

Identifying the audience: The audience refers to the group of people for whom the text is intended. This could be a specific demographic, such as young adults or professionals in a particular field, or a broader general audience. Understanding the intended audience helps to determine the tone, language, and arguments used in the text.

Clarifying the purpose: Every piece of writing has a purpose, and analyzing the rhetorical situation involves determining what that purpose is. The purpose could be to inform, to persuade, to entertain, or a combination of these. By identifying the underlying purpose, one can better understand the rhetorical choices made by the author.

Evaluating the speaker: The speaker, or author, of a text plays a significant role in shaping its rhetorical elements. Analyzing the rhetorical situation involves considering the credibility, expertise, and biases of the speaker. By evaluating the speaker, one can assess their authority and understand how it impacts the persuasive power of the text.

Examining the context: Context refers to the broader circumstances surrounding the creation of the text. This includes factors such as the historical, social, and cultural background in which the text was produced. Analyzing the context helps to uncover the motivations behind the text and provides a deeper understanding of its rhetorical strategies.

By analyzing the rhetorical situation, readers can gain a comprehensive understanding of the persuasive techniques used in a text. This knowledge allows for a more critical and informed interpretation, enabling readers to engage with the piece on a deeper level.

Identifying the rhetoric elements

When analyzing a piece of writing from a rhetorical perspective, it is essential to be able to identify the various elements of rhetoric that are present. These elements encompass the strategies and techniques used by the writer to persuade and influence the audience. By understanding and recognizing these elements, readers can gain a deeper appreciation for the art of rhetoric and the effectiveness of the writer’s message.

One key element to look for is the use of ethos, which refers to the credibility and ethical appeal of the writer. This can be observed through the author’s use of personal anecdotes, expert testimonials, or the establishment of their own expertise on the subject. The presence of ethos can lend credibility to the writer’s argument and make the audience more likely to trust their perspective.

Another important rhetorical element to consider is pathos, which refers to the emotional appeal of the writing. This can be achieved through the use of vivid language, anecdotes that tug at the reader’s heartstrings, or appeals to their values and emotions. By appealing to the reader’s emotions, the writer can evoke empathy and create a lasting impact on the audience.

Additionally, the use of logos, or logical appeal, is another element to be aware of. This can be observed through the writer’s use of evidence, reasoning, and logical arguments to support their claims. By presenting a well-reasoned and logical argument, the writer can convince the audience of the validity of their perspective and sway their opinions.

Furthermore, the consideration of tone is crucial when identifying rhetoric elements. Tone refers to the author’s attitude and approach towards the subject matter and the audience. By analyzing the tone of the writing, readers can gain insight into the writer’s intentions and how they are attempting to persuade the audience.

Finally, an important rhetorical element is the use of rhetorical devices such as repetition, rhetorical questions, parallelism, and figurative language. These devices can add emphasis, create a memorable impact, and enhance the overall persuasive effect of the writing. Recognizing these devices allows readers to appreciate the skill and craftsmanship employed by the writer.

In summary, identifying the rhetoric elements within a piece of writing involves recognizing the use of ethos, pathos, logos, tone, and rhetorical devices. By analyzing these elements, readers can gain a deeper understanding of the writer’s persuasive techniques and the effectiveness of their argument. Being able to identify these elements is essential in appreciating the art of rhetoric and becoming a more critical and discerning reader.

Developing a thesis statement

Creating a strong and effective thesis statement is a crucial step in writing a successful essay. It serves as the foundation for your entire argument and guides the reader’s understanding of your main points. In this section, we will discuss the process of developing a thesis statement that encapsulates the central idea of your essay.

When crafting a thesis statement, it is essential to clearly articulate the main argument or claim you will be making in your essay. This statement should be concise, specific, and thought-provoking, setting the tone for the rest of your paper. The thesis should also be debatable, meaning there should be room for disagreement and a potential counter-argument.

To develop a strong thesis statement, start by identifying your topic or subject matter. What is the main focus of your essay? Once you have a clear understanding of your subject, think about the main point or argument you want to make. Consider the evidence and arguments you will present throughout your essay to support this main point.

Next, condense your main argument into a single, clear sentence. This thesis statement should be direct and assertive, expressing your overall stance on the topic. Avoid vague and general statements that lack specificity. Instead, aim for a thesis that is concise and impactful.

Additionally, your thesis statement should be compelling and engaging. It should grab the reader’s attention and make them interested in reading further. Consider incorporating strong language, rhetorical devices, or compelling evidence to make your thesis statement more persuasive and memorable.

Finally, it is important to revisit and revise your thesis statement as you progress in your essay writing process. As you gather more information and refine your arguments, your thesis statement may evolve or change altogether. Be open to reevaluating and adapting your thesis statement to best reflect the content and direction of your essay.

In conclusion, developing a well-crafted thesis statement is a vital component of writing a rhetorical essay. It serves as the foundation for your argument and sets the tone for the rest of your paper. By following these steps and continually revisiting and refining your thesis statement, you will create a strong and impactful essay.

Organizing your essay outline

Structuring your essay is a crucial step in the writing process, as it helps to ensure clarity and cohesiveness in your argument. In this section, we will explore effective strategies for organizing your essay outline, enabling you to present your rhetorical analysis in a logical and persuasive manner.

Begin by identifying the key elements of the text you will be analyzing. Look for the main thesis or argument, as well as any supporting evidence or rhetorical devices employed by the author. Once you have a clear understanding of these elements, you can start crafting your essay outline.

A strong introduction is essential to grab the reader’s attention and provide context for your analysis. Use a compelling opening statement or anecdote to engage the audience, and briefly outline the main points you will cover in your essay. Remember to include a clear thesis statement that articulates your overall interpretation of the text.

Next, divide the body of your essay into distinct sections, each focusing on a specific rhetorical device or strategy used by the author. Consider organizing your analysis chronologically, examining how the author introduces and develops their argument over the course of the text. Alternatively, you can organize your essay thematically, grouping together examples and evidence that support specific ideas or themes.

Within each section, provide a clear topic sentence that introduces the rhetorical device you will be discussing. Follow this with detailed analysis and examples, using quotes from the text to support your points. Be sure to explain how each rhetorical device contributes to the overall effectiveness of the author’s argument.

Finally, conclude your essay by summarizing your main points and offering a final analysis of the text. Restate your thesis in a fresh way, and consider the broader implications of the author’s rhetorical choices. What message or impact do they have on the audience? What can we learn from the author’s techniques? End your essay with a thought-provoking statement or question that encourages further reflection.

By organizing your essay outline in a clear and logical manner, you can effectively convey your analysis and persuade your audience of your interpretation. Remember to revise and refine your outline as you go, ensuring that each section flows seamlessly into the next. With a well-structured essay outline, you will be well-equipped to write a compelling rhetorical analysis.

Using effective rhetorical strategies

Mastering the art of persuasive writing involves implementing a variety of powerful rhetorical strategies that can captivate your audience and convey your message with clarity and impact. By skillfully using these strategies, you can enhance the effectiveness of your writing and persuade your readers to see things from your perspective.

Rhetorical strategies are techniques used to persuade or influence an audience. They involve the skillful use of language, structure, and appeals to emotions, logic, and ethics. These strategies can be used in various forms of writing, including speeches, essays, and advertisements, to effectively communicate your message and convince your audience of your viewpoint.

One effective rhetorical strategy is the use of rhetorical questions. By asking thought-provoking questions, you can engage your audience and encourage them to consider your ideas. Rhetorical questions are not meant to be answered, but rather to stimulate reflection and provoke thinking.

Another powerful strategy is the use of logical appeal, also known as logos. This involves presenting a logical argument supported by evidence, facts, and reasoning. By employing logical appeal, you can convince your audience through sound and rational arguments that are difficult to dispute.

Emotional appeal, or pathos, is another strategy that can be highly effective in persuading your audience. By appealing to their emotions, you can evoke empathy, sympathy, or even anger, motivating them to take action or change their viewpoint. Personal anecdotes, vivid imagery, and touching stories are all effective tools in creating emotional appeal.

The use of ethical appeal, or ethos, is also crucial in persuasive writing. It involves establishing credibility and trust with your audience by presenting yourself as knowledgeable, reliable, and trustworthy. By demonstrating your expertise and integrity, you can gain the confidence of your readers and make your argument more convincing.

Rhetorical Strategy Description
Rhetorical questions Engage the audience and provoke reflection
Logical appeal (logos) Present logical arguments supported by evidence and reasoning
Emotional appeal (pathos) Evoke emotions to motivate action or change
Ethical appeal (ethos) Establish credibility and trust with the audience

By utilizing these effective rhetorical strategies, you can effectively communicate your ideas and persuade your readers to engage with and accept your message. Remember to use these strategies strategically and analytically assess their effectiveness for each specific rhetorical situation.

Revising and editing your essay

Once you have completed the initial draft of your rhetorical analysis, it is crucial to revise and edit your essay to ensure clarity and coherence in your arguments. This stage of the writing process involves reviewing your work to identify any areas that require improvement or further development.

During the revision process, focus on examining the overall structure and flow of your essay. Consider whether your introduction effectively captures the reader’s attention and provides a clear thesis statement that sets the tone for the rest of the essay. Additionally, evaluate the development of your arguments in each paragraph and the effectiveness of your transitions between ideas.

When revising, pay close attention to the clarity and precision of your language. Eliminate any unnecessary jargon or technical terms that may confuse your audience. Instead, strive for clear and concise language that is accessible to a wide range of readers. Make sure your arguments are supported by evidence and examples, and that your analysis is thorough and well-reasoned.

Editing is an essential step in the writing process that involves checking for grammatical errors, typos, and inconsistencies in your essay. Carefully proofread your work for spelling and punctuation mistakes, and ensure that your writing adheres to the appropriate style guide. It can be helpful to read your essay aloud or have someone else review it to catch any errors that may have been overlooked.

Lastly, consider the overall effectiveness of your rhetorical analysis. Reflect on whether your essay successfully persuades your audience and achieves its intended purpose. Consider seeking feedback from others to gain different perspectives and to further improve your essay.

By revising and editing your essay, you can refine your arguments, improve the clarity of your language, and enhance the overall impact of your rhetorical analysis.

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Using Rhetorical Strategies for Persuasion

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There are three types of rhetorical appeals, or persuasive strategies, used in arguments to support claims and respond to opposing arguments. A good argument will generally use a combination of all three appeals to make its case.

Logos or the appeal to reason relies on logic or reason. Logos often depends on the use of inductive or deductive reasoning.

Inductive reasoning takes a specific representative case or facts and then draws generalizations or conclusions from them. Inductive reasoning must be based on a sufficient amount of reliable evidence. In other words, the facts you draw on must fairly represent the larger situation or population. Example:

In this example the specific case of fair trade agreements with coffee producers is being used as the starting point for the claim. Because these agreements have worked the author concludes that it could work for other farmers as well.

Deductive reasoning begins with a generalization and then applies it to a specific case. The generalization you start with must have been based on a sufficient amount of reliable evidence.Example:

In this example the author starts with a large claim, that genetically modified seeds have been problematic everywhere, and from this draws the more localized or specific conclusion that Mexico will be affected in the same way.

Avoid Logical Fallacies

These are some common errors in reasoning that will undermine the logic of your argument. Also, watch out for these slips in other people's arguments.

Slippery slope: This is a conclusion based on the premise that if A happens, then eventually through a series of small steps, through B, C,..., X, Y, Z will happen, too, basically equating A and Z. So, if we don't want Z to occur A must not be allowed to occur either. Example:

In this example the author is equating banning Hummers with banning all cars, which is not the same thing.

Hasty Generalization: This is a conclusion based on insufficient or biased evidence. In other words, you are rushing to a conclusion before you have all the relevant facts. Example:

In this example the author is basing their evaluation of the entire course on only one class, and on the first day which is notoriously boring and full of housekeeping tasks for most courses. To make a fair and reasonable evaluation the author must attend several classes, and possibly even examine the textbook, talk to the professor, or talk to others who have previously finished the course in order to have sufficient evidence to base a conclusion on.

Post hoc ergo propter hoc: This is a conclusion that assumes that if 'A' occurred after 'B' then 'B' must have caused 'A.' Example:

In this example the author assumes that if one event chronologically follows another the first event must have caused the second. But the illness could have been caused by the burrito the night before, a flu bug that had been working on the body for days, or a chemical spill across campus. There is no reason, without more evidence, to assume the water caused the person to be sick.

Genetic Fallacy: A conclusion is based on an argument that the origins of a person, idea, institute, or theory determine its character, nature, or worth. Example:

In this example the author is equating the character of a car with the character of the people who built the car.

Begging the Claim: The conclusion that the writer should prove is validated within the claim. Example:

Arguing that coal pollutes the earth and thus should be banned would be logical. But the very conclusion that should be proved, that coal causes enough pollution to warrant banning its use, is already assumed in the claim by referring to it as "filthy and polluting."

Circular Argument: This restates the argument rather than actually proving it. Example:

In this example the conclusion that Bush is a "good communicator" and the evidence used to prove it "he speaks effectively" are basically the same idea. Specific evidence such as using everyday language, breaking down complex problems, or illustrating his points with humorous stories would be needed to prove either half of the sentence.

Either/or: This is a conclusion that oversimplifies the argument by reducing it to only two sides or choices. Example:

In this example where two choices are presented as the only options, yet the author ignores a range of choices in between such as developing cleaner technology, car sharing systems for necessities and emergencies, or better community planning to discourage daily driving.

Ad hominem: This is an attack on the character of a person rather than their opinions or arguments. Example:

In this example the author doesn't even name particular strategies Green Peace has suggested, much less evaluate those strategies on their merits. Instead, the author attacks the characters of the individuals in the group.

Ad populum: This is an emotional appeal that speaks to positive (such as patriotism, religion, democracy) or negative (such as terrorism or fascism) concepts rather than the real issue at hand. Example:

In this example the author equates being a "true American," a concept that people want to be associated with, particularly in a time of war, with allowing people to buy any vehicle they want even though there is no inherent connection between the two.

Red Herring: This is a diversionary tactic that avoids the key issues, often by avoiding opposing arguments rather than addressing them. Example:

In this example the author switches the discussion away from the safety of the food and talks instead about an economic issue, the livelihood of those catching fish. While one issue may affect the other, it does not mean we should ignore possible safety issues because of possible economic consequences to a few individuals.

Ethos or the ethical appeal is based on the character, credibility, or reliability of the writer. There are many ways to establish good character and credibility as an author:

  • Use only credible, reliable sources to build your argument and cite those sources properly.
  • Respect the reader by stating the opposing position accurately.
  • Establish common ground with your audience. Most of the time, this can be done by acknowledging values and beliefs shared by those on both sides of the argument.
  • If appropriate for the assignment, disclose why you are interested in this topic or what personal experiences you have had with the topic.
  • Organize your argument in a logical, easy to follow manner. You can use the Toulmin method of logic or a simple pattern such as chronological order, most general to most detailed example, earliest to most recent example, etc.
  • Proofread the argument. Too many careless grammar mistakes cast doubt on your character as a writer.

Pathos , or emotional appeal, appeals to an audience's needs, values, and emotional sensibilities.  Pathos can also be understood as an appeal to audience's disposition to a topic, evidence, or argument (especially appropriate to academic discourse). 

Argument emphasizes reason, but used properly there is often a place for emotion as well. Emotional appeals can use sources such as interviews and individual stories to paint a more legitimate and moving picture of reality or illuminate the truth. For example, telling the story of a single child who has been abused may make for a more persuasive argument than simply the number of children abused each year because it would give a human face to the numbers.  Academic arguments in particular ​benefit from understanding pathos as appealing to an audience's academic disposition.

Only use an emotional appeal if it truly supports the claim you are making, not as a way to distract from the real issues of debate. An argument should never use emotion to misrepresent the topic or frighten people.

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What Is a Rhetorical Analysis and How to Write a Great One

Helly Douglas

Helly Douglas

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Do you have to write a rhetorical analysis essay? Fear not! We’re here to explain exactly what rhetorical analysis means, how you should structure your essay, and give you some essential “dos and don’ts.”

What is a Rhetorical Analysis Essay?

How do you write a rhetorical analysis, what are the three rhetorical strategies, what are the five rhetorical situations, how to plan a rhetorical analysis essay, creating a rhetorical analysis essay, examples of great rhetorical analysis essays, final thoughts.

A rhetorical analysis essay studies how writers and speakers have used words to influence their audience. Think less about the words the author has used and more about the techniques they employ, their goals, and the effect this has on the audience.

Image showing definitions

In your analysis essay, you break a piece of text (including cartoons, adverts, and speeches) into sections and explain how each part works to persuade, inform, or entertain. You’ll explore the effectiveness of the techniques used, how the argument has been constructed, and give examples from the text.

A strong rhetorical analysis evaluates a text rather than just describes the techniques used. You don’t include whether you personally agree or disagree with the argument.

Structure a rhetorical analysis in the same way as most other types of academic essays . You’ll have an introduction to present your thesis, a main body where you analyze the text, which then leads to a conclusion.

Think about how the writer (also known as a rhetor) considers the situation that frames their communication:

  • Topic: the overall purpose of the rhetoric
  • Audience: this includes primary, secondary, and tertiary audiences
  • Purpose: there are often more than one to consider
  • Context and culture: the wider situation within which the rhetoric is placed

Back in the 4th century BC, Aristotle was talking about how language can be used as a means of persuasion. He described three principal forms —Ethos, Logos, and Pathos—often referred to as the Rhetorical Triangle . These persuasive techniques are still used today.

Image showing rhetorical strategies

Rhetorical Strategy 1: Ethos

Are you more likely to buy a car from an established company that’s been an important part of your community for 50 years, or someone new who just started their business?

Reputation matters. Ethos explores how the character, disposition, and fundamental values of the author create appeal, along with their expertise and knowledge in the subject area.

Aristotle breaks ethos down into three further categories:

  • Phronesis: skills and practical wisdom
  • Arete: virtue
  • Eunoia: goodwill towards the audience

Ethos-driven speeches and text rely on the reputation of the author. In your analysis, you can look at how the writer establishes ethos through both direct and indirect means.

Rhetorical Strategy 2: Pathos

Pathos-driven rhetoric hooks into our emotions. You’ll often see it used in advertisements, particularly by charities wanting you to donate money towards an appeal.

Common use of pathos includes:

  • Vivid description so the reader can imagine themselves in the situation
  • Personal stories to create feelings of empathy
  • Emotional vocabulary that evokes a response

By using pathos to make the audience feel a particular emotion, the author can persuade them that the argument they’re making is compelling.

Rhetorical Strategy 3: Logos

Logos uses logic or reason. It’s commonly used in academic writing when arguments are created using evidence and reasoning rather than an emotional response. It’s constructed in a step-by-step approach that builds methodically to create a powerful effect upon the reader.

Rhetoric can use any one of these three techniques, but effective arguments often appeal to all three elements.

The rhetorical situation explains the circumstances behind and around a piece of rhetoric. It helps you think about why a text exists, its purpose, and how it’s carried out.

Image showing 5 rhetorical situations

The rhetorical situations are:

  • 1) Purpose: Why is this being written? (It could be trying to inform, persuade, instruct, or entertain.)
  • 2) Audience: Which groups or individuals will read and take action (or have done so in the past)?
  • 3) Genre: What type of writing is this?
  • 4) Stance: What is the tone of the text? What position are they taking?
  • 5) Media/Visuals: What means of communication are used?

Understanding and analyzing the rhetorical situation is essential for building a strong essay. Also think about any rhetoric restraints on the text, such as beliefs, attitudes, and traditions that could affect the author's decisions.

