WRITING A RHETORICAL ANALYSIS ESSAY? HERE’S EVERYTHING YOU WILL EVER NEED TO KNOW
Writing a rhetorical analysis essay is tricky, especially if you have no idea what you’re doing. If you’re not sure where to start, sometimes you can end up sitting in front of your computer screen for hours wondering why you’re doing this to yourself.
There are a lot of layers when it comes to any type of analysis, especially one based on an author’s use of rhetoric. Understanding rhetorical writing is one thing. Writing about rhetorical writing is a whole new ball game, and it can be exhausting.
No one said college was going to be easy. But with our help, you will learn how to write an effective rhetorical analysis essay so well, it’ll feel like you’ve been doing this your entire life. Don’t believe us? Read this and give it a try. We promise you’ll be satisfied with the results.
WHAT IS RHETORIC?
First thing’s first – to write a good rhetorical analysis essay, you need to understand rhetoric.
Essentially, rhetoric is the art of persuasion through writing. It’s the technique and type of language used to connect to audiences and convince people to believe a certain point of view or message.
Rhetoric is a concept that was first coined by Aristotle in Ancient Greece. Back in his day, it was important for influential people to use rhetoric to help shape societies and influence change. No one in Ancient Greece could quickly Google something when trying to think for themselves. They had to take peoples’ word for it, and that meant that those influential people needed to make sure they used the right rhetorical techniques to get people to believe them or stand up for their cause.
Since then, rhetoric has been used for over 2,000 years to appeal to or influence audiences as a persuasion technique and still remains an important part of today’s language.
RHETORIC IN THE REAL WORLD
You’ve seen rhetoric many times in your life. Rhetorical strategies are used in every political speech, opinion article, argumentative essay, and advertisement. Every TED Talk you’ve ever watched involves rhetorical strategies, and the same goes for every commercial you’ve seen or every documentary you’ve watched.
Politicians use rhetoric in their speeches in order to gain support from potential voters and campaigners in specific demographics. For example, if you were running for Premiere of a province in Canada and you were delivering a speech to an audience of teachers and educators, you wouldn’t spend an hour talking about the tax breaks you’re giving to commercial businesses. You would want to focus on the positive changes you would make within the education system or to improve child care programs because those are the topics that directly affect that specific audience. You’d likely also use a different language to speak to this audience than you would to a group of senior citizens or factory workers in order to better connect with them.
Think about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech. Why do you think this speech resonated with so many people and became one of the most well known speeches in history? It’s all thanks to King’s use of rhetorical writing. He made his audience really feel the pain that African Americans were going through in the segregated ‘60s and appealed to emotions to promote the need for equal treatment between races. And it worked.
SO WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH MY ESSAY?
Now you know what rhetoric is. But you may be wondering what the point of that brief rhetoric lesson was and what it has to do with your essay. The answer is quite simple: a rhetorical analysis essay is an essay in which you analyze a text for its use of rhetoric, or rhetorical writing. Make sense now?
Your job in your paper is to look at the author’s use of rhetorical writing and determine what techniques they’ve used, as well as how effective those techniques are overall. Just to be clear, your goal is not to add your opinions on the topics or dive into your standpoint or point of view on the subject. You’re going to analyze the author’s use of persuasion specifically.
HOW TO ANALYZE A TEXT
Now that you understand what it is we have to do here, let’s move on to the next step: learning how to analyze the text. It’s important to do this step before you get into the analysis of persuasion because you need to know how to identify specific elements within the article and how to break the article down to dig deeper into its structure.
Try using the SOAPSTone strategy. This is a strategy used to remember what elements to look for and identify when reading an article, text, or anything else. SOAPSTone stands for:
● S – Speaker: Who is telling the story or providing the information?
● O – Occasion: What is the context behind the author’s decision to write the article?
● A – Audience: Who is the author writing to?
● P – Purpose: Why has the author written this piece? In other words, why is the author trying to convince their audience to do something or think a specific way?
● S – Subject: What specific point is the author making?
● Tone: What is the overall attitude or tone that the author is giving off?
Once you understand how to analyze a text, you should understand what it is you’re looking for when you’re writing a rhetorical analysis. Looking for and finding the answers to each of these elements is an essential step in breaking down what you’re reading and choosing items to analyze. Understanding all of this information gives you the background and context you need to understand the author’s rhetorical position and the techniques they’re using to convey that point of view.
GET THE CONTEXT FIRST
Before you start digging deep into the rhetorical writing styles and techniques you’ll need to discuss, it’s important to gather contextual information. This includes the target audience, the setting, the point they’re making, and so on. Some of this you would have already done if you performed the SOAPSTone strategy outlined above. The rest you can piece together as your next step.
Since you’re writing a rhetorical analysis essay, which will focus on the way your author has expressed their point of view to their audience, you’ll need to have this contextual information on hand when you analyze their techniques. You can’t actively determine that someone didn’t make a good connection with their audience if you don’t make it clear who that audience is.
The following questions will help guide you as you look for context and background information:
Who is the author’s target audience?
What is the point of view the author is trying to argue? In other words, what is their point? What are they trying to get their audience to think or do?
If it’s a speech, where and when was the speech given?
If your text is a book, movie, or other medium, when was it written or made?
What is the overall tone of the text? For example, is it meant to scare someone into making a decision, or excite someone to join a cause?
Knowing and understanding this information will help you with your analysis. In fact, most of the time your professor will outline this information as a requirement in your instructions or rubric. You should include these details in your introduction, or if it’s a longer analysis (think five pages or more) in your first body paragraph.