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How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis Essay

A rhetorical analysis essay is a frequent and popular assignment in schools, colleges, and universities. Unfortunately, it is one of the most sophisticated tasks. Its nature demands in-depth analytical skills and vast knowledge of history, art, psychology, and so on. However, when you master the rhetorical analysis, you get more than excellent grades. The most essential is that you learn which rhetorical means influence people and how they do it. 

Composing a rhetorical analysis paper, you grasp the methodology and train the skill of recognizing the means of impact. Then, you can use them yourself. In this article, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guideline for you. Use it for writing the rhetorical analysis essay, and you’ll succeed. 

What is Rhetorical Analysis?

The analysis is a basic logical operation. You take the whole and break it into smaller components to examine. It is how we understand sophisticated concepts. In our case, let’s start with the rhetorical analysis definition. 

The rhetorical analysis breaks a text into components to define how they work together to produce an effect. It lets you take a particular sample and understand its structure, the author’s language means, and methods of impact. You can see and explain how the text works to achieve the goal to persuade, inform, entertain, etc.

Verbal speech is the primary way of communication. Besides, it is the most effective means of influence. By training the rhetorical analysis skills, you learn to understand any text correctly. Also, you exercise your personal skills of impacting other people, directly or indirectly.

Appealing to the Audience: Ethos, Pathos, and Logos

The goal of the rhetorical essay is crucial. Unlike many other essay types, you are not to agree or disagree with the author. Your job is to define the techniques, understand why the author chose them, and analyze their effect. 

Technically, you used all those means yourself for argumentative and persuasive essays. Thus, in writing a rhetorical analysis, it won’t be anything new for you in “deciphering” these methods. 

The three components are ethos, logos, and pathos. 

  • Ethos is the credibility aspect. It defines the author’s expertise – whether you should trust him or her concerning some issue. It usually means the author’s background and knowledge that claim him or her an authority.
  • Logos is the reasonability aspect. It means appealing to logical thinking and using factual evidence like numbers, stats data, and so on.
  • Pathos is appealing to emotions. It is the opposite of logos, as it appeals to the readers/listeners’ identities and feelings. This way, the audience can relate themselves to the author and the ideas emotionally. It is one of the most powerful tools. 

Rhetorical Analysis Components – the SOAPSTone Approach

Before you proceed to write a rhetorical analysis essay, it’s critical to learn what exactly you have to analyze. Like any other essay, this one demands thorough preparations. 

A persuasive text or speech won’t come as impromptu. It is always planned and polished according to several criteria. These criteria are the SOAPSTone strategy. It is the step-by-step guideline for students (and anyone else) to dissect the text for rhetorical analysis. The six letters making the acronym define the six aspects of the study: 

  • S – Speaker. It is the person behind the text that can be real or fictional. The identity of that person defines the “voice” of the book. It can also impact the audience’s reaction, whether they accept or not accept that author as a trustworthy voice.
  • O – Occasion. The style depends on the time, place, and context. These aspects determine the writing means. One of the most evident cases is the environment. Consider the ideas, approaches, and emotional trends accompanying the text birth. They trigger the author, and the text becomes the response.
  • A – Audience. Both the established writer and student consider their audience before they start to write. It can be one specific person or a group. In your rhetorical analysis essay, identify the essential characteristics of the audience. The author chooses the means according to those characteristics, to appeal to them. 
  • P – Purpose. It is the reason why the text appears. Any writer begins with the question: “Why do I write this text, and what results do I expect?”
  • S – Subject. It is the essence of the writing work that you formulate in several words or phrases. This way, you stay focused. 
  • T – Tone. No matter if it is a written text or an oral speech, you can always define the tone. It is the author’s attitude – the choice of words, the construction of the sentences, and all the means of figurative language. Experienced writers use these means brilliantly to create images and get a response from the audience.

These six parameters are the beginning of your rhetorical analysis process. When you answer these questions, you get the text’s overall idea to elaborate it further in an essay.

Outlining a Rhetorical Analysis Essay

It is the best preparation method for any essay, and a rhetorical essay is not an exclusion. The outline is a detailed plan for the future essay. It helps you to decide what you will write about and state the correct order. Using this technique, you can check the logical connections, pick up the best arguments, and so on. A comprehensive essay outline lets you get the overall “vision” of the result. Then you can write it down and turn it into an essay.

The rhetorical analysis essay outline starts from the SOAPSTone. This strategy often seems rigid and dull, but you should not omit it – it is helpful. With its help, students clarify all the aspects they will write about. You may say that elaborating on the SOAPSTone concepts is the basic outline of your work itself. Analyze the components, write the answers down, and see where to come next.