Before leaping into your essay, it’s worth taking time to explore the text at a deeper level and considering the rhetorical situations we looked at before. Throw away your assumptions and use these simple questions to help you unpick how and why the text is having an effect on the audience.

Image showing what to consider when planning a rhetorical essay

1: What is the Rhetorical Situation?

  • Why is there a need or opportunity for persuasion?
  • How do words and references help you identify the time and location?
  • What are the rhetoric restraints?
  • What historical occasions would lead to this text being created?

2: Who is the Author?

  • How do they position themselves as an expert worth listening to?
  • What is their ethos?
  • Do they have a reputation that gives them authority?
  • What is their intention?
  • What values or customs do they have?

3: Who is it Written For?

  • Who is the intended audience?
  • How is this appealing to this particular audience?
  • Who are the possible secondary and tertiary audiences?

4: What is the Central Idea?

  • Can you summarize the key point of this rhetoric?
  • What arguments are used?
  • How has it developed a line of reasoning?

5: How is it Structured?

  • What structure is used?
  • How is the content arranged within the structure?

6: What Form is Used?

  • Does this follow a specific literary genre?
  • What type of style and tone is used, and why is this?
  • Does the form used complement the content?
  • What effect could this form have on the audience?

7: Is the Rhetoric Effective?

  • Does the content fulfil the author’s intentions?
  • Does the message effectively fit the audience, location, and time period?

Once you’ve fully explored the text, you’ll have a better understanding of the impact it’s having on the audience and feel more confident about writing your essay outline.

A great essay starts with an interesting topic. Choose carefully so you’re personally invested in the subject and familiar with it rather than just following trending topics. There are lots of great ideas on this blog post by My Perfect Words if you need some inspiration. Take some time to do background research to ensure your topic offers good analysis opportunities.

Image showing considerations for a rhetorical analysis topic

Remember to check the information given to you by your professor so you follow their preferred style guidelines. This outline example gives you a general idea of a format to follow, but there will likely be specific requests about layout and content in your course handbook. It’s always worth asking your institution if you’re unsure.

Make notes for each section of your essay before you write. This makes it easy for you to write a well-structured text that flows naturally to a conclusion. You will develop each note into a paragraph. Look at this example by College Essay for useful ideas about the structure.

Image showing how to structure an essay

1: Introduction

This is a short, informative section that shows you understand the purpose of the text. It tempts the reader to find out more by mentioning what will come in the main body of your essay.

  • Name the author of the text and the title of their work followed by the date in parentheses
  • Use a verb to describe what the author does, e.g. “implies,” “asserts,” or “claims”
  • Briefly summarize the text in your own words
  • Mention the persuasive techniques used by the rhetor and its effect

Create a thesis statement to come at the end of your introduction.

After your introduction, move on to your critical analysis. This is the principal part of your essay.

  • Explain the methods used by the author to inform, entertain, and/or persuade the audience using Aristotle's rhetorical triangle
  • Use quotations to prove the statements you make
  • Explain why the writer used this approach and how successful it is
  • Consider how it makes the audience feel and react

Make each strategy a new paragraph rather than cramming them together, and always use proper citations. Check back to your course handbook if you’re unsure which citation style is preferred.

3: Conclusion

Your conclusion should summarize the points you’ve made in the main body of your essay. While you will draw the points together, this is not the place to introduce new information you’ve not previously mentioned.

Use your last sentence to share a powerful concluding statement that talks about the impact the text has on the audience(s) and wider society. How have its strategies helped to shape history?

Before You Submit

Poor spelling and grammatical errors ruin a great essay. Use ProWritingAid to check through your finished essay before you submit. It will pick up all the minor errors you’ve missed and help you give your essay a final polish. Look at this useful ProWritingAid webinar for further ideas to help you significantly improve your essays. Sign up for a free trial today and start editing your essays!

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You’ll find countless examples of rhetorical analysis online, but they range widely in quality. Your institution may have example essays they can share with you to show you exactly what they’re looking for.

The following links should give you a good starting point if you’re looking for ideas:

Pearson Canada has a range of good examples. Look at how embedded quotations are used to prove the points being made. The end questions help you unpick how successful each essay is.

Excelsior College has an excellent sample essay complete with useful comments highlighting the techniques used.

Brighton Online has a selection of interesting essays to look at. In this specific example, consider how wider reading has deepened the exploration of the text.

Image showing tips when reading a sample essay

Writing a rhetorical analysis essay can seem daunting, but spending significant time deeply analyzing the text before you write will make it far more achievable and result in a better-quality essay overall.

It can take some time to write a good essay. Aim to complete it well before the deadline so you don’t feel rushed. Use ProWritingAid’s comprehensive checks to find any errors and make changes to improve readability. Then you’ll be ready to submit your finished essay, knowing it’s as good as you can possibly make it.

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Helly Douglas is a UK writer and teacher, specialising in education, children, and parenting. She loves making the complex seem simple through blogs, articles, and curriculum content. You can check out her work at hellydouglas.com or connect on Twitter @hellydouglas. When she’s not writing, you will find her in a classroom, being a mum or battling against the wilderness of her garden—the garden is winning!

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Chapter 6: Thinking and Analyzing Rhetorically

6.4 Rhetorical Appeals: Logos, Pathos, and Ethos Defined

Melanie Gagich & Emilie Zickel

Rhetoric, as the previous chapters have discussed, is the way that authors use and manipulate language in order to persuade an audience. Once we understand the rhetorical situation out of which a text is created (why it was written, for whom it was written, by whom it was written, how the medium in which it was written creates certain constraints, or perhaps freedoms of expression), we can look at how all of those contextual elements shape the author’s creation of the text.

We can look first at the classical rhetorical appeals, which are the three ways to classify authors’ intellectual, moral, and emotional approaches to getting the audience to have the reaction that the author hopes for.

Rhetorical Appeals

Rhetorical appeals refer to ethos, pathos, and logos. These are classical Greek terms, dating back to Aristotle, who is traditionally seen as the father of rhetoric. To be rhetorically effective (and thus persuasive), an author must engage the audience in a variety of compelling ways, which involves carefully choosing how to craft his or her argument so that the outcome, audience agreement with the argument or point, is achieved. Aristotle defined these modes of engagement and gave them the terms that we still use today: logos, pathos, and ethos.

Logos: Appeal to Logic

Logic. Reason. Rationality. Logos is brainy and intellectual, cool, calm, collected, objective.

When an author relies on logos, it means that he or she is using logic, careful structure, and objective evidence to appeal to the audience. An author can appeal to an audience’s intellect by using information that can be fact checked (using multiple sources) and thorough explanations to support key points. Additionally, providing a solid and non-biased explanation of one’s argument is a great way for an author to invoke logos.

For example, if I were trying to convince my students to complete their homework, I might explain that I understand everyone is busy and they have other classes (non-biased), but the homework will help them get a better grade on their test (explanation). I could add to this explanation by providing statistics showing the number of students who failed and didn’t complete their homework versus the number of students who passed and did complete their homework (factual evidence).

Logical appeals rest on rational modes of thinking , such as

  • Comparison –  a comparison between one thing (with regard to your topic) and another, similar thing to help support your claim. It is important that the comparison is fair and valid – the things being compared must share significant traits of similarity.
  • Cause/effect thinking –  you argue that X has caused Y, or that X is likely to cause Y to help support your claim. Be careful with the latter – it can be difficult to predict that something “will” happen in the future.
  • Deductive reasoning –  starting with a broad, general claim/example and using it to support a more specific point or claim
  • Inductive reasoning –  using several specific examples or cases to make a broad generalization
  • Exemplification –  use of many examples or a variety of evidence to support a single point
  • Elaboration – moving beyond just including a fact, but explaining the significance or relevance of that fact
  • Coherent thought – maintaining a well organized line of reasoning; not repeating ideas or jumping around

Pathos: Appeal to Emotions

When an author relies on pathos, it means that he or she is trying to tap into the audience’s emotions to get them to agree with the author’s claim. An author using pathetic appeals wants the audience to feel something: anger, pride, joy, rage, or happiness.  For example, many of us have seen the ASPCA commercials that use photographs of injured puppies, or sad-looking kittens, and slow, depressing music to emotionally persuade their audience to donate money.

Pathos-based rhetorical strategies are any strategies that get the audience to “open up” to the topic, the argument, or to the author. Emotions can make us vulnerable, and an author can use this vulnerability to get the audience to believe that his or her argument is a compelling one.

Pathetic appeals might include

  • Expressive descriptions of people, places, or events that help the reader to feel or experience those events
  • Vivid imagery  of people, places or events that help the reader to feel like he or she is seeing  those events
  • Sharing  personal stories that make the reader feel a connection to, or empathy for, the person being described
  • Using emotion-laden   vocabulary  as a way to put the reader into that specific emotional mindset (what is the author trying to make the audience feel? and how is he or she doing that?)
  • Using any information that will evoke an emotional response from the audience . This could involve making the audience feel empathy or disgust for the person/group/event being discussed, or perhaps connection to or rejection of the person/group/event being discussed.

When reading a text, try to locate when the author is trying to convince the reader using emotions because, if used to excess, pathetic appeals can indicate a lack of substance or emotional manipulation of the audience. See the links below about fallacious pathos for more information.

Ethos: Appeal to Values/Trust

Ethical appeals have two facets: audience values and authorial credibility/character.

On the one hand, when an author makes an ethical appeal, he or she is attempting to  tap into the  values or ideologies that the audience holds , for example, patriotism, tradition, justice, equality, dignity for all humankind, self preservation, or other specific social, religious or philosophical values (Christian values, socialism, capitalism, feminism, etc.). These values can sometimes feel very close to emotions, but they are felt on a social level rather than only on a personal level. When an author evokes the values that the audience cares about as a way to justify or support his or her argument, we classify that as ethos. The audience will feel that the author is making an argument that is “right” (in the sense of moral “right”-ness, i.e., “My argument rests upon that values that matter to you. Therefore, you should accept my argument”). This first part of the definition of ethos, then, is focused on the audience’s values.

On the other hand, this sense of referencing what is “right” in an ethical appeal connects to the other sense of ethos: the  author. Ethos that is centered on the author revolves around two concepts: the credibility of the author and his or her character.

Credibility of the speaker/author is determined by his or her knowledge and expertise in the subject at hand. For example, if you are learning about Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, would you rather learn from a professor of physics or a cousin who took two science classes in high school thirty years ago? It is fair to say that, in general, the professor of physics would have more credibility to discuss the topic of physics. To establish his or her credibility, a n author may draw attention to who he or she is or what kinds of experience he or she has with the topic being discussed as an ethical appeal (i.e., “Because I have experience with this topic –  and I know my stuff! – you should trust what I am saying about this topic”). Some authors do not have to establish their credibility because the audience already knows who they are and that they are credible.

Character  is another aspect of ethos, and it   is different from credibility because it involves personal history and even personality traits. A person can be credible but lack character or vice versa. For example, in politics, sometimes the most experienced candidates – those who might be the most credible candidates – fail to win elections because voters do not accept their character. Politicians take pains to shape their character as leaders who have the interests of the voters at heart. The candidate who successfully proves to the voters (the audience) that he or she has the type of character that they can trust is more likely to win.

Thus, ethos comes down to trust. How can the author get the audience to trust him or her so that they will accept his or her argument? How can the the author make him or herself appear as a credible speaker who embodies the character traits that the audience values?

In building ethical appeals, we see authors

  • Referring either directly or indirectly to the values that matter to the intended audience (so that the audience will trust the speaker)
  • Using language, phrasing, imagery, or other writing styles common to people who hold those values, thereby “talking the talk” of people with those values (again, so that the audience is inclined to trust the speaker)
  • Referring to their experience and/or authority with the topic (and therefore demonstrating their credibility)
  • Referring to their own character, or making an effort to build their character in the text

When reading, you should always think about the author’s credibility regarding the subject as well as his or her character. Here is an example of a rhetorical move that connects with ethos: when reading an article about abortion, the author mentions that she has had an abortion. That is an example of an ethical move because the author is creating credibility via anecdotal evidence and first person narrative. In a rhetorical analysis project, it would be up to you, the analyzer, to point out this move and associate it with a rhetorical strategy.

 When writers misuse Logos, Pathos, or Ethos, arguments can be weakened

Above, we defined and described what logos, pathos, and ethos are and why authors may use those strategies. Sometimes, using a combination of logical, pathetic, and ethical appeals leads to a sound, balanced, and persuasive argument. It is important to understand, though, that using rhetorical appeals does not always lead to a sound, balanced argument.

In fact, any of the appeals could be misused or overused. When that happens, arguments can be weakened.

To see what a misuse of logical appeals might consist of, see the next chapter,   Logical Fallacies.

To see how authors can overuse emotional appeals and turn-off their target audience, visit the following link from WritingCommons.org :   Fallacious Pathos . 

To see how ethos can be misused or used in a manner that may be misleading, visit the following link to WritingCommons.org :  Fallacious Ethos

A Guide to Rhetoric, Genre, and Success in First-Year Writing by Melanie Gagich & Emilie Zickel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.


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how can you apply rhetorical when writing a persuasive essay

How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis: Full Guide

how can you apply rhetorical when writing a persuasive essay

Have you ever been completely fascinated by a speech or ad, wondering how it managed to convince you so effectively? From powerful political speeches to catchy commercials, persuasion is all around us, shaping our thoughts and choices every day.

In this guide, we'll explain all about a rhetorical analysis essay. We'll break down the clever tricks writers and speakers use to win over their audience, like how they choose their words carefully and play with our emotions. This article will give you the tools you need to understand and analyze texts more deeply. So, let’s jump right in and start by understanding the nature of this assignment first.

What is a Rhetorical Analysis Essay

A rhetorical analysis essay is a type of essay where you examine how authors or speakers use words, phrases, and other techniques to influence or persuade their audience. This type of essay focuses on analyzing the strategies used by the writer or speaker to achieve their purpose, whether it's to inform, persuade, entertain, or provoke.

You'll dissect the text or speech into its components, looking at how each part contributes to the overall message. This might involve examining the introduction, thesis statement, body paragraphs, evidence, and conclusion.

Once you've identified the strategies used, you'll assess their effectiveness in achieving the author's or speaker's purpose. This involves considering the intended audience, context, and the impact of the communication.

As per our essay writing service , some common topics for rhetorical analysis include analyzing speeches by influential leaders, dissecting political advertisements, or examining the rhetoric used in literary works.

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Rhetorical Analysis Topic Ideas

Now that we've grasped the essence of a rhetorical analysis essay let's explore some potential topics you might consider for your own analysis. Here are 15 specific ideas to get you started:

  • The Use of Metaphors in Barack Obama's 'Yes We Can' Speech
  • Visual Rhetoric in Dove's 'Real Beauty' Advertising Campaign
  • The Role of Irony in Jonathan Swift's 'A Modest Proposal'
  • The Manipulation of Emotions in Coca-Cola's 'Share a Coke' Campaign
  • The Repetition Technique in Winston Churchill's 'We Shall Fight on the Beaches' Speech
  • The Argument Structure in Michelle Obama's Speech on Education
  • The Use of Imagery in Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Raven'
  • Gender Stereotypes in Old Spice's 'The Man Your Man Could Smell Like' Ad
  • Satirical Elements in George Orwell's 'Animal Farm'
  • The Influence of Tone in Greta Thunberg's Climate Change Speeches
  • Political Symbolism in Banksy's Street Art
  • Humor as Persuasion in Ellen DeGeneres' Stand-Up Comedy
  • The Power of Silence in Emma Watson's UN Speech on Gender Equality
  • Ethical Appeals in ASPCA's Animal Rights Advertisements
  • The Cultural References in Super Bowl Commercials: A Case Study

How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis

Understanding how to start a rhetorical analysis essay involves dissecting a piece of communication to learn how it works and what effect it aims to achieve. This analytical process typically includes five paragraphs and three main parts: an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Below, our analytical essay writing service will explain each in more detail

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Outline

Major Rhetorical Elements

Before heading towards the analysis process, it's essential to grasp some key rhetorical concepts that will help guide your examination of the text or speech. These concepts provide a framework for understanding how authors and speakers use language to persuade and influence their audience.

Ethos, pathos logos in rhetorical analysis form the foundation of persuasive communication and are often intertwined in rhetorical strategies. Ethos refers to the credibility or authority of the speaker or author. Pathos involves appealing to the audience's emotions, while logos appeals to reason and logic.

There are also other rhetorical devices that are specific techniques or patterns of language used to convey meaning or evoke particular responses. Examples include metaphor, simile, imagery, irony, repetition, and hyperbole. Recognizing and analyzing these devices can provide insight into the author's intended message and its impact on the audience.

Tone and mood also play crucial roles in shaping the audience's perception and response to the communication. Tone refers to the author's attitude toward the subject matter, while mood describes the emotional atmosphere created by the text.

Whether you ask us - write my essay , or tackle the task yourself, familiarizing yourself with these concepts will help you analyze the text and persuade the audience more effectively.

Understanding Rhetorical Appeals

Understanding Rhetorical Appeals

First off, what is ethos in rhetorical analysis? Well, it revolves around establishing the credibility and authority of the speaker or author. This appeal seeks to convince the audience that the communicator is trustworthy, knowledgeable, and reliable. Ethos in rhetorical analysis can be built through various means, including:

  • Professional Credentials : Demonstrating expertise in the subject matter through relevant qualifications or experience.
  • Personal Character : Highlighting traits such as honesty, integrity, and sincerity to engender trust and respect.
  • Association : Aligning oneself with respected individuals, institutions, or causes to enhance credibility by association.

For instance, in a health-related speech, a doctor might leverage their medical expertise and professional experience (credentials) to establish ethos. Similarly, a celebrity endorsing a product is using their fame and reputation (association) to persuade consumers.

Now, let's understand what is pathos in rhetorical analysis. Pathos involves appealing to the audience's emotions, aiming to evoke feelings such as empathy, sympathy, joy, anger, or fear. This emotional connection can be a powerful tool for persuasion, as it resonates with the audience on a personal level. Strategies for employing pathos in rhetorical analysis include:

  • Vivid Imagery : Painting a vivid picture or narrative that elicits strong emotional responses from the audience.
  • Anecdotes : Sharing personal stories or anecdotes that evoke empathy or sympathy and make the message more relatable.
  • Language Choice : Using emotive language, sensory details, and rhetorical devices to evoke specific emotional reactions.

For example, in a charity advertisement for children in need, images of impoverished and suffering children coupled with heart-wrenching stories (anecdotes) are used to evoke feelings of compassion and a desire to help.

Lastly, what is logos in rhetorical analysis, you may ask. It appeals to reason and logic, aiming to persuade the audience through rational argumentation and evidence. This appeal relies on facts, statistics, logical reasoning, and sound arguments to convince the audience of the validity of the message. Strategies for employing logos in rhetorical analysis include:

  • Factual Evidence : Providing empirical data, research findings, or expert opinions to support the argument.
  • Logical Reasoning : Presenting a well-structured argument with clear premises and conclusions that logically follow one another.
  • Counterarguments : Addressing potential counterarguments and refuting them with logical reasoning and evidence.

For instance, in a persuasive essay advocating for environmental conservation, the author might present scientific data on climate change (factual evidence) and use logical reasoning to explain the consequences of inaction.

Text and Context

Text analysis involves closely examining the language, structure, and rhetorical devices employed within the communication. This includes identifying key themes, rhetorical appeals, persuasive strategies, and stylistic elements used by the author or speaker to convey their message.

