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How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis Essay

How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis Essay

Taking the AP exam is a wise decision made by most students around the US. Though, some required learning revisions may be challenging to get a grasp of. Especially when it comes to learning how to write a rhetorical analysis essay, it may seem a difficult task for beginners, but once you know the tricks and tips, you will be writing like a Pro in no time.

In this article, we discuss the definition of rhetorical analysis, show a step-by-step guide with an outline, tips, and examples. For any essay help feel free to contact team here — custom paper writing service.

Table of Contents

What Is a Rhetorical Analysis Essay?

The rhetorical analysis definition says to apply critical thinking and reading skills to break down and analyze text. The goal is to examine what is implied in the text, rather than what is written.

There are thousands of writing strategies used to analyze modern texts, as well as historical texts. In a rhetorical analysis essay you must identify the writing style of the author and their point of view. It requires analyzing the author’s methods of persuasion (words and phrases that the author creates) and how effective they are to readers. The example topics are speeches given by influential figures.

How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis: Step-by-Step

The AP exam is a time-limited task; fast and effective preparation is key to creating a powerful piece of academic writing. Writing a rhetorical analysis essay starts with reading and analyzing the assigned text. As you begin reading the introductory information, start taking notes of valuable information that will simplify the analysis process.

Here are the questions you must answer in the analysis:

  • Who is the author and what is their intended target audience?
  • What is their purpose for writing the speech/document?
  • In what setting they are located while giving the speech and why the author chose a specific context to deliver his main message(s)?

Having these questions in mind and uncovering their answers will simplify the process of analyzing their strategies when writing your rhetorical analysis essay. At the very least these questions as a template give you something to work off, and having information allows you to understand writer’s methods of persuasion.

The ingredients for persuasion, as Aristotle called them, can be broken down into three categories. There are ethos, pathos, and logos.

  • The ethos appeals to ethics, and it is about providing traits and reasons as to why the speaker is a credible source of information.

  • The pathos appeals to emotions. It is a sneaky way of convincing an audience by creating an emotional response.

  • The logos (our personal favorite) appeals to logical & rational thinking and tries to persuade the audience through reasoning.

Here are some examples:

  • Ethos: “Doctors all over the world recommend this type of treatment!”
  • Pathos: “You’ll make the right decision because you have something that not many people do: you have the heart."
  • Logos: “Thousand of years of history has taught us that war never changes.”

3 methods of persuasion

The three methods of persuasion

In every AP English exam, the literary prompt will contain examples of at least one of the three persuasive methods. After using the background info to help guide you, it should not be too difficult to figure out which tactic the speaker uses. One should practice writing rhetorical essays before taking the exam.

Checklist in Writing a Rhetorical Analysis

An essential start to any essay is gaining the reader’s trust. In a rhetorical analysis essay, the way to do this is by showing the reader that you have read and fully understood the assigned text. Create a short but cohesive summary and explain the text in your own words. After giving the reader some perspective, it’s time to do some critical analysis.

Get ready with more than one question after reading. The 2nd tip is about deciding what makes the analyzed piece tick. Use our check-list.

First off, identify:

  • Author’s methods of persuasion (examples of ethos, logos, & pathos);
  • Style of writing used (formal or informal English; specific terms, logical flow, spelling/punctuation);
  • The original target audience (business people, teachers, classmates, professors, etc.);
  • The tone chosen by an author (it may vary from the pressing/casual to humorous/sarcastic);

Next, find out why the author chose these methods with the target audience. Look for the goal of the passage, setting, and occasion.

  • Summarise the text. Focus your summary on the literary techniques and persuasive strategies used by the author.
  • How do the rhetorical methods help the writer achieve the primary purpose of the passage?
  • Why did the writer choose these methods to persuade the target audience for that specific occasion?

Rhetorical Essay Outline

There are numerous ways to begin your rhetorical analysis outline correctly. It is not obligatory to follow the standard essay structure. Many students tend to start with writing a thesis statement, but it is better to postpone this part to the last minute once you have the body in front of your eyes. It will be easier to tighten up all main arguments into one.

Following the structure method provided by the professor will satisfy his/her requests. Use 5-6 paragraphing style. Depending on the number of strategies you have found, you will have to create an equal amount.

  • Read, analyze, and make notes in the outline;
  • With an outline ready, the writing will be quick, and you can focus your valuable time and efforts on the rest of the AP exam.

