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How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis Essay

How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis Essay

Many high school students will ambitiously decide to take AP English as their main language elective. If we assume a student has made this decision, it is practically a given that they will take the AP English Exam.

This test requires a student to write three unique types of essays. One of the first challenges they must pass is developing a Rhetorical Analysis Essay. In this post, we will explain this unique style of writing and how to put one together from A-Z. In case you are struggling to understand the Rhetorical Analysis writing process after finishing this guide, remember that you can always request essay writing help from our team!

Table Of Contents

What Is A Rhetorical Analysis Essay?

Do you remember the movie “Inception”? The concept of “a dream within a dream” is mimicked here, with a slight alteration. Essentially, a rhetorical analysis is a type of academic paper that requires you to “write about the writing” or “read about the reading.”

A rhetorical analysis essay is one of the most common types of essay assigned to literature students. If you have ever seen the legendary movie “Inception," be prepared to experience a similar type of mind-boggling. There is a high percentage chance that you have never worked with this type of essay before. No worries! Our service will teach you everything you need to know about writing a stellar rhetorical analysis!
If you have a question mark looming over your head, do not worry as it will make sense with a little bit of reading.

In such type of analysis, you are breaking apart the words and phrases that the author creates to uncover the strategies and persuasive styles that they are using to get some reaction from a crowd. The example topics are speeches given by influential figures. When given a prompt on the exam, the instructor is asking you to analyze the text and explain how all the “written parts” work together.

How Does the Preparation Strategy Look?

The AP exam is a time-limited task; swift and effective preparation is key to creating a powerful piece of academic writing! Considering the fact that your allotted time has to be broken down into reading, analyzing and writing, multi-tasking with reading and analyzing is a must. As you begin reading the introductory information, start taking notes of important information that will simplify the analysis process.

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

Having these questions in mind and uncovering their answers will simplify the process of analyzing their strategies. At the very least it gives you something to work off, and having information allows you to understand their methods of persuasion and how it affects the ethos, pathos, and logos.

The ingredients for persuasion, as Aristotle called them, can be broken down into three categories. There are the 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. What 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.”

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!

3 methods of persuasion

Steps in Writing a Rhetorical Analysis

It starts with the reading process: if the tutor does not assign a particular piece to read, it is up to the students to search and select the text to analyze. In most cases, a single article would be enough - no need to read the book from cover to cover.

The text of your choice should be original. Make sure none of your peers selected the same topic to discuss. Dedicate time to skimming through the selected piece minimum two times and underline the essential message(s).
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:

  • The way a thesis sounds;

  • The manner of info representation (ordinary presentation or entertainment);

  • Examples of ethos, logos, & pathos (read below);

  • The original target audience (business people, teachers, classmates, professors, etc.)

  • The preferred format. Decide whether you deal with formal English or informal one. Some special terms in the text;

  • The tone chosen by an author (it may vary from the serious/casual to humorous/sarcastic);

  • Is the structure persuasive? Does the author meet his goals? The last but not least important things on a check-list are vocabulary, evidence, logical flow, grammar/spelling/punctuation, and organization.

Do not forget to define and explain the rhetorical techniques of the author!

Rhetorical Analysis Summary Example

The following example may help to speed up the writing process:

“The article by Joanne Jameson aims to find out if the high school sports clubs like cheerleading teams distract the students from the learning process. She explores the average grades of both girls and boys. The author switches her attention to the potential exploitation by the NCAA Division 1 athletics of the school students. She lists the pros & cons of sports clubs for students. She applies the following techniques…”

The author prefers a casual tone while listing the arguments. The writer assesses the piece critically instead of sharing a summary alone. He mentions the original author’s objectives (in this case, it is a desire to discover whether high school sports clubs have a negative impact on the student’s grades).

Rhetorical Essay Outline

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.
After reading, analyzing and jotting down supportive notes, the remaining time is what will earn you 5 on the AP Exam! You have the figured out strategies thanks to your meticulous note taking. It is time to put pen to paper.

Following the structure method provided by the professor will satisfy his/her requests. Use 5-6 paragraphing style. Depending on the amount of strategies you have found, you will have to create an equal amount
However, the intro-body-conclusion format of the paper outline stays the same.


Most of your time will be devoted to creating informative body paragraphs. The introductory paragraph should be short and sweet. should be short and sweet; to start it out briefly, summarize the main argument of the speaker; 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.

Body Paragraphs

Being the part of the essay that will have the most content, the body paragraphs have a lot of questions that need to be answered. In the body, you are explaining how the speaker develops his thesis and which devices and strategies he applies. Based on the number of different approaches he uses, a paragraph should be devoted per strategy.