For example, in a political speech advocating for healthcare reform, text analysis might involve identifying the use of rhetorical appeals such as ethos (e.g., highlighting the speaker's experience in healthcare policy), pathos (e.g., sharing anecdotes of individuals struggling with medical costs), and logos (e.g., presenting statistics on healthcare affordability).

Contextual analysis involves considering the broader social, cultural, and historical factors that shape communication and influence its reception. This includes examining the audience demographics, the political and cultural climate, the historical events surrounding the communication, and any relevant societal norms or values.

For instance, when analyzing a historical speech advocating for civil rights, contextual research paper writers might involve considering the social and political context of the time, including prevailing attitudes towards race, ongoing civil rights movements, and recent legislative developments.

Claims, Supports, and Warrants

A claim is a statement or assertion that the author or speaker is advocating for or seeking to prove. Claims can take various forms, including factual claims (assertions of fact), value claims (judgments about what is good or bad), and policy claims (proposals for action). For example, in an argumentative essay about the importance of exercise, the claim might be that regular physical activity is essential for maintaining good health.

Supports are the evidence, reasoning, or examples provided to substantiate and strengthen the claims being made. Supports can take many forms, including empirical data, expert testimony, personal anecdotes, logical reasoning, and analogies. The quality and relevance of the supports provided play a critical role in the persuasiveness of the argument.

Continuing with the example of the argumentative essay about exercise, supports might include scientific studies demonstrating the health benefits of physical activity, testimonials from fitness experts, and personal stories of individuals who have experienced positive changes from incorporating exercise into their routine.

Warrants are the underlying assumptions or principles that connect the supports to the claims. They provide the reasoning or justification for why the supports are relevant and valid evidence for supporting the claims. Warrants are often implicit rather than explicit and require careful analysis to uncover. In the context of the essay on exercise, the warrant connecting the supports to the claim might be the assumption that actions that promote good health are inherently valuable and worthy of pursuit.

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Outline

Whether you opt for the option to buy essay or start writing it yourself, it's important to use a clear plan to organize your thoughts well. This plan usually includes four main steps, each looking at different parts of your analysis.

Analyzing the Text

Before writing a rhetorical analysis, take the time to thoroughly analyze the text you'll be examining. This means more than just skimming through it; it requires a thorough understanding of its subtleties and complexities. Here are some questions to guide your analysis:

  • How does the text try to sway its audience? What methods does it use to convince or influence them?
  • Which rhetorical appeals—ethos (credibility), pathos (emotion), logos (logic)—does the author use, and how do they contribute to the overall argument?
  • What specific rhetorical devices and strategies does the author employ to effectively convey their message? Are there any patterns or recurring motifs?
  • How does the structure of the text contribute to its persuasive power or overall impact?
  • Are there any cultural, historical, or contextual factors that influence how the text is perceived or understood?

By scrutinizing the text in this manner, you'll gain a deeper understanding of how it functions and the techniques employed by the author to achieve their desired effect.

Rhetorical Analysis Introduction

The introduction sets the stage for your analysis by providing essential context and framing the discussion. Start by introducing the text you're analyzing, including the author's name and the title of the work. Provide some background information to give context to your analysis. For example, if you're analyzing a speech, mention the occasion or event where it was delivered.

Next, summarize the main arguments or claims made by the author. Highlight the rhetorical techniques they use to persuade their audience. Are they appealing to logic, emotion, credibility, or a combination of these? Use specific examples from the text to illustrate these techniques discussed by our dissertation service .

For instance, if you're analyzing a speech on climate change, mention the speaker's expertise in environmental science to establish credibility. Summarize the key points they make about the consequences of inaction and the urgent need for change.

Finally, conclude your introduction with a clear thesis statement. This statement should encapsulate the main argument or purpose of your analysis.

Rhetorical Analysis Body Paragraph

The body paragraphs form the crux of your analysis, where you delve into the details of the text and dissect its rhetorical strategies. Each paragraph should focus on a specific aspect of the text, such as the use of ethos, pathos, logos, or specific rhetorical devices.

Utilize Aristotle's rhetorical triangle and other key concepts introduced earlier to guide your analysis. Provide quotations or examples from the text to illustrate your points and explain why the author chose certain approaches. Evaluate the effectiveness of these strategies in achieving the author's goals and persuading the audience.

For instance, if you're discussing the use of pathos in a marketing campaign, analyze the emotional appeal of the imagery or language used and consider how it resonates with the target audience.

Rhetorical Analysis Conclusion

In the conclusion, it's crucial to reinforce your main arguments and evaluate the author's effectiveness in achieving their goals, whether you're writing an MLA or APA essay format . Reflect on the overall impact of the text on both its immediate audience and society at large, underscoring the importance of your analysis.

Resist the temptation to introduce new ideas in the conclusion. Instead, draw upon the points you've already explored in the body of your essay to strengthen your analysis. Conclude with a poignant statement that resonates with your readers, encapsulating the essence of your interpretation and leaving a lasting impression. This final remark should tie together the threads of your analysis, leaving the reader with a deeper understanding of the text's rhetorical strategies and significance.

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Example

In this section, you'll discover two essay samples that skillfully demonstrate the application of rhetorical analysis. These examples offer insightful insights into the effective use of rhetorical techniques in writing.

5 Rhetorical Analysis Essay Tips

Here are five focused tips that will help you lay a solid foundation for your examination.

  • Dissect Rhetorical Strategies : Break down the text to identify specific rhetorical devices such as metaphor, simile, or parallelism.
  • Evaluate Tone and Diction : Pay attention to the author's tone and word choice. Analyze how these elements contribute to the overall mood of the text.
  • Probe Ethos, Pathos, Logos : Explore how the author establishes credibility (ethos), evokes emotions (pathos), and employs logic (logos) to sway the audience.
  • Contextualize Historical Significance : Consider the historical, cultural, and social backdrop against which the text was written.
  • Craft a Structured Analysis : Organize your essay with a clear introduction, body paragraphs focusing on specific rhetorical elements, and a conclusion that synthesizes your findings.

Final Words

As we near the end, it's important to analyze carefully whether you're examining a speech, an advertisement, or a story. Pay attention to the smart tactics that influence our thinking. It's all about revealing how we communicate and relate to one another. Ultimately, understanding rhetoric offers a fresh perspective on the world beyond just academic success.

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What is a Rhetorical Analysis Essay?

How to structure a rhetorical analysis essay, how to write a rhetorical analysis essay.

Daniel Parker

Daniel Parker

is a seasoned educational writer focusing on scholarship guidance, research papers, and various forms of academic essays including reflective and narrative essays. His expertise also extends to detailed case studies. A scholar with a background in English Literature and Education, Daniel’s work on EssayPro blog aims to support students in achieving academic excellence and securing scholarships. His hobbies include reading classic literature and participating in academic forums.

how can you apply rhetorical when writing a persuasive essay

is an expert in nursing and healthcare, with a strong background in history, law, and literature. Holding advanced degrees in nursing and public health, his analytical approach and comprehensive knowledge help students navigate complex topics. On EssayPro blog, Adam provides insightful articles on everything from historical analysis to the intricacies of healthcare policies. In his downtime, he enjoys historical documentaries and volunteering at local clinics.

How to Write an Argumentative Essay

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III. Rhetorical Situation

3.7 Rhetorical Modes of Writing

Kathryn Crowther; Lauren Curtright; Nancy Gilbert; Barbara Hall; Tracienne Ravita; Kirk Swenson; Ann Inoshita; Karyl Garland; Kate Sims; Jeanne K. Tsutsui Keuma; Tasha Williams; Susan Wood; and Terri Pantuso

Rhetorical modes simply mean the ways we can effectively communicate through language. Each day people interact with others to tell a story about a new pet, describe a transportation problem, explain a solution to a science experiment, evaluate the quality of an information source, persuade a customer that a brand is the best, or even reveal what has caused a particular medical issue. We speak in a manner that is purposeful to each situation, and writing is no different. While rhetorical modes can refer to both speaking and writing, in this section we discuss the ways in which we shape our writing according to our purpose or intent. Your purpose for writing determines the mode you choose.

Typically speaking, the four major categories of rhetorical modes are narration, description, exposition, and persuasion.

  • The narrative essay tells a relevant story or relates an event.
  • The descriptive essay uses vivid, sensory details to draw a picture in words.
  • The writer’s purpose in expository writing is to explain or inform. Oftentimes, exposition is subdivided into other modes: classification, evaluation, process, definition, comparison/contrast, and cause/effect.
  • In the persuasive essay, the writer’s purpose is to persuade or convince the reader by presenting one idea against another and clearly taking a stand on one side of the issue. We often use several of these modes in everyday and professional writing situations, so we will also consider special examples of these modes such as personal statements and other common academic writing assignments.

Whether you are asked to write a cause/effect essay in a history class, a comparison/contrast report in biology, or a narrative email recounting the events in a situation on the job, you will be equipped to express yourself precisely and communicate your message clearly. Learning these rhetorical modes will also help you to become a more effective writer.

Narration means the art of storytelling, and the purpose of narrative writing is to tell stories. Any time you tell a story to a friend or family member about an event or incident in your day, you engage in a form of narration. A narrative can be factual or fictional. A factual story is one that is based on, and tries to be faithful to, actual events as they unfolded in real life. A fictional story is a made-up, or imagined, story. When writing a fictional story, we can create characters and events to best fit our story.

The big distinction between factual and fictional narratives is determined by a writer’s purpose. The writers of factual stories try to recount events as they actually happened, but writers of fictional stories can depart from real people and events because their intentions are not to retell a real-life event. Biographies and memoirs are examples of factual stories, whereas novels and short stories are examples of fictional stories.

Because the line between fact and fiction can often blur, it is helpful to understand what your purpose is from the beginning. Is it important that you recount history, either your own or someone else’s? Or does your interest lie in reshaping the world in your own image—either how you would like to see it or how you imagine it could be? Your answers will go a long way in shaping the stories you tell.

Ultimately, whether the story is fact or fiction, narrative writing tries to relay a series of events in an emotionally engaging way. You want your audience to be moved by your story, which could mean through laughter, sympathy, fear, anger, and so on. The more clearly you tell your story, the more emotionally engaged your audience is likely to be.

The Structure of a Narrative Essay

Major narrative events are most often conveyed in chronological order, the order in which events unfold from first to last. Stories typically have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and these events are typically organized by time. However, sometimes it can be effective to begin with an exciting moment from the climax of the story (“flash-forward”) or a pivotal event from the past (“flash-back”) before returning to a chronological narration. Certain transitional words and phrases aid in keeping the reader oriented in the sequencing of a story.

The following are the other basic components of a narrative:

  • Plot: The events as they unfold in sequence.
  • Characters:  The people who inhabit the story and move it forward. Typically, there are minor characters and main characters. The minor characters generally play supporting roles to the main character, or the protagonist.
  • Conflict:  The primary problem or obstacle that unfolds in the plot that the protagonist must solve or overcome by the end of the narrative. The way in which the protagonist resolves the conflict of the plot results in the theme of the narrative.
  • Theme:  The ultimate message the narrative is trying to express; it can be either explicit or implicit.
  • Write the narrative of a typical Saturday in your life.
  • Write a narrative of your favorite movie.


Writers use description in writing to make sure that their audience is fully immersed in the words on the page. This requires a concerted effort by the writer to describe the world through the use of sensory details.

As mentioned earlier, sensory details are descriptions that appeal to our sense of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. The use of sensory details provides you the greatest possibility of relating to your audience and thus engaging them in your writing, making descriptive writing important not only during your education but also during everyday situations. To make your writing vivid and appealing, avoid empty descriptors if possible. Empty descriptors are adjectives that can mean different things to different people. Good, beautiful, terrific, and nice are examples. The use of such words in descriptions can lead to misreads and confusion. A good day, for instance, can mean far different things depending on one’s age, personality, or tastes.

The Structure of a Description Essay

Description essays typically describe a person, a place, or an object using sensory details. The structure of a descriptive essay is more flexible than in some of the other rhetorical modes. The introduction of a description essay should set up the tone and focus of the essay. The thesis should convey the writer’s overall impression of the person, place, or object described in the body paragraphs.

The organization of the essay may best follow spatial order, which means an arrangement of ideas according to physical characteristics or appearance. Depending on what the writer describes, the organization could move from top to bottom, left to right, near to far, warm to cold, frightening to inviting, and so on. For example, if the subject were a client’s kitchen in the midst of renovation, you might start at one side of the room and move slowly across to the other end, describing appliances, cabinetry, and so on. Or you might choose to start with older remnants of the kitchen and progress to the new installations. Or maybe start with the floor and move up toward the ceiling.

  • Describe various objects found in your room.
  • Describe an analog clock.


The purpose of classification is to break down broad subjects into smaller, more manageable, more specific parts. We classify things in our daily lives all the time, often without even thinking about it. For example, cars can be classified by type (convertible, sedan, station-wagon, or SUV) or by the fuel they use (diesel, petrol, electric, or hybrid). Smaller categories, and the way in which these categories are created, help us make sense of the world. Keep both of these elements in mind when writing a classification essay. It’s best to choose topics that you know well when writing classification essays. The more you know about a topic, the more you can break it into smaller, more interesting parts. Adding interest and insight will enhance your classification essays.

The Structure of a Classification Essay

The classification essay opens with a paragraph that introduces the broader topic. The thesis should then explain how that topic is divided into subgroups and why. Take the following introductory paragraph, for example:

When people think of New York, they often think of only New York City. But New York is actually a diverse state with a full range of activities to do, sights to see, and cultures to explore. In order to better understand the diversity of New York State, it is helpful to break it into these five separate regions: Long Island, New York City, Western New York, Central New York, and Northern New York.

The underlined thesis explains not only the category and subcategory, but also the rationale for breaking the topic into those categories. Through this classification essay, the writer hopes to show the readers a different way of considering the state of New York.

Each body paragraph of a classification essay is dedicated to fully illustrating each of the subcategories. In the previous example, then, each region of New York would have its own paragraph. To avoid settling for an overly simplistic classification, make sure you break down any given topic at least three different ways. This will help you think outside the box and perhaps even learn something entirely new about a subject.

The conclusion should bring all of the categories and subcategories back together again to show the reader the big picture. In the previous example, the conclusion might explain how the various sights and activities of each region of New York add to its diversity and complexity.

  • Classify your college by majors (i.e. biology, chemistry, physics, etc.).
  • Classify the variety of fast food places available to you by types of foods sold in each location.

Writers evaluate arguments in order to present an informed and well-reasoned judgment about a subject. While the evaluation will be based on their opinion, it should not seem opinionated. Instead, it should aim to be reasonable and unbiased. This is achieved through developing a solid judgment, selecting appropriate criteria to evaluate the subject, and providing clear evidence to support the criteria.

Evaluation is a type of writing that has many real-world applications. Anything can be evaluated. For example, evaluations of movies, restaurants, books, and technology ourselves are all real-world evaluations.

The Structure of an Evaluation Essay

Evaluation essays are typically structured as follows.

Subject : First, the essay will present the subject. What is being evaluated? Why? The essay begins with the writer giving any details needed about the subject.

Judgement : Next, the essay needs to provide a judgment about a subject. This is the thesis of the essay, and it states whether the subject is good or bad based on how it meets the stated criteria.

Criteria : The body of the essay will contain the criteria used to evaluate the subject. In an evaluation essay, the criteria must be appropriate for evaluating the subject under consideration. Appropriate criteria will help to keep the essay from seeming biased or unreasonable. If authors evaluated the quality of a movie based on the snacks sold at the snack bar, that would make them seem unreasonable, and their evaluation may be disregarded because of it.

Evidence : The evidence of an evaluation essay consists of the supporting details authors provide based on their judgment of the criteria. For example, if the subject of an evaluation is a restaurant, a judgment could be “Kay’s Bistro provides an unrivaled experience in fine dining.” Some authors evaluate fine dining restaurants by identifying appropriate criteria in order to rate the establishment’s food quality, service, and atmosphere. The examples are the evidence.

Another example of evaluation is literary analysis; judgments may be made about a character in the story based on the character’s actions, characteristics, and past history within the story. The scenes in the story are evidence for why readers have a certain opinion of the character.

Job applications and interviews are more examples of evaluations. Based on certain criteria, management and hiring committees determine which applicants will be considered for an interview and which applicant will be hired.

  • Evaluate a restaurant. What do you expect in a good restaurant? What criteria determines whether a restaurant is good?
  • List three criteria that you will use to evaluate a restaurant. Then dine there. Afterwards, explain whether or not the restaurant meets each criteria, and include evidence (qualities from the restaurant) that backs your evaluation.
  • Give the restaurant a star rating. (5 Stars: Excellent, 4 Stars: Very Good, 3 Stars: Good, 2 Stars: Fair, 1 Star: Poor). Explain why the restaurant earned this star rating.

The purpose of a process essay is to explain how to do something (directional) or how something works (informative). In either case, the formula for a process essay remains the same. The process is articulated into clear, definitive steps.

Almost everything we do involves following a step-by-step process. From learning to ride a bike as a child to starting a new job as an adult, we initially needed instructions to effectively execute the task. Likewise, we have likely had to instruct others, so we know how important good directions are—and how frustrating it is when they are poorly put together.

The Structure of a Process Essay

The process essay opens with a discussion of the process and a thesis statement that states the goal of the process. The organization of a process essay typically follows chronological order. The steps of the process are conveyed in the order in which they usually occur, and so your body paragraphs will be constructed based on these steps. If a particular step is complicated and needs a lot of explaining, then it will likely take up a paragraph on its own. But if a series of simple steps is easy to understand, then the steps can be grouped into a single paragraph. Words such as first, second, third, next, and finally are cues to orient readers and organize the content of the essay.

Finally, it’s a good idea to always have someone else read your process analysis to make sure it makes sense. Once we get too close to a subject, it is difficult to determine how clearly an idea is coming across. Having a peer read over your analysis will serve as a good way to troubleshoot any confusing spots.

  • Describe the process for applying to college.
  • Describe the process of your favorite game (board, card, video, etc.).

The purpose of a definition essay may seem self-explanatory: to write an extended definition of a word or term. But defining terms in writing is often more complicated than just consulting a dictionary. In fact, the way we define terms can have far-reaching consequences for individuals as well as collective groups. Take, for example, a word like alcoholism. The way in which one defines alcoholism depends on its legal, moral, and medical contexts. Lawyers may define alcoholism in terms of its legality; parents may define alcoholism in terms of its morality; and doctors will define alcoholism in terms of symptoms and diagnostic criteria. Think also of terms that people tend to debate in our broader culture. How we define words, such as marriage and climate change, has an enormous impact on policy decisions and even on daily decisions. Debating the definition of a word or term might have an impact on your relationship or your job, or it might simply be a way to understand an unfamiliar phrase in popular culture or a technical term in a new profession.

Defining terms within a relationship, or any other context, can be difficult at first, but once a definition is established between two people or a group of people, it is easier to have productive dialogues. Definitions, then, establish the way in which people communicate ideas. They set parameters for a given discourse, which is why they are so important.

When writing definition essays, avoid terms that are too simple, that lack complexity. Think in terms of concepts, such as hero, immigration, or loyalty, rather than physical objects. Definitions of concepts, rather than objects, are often fluid and contentious, making for a more effective definition essay. For definition essays, try to think of concepts in which you have a personal stake. You are more likely to write a more engaging definition essay if you are writing about an idea that has value and importance to you.