Use our rhetorical analysis essay outline template to get a better grasp of writing your paper in the AP exam. Remember that the intro-body-conclusion format never changes.


When writing a rhetorical analysis essay introduction make it short and informative. To start it out briefly, summarize the passage that you will include in your rhetorical analysis essay; it will prove to the reader that you understand the central message of the text.

Afterward, formulate your opinion into a well-crafted thesis statement. It must address the ‘who,’ the ‘what,’ the ‘how’ and the ‘why’ questions. This will explain the tone, mood, & intrigue the reader about the rhetorical strategies you shall explain later in the text. Last but not least, put together an enlightening thesis that explains the persuasive styles used by the speaker, and their effect. A thesis could either start or finish your opening paragraph.

Consider your limited schedule; it might be easier to write all the main arguments first and write an introduction and thesis later.

You may be interested in getting more information about how to write an introduction

Body Paragraphs

A large segment of your exam time will be focused on creating informative body paragraphs. In the body, explain the methods which the author used to support their thesis.

  • If the author used persuasive language, then say that he/she used persuasive language.
  • If the author used sympathetic language, explain it and use quotes for proof.

Keep in mind that all writing must be consistent and have a clear structure. It is wise to have different paragraphs explaining the author’s strategies, rather than jamming everything together.

When identifying the author’s writing strategies, answer the following questions:

  • How does this strategy work?
  • How is the strategy working in the example?
  • Why did the author use a specific approach for this audience?
  • How did the strategy make the audience feel, react or respond?

Some other things that should be taken note of within the body paragraphs are shifts in tone and diction and the varying length of sentences.

Always use proper citations in your work. If there are any words you don’t fully understand, please use a dictionary.


After writing your detailed, well-cited body paragraphs, you must conclude your essay. Summarise what you have been previously elaborating on. Talk about how the author’s words have changed the opinion of their audience, or if it has made a significant impact on society.

In the final sentence of your rhetorical analysis conclusion, provide an impactful concluding statement that demonstrates the importance of the author’s writing or how its strategies have helped shape history.

To ensure that you completed the outline correctly, feel free to ask our writer for help.

Overall Writing Tips to Polish Your Rhetorical Analysis Essay

Time to sit back and relax — you are finally done with the writing. With around five minutes left of your exam, use this valuable time for proofreading and editing. It is always a good idea to refer to a proofreading checklist. Here is a commonly used 7-step list which will immensely impact the quality of your writing.

Rhetorical Analysis Сheck List

Use the checklist to proofread and edit you rhetorical analysis essay

1. Grammar

It is always important to check for any spelling or punctuation errors in your writing.

  • Keep a fair mix of short and long sentences.
  • Avoid abbreviations.

2. Plagiarism

This is a punishable offense in all forms of educational institutions. Make sure all of your work is entirely original.

  • Make sure you add the sources to your citations. You can do this after your conclusion.
  • For coursework, it is possible to use an online plagiarism checker like Copyscape or Grammarly.

3. Vocabulary

Using a wide range of different words is an excellent way to impress your examiner.

  • It shows you can write in a diverse number of different ways
  • It shows a full understanding of the passage being rhetorically analyzed.
  • While studying, refer to a Thesaurus to expand your vocabulary for the result.

4. Coherency

It is always to have good transitions between your paragraphs to allow the reader to flow through your paper smoothly. Do not jump from statement to statement. Instead, lead the reader from one statement to the next thought with smooth transition words.

5. Write in Present Tense

Make sure to write in the present tense to avoid confusion for your readers. It will also keep your paper straightforward and easy to follow.

6. Respond To The Passage

While analyzing the passage, write your paper as if you are responding to the passage. A rhetorical analysis paper is like a reflection of the assigned passage. Analyze the writer’s rhetorical style, but keep it natural and offer your thoughts and opinions.

7. Use a Suitable Title

It is essential to give your rhetorical analysis essay a suitable title. First impressions count. Remember to use a memorable and captivating title that sticks out from the others. Make sure the title is relevant to your work.

Get more info about how to title an essay

Rhetorical Analysis Example

Get a better grasp of what is required for mastering this style of writing. Take a look at our rhetorical analysis essay example from one of our professional writers.

Click on the button to open the rhetorical analysis example.

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