What is Rhetorical Analysis and How to Write It?

A rhetorical analysis attempts to understand how the author uses various strategies to achieve his/her goal when writing a particular work. It can consider and evaluate scientific literature, speech, and visual text such as an ad or cartoon. In rhetorical analysis, a person does not try to understand or generalize the meaning of work but analyzes how the author writes, but not what he or she writes.

Therefore, a rhetorical analysis assesses the author’s style, diction, structure, etc., and observes whether the author has succeeded in achieving his or her main goal. Thus, a rhetorical analysis must include the goals, techniques, or strategies used, provide examples, and reflect the effectiveness of these strategies (for a rhetorical analysis example, navigate here). 

How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis?

Different authors have contrasting goals. For example, someone writes to entertain readers, and other writers provide information. Other authors try to convince their readers in writing or speech. Thus, the strategies used by various authors differ depending on their goals. These strategies may also differ depending on the areas of use; for example, a humanities writer may have a different set of strategies than a medical writer.

In rhetorical analysis, there are two main stages: preparation and writing. Preparation includes:

Step 1: Read the text.

Read the text very attentively to understand its meaning. Then, identify the author’s main ideas, arguments, and goals.

Step 2: Divide the text.

You may not be able to parse the text once you finish reading it. The most convenient way to analyze a text is to separate it into parts. Answers to these questions will help you to divide the text:

  1. What is the main idea of the text?
  2. What problem is the writer discussing? Why did he/she choose this particular problem?
  3. Who is the target audience of this text?
  4. What is the aim of a writer? (Does the text criticize, inform, or persuade?)
  5. How do the ideas in this text work? (Casual, chronological, topical, etc.)
  6. How is the choice of words used?
  7. Are there any quotes or dialogues? Why are they used?
  8. Does the author use punctuation marks to create an effect?
  9. Are any phrases or words repeated? How can you comment on this repetition?
  10. What sentence structure does the author use? (Are there many passive sentences, broken lines, snippets, commands, exclamations, etc.?)

You can add different questions to help you better understand the text. Then, based on your answers, you can identify the author’s rhetoric strategies. In addition, these answers will help you understand why the author chooses to write the way he/she does it.

After that, you are ready to write the rhetorical analysis, which also includes several steps:

Step 1: Write a thesis statement and introduction.

After establishing the rhetorical strategies, you can begin to analyze their use. First, decide how you feel about your author’s choice. Do you think he or she succeeded in using rhetorical devices? Will he or she achieve his/her ultimate goal?

Step 2: Write the main body paragraphs.

After you have finished your introduction, write the main body text. For example, you might reflect on why the author used a particular theme and then move on to stylistic choices and their influence. You do not need to analyze every strategy. Instead, stick to those that the author has used frequently and strategies that you can analyze well. 

Step 3: Analyze.

Authors use contrasting strategies to achieve their goals. Don’t just summarize them, but comment on why they were used. For instance, instead of just saying that the author uses colloquial expressions, describe their effect.

Step 4: Write the conclusion.

Finally, summarize the rhetoric strategies you mentioned in the essay and indicate whether the writer achieved his/her goal with these strategies. It will help you connect the conclusion of the essay with the introduction.

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