The Structure of a Definition Essay

The definition essay opens with a general discussion of the term to be defined. You then state your definition of the term as your thesis. The rest of the essay should explain the rationale for your definition. Remember that a dictionary’s definition is limiting, so you should not rely strictly on the dictionary entry. Indeed, unless you are specifically addressing an element of the dictionary definition (perhaps to dispute or expand it), it is best to avoid quoting the dictionary in your paper. Instead, consider the context in which you are using the word. Context identifies the circumstances, conditions, or setting in which something exists or occurs. Often words take on different meanings depending on the context in which they are used. For example, the ideal leader in a battlefield setting could likely be very different from a leader in an elementary school setting. If a context is missing from the essay, the essay may be too short or the main points could be vague and confusing.

The remainder of the essay should explain different aspects of the term’s definition. For example, if you were defining a good leader in an elementary classroom setting, you might define such a leader according to personality traits: patience, consistency, and flexibility. Each attribute would be explained in its own paragraph. Be specific and detailed: flesh out each paragraph with examples and connections to the larger context.

  • Define what is meant by the word local.
  • Define what is meant by the word community.

Comparison and Contrast

Comparison in writing discusses elements that are similar, while contrast in writing discusses elements that are different. A compare-and-contrast essay, then, analyzes two subjects by examining them closely and comparing them, contrasting them, or both. The key to a good compare-and-contrast essay is to choose two or more subjects that connect in a meaningful way. The purpose of conducting the comparison or contrast is not to state the obvious but rather to illuminate subtle differences or unexpected similarities. For example, if you wanted to focus on contrasting two subjects you would not pick apples and oranges; rather, you might choose to compare and contrast two types of oranges or two types of apples to highlight subtle differences. For example, Red Delicious apples are sweet, while Granny Smiths are tart and acidic. Drawing distinctions between elements in a similar category will increase the audience’s understanding of that category, which is the purpose of the compare-and-contrast essay.

Similarly, to focus on comparison, choose two subjects that seem at first to be unrelated. For a comparison essay, you likely would not choose two apples or two oranges because they share so many of the same properties already. Rather, you might try to compare how apples and oranges are quite similar. The more divergent the two subjects initially seem, the more interesting a comparison essay will be.

The Structure of a Comparison-and-Contrast Essay

The compare-and-contrast essay starts with a thesis that clearly states the two subjects that are to be compared, contrasted, or both, and the reason for doing so. The thesis could lean more toward comparing, contrasting, or both. Remember, the point of comparing and contrasting is to provide useful knowledge to the reader. Take the following thesis as an example that leans more toward contrasting.

Thesis statement: Organic vegetables may cost more than those that are conventionally grown, but when put to the test, they are definitely worth every extra penny.

Here the thesis sets up the two subjects to be compared and contrasted (organic versus conventional vegetables), and it makes a claim about the results that might prove useful to the reader. You may organize compare-and-contrast essays in one of the following two ways:

  • According to the subjects themselves, discussing one and then the other.
  • According to individual points, discussing each subject in relation to each point.

The organizational structure you choose depends on the nature of the topic, your purpose, and your audience.

  • Compare two types of fruit, then
  • Contrast how they are different from each other

Cause and Effect

It is often considered human nature to ask, “why?” and “how?” We want to know how our child got sick so we can better prevent it from happening in the future, or why our colleague received a pay raise because we want one as well. We want to know how much money we will save over the long term if we buy a hybrid car. These examples identify only a few of the relationships we think about in our lives, but each shows the importance of understanding cause and effect.

A cause is something that produces an event or condition; an effect is what results from an event or condition. The purpose of the cause-and-effect essay is to determine how various phenomena relate in terms of origins and results. Sometimes the connection between cause and effect is clear, but often determining the exact relationship between the two is very difficult. For example, the following effects of a cold may be easily identifiable: a sore throat, runny nose, and a cough. But determining the cause of the sickness can be far more difficult. A number of causes are possible, and to complicate matters, these possible causes could have combined to lead to the sickness. That is, more than one cause may be responsible for any given effect. Therefore, cause-and effect discussions are often complicated and frequently lead to debates and arguments.

Indeed, you can use the complex nature of cause and effect to your advantage. Often it is not necessary, or even possible, to find the exact cause of an event or to name the exact effect. So, when formulating a thesis, you can claim one of a number of causes or effects to be the primary, or main, cause or effect. As soon as you claim that one cause or one effect is more crucial than the others, you have developed a thesis.

The Structure of a Cause-and-Effect Essay

The cause-and-effect essay opens with a general introduction to the topic, which then leads to a thesis that states the main cause, main effect, or various causes and effects of a condition or event. The cause-and-effect essay can be organized in one of the following two primary ways:

  • Start with the cause and then talk about the effects.
  • Start with the effect and then talk about the causes.

For example, if your essay were on childhood obesity, you could start by talking about the effect of childhood obesity and then discuss the cause, or you could start the same essay by talking about the cause of childhood obesity and then move to the effect.

Regardless of which structure you choose, be sure to explain each element of the essay fully and completely. Explaining complex relationships requires the full use of evidence, such as scientific studies, expert testimony, statistics, and anecdotes . Be careful of resorting to empty speculation. In writing, speculation amounts to unsubstantiated guessing. Writers are particularly prone to such trappings in cause-and-effect arguments due to the complex nature of finding links between phenomena. Be sure to have clear evidence to support the claims that you make. Because cause-and-effect essays determine how phenomena are linked, they make frequent use of certain words and phrases that denote such linkage.

  • Discuss the cause/effect relationship between studying and good grades
  • Discuss the cause/effect impact of sleep deprivation

The purpose of persuasion in writing is to convince, motivate, or move readers toward a certain point of view, or opinion. The act of trying to persuade automatically implies that more than one opinion on the subject can be argued. The idea of an argument often conjures up images of two people yelling and screaming in anger. In writing, however, an argument is very different. An argument is a reasoned opinion supported and explained by evidence. To argue in writing is to advance knowledge and ideas in a positive way. Written arguments often fail when they employ ranting rather than reasoning.

Most of us feel inclined to try to win the arguments we enter. On some level, we all want to be right, and we want others to see the error of their ways. More times than not, however, arguments in which both sides try to win end up producing losers all around. The more productive approach is to persuade your audience to consider your opinion as a valid one, not simply the right one.

The Structure of a Persuasive Essay

The following five features make up the structure of a persuasive essay:

  • Introduction and thesis
  • Opposing and qualifying ideas
  • Strong evidence in support of claim
  • Style and tone of language
  • A compelling conclusion

Creating an Introduction and Thesis

The persuasive essay begins with an engaging introduction that presents the general topic. The thesis typically appears somewhere in the introduction and clearly states the writer’s point of view.

Acknowledging Opposing Ideas and Limits to Your Argument

Because an argument implies differing points of view on the subject, you must be sure to acknowledge those opposing ideas. Avoiding ideas that conflict with your own gives the reader the impression that you may be uncertain, fearful, or unaware of opposing ideas. Thus it is essential that you not only address counterarguments but also do so respectfully.

Try to address opposing arguments earlier rather than later in your essay. Rhetorically speaking, ordering your positive arguments last allows you to better address ideas that conflict with your own because it allows you to focus on countering those arguments. This way, you leave your reader thinking about your argument rather than someone else’s. You have the last word.

Acknowledging points of view different from your own also has the effect of fostering more credibility between you and the audience. Readers will know from the outset that you are aware of opposing ideas and that you are not afraid to give them space. It is also helpful to establish the limits of your argument and what you are trying to accomplish. In effect, you are conceding early on that your argument is not the ultimate authority on a given topic. Such humility can go a long way toward earning credibility and trust with an audience (“ethos”). Audience members will know from the beginning that you are a reasonable writer, and they will trust your argument as a result. For example, in the following concessionary statement, the writer advocates for stricter gun control laws, but she admits it will not solve all of our problems with crime:

Although tougher gun control laws are a powerful first step in decreasing violence in our streets, such legislation alone cannot end these problems since guns are not the only problem we face.

Such a concession will be welcome by those who might disagree with this writer’s argument in the first place. To effectively persuade their readers, writers need to be realistic in their goals and humble in their approach to get readers to listen to their ideas.

  • Write a paragraph where you persuade readers to drink water rather than soda
  • Write a paragraph persuading your professors to adopt Open Educational Resources (free textbooks) for all classes

This section contains material from:

Crowther, Kathryn, Lauren Curtright, Nancy Gilbert, Barbara Hall, Tracienne Ravita, and Kirk Swenson. Successful College Composition . 2nd edition. Book 8. Georgia: English Open Textbooks, 2016. http://oer.galileo.usg.edu/english-textbooks/8 . Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License .

Inoshita, Ann, Karyl Garland, Kate Sims, Jeanne K. Tsutsui Keuma, Tasha Williams, and Susan Wood. “Evaluation.” In English Composition: Connect, Collaborate, Communicate , by Ann Inoshita, Karyl Garland, Kate Sims, Jeanne K. Tsutsui Keuma, and Tasha Williams. Honolulu, 2019. http://pressbooks.oer.hawaii.edu/englishcomposition/chapter/evaluation/ . Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License .

The highest or most intense point in a sequence of events that lead to some resolution, settlement, judgement, or ending; the peak or culmination. In fiction, the climax of a story usually occurs when the characters make the decisions, fight the battle, or enter into the romantic relationship that will impact the ending of that story.

The feeling or attitude of the writer which can be inferred by the reader, usually conveyed through vocabulary, word choice, and phrasing; associated with emotion.

A statement, usually one sentence, that summarizes an argument that will later be explained, expanded upon, and developed in a longer essay or research paper. In undergraduate writing, a thesis statement is often found in the introductory paragraph of an essay. The plural of thesis is theses .

The standards or rules of judgement, grading, or other types of scrutiny.

The sequence of events that occur linearly or consecutively in time.

The explanation, justification, or motivation for something; the reasons why something was done.

Delicate, faint, or mild; requiring discernment, perception, or awareness to detect.

To be different, diverse, or dissimilar; to deviate from a plan or practice.

A remarkable or notable occurrence or event, especially one that is rare or exceptional in nature. The plural of phenomenon is phenomena .

A short account or telling of an incident or story, either personal or historical; anecdotal evidence is frequently found in the form of a personal experience rather than objective data or widespread occurrence.

To produce, seemingly out of thin air, an object, idea, or being.

3.7 Rhetorical Modes of Writing Copyright © 2022 by Kathryn Crowther; Lauren Curtright; Nancy Gilbert; Barbara Hall; Tracienne Ravita; Kirk Swenson; Ann Inoshita; Karyl Garland; Kate Sims; Jeanne K. Tsutsui Keuma; Tasha Williams; Susan Wood; and Terri Pantuso is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

9.5 Writing Process: Thinking Critically about Rhetoric

Learning outcomes.

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Develop a rhetorical analysis through multiple drafts.
  • Identify and analyze rhetorical strategies in a rhetorical analysis.
  • Demonstrate flexible strategies for generating ideas, drafting, reviewing, collaborating, revising, rewriting, and editing.
  • Give and act on productive feedback for works in progress.

The ability to think critically about rhetoric is a skill you will use in many of your classes, in your work, and in your life to gain insight from the way a text is written and organized. You will often be asked to explain or to express an opinion about what someone else has communicated and how that person has done so, especially if you take an active interest in politics and government. Like Eliana Evans in the previous section, you will develop similar analyses of written works to help others understand how a writer or speaker may be trying to reach them.

Summary of Assignment: Rhetorical Analysis

The assignment is to write a rhetorical analysis of a piece of persuasive writing. It can be an editorial, a movie or book review, an essay, a chapter in a book, or a letter to the editor. For your rhetorical analysis, you will need to consider the rhetorical situation—subject, author, purpose, context, audience, and culture—and the strategies the author uses in creating the argument. Back up all your claims with evidence from the text. In preparing your analysis, consider these questions:

  • What is the subject? Be sure to distinguish what the piece is about.
  • Who is the writer, and what do you know about them? Be sure you know whether the writer is considered objective or has a particular agenda.
  • Who are the readers? What do you know or what can you find out about them as the particular audience to be addressed at this moment?
  • What is the purpose or aim of this work? What does the author hope to achieve?
  • What are the time/space/place considerations and influences of the writer? What can you know about the writer and the full context in which they are writing?
  • What specific techniques has the writer used to make their points? Are these techniques successful, unsuccessful, or questionable?

For this assignment, read the following opinion piece by Octavio Peterson, printed in his local newspaper. You may choose it as the text you will analyze, continuing the analysis on your own, or you may refer to it as a sample as you work on another text of your choosing. Your instructor may suggest presidential or other political speeches, which make good subjects for rhetorical analysis.

When you have read the piece by Peterson advocating for the need to continue teaching foreign languages in schools, reflect carefully on the impact the letter has had on you. You are not expected to agree or disagree with it. Instead, focus on the rhetoric—the way Peterson uses language to make his point and convince you of the validity of his argument.

Another Lens. Consider presenting your rhetorical analysis in a multimodal format. Use a blogging site or platform such as WordPress or Tumblr to explore the blogging genre, which includes video clips, images, hyperlinks, and other media to further your discussion. Because this genre is less formal than written text, your tone can be conversational. However, you still will be required to provide the same kind of analysis that you would in a traditional essay. The same materials will be at your disposal for making appeals to persuade your readers. Rhetorical analysis in a blog may be a new forum for the exchange of ideas that retains the basics of more formal communication. When you have completed your work, share it with a small group or the rest of the class. See Multimodal and Online Writing: Creative Interaction between Text and Image for more about creating a multimodal composition.

Quick Launch: Start with a Thesis Statement

After you have read this opinion piece, or another of your choice, several times and have a clear understanding of it as a piece of rhetoric, consider whether the writer has succeeded in being persuasive. You might find that in some ways they have and in others they have not. Then, with a clear understanding of your purpose—to analyze how the writer seeks to persuade—you can start framing a thesis statement : a declarative sentence that states the topic, the angle you are taking, and the aspects of the topic the rest of the paper will support.

Complete the following sentence frames as you prepare to start:

  • The subject of my rhetorical analysis is ________.
  • My goal is to ________, not necessarily to ________.
  • The writer’s main point is ________.
  • I believe the writer has succeeded (or not) because ________.
  • I believe the writer has succeeded in ________ (name the part or parts) but not in ________ (name the part or parts).
  • The writer’s strongest (or weakest) point is ________, which they present by ________.

Drafting: Text Evidence and Analysis of Effect

As you begin to draft your rhetorical analysis, remember that you are giving your opinion on the author’s use of language. For example, Peterson has made a decision about the teaching of foreign languages, something readers of the newspaper might have different views on. In other words, there is room for debate and persuasion.

The context of the situation in which Peterson finds himself may well be more complex than he discusses. In the same way, the context of the piece you choose to analyze may also be more complex. For example, perhaps Greendale is facing an economic crisis and must pare its budget for educational spending and public works. It’s also possible that elected officials have made budget cuts for education a part of their platform or that school buildings have been found obsolete for safety measures. On the other hand, maybe a foreign company will come to town only if more Spanish speakers can be found locally. These factors would play a part in a real situation, and rhetoric would reflect that. If applicable, consider such possibilities regarding the subject of your analysis. Here, however, these factors are unknown and thus do not enter into the analysis.


One effective way to begin a rhetorical analysis is by using an anecdote, as Eliana Evans has done. For a rhetorical analysis of the opinion piece, a writer might consider an anecdote about a person who was in a situation in which knowing another language was important or not important. If they begin with an anecdote, the next part of the introduction should contain the following information:

  • Author’s name and position, or other qualification to establish ethos
  • Title of work and genre
  • Author’s thesis statement or stance taken (“Peterson argues that . . .”)
  • Brief introductory explanation of how the author develops and supports the thesis or stance
  • If relevant, a brief summary of context and culture

Once the context and situation for the analysis are clear, move directly to your thesis statement. In this case, your thesis statement will be your opinion of how successful the author has been in achieving the established goal through the use of rhetorical strategies. Read the sentences in Table 9.1 , and decide which would make the best thesis statement. Explain your reasoning in the right-hand column of this or a similar chart.

Only 50 percent of the students have said they want to study Spanish or any other language, so statistics show a lack of interest in spite of Octavio Peterson’s rhetorical claims.
A public vote should be taken to see how many residents support Octavio Peterson’s rhetoric and ideas on language and whether his divisive opinion can be considered as it stands.
Because Octavio Peterson’s ideas on foreign language teaching are definitely worthy of support, I will summarize his letter and show why he is correct.
This analysis of Peterson’s language shows how he uses rhetorical strategies to persuade readers to consider the future of language learning in the city’s schools.

The introductory paragraph or paragraphs should serve to move the reader into the body of the analysis and signal what will follow.

Your next step is to start supporting your thesis statement—that is, how Octavio Peterson, or the writer of your choice, does or does not succeed in persuading readers. To accomplish this purpose, you need to look closely at the rhetorical strategies the writer uses.

First, list the rhetorical strategies you notice while reading the text, and note where they appear. Keep in mind that you do not need to include every strategy the text contains, only those essential ones that emphasize or support the central argument and those that may seem fallacious. You may add other strategies as well. The first example in Table 9.2 has been filled in.

Ethos, credibility First, second, fourth By referring to himself, his education, his job, and his community involvement as a parent and concerned resident and by saying he has researched the subject, the writer establishes credibility.
Pathos, emotion
Logos, reason
Kairos, timeliness
Figurative language
Speaking familiarly or “folksily”
Rhetorical question
Parallel structure
Addressing counterclaims
Ad hominem (name-calling)
Hyperbole (exaggeration)
Causal fallacy

When you have completed your list, consider how to structure your analysis. You will have to decide which of the writer’s statements are most effective. The strongest point would be a good place to begin; conversely, you could begin with the writer’s weakest point if that suits your purposes better. The most obvious organizational structure is one of the following:

  • Go through the composition paragraph by paragraph and analyze its rhetorical content, focusing on the strategies that support the writer’s thesis statement.
  • Address key rhetorical strategies individually, and show how the author has used them.

As you read the next few paragraphs, consult Table 9.3 for a visual plan of your rhetorical analysis. Your first body paragraph is the first of the analytical paragraphs. Here, too, you have options for organizing. You might begin by stating the writer’s strongest point. For example, you could emphasize that Peterson appeals to ethos by speaking personally to readers as fellow citizens and providing his credentials to establish credibility as someone trustworthy with their interests at heart.

Following this point, your next one can focus, for instance, on Peterson’s view that cutting foreign language instruction is a danger to the education of Greendale’s children. The points that follow support this argument, and you can track his rhetoric as he does so.

You may then use the second or third body paragraph, connected by a transition, to discuss Peterson’s appeal to logos. One possible transition might read, “To back up his assertion that omitting foreign languages is detrimental to education, Peterson provides examples and statistics.” Locate examples and quotes from the text as needed. You can discuss how, in citing these statistics, Peterson uses logos as a key rhetorical strategy.

In another paragraph, focus on other rhetorical elements, such as parallelism, repetition, and rhetorical questions. Moreover, be sure to indicate whether the writer acknowledges counterclaims and whether they are accepted or ultimately rejected.

The question of other factors at work in Greendale regarding finances, or similar factors in another setting, may be useful to mention here if they exist. As you continue, however, keep returning to your list of rhetorical strategies and explaining them. Even if some appear less important, they should be noted to show that you recognize how the writer is using language. You will likely have a minimum of four body paragraphs, but you may well have six or seven or even more, depending on the work you are analyzing.

In your final body paragraph, you might discuss the argument that Peterson, for example, has made by appealing to readers’ emotions. His calls for solidarity at the end of the letter provide a possible solution to his concern that the foreign language curriculum “might vanish like a puff of smoke.”