When finding a piece of evidence (quote) that matches up to the criteria of a literary device, then craft one paragraph specifically around that quote. Explain the persuasive strategy used and how the quote shows it. Your explanation should generally answer one of these four questions:

  • How does this strategy work;
  • How is the strategy working in the example;
  • Why did the author use a specific strategy 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. Though these are smaller and do not impact your understanding of the concept of rhetorical analysis as much, knowing them shows your instructor that you have a strong grasp of style.

Lastly, do not forget to make proper citations! If there are any words you do not know in the citations, look up for their meaning on the dictionaries like Merriam-Webster not to sound ridiculous with your further judgments.


After supporting and developing your various arguments, it is time to wrap up the essay with a firm conclusion. Explain how the work affected the audience and the essay. Show the result that came from the inspiring speech before concluding your argument on each individual rhetorical device. Link them as a whole to show their significance. In a final sentence, provide an impactful concluding statement that demonstrated the importance of speech and its strategies that helped to shape history!

Overall Writing Tips

Phew, you are finally finished writing a super intense and strenuous essay with only five minutes left. Time to sit back and relax - you are finally done with this section. Use these last few minutes to make your writing flawless! The second option sounds better - let us talk about a five-step checklist that will immensely impact the quality of your essay!

Rhetorical Analysis Сheck List

  • Grammar: Though it may sound like some captain obvious info, nobody likes to read a work that has punctuational errors and sentence structure problems! Keep a fair mix of short and long sentences. Avoid abbreviations.

  • Plagiarism: To avoid a common problem, use an online plagiarism checker or download a special software like Copyscape or Grammarly to see whether your content is at least 95% original excluding the quotes & references.

  • Vocabulary: Having a wide range of vocabulary is a sure-fire way to gain some style points from the instructor. It shows that you are multidimensional and can write in a diverse number of ways. Have a quick glance at a thesaurus beforehand to keep that mental space occupied!

  • Coherency: The smoother your essay sounds while it is being read, the better the content will seem no matter whom your target audience is made of. Having strong and appropriate transitions keep the essay from getting cluttered & using a wide range of punctuations. Do not jump from point to point. Ease the reader into your next thought with smooth language.

  • Use Present Tense: When writing academic essays, make sure to use the present tense like you are writing in the current moment. It helps to avoid confusion and keeps things straightforward, as well as the fact that writing should feel “at the moment.”

  • Respond To The Text: It can not be stressed enough. If you have ever heard your teacher say “guys, do not write a plot summary” then you already know where this is going. Avoid listing the literary devices and providing quotes along. Explain the IMPACT of each literary device and SHOW how the quote supports it specifically!

  • Name Your Essay Right: It is crucially important to give your essay a suitable title - it is the initial thing your reader will see. Moreover, after reading the title of your essay, they will decide whether or not it is worth their attention.

Rhetorical Analysis Example

To gain a better understanding of this writing stye, it would be useful to learn from an example.

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Example

Essay Writing Advice From Our Professional Team

If you are taking an AP class and you have to do a rhetorical essay, then a good rule of thumb is to use a mnemonic device called DIDLES. DIDLES is an acronym for Diction, Imagery, Details, Language, and Sentence Structure. Sit down to annotate your text for rhetoric and keep note of the terms above. Diction will help you understand the syntax and tone of the piece while imagery will point you to the specific places that the author chose to show rather than tell; details will demonstrate what exactly the author wanted you to pay attention to. Language is a good signifier of the mood and voice. The sentence structure will help you notice whether the writing style of the author better.

While you read, don’t forget to annotate and ask yourself questions such as: is the language colloquial or professional? What does the author want to show me with the description? Why does the author include these specific facts/details? And more importantly, how does DIDLES (the bigger picture) evoke ethos, logos, and pathos from the reader. Write down everything that goes through your mind while you read and your rhetoric should be top notch.

Joe Baker, from EssayPro

Still Struggling to Grasp the Concept?

We get it, rhetorical essay writing is probably a new and confusing option in your writing arsenal. This is definitely one of those essays that require hours of practice to master. Luckily for you, EssayPro, paper writing service, has a team of professional paper writers that have been writing rhetorical analysis for several years. They too have dealt with the confusion of finding these hidden persuasive strategies, so the tips and tricks that they carry are priceless for our students. Chat with the writer and get qualified paper writing help. Whatever questions you may have regarding your studies, dedicated team of EssayPro members is ready to help 24/7!

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