Use Table 9.3 to organize your rhetorical analysis. Be sure that each paragraph has a topic sentence and that you use transitions to flow smoothly from one idea to the next.

Write a topic sentence explaining your first point of analysis. If you begin with what you think is the writer’s strongest point, state what it is and explain the rhetorical strategies used to support it. Provide appropriate quotations from the text.

Suggestion: Address ethos, pathos, and logos first. You may need more than one paragraph to cover them.

If needed, continue your discussion of ethos, pathos, and/or logos, explaining how they function in the text and providing examples. Once you have completed your discussion, move on to your next point, which will address one or more specific strategies used.
Following a transition, write a topic sentence to address another point or points in the text. Discuss the strategies used, provide examples and quotations as appropriate, and show how they support (or don’t support) the writer’s thesis statement. Consider rhetorical strategies such as parallelism, repetition, rhetorical questions, and figurative language.
Continue as needed. In this paragraph, you might point out rhetorical fallacies, such as bandwagon, ad hominem, or any others you notice, if you have not yet done so. Indicate how they strengthen or weaken the writer’s position. If you have already addressed all the elements of your analysis, discuss the writer’s approach to counterclaims. You may need more than four body paragraphs for your rhetorical analysis.

As you conclude your essay, your own logic in discussing the writer’s argument will make it clear whether you have found their claims convincing. Your opinion, as framed in your conclusion, may restate your thesis statement in different words, or you may choose to reveal your thesis at this point. The real function of the conclusion is to confirm your evaluation and show that you understand the use of the language and the effectiveness of the argument.

In your analysis, note that objections could be raised because Peterson, for example, speaks only for himself. You may speculate about whether the next edition of the newspaper will feature an opposing opinion piece from someone who disagrees. However, it is not necessary to provide answers to questions you raise here. Your conclusion should summarize briefly how the writer has made, or failed to make, a forceful argument that may require further debate.

For more guidance on writing a rhetorical analysis, visit the Illinois Writers Workshop website or watch this tutorial .

Peer Review: Guidelines toward Revision and the “Golden Rule”

Now that you have a working draft, your next step is to engage in peer review, an important part of the writing process. Often, others can identify things you have missed or can ask you to clarify statements that may be clear to you but not to others. For your peer review, follow these steps and make use of Table 9.4 .

  • Quickly skim through your peer’s rhetorical analysis draft once, and then ask yourself, What is the main point or argument of my peer’s work?
  • Highlight, underline, or otherwise make note of statements or instances in the paper where you think your peer has made their main point.
  • Look at the draft again, this time reading it closely.
  • Ask yourself the following questions, and comment on the peer review sheet as shown.

________ ________

The Golden Rule

An important part of the peer review process is to keep in mind the familiar wisdom of the “Golden Rule”: treat others as you would have them treat you. This foundational approach to human relations extends to commenting on others’ work. Like your peers, you are in the same situation of needing opinion and guidance. Whatever you have written will seem satisfactory or better to you because you have written it and know what you mean to say.

However, your peers have the advantage of distance from the work you have written and can see it through their own eyes. Likewise, if you approach your peer’s work fairly and free of personal bias, you’re likely to be more constructive in finding parts of their writing that need revision. Most important, though, is to make suggestions tactfully and considerately, in the spirit of helping, not degrading someone’s work. You and your peers may be reluctant to share your work, but if everyone approaches the review process with these ideas in mind, everyone will benefit from the opportunity to provide and act on sincerely offered suggestions.

Revising: Staying Open to Feedback and Working with It

Once the peer review process is complete, your next step is to revise the first draft by incorporating suggestions and making changes on your own. Consider some of these potential issues when incorporating peers’ revisions and rethinking your own work.

  • Too much summarizing rather than analyzing
  • Too much informal language or an unintentional mix of casual and formal language
  • Too few, too many, or inappropriate transitions
  • Illogical or unclear sequence of information
  • Insufficient evidence to support main ideas effectively
  • Too many generalities rather than specific facts, maybe from trying to do too much in too little time

In any case, revising a draft is a necessary step to produce a final work. Rarely will even a professional writer arrive at the best point in a single draft. In other words, it’s seldom a problem if your first draft needs refocusing. However, it may become a problem if you don’t address it. The best way to shape a wandering piece of writing is to return to it, reread it, slow it down, take it apart, and build it back up again. Approach first-draft writing for what it is: a warm-up or rehearsal for a final performance.

Suggestions for Revising

When revising, be sure your thesis statement is clear and fulfills your purpose. Verify that you have abundant supporting evidence and that details are consistently on topic and relevant to your position. Just before arriving at the conclusion, be sure you have prepared a logical ending. The concluding statement should be strong and should not present any new points. Rather, it should grow out of what has already been said and return, in some degree, to the thesis statement. In the example of Octavio Peterson, his purpose was to persuade readers that teaching foreign languages in schools in Greendale should continue; therefore, the conclusion can confirm that Peterson achieved, did not achieve, or partially achieved his aim.

When revising, make sure the larger elements of the piece are as you want them to be before you revise individual sentences and make smaller changes. If you make small changes first, they might not fit well with the big picture later on.

One approach to big-picture revising is to check the organization as you move from paragraph to paragraph. You can list each paragraph and check that its content relates to the purpose and thesis statement. Each paragraph should have one main point and be self-contained in showing how the rhetorical devices used in the text strengthen (or fail to strengthen) the argument and the writer’s ability to persuade. Be sure your paragraphs flow logically from one to the other without distracting gaps or inconsistencies.

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  • Authors: Michelle Bachelor Robinson, Maria Jerskey, featuring Toby Fulwiler
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Writing with artificial intelligence, rhetorical appeals: an overview.

  • CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 by Angela Eward-Mangione - Hillsborough Community College

Since Aristotle's time, rhetoricians have posited that effective persuasion hinges on three central appeals: logos (logic), pathos (emotion), and ethos (the speaker's credibility and character). A fourth appeal, Kairos, underscores the significance of timing — emphasizing that the right message must be delivered at the opportune moment for maximum impact.

Successful writers write to win. Whether a writer wants to achieve a particular grade on a paper, persuade a specific audience to adopt an argument , or obtain an interview with a company, a writer writes with a purpos e that they aim to fulfill. Using rhetorical appeals, particularly in persuasive writing, is a powerful way to persuade an audience.

Rhetorical appeals work.

  • For example, in “Reductions in smoking prevalence and cigarette consumption associated with mass-media campaigns,” authors Karen Friend and David T. Levy examine state and local mass-media anti-tobacco campaigns that endeavor to change social norms, knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs regarding smoking. Campaigns like this one use persuasive rhetorical devices appeals to produce measurable effects. Consequently, Friend and Levy’s study of campaigns in California and Massachusetts found that, in conjunction with a well-coordinated tobacco control program, the campaigns led to a reduction in net smoking prevalence of approximately 6-12% (92). These results unquestionably reduced smoking-related diseases and deaths, an important feat given the fact that, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), tobacco use is currently the leading preventable cause of death in the United States (“Tobacco-Related Mortality”).  

Related Concepts: Argument ; Rhetorical Stance ; Tone

Identifying Rhetorical Appeals

Writers may employ four rhetorical devices, or appeals, in their persuasive writing:

Jimmie Killingsworth provides necessary background information about these appeals by explaining that, in the Rhetoric (1.2.2), Aristotle defines what contemporary society has come to call appeals ( pisteis ) by dividing them into two categories:

  • “one called ‘entechnic,’ ‘artistic,’ or intrinsic’;
  • the other ‘atechnic,’ ‘inartistic,’ or ‘extrinsic’” (qtd. in Killingsworth 250).

Elaborating, Killingworth notes that the artistic category, the proper concern of rhetoric according to Aristotle, includes ethos, pathos, and logos” (250).

Before turning to examples of how to use these appeals, it will be worthwhile to understand their definitions.

As Emily Lane, Jessica McKee, and Megan McIntyre point out , logos relates to “the consistency and clarity of an argument as well as the logic of evidence and reasons.” An argument that offers substantial evidence , including supporting statistics, will appeal to the rationality and sensibility of its audience members.

Writers can also use pathos , or emotion, to help the audience connect with the writer’s argument.

E thos refers to efforts on the part of the speaker or writer to convince the audience by demonstrating their credibility . Writers and speakers to display their credibility by explaining how their credentials, expertise, and/or experience make what they say or write noteworthy.

Furthermore, as Kate Pantelides, Megan McIntyre, and Jessica McKee explain, kairos , entails “knowing what is appropriate to do in a given situation…saying (or writing) the right thing at the right time.”

Using Rhetorical Appeals

Identifying these appeals in persuasive writing is a valuable skill to learn. Understanding how to use these appeals in your persuasive writing can prove to be an even more powerful ability to develop. To begin, several ways to appeal to logic exist. Consider the structure and quality of your argument. Asks writers to consider these questions :

  • “Does your conclusion follow from your premises?
  • Will your audience be able to follow the progression?
  • Does your argument provide sufficient evidence for your audience to be convinced?”

To improve the quality of your argument, consider:

  • Referring to evidence – facts and figures
  • Citing relevant, current statistics.
  • Providing examples and anecdotes
  • Including and addressing an opposing view .
  • Using visual representations.

Fallacious Logos

Additionally, as Lane, McKee, and McIntyre recommend in their article regarding logos , maintain consistency in your argument , and avoid fallacious, or faulty, appeals to logic . For example, in “ Fallacious Logos ,” they provide an overview of several false appeals to logic , including the false dilemma, which assumes that there are only two options when there are more.

Writers may employ several methods to appeal to pathos. Read “ Pathos ” to explore several suggestions which include:   

  • Referring to other emotionally compelling stories.
  • Citing stark, startling statistics that will invoke a specific emotion in audience members.
  • Showing empathy and/or understanding for an opposing view.
  • Using humor, if appropriate.  

However, in your efforts to appeal to the audience’s emotions, avoid relying on faulty appeals. For example, “ Fallacious Pathos ” points out that using emotional words that evidence does not support leads to the argument by emotive language fallacy.

In pondering how to effectively employ rhetorical devices and aptly avoid fallacies , writers need to consider the relationship among the rhetorical appeals. For instance, if you just focus on logs you may have a really logical, well developed argument, and yet it if the reader or listener has decided you are not a credible source — if they reject your ethos — then they are likely to ignore all of your hard work and logical reasoning.

To demonstrate your credibility, try:

  • Referring to relevant work and/or life experience.
  • Citing your relevant awards, certificates, and/or degrees.
  • Providing evidence from relevant, current, and credible sources.  
  • Carefully proofreading your work, and asking a few other people to so as well.

Additionally, follow McKee and McIntyre’s advice in “ Fallacious Ethos .” McKee and McIntyre provide specific examples of fallacious ethos.

Conversely, appeals to kairos can help you make use of the particular moment (Pantelides, McIntyre, and McKee). Ask yourself if you can capitalize on any of the audience’s sense of urgency. However, avoid false appeals to kairos. Read “ Fallacious Appeals to Kairos ” to learn more about this topic.

As this article has argued, good writers write to win. As such, rhetorical appeals underlie much of the successful persuasive writing in society, whether in the form of written arguments, television commercials, or educational campaigns.

As previously discussed, some thoughtful, strategic anti-smoking campaigns have reduced smoking-related diseases and death. Additionally, Ariel Chernin observes that a large body of literature proves that food marketing affects children’s food preferences (107). Similarly, appealing to logos, pathos, ethos, and kairos in your persuasive writing can help you achieve your goals. Approaching rhetorical appeals from the inside out—from the perspective of the writer—one can note their effectiveness in persuasive writing, and one can write to win.

Rhetorical Appeals: A Checklist for Writers

Strategies for Use : structure of argument, definitions, relevant examples, facts and figures, causal statements, statistics, an opposing view

Reflective Questions :

  • Are the main points of my essay sequenced logically?
  • Does my writing define key terms with which the audience may not be familiar?
  • Does my writing provide credible, documented facts to support any unstated assumptions? To learn more about unstated assumptions, see “ Logos .” Does my writing include at least one causal statement? Read more about  causal statements in “ Logos.”
  • Does my writing provide examples to illustrate its main points?
  • Does my writing cite relevant, current, and credible statistics?
  • Does this piece address at least one opposing view?

Strategies for Use : anecdotes or other narratives, images or other forms of media, direct quotations, empathy, humor

  • Does my persuasive writing include an appropriate anecdote or narrative that evokes a commonly held emotion? To learn more about writing narratives in essays, read “ Employing Narrative in an Essay .”
  • Does my persuasive writing engage non-textual media, such as images, to evoke emotions in the audience? Is the use of such non-textual media appropriate for my genre and purpose? Review “ Pathos ” to learn more about using non-textual media in persuasive writing.
  • Does my writing include at least one quote from an individual who has been influenced by the issue my writing addresses?
  • Does my writing demonstrate empathy for the opposing view’s concerns?
  • Does my persuasive writing use humor if it is appropriate for the genre and purpose?

Strategies for Use : references to related work or life experience; references to certificates, awards, or degrees earned related to the topic; references to the character of the writer; use of credible and current sources; references to symbols that represent authority

  • Does my writing include references to my related work or life experience if appropriate for the genre, and do the references avoid the first-person point of view, unless the genre calls for it (e.g., a cover letter for a job and/or assignments in which the first-person point of view may combined with the third-person point of view ). To learn more about how to avoid using the first-person point of view, read “ Avoid First-Person Point of View .”
  • Does my persuasive writing refer to certificates, awards, or degrees earned that relate to the topic? If so, are these references appropriate for the genre and, if necessary, do they avoid the first-person point of view ?
  • Does my persuasive writing rely on documented, credible, current evidence to support its claims, thereby reflecting my good character as a writer?
  • Do the experts cited in my writing have credentials, awards, and/or degrees that relate to the topic?
  • Have I used an appropriate tone, voice, and persona in this piece? To learn more about these terms and their use in writing, see “ Consider Your Voice, Tone, and Persona .”
  • Have I proofread my persuasive writing several times, and have I asked two or more people to proofread it as well? To learn about specific proofreading strategies, read “ Proofreading .”

Strategies for Use : the use of deadlines or goals; a call to action, including the call to “act now”; references to “current crises” or impending doom

  • Does my writing explain the immediate significance of the topic?
  • Does my persuasive writing invite the reader to set a goal related to the topic?
  • Does my persuasive writing incite and/or invite action, especially immediate action? Read “ How to Write a Compelling Conclusion ,” particularly the section titled “The Call to Action” to learn more about this technique.
  • Does my writing refer to current crises regarding the topic through credible, current, and relevant sources? Review Kairos for an example of this method.
  • Does this piece convey the potential short- and/or long-term consequences of not adopting my evidence-based argument?

After checking your persuasive writing for these rhetorical appeals, ensure that your writing does not rely on any fallacious forms of these appeals as well. Review “ Fallacious Logos ,” “ Fallacious Pathos ,” “ Fallacious Ethos ,” and “ Fallacious Appeals to Kairos ” to learn more.

Recommended Reading

  • Logical Fallacies
  • Rhetorical Analysis
  • Rhetorical Analysis in the Real World: A Useful Thinking Tool
  • Using Appeals to Kairos in Persuasive Writing

Works Cited

Chernin, Ariel. “The Effects of Food Marketing on Children’s Preferences: Testing theModerating Roles of Age and Gender.” The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 615 (2008): 102-18. JSTOR . Web. 5 July 2016.

Friend, Karen and David T. Levy. “Reductions in smoking prevalence and cigarette consumption associated with mass-media campaigns.” Health Education Research: Theory and Practice 17.1 (2002): 85-98. Web. 3 July 2016.

Killingsworth, M. Jimmie. “Rhetorical Appeals: A Revision.” Rhetoric Review 24.3 (2005): 249-263. JSTOR . Web. 5 July 2016.

Lane, Emily, Jessica McKee, and Megan McIntyre. ”Logos.”  Writing Commons . N.p., 16 April 2012. Web. 2 July 2016.

—. “Fallacious Logos.” Writing Commons . N.p., 16 April 2012. Web. 2 July 2016.

Lee, Kendra Gayle, Jessica McKee, and Megan McIntyre. “Pathos.” Writing Commons.  N.p., 16 April 2012. Web. 2 July 2016.

—. “Fallacious Appeals to Pathos.” Writing Commons. N.p., 16 April 2012. Web. 2 July 2016.

McKee, Jessica, and Megan McIntyre. “Ethos.” Writing Commons . N.p., 16 April 2012. Web. 2 July 2016.

—“Fallacious Appeals to Ethos.” Writing Commons . N.p., 16 April 2012. Web. 2 July 2016.

Pantelides, Kate, Megan McIntyre, and Jessica McKee. “Kairos.” Writing Commons. N.p., 16 April 2012. Web. 2 July 2016.

—. “Fallacious Appeals to Kairos.” Writing Commons. N.p., 16 April 2012. Web. 2 July 2016.

“Tobacco-Related Mortality.” Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, n.d. Web. 5 July 2015.

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  • Rhetorical Patterns - Persuasion and Argument
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The Rhetorical Patterns -  Organizing Essays for Different Rhetorical Situations

The following pages will provide you with several effective ways of organizing information in your essays. Oftentimes, when you know who your audience is and what your purpose is for writing (which is called your rhetorical situation), you can begin to consider the organization of what is going to be in your paper, how you will introduce your paper, and what to write for your conclusion. The following rhetorical patterns will help you answer these questions.   

Narration   |   Description   |   Process   |   Exemplification   |   Classification   |   Comparison and Contrast Cause and Effect   |   Persuasion and Argument

Persuasion and Argument

What is persuasion and argument? Traditionally, people have called argument any attempt that uses logic to incite a person to take action or to change an opinion or belief. Persuasion is considered to be the same call to action or to change an opinion or belief; but persuasion is a call to action that is based on appealing to emotion and feeling. So the difference between argument and persuasion is the difference between using logic and using emotion. Since most debates involve subjects that are conducive to logic and emotion, most real-life debates contain elements of both logic and emotion.

How do I consider problems with logic?  Some people use faulty logic when they argue. Others will use fairly effective logic, but will ignore the implications of their logic, or they will exclude from consideration certain logical conclusions. Other people may create arguments that seem almost perfect. No matter how an argument is constructed logically or illogically, by understanding the following problems with logic, which are called fallacies, you often will be able to see how people arrive at their proposition, which is the logical conclusion of their argument.

Before we consider the terms of a debate, let’s consider the logical problems, or fallacies, that might be involved in an argument.

Ad hominem: “To the person”: this means that someone ignores the argument itself and verbally attacks the person personally who is making the argument. For example, if someone disagreed with the president’s decision to raise tuition because of a state budget cut, and said, “She’s only raising tuition because she is not smart enough to think of an alternative,” then that person is using an ad hominem attack. Many politicians and commentators on politics favor this kind of fallacy, because it is easier to attack a persona’s credibility than to contend with a person’s ideas.

Ad misericordiam: This fallacy means that someone makes an argument that offers two scenarios, and one of them is inconceivably bad. For example, if someone said that, “Everyone should agree with the idea of war because otherwise this country will fall apart,” then that person is offering a proposition that seems to have as its opposite something that almost everyone would want to avoid. But the idea of the country falling apart is only one alternative to disagreeing with going to war. Weak arguments often use ad misericordiam fallacies because the arguments are hastily constructed of conceived of with an excess of emotions.

Ad populem: This fallacy assumes that if you like a person you will agree with the person’s logic. For example, if someone told you that he had always been a good friend and that was why you should lend him your new car for the weekend, then this person is relying on the relationship, rather than the logic, for you to offer him your car. If he said that he had always taken good care of your car before and you should lend it to him now, he would not be making an ad populem fallacy, though. This fallacy is also closely related to the often-heard parents’ cliché: “Just because everyone jumped off a cliff, you would too, right?”

Argument of the beard: This fallacy is used when a division between two conditions can be ignored or a division between two states is difficult to establish. It’s called the argument of the beard because you could conceivably pluck one hair after another from a beard and never arrive at a specific, perfect point when the beard stopped being a beard, by definition. For example, if someone told you that since even one glass of beer will impair your thinking, you might as well drink a case, then the person would be making an argument of the beard. Since there is no exact point for every single person being impaired by alcohol, and since we have not defined impairment, per se, the point of impairment could be one beer or it could be three beers or it could be a case of beer. The fallacy is here because clearly a case of beer would cause impairment, no matter how it was defined.

Begging the question: This fallacy occurs when evidence supporting the logic of the argument or the proposition creates alternatives to the proposition. For example, if someone tells you that she has a great deal for you, which could make you a two hundred percent return on your investment, and that because the return on your investment is so high you should not even question making the investment, she would be begging the question what risks there were to your investment. Just because the deal she is offering sounds so good, this does not mean that your decision to participate in the deal should be based on the possible two hundred percent return. What she is asking you to do and why she is saying that you should do it are literally begging the question of why you should go along with her. The proposition (that you should go along with her) is not premised on how safe the investment is or how many times she has returned a two hundred percent return to investors; instead the proposition (that you should invest) is premised on what might happen.

A similar fallacy is called ignoring the question , which is slightly different from begging the question by the degree of information offered. If a person tells you that you should make an investment that will probably return two hundred percent profit, then the person is ignoring the question of what other kinds of returns on the investment (or profits) other investments have made, and the person is ignoring what other kinds of profit or loss scenarios exist in the deal.

Circular argument: This fallacy happens when the proposition is based on the premise and/or vice versa. For example, if you are told that the Toyota Corolla is the most popular car in America because so many Americans drive it, then you are not being given any reason or evidence, aside from the proposition (that the Corolla is popular because people drive it) that goes along with the proposition. This fallacy is often easy to locate because everything seems logical enough, but there is no relationship to any external factors.

Generalizations : This fallacy happens often enough because the evidence for an element of the argument is vague, weak, or superficial. For example, the proposition that “It’s a well known fact that democrats cannot be trusted,” is not based on any more evidence than “the well known fact.” Similarly, “He won’t eat it because he hates everything” is a proposition (i.e., he won’t eat it) premised on a vague assertion (i.e., just because he hates everything), which is as likely to be true as it is likely to be false.

New things are always better: This fallacy happens when someone says that something should be done differently because a new idea exists. For example, if a person tells you that he has found a new short cut and you should commute to school by way of his new short cut, then he is making this fallacy. Just because it is a new short-cut does not mean that it is faster than the old short-cut. There is no logical reason or other evidence offered that makes the fact that it is new any reason to change what you are already doing. If the person says that his new short-cut is two miles less than the old short-cut, then he is not making the fallacy. You can spot these fallacies fairly easily (but not all the time: sometimes the new idea seems seductive) because the evidence to do something is because the something is new.

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc (After something, because of something): This fallacy confuses the actual cause or causes for something in favor of a cause or causes that are more readily visible or evident. For example, suppose you came home one evening to find that your apartment or residence hall room had been vandalized and you saw your neighbor outside your door holding one of your possessions. Your neighbor may have well just come along after the vandalism and seen something of yours dropped on the floor outside your doorway and then walked over and found your apartment or residence hall door broken open. Just because something has happened does not mean that something that happened before it caused it, or is even related to it.

Reduce to a binary: This fallacy happens when an argument is offered and there are many options and alternatives available, but the argument is framed as having the proposition and one alternative, generally a really bad alternative. For example, if you say that marijuana should be legalized and your friend Paula counters by saying, “If you legalize marijuana, you might as well legalize heroin and crack,” then Paula is framing the argument as only having two alternatives: leave the law alone or risk chaos by going along with your alternative. When you can counter the alternative with something, generally more moderate, then you have spotted this fallacy.

Weak analogy: This fallacy happens when two things are said to be similar enough to merit their comparison; but the two things are not similar enough for the comparison. For example, if Will tells you that the cafeteria food is garbage, Will’s analogy, no matter how much you both might want to agree, is faulty: food becomes garbage when it is discarded. Food cannot be garbage, by definition. Even if Will says that the cafeteria food smells like garbage, Will is using a weak analogy: anyone who has been close to garbage knows that it smells a lot worse than virtually any cafeteria food. Saying that the cafeteria food smells like garbage, on the other hand, is logical, if the food smells like garbage.

What are some language problems when using arguments and persuasion?

The following problems with words language may help you to identify some kinds of language use in arguments:

  • Abstractions are words or terms that have meanings that are created by multiple concepts. For example, the word “honor” is an abstraction created by other words like respect, loyal, devotion, moral/ethical and, depending on its use, other words and terms. When an argument is premised on an abstraction, the argument is built on a term that carries too many possible meanings. Nice, polite, support the troops, protect the family, cut taxes, appeasers, and so on are all abstractions; they carry multiple meanings. Unless abstractions are firmly and clearly defined, their use supporting evidence or the logic of an argument is questionable.
  • Biased language consists of words or terms that are used to invalidate another person’s position, proposition, identity, or argument. For example, if someone tells you that young people who hang around somewhere in a group belong to a “gang,” then the biased language (i.e., gang) is likely to cause you to think pejoratively of the young people. Similarly, if someone tells you that students are “kids,” then the biased language reveals the speaker’s belief that students are not really adults, but are closer to children, since “kid” is a term used to indicate an age range between infancy and adulthood. Biased language is often used in conjunction with faulty logic, so as to cover the weaknesses of the logic. Biased language is also very much like ad hominem, ad misericordiam, and ad populem logical problems. All four ignore the argument’s proposition or logic and focus on attacking or weakening an element through dismissal, scorn, or elitism. 
  • Terms of art are phrases and words that have been used in so many different contexts that their core meanings have been shattered and the phrase or word means essentially whatever the speaker or writer wants it to mean. Listeners and readers, however, may interpret the term of art by the use of the term in their familiar context. Viable is a word that means many different things in different rhetorical environments—a fetus can be viable, a candidate can have a viable chance to win, and cable is a viable option to satellite television. Similarly, terms of art have similar problems as generalizations, except that terms of art actually have very precise meanings; it’s just that there are too many competing meanings.
  • Opinions are fairly easy for most people to define. An opinion is an interpretation that can be rendered by an individual or a group. The problem for opinions in arguments is that occasionally opinions are presented as facts. Opinions sometimes arrive cloaked in certainties. For example, someone can say, “Everyone knows that killing is wrong,” when, in fact, killing during wartime is widely regarded as an essential component of warfare and is not considered to be wrong. Be cautious of truths and facts if they arrive with statements like, “Everyone knows…,” “It is an established fact…,” “Nobody would argue with the fact…” There are appropriate places for opinions in arguments; but only when they are presented as opinions or conjecture.
  • Terms with no opposites or undesirable opposites are often common words, like patriotism, community, family, democracy. These words do not normally operate within a system of binaries. These words and terms tend to exclude opposing voices from the debate. Were you to propose that “Family values” creates “community,” you would be invoking two terms that are difficult to oppose. If someone were so inclined, that person could ask the question about people opposed to your proposition: “What kind of person is against family values and communities?” The implication that you could make (by using words that have no opposites or have undesirable opposites) is that this kind of person is immoral, monstrous, and barbaric. Terms such as democracy, freedom, rights, liberty, security are terms without any legitimate opposites or with opposites that are difficult to defend. Clearly, using terms like these as a basis for any argument is using language to exploit weak argument logic.
  • Conflations of truths are uses of language that take liberties with the language. While you may think that someone who gave you the wrong change at a restaurant made a mistake, it would be a conflation of the truth to claim that the person who gave me the wrong change was the most ignorant person to ever breathe air. Although most conflations of the truth will be made with far less bombast than my example, be cautious of comparisons that cite everyday trivia and banality and compare them with outrageous events and things.
  • Scientific facts would seem to be a safe use of language, one removed from the possible problems of language. However, there are many scientific facts that are contested, even when they seem to be obviously true. Scientists have used different models to predict what would happen in the event of a nuclear tragedy. One model definitively states that the survivors would have to contend with global warming on a massive scale; while another model just as equally proves that survivors would live in a frigid nuclear winter, which would span several decades. Without all the pertinent data, some scientific facts are simply assertions presented as science.

How do I develop a working thesis?

As you consider your argument so far, insure that you keep your focus on the rhetorical situation

A problematic working thesis normally does not take into account either of the previous elements. For example, let’s speculate that you were considering a call for lower tuition. A weak working thesis might look like this:

College tuition just doesn’t seem to get cheaper. 

This working thesis does not contain the call to action, and its language is so imprecise and vague that decisions about what kinds of evidence to use will be difficult to make.

A more focused working thesis might look like this:

Although a college education is a valuable commodity in our society, rising costs are making it difficult for some families to afford to send their kids to college. 

This working thesis would allow you to consider both how a college education is valuable (for example, gathering evidence of what it allows someone to do that another person without a college education might not be able to do), while you focus on the effects of rising tuition for working class and/or middle class families, who can be most effected by rising costs.

How do I narrow my working thesis?

Once you have gathered evidence and support for your working thesis and you have made decisions about how you will present the evidence and support for your intended audience, you will want to sharpen the focus of your working thesis, so that you have a specific thesis or clear main point.

How do I draft an argument thesis?

Remember that you are presenting your subject, your position, and what you want you audience to do in your thesis. While you probably will not articulate each of these three elements in detail, you will certainly want to provide an overview for each of these, since these are the major considerations of your argument.

What kinds of problems are there with an argument thesis?

Insure that your thesis does not:

  • Just presents facts and/or analysis
  • Neglect to get involved in the debate or argument
  • Forget to cause some explicit action >

For example, an ineffective thesis would sound like this:

A college education is one of the most valuable commodities in our society, and, unfortunately, the costs of college keep rising and this harms some families.

This is a not an argument thesis statement, but is rather an expository thesis statement. A better thesis would sound like this:

Since a college education is a valuable commodity in our society and rising costs are making it difficult for some families to afford to send their kids to college, college tuition should be a deductible expense for working and middle class families. 

This thesis now presents two premises—the value of college in society and the risks for society presented by the rising tuition prices—plus, the thesis ends with a call for action (make college tuition a deductible expense for certain taxpayer groups).

How do I organize my evidence and support?

This is a good opportunity to write down the actual steps, or the logic of your argument, so that you can literally see where you are starting your argument and where you are taking your readers. Show how one point leads to the next point. By seeing the logic of the argument, you can also anticipate problems with the logic (see fallacies) and problems with the language (see language problems). Are there implications that you have not considered or terms that need clarification?

Persuasion/Argument Structures: Induction, Deduction, Toulmin, Rogerian

What is an induction argument?

Induction offers information and evidence in such a way that your audience is drawn almost “naturally” and logically” to your proposition. Vital to the success of the induction argument is the strength of the logical connections between the points and premises and between the points and premises and the proposition. Normally an induction pattern uses the following organization:

  • An introduction that provides enough information about the subject so that the audience understands where the debate is currently at
  • A presentation of evidence that begins with the most easily understood and/or least objectionable points and moves toward the more contentious points and premises, conceding and refuting as necessary
  • A conclusion that is the inevitable conclusion given your points and premises (Often the argument thesis, or proposition, is stated for the first time in the conclusion.)

What is a deduction argument?

Deduction relies on a logical statement, called a syllogism, to form its organization. A syllogism is a three-part statement that begins with a generalization, qualifies that generalization for a specific purpose, and reaches a conclusion by comparing the information given in the first two parts. Essentially, a syllogism uses valid statements from one scenario and uses them in other cases. An example of a syllogism would be:

  • Generalization: Friends should not gossip about each other. 
  • Qualifier: You are my friend.
  • Conclusion: Therefore, you should not gossip about me.

While the names of the three parts of the syllogism, and the word syllogism itself, may seem foreign to you; the use of syllogism to make decisions and arrive at conclusions is an everyday practice. You might say, I don’t like bananas, and that yogurt has bananas in it; therefore, I won’t like that yogurt. The main weakness of syllogisms can be found in the generalization. Let’s say that you actually tasted the banana yogurt and found that you enjoyed it. The problem with the syllogism, then, would be the problem with your not liking bananas. Because you are enjoying banana yogurt, you do, in fact, like bananas to a certain extent, and you cannot say definitively that you do not like bananas. Now this is a rather banal and mundane syllogism; but it can be made much more political and socially-relevant.

Normally, a deduction argument uses the elements of the syllogism to form an extended thesis statement at the end of the conclusion, and each of the three elements of the syllogism are then used as the paper’s topic sentences . Many writers return to the syllogism in the conclusion to emphasize its logic and relevance for the context and conditions of the writer’s argument.

What is a Toulmin argument?

The philosopher Stephen Toulmin invented an organizational system for using what he called informal or casual logic. Toulmin’s system relies on the normal uses of dialogue to create an effective argument. Toulmin’s argument structure considers what an audience is likely to accept, what emotions and feelings do to effect the argument, what that audience is likely to do if it accepts the premises and propositions of the argument, and what potential and chance and probability, as opposed to firm truth, will do to cause an audience to accept your proposition.

Normally, a Toulmin argument uses the following organization:

  • A Claim for a proposition that is discussed as your belief. You will then explain why your belief is important for the particular audience to consider
  • Supporting evidence for your claim
  • Warrants or reasons why your audience should accept the supporting evidence, which are normally a part of each presentation of supporting evidence (i.e., the warrants are usually written after the supporting evidence is offered in the body paragraphs)
  • Polite concessions and/or civil refutations that acknowledge other arguments but insist on the claim for your argument

What is a Rogerian argument?

You may have encountered debates that pit one side against another side, with little to no ground for any other position. For instance, the death penalty and abortion both have debates that are either/or debates. Other debates, such as Affirmative Action, which has many differing and conflicting aspects, values, facets, and definitions is clearly not an either/or debate. In either/or debates, resolution, victory, or progress often seem to be slowed by the fact that both sides are unwilling to yield any ground in the debate. Both sides have much at stake, whether it is social, financial, or moral, in achieving total victory. One of the problems with trying to join into these either/or debates is the lack of civility and, in some cases, humanity, that either sides practices within the debate. Sometimes the rudeness, hatefulness, and incivility problems involve debates that are not either/or debates.

Psychologist Carl Rogers created a system for joining these either/or debates, so that you can emphasize resolution, agreement, and civility. Rogers hoped that all the participants in debates could respect one another, agree on some basic issues, and all work productively toward a peaceful and harmonious resolution. Rogers was no blind optimist, though; he understood that some debates would never be solved or won, and he hoped that the two sides could live peaceably even though they fundamentally disagreed.

A Rogerian argument uses empathetic listening, which has listeners repeat back to the speakers what they just heard. Instead of disagreeing or agreeing with points or premises, the listener gets involved in a process of negotiation that searches for points and premises of agreement and disagreement; but a system of negotiation that causes no hurt feelings and no uncivil tones and attitudes. A Rogerian argument often has no obvious winner or loser in a debate. By searching for the disagreements and agreements, both parties usually gain an understanding of each other that enables them to appreciate the other party and, Rogers hoped, to negotiate a middle ground or moderate position that would be acceptable to both. At the least, Rogers hoped that even if nobody won, lost, or even negotiated a settlement in the debate, the participants would learn to value the people involved in the debate as equal human beings with the same core values of compassion and understanding.

A Rogerian argument is normally organized much like a Toulmin argument, except that when the Toulmin argument would anticipate and then concede and/or refute an opposing perspective, a Rogerian argument would acknowledge and make accommodations for these points and premises. A Rogerian argument normally is organized like this: 

  • A Claim , which is often articulated as your belief but is qualified as being a claim that many other people might not agree with. Any shared points and premises are normally articulated so that your readers will accept you as someone who will respect their opinions and propositions within the debate. As you discuss other opinions and propositions within the debate, be as honest, respectful, and objective as possible, using neutral and non-emotional language. (See the Problems with Language above for further guidance in what to avoid.)
  • Supporting evidence for your claim that is presented in ways that avoid language problems. If needed, explain the context or background for your claim.
  • Civil concessions for the existence and value of other points and premises that do not subordinate these points and premises.
  • Concluding remarks that discuss in honest and respectful ways other propositions and conclusions. You must strive to make your audience feel as if their argument has a valid right to exist, even if you disagree with it. These remarks should also validate the presence of other people in the debate, no matter your difference with their opinions and feelings.

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How to write a rhetorical analysis

Published September 27, 2020. Updated May 19, 2022.

Rhetorical Analysis Definition

A rhetorical analysis is a type of writing that looks at the author’s intent rather than the content of the work.

Overview of rhetorical analysis

A good rhetorical analysis needs to do more than just summarize. It must describe how advanced persuasive devices and structures of reasoning are used to influence understanding and appeal to audiences. Before beginning your analysis, you must select a rhetorical artifact to analyze. Like a scientist in a laboratory, you will focus on that significant artifact. Most often, the rhetorical artifact is a speech transcript or written text, but visual images (like advertisements, television, and movies) may also be analyzed for their rhetorical qualities. When considering what makes a good rhetorical artifact, you should look for instances of language and public speech that stimulate your critical thinking and desire to know more.

Worried about your writing? Submit your paper for a Chegg Writing essay check , or for an Expert Check proofreading . Both can help you find and fix potential writing issues.

Selecting rhetorical artifacts and preparing your analysis

Before beginning your analysis, you must select a rhetorical artifact to analyze. Like a scientists in a laboratory, you will focus on that significant artifact. Most often, the rhetorical artifact is a speech transcript or written text, but visual images (like advertisements, television, and movies) may also be analyzed for their rhetorical qualities.

When considering what makes a good rhetorical artifact, you should look for instances of language and public speech that stimulate your critical thinking and desire to know more.

A rhetorical artifact can be a single instance of a speech or written text that is shared to reach or persuade an audience.

Rhetoricians have also categorized multiple artifacts to understand what persuasive appeals they share. These categories function as genres. An analysis of a genre would allow you to compare and contrast multiple artifacts to consider how rhetorical devices and persuasive strategies are used in a broader set of speeches or texts.

Finding a single rhetorical artifact could be as quick as printing a speech from a past or current president. But if you want to write a good rhetorical analysis, you will need to

  • Perform research about the period of the speech.
  • Learn about the various audience dispositions.
  • Have background knowledge about the topic you have chosen.

For these reasons, if you prefer not to read about politics and history, you should consider other rhetorical artifacts related to your interests.

If you prefer reading about sports and entertainment, you might consider a rhetorical artifact like a ceremonial speech:

  • Hall of fame induction speech
  • Best Picture nomination

With only a single transcript of such a speech, it might be difficult to develop an insightful analysis. Instead, you could take up a broader analysis of a genre.

For example, you could analyze hall of fame induction speeches by examining several and detailing the oratorical characteristics that distinguish them. This genre approach would require you to consider multiple examples from many sources.

The choice to focus on a single artifact or analyze a genre is up to you and is largely dependent upon the types of questions you’re asking and the thesis you’re developing. In some cases, it is necessary to cast a wider net. However, in other instances, you might risk fencing off more land than you can plow. In other words, be careful to give yourself enough ideas to think and write about, but don’t lose focus or overwhelm yourself by taking on too much.

In either case, when choosing a rhetorical artifact, you should be interested and somewhat knowledgeable about the topic. Completing the analysis will require you to examine the artifact several times and will challenge you to go beyond summary to identify relevant rhetorical devices and persuasive strategies. To prepare your analysis, you must be ready to use your critical thinking skills to answer the following three questions:

  • What makes this artifact rhetorically significant?
  • Which strategies and devices are used to persuade the audience?
  • How can you use your existing knowledge and interests to shed new light on this artifact?

Developing your analysis

Explaining artifacts.

A rhetorical artifact does not have to be as widely circulated as a presidential address or celebrity award speech to be considered significant. To be rhetorically significant, an artifact needs to

  • Respond to a rhetorical situation
  • Address a public audience
  • Attempt to influence the attitudes, behaviors, or beliefs of the audience.

Your first task in the introduction, before getting to the thesis, is to explain why the artifact you’ve chosen is rhetorically significant. Here are a few examples:

  • An artifact that is significant because it’s popular and widely circulated.
  • An artifact that represents a lesser-known perspective. It can provide new understandings on a topic.
  • Rare: a single act of persuasion that creates an event that resonates in history.

More often, acts of persuasion are punctuated by related events that assemble a shared meaning over time.

A rhetorical situation exists when there is a need for a message to address an audience. For example:

Following an environmental disaster, there is a need for emergency officials to address impacted communities. When two companies merge, there is a need to address stockholders. And when a new product is released, there is a press kit and marketing campaign. In each instance, there is a rhetorical situation waiting to be analyzed.

In a rhetorical analysis, it is not enough to say that local officials used pathos to empathize after an environmental disaster. Readers wouldn’t be surprised to learn that corporate mergers emphasize logos to demonstrate a positive return on investment. And you’d have to show more than just an example of a celebrity endorsement to analyze the use of ethos in a marketing campaign.

Main points

A well-though rhetorical analysis will consider how appeals to ethos, logos, and/or pathos are developed by examining the persuasive devices and structures of reasoning used within the text of the artifact. This does not mean that your main points have to be related to ethos, pathos, and logos. Your main points should be your original findings about how the artifact is addressing the rhetorical situation and using language to influence its audience.

Consider the proposed main points for an analysis of a company that has recently rebranded its logo and slogan (the rhetorical artifact) following a controversy (the rhetorical situation):

  • 1st main point: This might explain how the logo uses personification to humanize the brand.
  • 2nd main point: This might suggest that the logo and slogan evolved as a strategic image repair strategy following the controversy.
  • 3rd main point: This might argue that the new logo and slogan establish a new company metaphor that guides their vision to rebuild their audience.

When outlined this way, each main point is not just a summary of appeals to ethos, logos, or pathos. In a rhetorical analysis, each main point develops an argument about how the artifact attempts to accomplish its appeals.

  • 1st main point: Consider the first main point above as an explanation of how the artifact appeals to ethos through personification.
  • 2nd main point: The second main point is a logical explanation of how the evolution was employed as a strategy.
  • 3rd main point: And the third is an examination of the way that audience emotions are guided by metaphor and symbolism.

Devices and strategies to consider

In addition to devices and strategies reviewed that you may already know, rhetorical scholars have names for a number of tropes, figures, structures, and fallacies used to persuade. Here are three common ones:

  • Antithesis: The expression of an opposite idea to contrast ideas.
  • Alliteration: The repetition of words beginning with a similar sound, as in Dr. Martin Luther King’s lament of the ‘sweltering summer of discontent’ with its alliterative S sound.
  • Anaphora: A repetition of a key phrase throughout a text.

These three rhetorical terms are just a few of the strategic devices you could choose to identify in association with appeals to ethos, pathos, or logos. Rhetoricians have developed a sophisticated inventory of terms that could fill a dictionary from A-Z. You don’t have to know them all, but you should be ready to use what you do know.

Analysis overview

A solid rhetorical analysis should allow you to use what you know to better examine an artifact of your choosing. If you have a passion for crochet (or another hobby) or are pursuing a minor in geology (or other study), be prepared to delve into these areas and make rhetorical connections.

Perhaps the online crochet community is uniquely rhetorical, and your investigation can teach readers more about how online communities form. Or maybe your knowledge of geology will allow you to better examine the arguments that keep scientific conferences buzzing.

A good rhetorical analysis does not need to break the mold or attempt to best the works of Aristotle. The best rhetorical analyses make three different types of contributions to their readers:

  • They identify, define, and describe a new phenomenon of persuasion and meaning making. This is exceedingly rare and not expected from undergraduate students.
  • They consider previously known persuasive devices and strategies of reasoning and consider them in a new rhetorical situation. This is a more common approach.
  • They apply concepts and theories from an outside academic discipline to explain persuasion and meaning making in an illuminating way. This creative approach requires lots of outside knowledge and authorial skill.

Starting with a topic you’re interested in, using your insider knowledge, and connecting to the rhetorical devices and persuasive strategies you’ve learned about will lead you to a great rhetorical analysis.

Writing your analysis

Writing a rhetorical analysis requires you to describe the rhetorical situation and detail the devices and persuasive strategies used while also maintaining an unbiased authorial perspective.

It’s important that you can identify any argumentative fallacies (or points of weakness) related to your artifact. This is a special kind of analytic writing, and it necessitates an intellectual authorial voice.

Here are a few tips to start you off:

  • Write to an audience that knows a lot about everything, except the very thing you’re writing about. Imagine your readers are very smart people who want to know more about what you’re writing.
  • Avoid using hypothetical questions and write with conviction to tell your audience what they need to know.
  • Define key terms and provide only the need-to-know background information related to key figures or contextual events associated with your artifact.
  • Do not include a summary of the artifact or a detailed background. Instead, frontload your rhetorical thesis and then develop your argument with clearly described and explained main points, each with their own examples and passages of supporting evidence.

Like a scientist or mathematician, rhetoricians must show their work.

After reviewing the artifact and organizing your thoughts, you should be able to make declarative claims about the strategies and devices used. Outline and develop your strongest findings; these will make up your main points of analysis.

Main points and power quotes

For each main point, prepare to provide at least one direct reference or paraphrase related to the artifact that illustrates support for your claim. These direct references are often power quotes, or passages taken directly from the artifact(s) that allow the reader to see the devices, strategies, or appeals at work.

Secondary support

Along with these power quotes, you should integrate multiple pieces of secondary support to substantiate your analysis. Your secondary support needs will depend on the topic and focus but may include the following:

  • newspaper reports
  • government statistics
  • expert interviews
  • related scientific
  • rhetorical findings from academic research

Before you turn in that paper, don’t forget to cite your sources in APA format , MLA format , or a style of your choice.

General paper structure

As you organize your paper, you should develop it with a clear introduction, body of main points, and conclusion:

  • Your introduction should capture the reader’s attention, offer a brief explanation of the rhetorical significance of your artifact, make a clear declarative thesis statement, and preview the main points.
  • The body of your paper should be organized around three main points. Rather than relate your body points to ethos, pathos, and logos, you should look deeper to consider the devices and strategies that facilitate these various appeals. You should prioritize the strongest findings and make an insightful argument.
  • The conclusion should review the significance of your artifact and describe the contribution of your analysis.

Remember: you don’t have to create a new theory of persuasion, but your analysis must be more than a summary. A good rhetorical analysis should share a new perspective with your reader to help them better understand the artifact while also teaching them something they did not already know about the process of persuasion.

Example rhetorical analysis

By Philip Tschirhart, Ph. D. Philip earned a Ph. D. in Communication from the University of Missouri. He has more than ten years of university teaching experience and has published several articles related to rhetoric and the study of audiences, argument, and media.

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how can you apply rhetorical when writing a persuasive essay

15 Examples of Powerful Rhetorical Devices to Level Up Your Communication Skills

  • The Speaker Lab
  • July 9, 2024

Table of Contents

When it comes to mastering the art of public speaking, there are plenty of skills you might focus on improving. One such skill is the use of rhetorical devices in your speech. From Abraham Lincoln to modern-day authors, these tools have shaped unforgettable narratives and compelling arguments. In this article, we’ll explore some key examples of rhetorical devices that you can incorporate into your own writing to captivate and persuade. By the end, you’ll see how these techniques quietly work behind the scenes to make words come alive.

What Are Rhetorical Devices?

Before we study some examples of rhetorical devices, let’s first define what they actually are. Rhetorical devices are techniques or language used to convey a point or convince an audience. And they’re not just for English teachers or literature buffs—politicians, businesspeople, and even your favorite novelists all use rhetorical devices to persuade and impact their audiences.

While there’s some overlap with literary devices like metaphors, rhetorical devices are specifically designed to appeal to the reader’s sensibilities. In other words, they make an argument more compelling, memorable, and persuasive by tapping into emotions, logic, credibility, and style.

Common Types of Rhetorical Devices

So what exactly are these mysterious rhetorical devices? There are actually dozens of different techniques, each with its own unique effect. Some of the most common types include:

  • Ethos: Appeal to the credibility and character of the speaker
  • Pathos: Appeal to the emotions of the audience
  • Logos: Appeal to logic and reason
  • Repetition: Repeating words or phrases for emphasis
  • Analogies: Comparing two things to show similarities
  • Rhetorical questions: Asking a question for effect, not an answer

These are just a few examples, but they give you a sense of the variety and power of rhetorical devices. Each one serves a specific purpose in crafting a persuasive message.

Purpose of Using Rhetorical Devices in Writing

Of course, you may be wondering why you should bother with all these rhetorical devices in the first place. Can’t you just say what you mean and call it a day? You certainly could, but if you want your writing to have a real impact, rhetorical devices are key.

The purpose of using rhetorical devices in writing is to:

  • Engage the reader’s emotions and imagination
  • Make your arguments more memorable and persuasive
  • Establish your credibility and authority on the topic
  • Add style and flair to your prose

Essentially, rhetorical devices are like secret weapons that help your writing pack a punch. They take your arguments from bland to brilliant by tapping into the power of language.

Of course, like any tool, rhetorical devices must be used skillfully and strategically. You can’t just sprinkle them in willy-nilly and expect your writing to improve. It takes practice and finesse to wield them effectively.

But don’t worry—in the next section, we’ll cover some concrete rhetorical devices examples to help you get started. For now, just remember: rhetorical devices are help give your speech a polished feel. Learn to use them wisely, and your writing will reap the benefits.

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15 Examples of Rhetorical Devices in Literature and Everyday Language

Now that we’ve covered the basics of what rhetorical devices are and why they matter, let’s dive into some specific examples. Once you start looking for them, you can find these devices everywhere, whether it’s in famous speeches, classic literature, pop songs, and even everyday conversations. Let’s dive in.

Rhetorical Questions

A rhetorical question is a question asked for effect, not expecting an answer. These questions are designed to make the reader or listener think, emphasizing a point or provoking an emotional response.

  • “If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?” ( The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare)
  • “Are you kidding me?” (Everyday speech)


Alliteration is the repetition of initial consonant sounds in a series of words. It creates a rhythmic, musical quality that makes phrases more memorable.

  • “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.” (Tongue twister)
  • “‘Cause, baby, now we got bad blood.” (“Bad Blood” by Taylor Swift)

Another example of a rhetorical device is an allusion. This technique makes an indirect reference to a person, place, event, or literary work. It relies on the reader’s existing knowledge to make a connection and thus enrich the meaning of the text.

  • “I feel like I’m carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders.” (Reference to Greek myth of Atlas)
  • “If you’re Juliet, then I’m your Romeo.” (Allusion to Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet )


Amplification involves repeating a word or expression while adding more detail to clarify meaning. It’s used to emphasize certain points and expand on important ideas.

  • “Love, true love, will follow you forever.” ( The Princess Bride )
  • “A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.” (The Twits by Roald Dahl)

An analogy is a comparison between two things to show their similarities. It helps explain complex ideas by relating them to more familiar concepts.

  • “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” ( Forrest Gump )
  • “Finding a good man is like finding a needle in a haystack.” (Common expression)

Anaphora is the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses. Not only does it create a powerful rhythmic effect, but it also emphasizes key themes or ideas.

  • “I have a dream that one day…” (Repeated throughout MLK’s famous speech)
  • “It rained on his lousy tombstone, and it rained on the grass on his stomach. It rained all over the place.” (Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger)

Antanagoge involves placing a criticism and compliment together to lessen the impact. It’s a way of simultaneously acknowledging a fault and offering a positive perspective.

  • “The car is not pretty, but it runs great.” (Everyday speech)
  • “April showers bring May flowers.” (Common expression)


As you’ve seen in some examples already, rhetorical devices often utilize repetition to create a certain effect. Antimetabole is no different. In order to use this technique, a writer must repeat words or phrases in reverse order for emphasis. The inverted parallelism creates a memorable, catchy effect.

  • “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” (JFK’s inaugural address)
  • “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” (Common expression)


Antiphrasis uses a word with an opposite meaning for ironic or humorous effect. It’s a form of sarcasm or understatement that draws attention to the contrast between what is said and reality.

  • “Oh, I love being stuck in traffic.” (Sarcastic everyday speech)
  • “I was awakened by the dulcet tones of Frank, the morning doorman, alternately yelling my name, ringing my doorbell, and pounding on my apartment door…” ( Filthy Rich by Dorothy Samuels)

Antithesis juxtaposes two contrasting ideas in parallel structure. The stark contrast not only emphasizes the conflict between the ideas but also adds vibrancy to the language.

  • “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” (Neil Armstrong)
  • “To err is human; to forgive, divine.” (Alexander Pope)

An appositive is a noun or noun phrase that renames another noun right beside it. It adds both extra details and context about the original noun.

  • “My brother, a talented musician, taught himself guitar.” (Everyday speech)
  • “Mr. Knightley, a sensible man about seven or eight-and-thirty, was not only a very old and intimate friend of the family, but particularly connected with it, as the elder brother of Isabella’s husband.” ( Emma by Jane Austen)

Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in nearby words. Much like alliteration, it creates a musical or rhythmic effect that can make language more memorable.

  • “The rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain.” (Song lyric from My Fair Lady )
  • “Goodnight, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite.” (Common expression)

Asyndeton refers to a practice in literature whereby the author purposely leaves out conjunctions in the sentence, while maintaining the grammatical accuracy of the phrase. It helps speed up the rhythm of the prose being constructed.

  • “I came, I saw, I conquered.” (Julius Caesar)
  • “Live, laugh, love.” (Everyday expression)

Cacophony is the use of words with sharp, harsh, hissing, and unmelodious sounds—primarily those of consonants—in order to achieve desired results. For instance, the author might be trying to create a spooky atmosphere or engage the reader’s auditory senses.

  • “My stick fingers click with a snicker/And, chuckling, they knuckle the keys.” (“Player Piano” by John Updike)
  • “Beware the Jabberwock, my son./The jaws that bite, the claws that catch.” (“Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll)

Chiasmus is a “two-part sentence or phrase, where the second part is a reversal of the first.” As you may notice from the examples below, this rhetorical device is strikingly similar to antimetabole. However, whereas antimetabole uses the same or similar wording in reverse, chiasmus merely “mirrors related concepts by repeating elements of a sentence.” As a result, chiasmus allows for a bit more freedom of expression while still creating a parallel sentence structure.

  • “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.” (Billy Joel)
  • “Genuine righteousness leads to life, but the pursuit of evil brings death.” (Proverbs 11:19)

As you can see, rhetorical devices can be found anywhere, from political speeches to pop songs to everyday expressions. By understanding how these techniques work, you can harness their power in your own writing and speech.

How to Effectively Use Rhetorical Devices in Your Writing

Mastering the art of using rhetorical devices can take your writing to the next level. In order to truly harness the power of rhetorical devices, however, you need to approach them strategically and with purpose. Let’s break it down.

Identify Your Purpose

Before you start adding rhetorical devices to your writing, take a step back and consider your purpose. What do you want to achieve with your piece? Are you trying to persuade your audience, evoke emotion, or simply inform them? When you understand your goal, you can choose the most appropriate devices to support your message.

Choose Appropriate Devices

Once you’ve identified your purpose, it’s time to select the rhetorical devices that will best serve your writing. This is where really understanding the different types of devices comes in handy. For example, if you want to create a sense of urgency, you might opt for rhetorical devices such as repetition or hyperbole . If you’re aiming to establish credibility, then you might lean towards allusion or ethos .

Use Them Sparingly

While using rhetorical devices is a great way to make your speeches shine, it’s important not to go overboard. In fact, overusing these techniques can actually weaken your writing and make it feel gimmicky or insincere. Instead, use them sparingly and strategically, like a chef adding just the right amount of seasoning to enhance a dish.

Ensure Clarity

While rhetorical devices can add depth and impact to your writing, they should never come at the expense of clarity. Your audience should still be able to easily understand your message, even with the added flourishes. If a device is making your writing confusing or convoluted, then it’s time to rethink its use.

Practice and Revise

Like any skill, effectively using rhetorical devices takes practice. When you write, experiment with different techniques and see how they impact your work. Don’t be afraid to revise and refine your use of devices as you go. Over time, you’ll develop a keen sense of when and how to deploy these powerful tools for maximum impact.

By following these guidelines and continually honing your craft, you’ll be well on your way to mastering the art of using rhetorical devices in your writing. Remember, the goal is not to show off your literary prowess, but rather to enhance your message and engage your audience on a deeper level.

The Impact of Rhetorical Devices on Audience Engagement

If you’re looking for ways to engage your audience, then rhetorical devices are great examples of how to do so effectively. But that’s not all that they can do. Rhetorical devices can also create emphasis, evoke emotions, enhance memorability, and establish credibility. If you’re a writer, then understanding the impact these techniques can have on your audience is crucial.

Creating Emphasis

One of the most powerful ways rhetorical devices engage audiences is by creating emphasis. Rhetorical devices like repetition, amplification, and antithesis, for example, can highlight key ideas or arguments, making them stand out in the reader’s mind. By strategically emphasizing certain points, you can guide your audience’s attention and ensure your most important messages hit home.

Evoking Emotions

Rhetorical devices are also incredibly effective at evoking emotions in your audience. Whether you want to inspire, motivate, or persuade, techniques like metaphor , hyperbole, and rhetorical questions can tap into your reader’s feelings and create a powerful emotional connection. And when your audience feels something, they’re more likely to stay engaged and invested in your message.

Enhancing Memorability

If you want someone to remember your speech, then rhetorical devices are crucial. Techniques such as alliteration, assonance, and chiasmus create a sense of rhythm and balance in your writing. By crafting passages with these rhetorical devices, you can ensure that your ideas don’t just sound good, but also linger long after your audience has finished reading.

Establishing Credibility

Finally, rhetorical devices can play a crucial role in establishing your credibility as a writer. By skillfully employing techniques such as allusion, ethos, and logos, you demonstrate your expertise and authority on a subject. When your audience perceives you as knowledgeable and trustworthy, they’re more likely to engage with your ideas and take your message to heart.

By understanding the impact of rhetorical devices on audience engagement and using them effectively in your writing, you can take your work to new heights. Whether you’re crafting a persuasive essay, a compelling blog post, or a powerful speech, these techniques are your secret weapon for captivating your audience and leaving a lasting impression. So go forth and wield them wisely.

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Examples of Rhetorical Devices in Famous Speeches

Throughout history, great orators and writers have used rhetorical devices in order to captivate their audiences and drive home their points. Below are several famous speeches and essays that showcase the power of these techniques. So if you are looking for examples of how to use rhetorical devices effectively, then you’ve come to the right place.

“The Gettysburg Address” by Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” is a short speech, but it packs a rhetorical punch. In just a few minutes, Lincoln manages to honor the fallen soldiers, reaffirm the principles of the Declaration of Independence, and call on his audience to dedicate themselves to the unfinished work of the war.

One of the key devices Lincoln uses is antithesis, the juxtaposition of contrasting ideas. “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here,” he says, contrasting the fleeting nature of words with the permanence of actions.

Lincoln also employs epistrophe  (the repetition of a word or phrase at the end of successive clauses) when he says, “of the people, by the people, for the people.” This technique drives home the central theme of the speech: that the war was fought in order to preserve a government based on popular sovereignty.

“I Have a Dream” by Martin Luther King, Jr.

One of the most iconic speeches in American history, Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” is a masterclass in the use of rhetorical devices. Throughout the speech, King employs techniques like anaphora, allusion, and metaphor to paint a vivid picture of his vision for a more just and equal society.

The well-known line from King’s speech “I have a dream” illustrates the power of anaphora, as it is repeated throughout his speech in order to emphasize his wish for equality. King also makes use of allusion, referencing the Declaration of Independence, the Gettysburg Address, and the Bible to tie his message to the larger American and Christian traditions. In addition, his metaphors, like “the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity,” make abstract concepts concrete and emotionally resonant.

“We Shall Fight on the Beaches” by Winston Churchill

Delivered at a time when Britain stood alone against the might of Nazi Germany, Winston Churchill’s “We Shall Fight on the Beaches” speech is a stirring call to arms. Churchill uses a variety of rhetorical devices to inspire his audience and project confidence in the face of overwhelming odds.

One of the most prominent devices in the speech is anaphora. Churchill repeats the phrase “we shall fight” multiple times, each time in a different context: “we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air.” This repetition hammers home the message of defiance and determination.

Churchill also makes use of metaphor, comparing the British Empire and its allies to “the old lion” and Nazi Germany to “the new and terrible enemy.” These vivid images help to paint the conflict in stark, almost mythic terms.

“Friends, Romans, Countrymen” by William Shakespeare

Though not a real-life speech, Mark Antony’s funeral oration in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is a fictional example of rhetorical mastery. Antony’s speech is a brilliant manipulation of the crowd’s emotions, turning them against Brutus and the other conspirators and inciting them to riot.

One of Antony’s key techniques is irony. Throughout the speech, he repeatedly refers to Brutus as an “honorable man,” while providing evidence that contradicts this characterization. This irony helps to undermine Brutus’s credibility and cast doubt on his motives.

Antony also makes effective use of pathos, the appeal to emotion . He shows the crowd Caesar’s wounded body and reads his will, which leaves money to the citizens of Rome. These actions stir up feelings of grief and gratitude in the crowd, making them more receptive to Antony’s message.

These famous speeches demonstrate the power of rhetorical devices to shape opinion, stir emotion, and even change the course of history. When we study how great orators and writers have used these techniques, we can learn to communicate our own ideas more effectively and persuasively.

FAQs on Rhetorical Devices

What is an example of a rhetorical device.

Anaphora, the repetition of words at the start of successive phrases, helps create emotional impact. Think MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

What are the three most common rhetorical devices?

Alliteration, metaphor, and hyperbole top the list.

What is an example of a rhetorical technique?

Antithesis pairs opposites to highlight contrast. For instance, the statement “to err is human; to forgive, divine” employs antithesis.

The magic of effective communication often lies in mastering various rhetorical devices. Whether you’re crafting an inspiring speech or penning a thought-provoking essay, understanding these tools is crucial.

You’ve now seen how simple yet impactful techniques such as metaphors, analogies, and antitheses enrich our language. These aren’t just academic exercises; they’re practical strategies you can apply today. So as you write your next piece, remember to create emphasis with repetition, evoke emotions with vivid imagery, and add rhythm with alliteration. Happy writing!

  • Last Updated: July 3, 2024

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What Are Ethos, Logos, and Pathos?

Ethos, logos, and pathos are elements of persuasion. We’ll be covering what they mean and how to include them in your writing.

What are the three rhetorical appeals? Pathos, logos, ethos. We'll review what this means below.

Quick Summary on Using Ethos, Logos, and Pathos in Your Writing

  • Ethos , logos , and pathos are elements of writing that make it more effective and persuasive. While ethos establishes the writer’s credibility, logos appeals to the audience’s reason, and pathos appeals to their emotions.
  • These three concepts, also known as the rhetorical triangle , three rhetorical appeals , or three modes of persuasion , were coined by Aristotle in his explanation of what makes rhetoric effective.

Ethos vs. Logos vs. Pathos

To understand what ethos, logos, and pathos are, you must first know what rhetoric is.

Rhetoric is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing.” Aristotle defined rhetoric as “the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion.” In simpler terms, rhetoric is the effectiveness of the words (spoken or written) you choose to convey a message or change your audience’s perspective.

According to Aristotle, there are three means by which your rhetoric can be more powerful and that’s through the use of ethos, logos, and pathos. Knowing how to apply these three elements of persuasion can make your writing more compelling, so we’re going to teach you exactly what they mean and how to use them.

What is the definition of ethos pathos logos?

What Is Ethos, and How Do You Include It in Your Writing?

Ethos establishes the writer’s credibility or authority. Imagine you’re at a climate change conference to learn how you can help planet Earth. Whose speech would you find more trustworthy—that of a CEO of a gas company that has profited millions of dollars by drilling for oil, or a speech by the CEO of a non-profit that helps clean oceans?

Ethos “appeals to the writer’s credibility, authority, or character” to get the audience to trust them.

My non-profit organization started with just one volunteer—me. I’d walk up and down the beaches collecting trash. Then, a friend joined me. The following week, that friend brought a friend. And then another. Until it grew to what it is today—an organization with more than 300 volunteers who have helped remove more than 15,000 pounds (6.8 tons) of trash from the beaches and the oceans. So, I know quite a bit on getting people together for a good cause.

Consider word choice, spelling, and grammar when incorporating ethos to your writing. It’s hard to trust a writer when their text is riddled with errors. Depending on what you’re writing, it may be a good idea to explicitly explain why you’re trustworthy and your expertise in the area you’re writing about.

To ensure your writing is error-free, try using LanguageTool as your writing assistant. This multilingual spelling and grammar checker can detect various types of mistakes in your writing and suggest stylistic improvements.

What Is Logos, and How Do You Include It in Your Writing?

The word logic is derived from the word logos. As you might have imagined, logos is the “appeal to the reader’s logic.” This means that you use facts, data, and statistics to support your reasoning.

Using logos in your writing is effective because it provides evidence that makes it difficult for your audience to disagree with you. Proper use of logos in your writing requires thorough research. The following example includes logos:

According to NASA and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “the influence of human activity on the warming of the planet has evolved from theory to established fact.” This can be proven through data collected from ice cores, rocks, and tree rings as well as modern equipment, like satellites.

What Is Pathos, and How Do You Include It in Your Writing?

The last of the three elements of persuasion we’ll be discussing is pathos, which appeals to the audience’s emotions. In other words, writers try to persuade their audience by having them feel a certain way. Consider the following example:

Climate change is already happening all around us. But let’s pretend that we’re at the liberty of not having to worry about it because its effects won’t be evident in our lifetimes. What about your children? Or your children’s children? Imagine the life they will live as they have to endure extreme heat, catastrophic hurricanes, unprecedented rainfalls, and more. Climate change may not affect you personally, but it will affect those you love.

Ethos, Pathos, and Logos Makes For Effective Writing

Depending on what you’re writing and how you’re writing it, you may find yourself using more of either ethos, logos, or pathos. Truly effective writing finds a way to incorporate all three, even if one or two are used just a bit. As you read, try to recognize ethos, logos, and pathos. This will help you better incorporate it into your writing.


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How to Write the AP Lang Synthesis Essay with Example

How to Write the AP Lang Synthesis Essay with Example

Are you a high school student preparing for the AP Language and Composition exam? Or perhaps you are a teacher looking to help your students with the skills to ace the synthesis essay? Either way, you’ve landed in the right place. This blog will serve as your comprehensive guide to mastering this challenging yet rewarding component of the AP Language exam.

We’ll dig into what a synthesis essay entails and its structure, and we’ll furnish you with actionable strategies to approach the task with confidence. We’ll also provide insights into selecting and integrating sources effectively, constructing a compelling argument, and polishing your writing to perfection.

Table of Contents

Overview of AP Language and Composition

AP English Language and Composition , widely known as AP Lang, is a popular and engaging Advanced Placement course taken by over half a million high school students each year. The course is designed to hone essential skills such as analyzing written works, synthesizing information, constructing rhetorical essays, and writing compelling arguments. While the course presents a rigorous challenge, with just over 60% of students achieving a passing score of three or higher on the AP exam, the rewards of mastering these skills are significant.

The AP Lang exam is a comprehensive assessment consisting of two distinct sections. The first section, a one-hour multiple-choice segment, assesses your ability to analyze written passages and answer questions based solely on the provided text. This section comprises approximately 45% of the total exam score. The second section is a two-hour and fifteen-minute free-response segment. It evaluates your writing skills through three distinct essays. This section accounts for the remaining 55% of the exam score.

The three essays within the free-response section target specific writing skills. The synthesis essay challenges you to develop an argument by incorporating information from multiple provided sources. The rhetorical analysis essay requires you to dissect how an author uses language to convey meaning and achieve specific effects. Finally, the argumentative essay prompts you to take a stance on a debatable issue and construct a persuasive argument based on evidence.

What is the AP Lang Synthesis Essay?

The AP Language and Composition exam’s first free-response task is the synthesis essay. It is a one-hour exercise during which you read six to seven sources on a specific topic and compose a well-developed essay. These sources include a mix of print texts, approximately 500 words each, and visual elements like graphs or charts. You are advised to allocate 15 minutes to reading and analyzing these sources, followed by 40 minutes for writing and 5 minutes for review, but the time distribution can be adjusted as needed.

The synthesis essay prompt comprises three paragraphs: a brief introduction to the topic, a claim about the topic, and instructions for the essay. The claim is often broad and open to interpretation, requiring you to take a stance—either agreeing or disagreeing—and support your position by synthesizing information from at least three of the provided sources.

According to the College Board, a successful synthesis essay should “ combine different perspectives from sources to form a support of a coherent position. ” This means you must clearly state your claim, establish connections between sources to reinforce your argument, and provide specific evidence to validate your points.

The synthesis essay contributes six points to the overall AP Lang exam score. A holistic rubric evaluates the essay based on the thesis statement (0–1 point), evidence and commentary (0–4 points), and sophistication of thought and complexity of understanding (0–1 point).

Here’s an example prompt and essay provided by the College Board :

Urban rewilding is an effort to restore natural ecological processes and habitats in city environments. Many cities around the world have embraced rewilding as part of larger movements to promote ecological conservation and environmentally friendly design. Now, a movement to promote urban rewilding is beginning to take shape in the United States as well.

Refer to the sources as Source A, Source B, etc.; titles are included for your convenience.
Source A (infographic from Fastnacht)
Source B (Jepson and Schepers policy brief)
Source C (NRPA article)
Source D (Garland article)
Source E (graph from McDonald et al.)
Source F (Chatterton book excerpt)

In your response, you should do the following:
1. Respond to the prompt with a thesis that presents a defensible position.
2. Select and use evidence from at least three of the provided sources to support your line of reasoning.
3. Indicate clearly the sources used through direct quotation, paraphrase, or summary. Sources may be cited as Source A, Source B, etc., or by using the description in parentheses.
4. Explain how the evidence supports your line of reasoning.
5. Use appropriate grammar and punctuation when communicating your argument.

Rewilding is a term that not many people have heard of or even pay attention to. That doesn’t mean it’s not important, either. Rewilding is a good thing for the planet; it’s good for plants and the environment. The world needs to start caring, and children, especially, are the future.

Rewilding is good for our environment and for the future of preserving our world. In source C, “If people don’t spend any time outside, why are they going to care about their local places, let alone the national parks in the distance?” Going outside isn’t just good for the planet; it is also good for yourself. Nature isn’t really welcome in big cities, but reintroducing new plants can make it feel like it is welcome. Kids need to start caring about nature and not just about phones and video games. It gives you a different way to see our planet and care about what happens to it.

In addition, rewilding is valuable for our society to learn as a whole. In source B, “Rewilding is exciting, engaging, and challenging; it is promoting debate and deliberation on what is natural and the natures we collectively wish to conserve and shape.” It’s important for kids to understand, and a challenge can be what a lot of children need. Also in source A, “More than 70% of projected extinctions of plants and animals would be counteracted by restoring only 30% of priority areas.” That can be such a good thing, and that’s why rewilding, especially for our country, is important. If we don’t, we could lose 70% of plants and animals, which would send the ecosystem into whack.

Overall, rewilding should be focused on more; we have a lot to lose. Putting in the time and effort in our cities and urban settings is what we need to do. If you don’t care now, start caring. Kids especially need to focus.

Read also: Write an ap lang argument essay

How to Write a Synthesis Essay for the AP Language Exam

Step 1: analyze the prompt.

Begin by carefully reading and analyzing the prompt. Underline or highlight key terms to identify the central question and your task. Remember that you don’t need to decide your stance immediately; understanding the prompt is the priority here.

Step 2: Read and annotate the sources

Although you’ll only use three sources in your essay, read them all. This provides a broader understanding of the topic and helps you choose the most relevant evidence. As you read, actively annotate by highlighting key points, noting connections, and jotting down potential arguments.

After each source, briefly assess whether it supports, opposes, or nuances your emerging thesis. If you finish reading early, use the remaining time to start outlining your essay.

Step 3: Write a strong thesis statement

Your thesis statement should clearly state your position on the prompt’s claim. You can choose to defend the claim (argue it’s correct), challenge it (argue it’s incorrect), or qualify it (agree with some aspects and disagree with others). A strong thesis avoids summarizing the issue or restating the prompt; it establishes a clear line of reasoning.

Step 4: Outline your essay

Though it may seem counter intuitive when time is limited, outlining is essential. Your outline should include your thesis statement, three main points (one for each body paragraph), and the supporting evidence you’ll use from the sources. Briefly note how this evidence connects back to your thesis.

Step 5: Write your essay

With your annotated sources and outline in hand, writing your essay should be smoother. Begin with a focus on providing insightful commentary that explains how your evidence supports or refutes the prompt’s claim.

When referencing sources, use simple in-text citations like “Source 1,” “Source 2,” etc. Be sure to double-check your citations for accuracy. Before moving on, quickly proofread your essay for any errors.

Read also: How Long Should Your College Essay Be?

AP Lang Synthesis Essay Score Evaluation

The AP Language Synthesis Essay accounts for six points of the total exam score. Your essay will be evaluated on several key components. Primarily, a clear and defensible thesis statement that directly responds to the exam prompt can earn you up to one point. The majority of your score (up to four points) depends on how well you incorporate evidence from at least three sources and explain how that evidence supports your reasoning. Each piece of evidence should be explicitly linked to your argument, demonstrating a clear and consistent line of thought.

To earn the final point, your essay must show sophistication of thought. This can be achieved by writing a nuanced argument that acknowledges the complexities and tensions within the sources, situating your argument within a broader context to reveal its implications, or explaining the limitations of your or others’ arguments. Additionally, employing effective rhetorical devices and maintaining a vivid and persuasive writing style can further strengthen your essay.

Read also: Personal Statement Essay Examples

5 Tips to Ace the Synthesis Essay for the AP Language Exam

1. understand the prompt.

Begin by meticulously analyzing the prompt. Identify the central issue being discussed and the specific task you’re asked to perform (argue, evaluate, analyze, etc.). Underline key terms and phrases to ensure you fully grasp the expectations.

2. Engage actively with the sources

Don’t just skim through the sources; actively read and annotate the provided sources. Identify the main idea and supporting evidence in each. Note the source’s perspective and any potential biases. Highlight quotes or data you might use in your essay. Aim to understand how the sources relate to each other and the prompt.

3. Write a nuanced thesis

Your thesis should be a clear, concise statement of your position on the issue presented in the prompt. It should be specific and incorporate the nuances you’ve gleaned from the sources. Avoid merely restating the prompt; instead, offer an insightful perspective that you’ll support with evidence throughout your essay.

4. Construct a cohesive argument

Your essay should be a well-structured argument, not a mere summary of the sources. Each body paragraph should focus on a single point that supports your thesis. Use evidence from the sources to back up your claims, and provide your analysis and interpretation of that evidence. Connect your paragraphs with clear transitions to create a logical flow.

5. Leave time for revision

After writing your essay, take a few minutes to review it carefully. Check for grammatical errors, awkward phrasing, and clarity issues. Ensure that your argument is well-developed and your evidence is effectively integrated. A polished essay shows your command of language and strengthens your overall argument.

how can you apply rhetorical when writing a persuasive essay

From the Desk of Yocket

Writing a good AP Language synthesis essay requires a balanced approach of critical thinking, careful analysis, and persuasive writing. You should begin by thoroughly understanding the prompt and identifying the central issue and the required task. Then, dig into the provided sources, extracting key points, perspectives, and evidence that relate to your developing stance.

A strong thesis is the backbone of your essay. It should clearly state your position on the issue and provide a roadmap for the reader, outlining the key points you’ll explore. As you bring together evidence from multiple sources, remember to provide insightful commentary, explaining how each piece of evidence bolsters your argument. Try to avoid simply dropping quotes or paraphrasing; instead, analyze the significance of each piece, showing a nuanced understanding of the issue and the sources.

You should conclude your essay by revisiting your thesis and summarizing your key arguments. You can also offer a thoughtful extension, such as suggesting implications for your argument, addressing potential counterarguments, or proposing future directions for research. Throughout your essay, prioritize clarity, coherence, and sophistication in your language and structure. This will show your ability to analyze complex texts and synthesize information into a compelling argument. Remember to maintain a strong connection with your audience, ensuring your writing on Yocket remains engaging and relevant.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a synthesis essay on the ap language exam.

A synthesis essay requires you to develop a position on a given topic by incorporating and citing evidence from multiple sources. You’ll need to evaluate, select, and synthesize information from these sources to create a cohesive argument.

How many sources are typically provided for the synthesis essay?

The AP Language exam usually provides 6–7 sources for the synthesis essay, including texts and visual elements like graphs or charts.

What is the time allotted for writing the synthesis essay?

The entire free-response section of the AP Language exam, which includes the synthesis essay, rhetorical analysis, and argumentative essay, is 2 hours and 15 minutes. You may budget roughly 40 minutes to read the sources and plan your essay, leaving 40 minutes to write.

How is the synthesis essay scored?

The synthesis essay is scored on a 0–9 scale, with 9 being the highest. Points are awarded for a clear thesis, effective use of evidence and commentary, sophisticated analysis, and overall coherence.

Do I have to agree with the sources to use in my synthesis essay?

No, you can use sources to support a counterargument or provide alternative perspectives. The key is to engage with the sources critically and use them to build your argument.

How should I cite sources in my synthesis essay?

You can use parenthetical citations (author’s last name or source letter) to indicate where you’ve used information from the sources. It’s essential to avoid plagiarism by accurately attributing all borrowed ideas and language.

What are some common mistakes to avoid in the synthesis essay?

Try to avoid merely summarizing the sources without adding your analysis. Ensure your thesis clearly states your position and is supported by evidence throughout the essay. You should refrain from relying too heavily on one source and aim for a balanced incorporation of multiple perspectives.

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