The outline reflects the three-part structure of an essay – the Introduction, the Body, and the Conclusion. On writing, it would look like the example below:

A Practical Sample of an Outline 

I. Introduction 

– The description of the text (the title of work, who composed it, in which genre, when and where issued);

– The thesis statement – your central idea about the author’s language means used for achieving the goal;

II. Body – usually consists of three paragraphs: 

Paragraph 1-2: 

– Your claim about the author’s strategy;

– Examples from the text to support your claim; 

– Get back to the author’s strategy and show how the examples reflect it.

Paragraph 3:

– Summary of your reasoning about the author’s strategy and means; 

– Your comments with the textual support – you need to discuss all approaches you’ve defined;

– Relate your findings to the thesis statement. 


– A new insight for the thesis statement – relate the initial claim to your findings; 

– Reflection of your essential ideas from the Body sections. Explain how you link them to the thesis statement;

– Define if you could reach your initial goal;

– The closing sentence should offer a broader context. It can be explaining the role of the author’s strategies for his/her legacy or the entire genre.

Working on the outline, you can check the evidence and references. It helps to format the citations further, and it is a crucial part of work. 

The Preparation of a Rhetorical Analysis

All the elements are crucial in the rhetorical analysis essay – it’s impossible to neglect any detail. However, the most demanding and sophisticated part is the beginning. 

  • Present the purpose of the essay and the subject of analysis to the audience. Your readers need to understand what they read and what information they might expect to obtain;
  • Identify the text using the SOAPSTone approach. It gives you the necessary data for the Introduction when you summarize the SOAPSTone answers;
  • Develop the thesis statements. It is a claim about the author’s techniques you will analyze and their impact on the text and the audience. Also, you have to present your opinion about whether those techniques are valid or not;
  • Consider your arguments – they should not be banal. Focus on the original ideas that you’ve developed after the research and analysis. The essential arguments build the thesis statement;
  • Pay attention to the vocabulary. For the rhetorical essay preparations, use strict terms. Choose “efficient” or “inefficient” instead of general words like “good” or “proper.”

Thorough preparations let you manage the data collected effectively and catch the right attitude. When you set your mind for the work, it becomes easier to outline the essay. A detailed outline is an excellent foundation for writing. 

How to Write a Rhetorical Analysis Essay

Composing this kind of essay does not really differ from the other types. First, you have to collect the information, analyze it, and develop the thesis statement. Then, prove it with your expert knowledge, authoritative sources, and textual evidence. It is a brief description. Now, let’s see how to write a rhetorical analysis essay in practice. 

  • Do research. Refer to the studies of rhetoric to identify the language means and their purposes. Also, you might need to learn about the author, as his or her work is a reflection of personality and the environment. Check your sources – they must be reliable and authoritative to describe the author’s writing style and techniques.
  • Identify the SOAPSTone. It is the primary stage of the rhetorical analysis giving you the necessary knowledge for the further dissection of the text. Answer the question and note the answers. 
  • Examine the appeals. Apply the “ethos,” “logos,” and “pathos” concepts to the text you analyze. Check the means the author uses to address the audience and impact on it, which of them are prevailing, and how effective they are.
  • Write down the style details. Here, you need an in-depth analysis of the figurative language and other rhetorical means. A good tip is writing the text aloud. Thus, you hear its “sound” and rhythm, which are critical for the text impact. Analyze the general tone and the attitude of work and consider how they work for the occasion and the audience. 
  • Form an analysis. You should start by identifying the author’s strategies, and the stylistic means used for those strategies. Here, you also check if they are helpful or not. You may even speculate about the choice of those means. Refer to the context (the author’s biography, the genre, the period, and so on). Note that the job is not to dig deep, but to evaluate if the choice of the means was successful.
  • Outline your essay. Make a detailed plan of the work and edit it until you get a clear “vision” of the piece to write it down.
  • Write the Introduction according to the essay outline above. First, define the work you analyze. Second, add your explanation of the author’s purpose and the means chosen for it. Include your speculation about the intended audience.
  • Write the body paragraphs. Every section must be complete, with its own introductory sentence and a mini-conclusion. In the body, you offer your statements. To support them, provide the textual evidence and authoritative references. Of course, you should not put them down in a list, as in the plan. The job is to weave them into a catchy and readable text section. Also, note that each paragraph must come logically out of the preceding one. Use the conjunctive words to make the structure more visible.
  • Conclude your rhetorical analysis. Here, you restate the thesis, but not repeat it. Show how the initial claim looks in the light of the evidence you gathered from other sources and your analysis. Also, specify if the author’s rhetorical means helped to reach the goals, or failed. Briefly summarize your main findings and stress their importance for your work and for the broader topic and the subject. 
  • Proofread your essay. First of all, give yourself a couple of hours of rest to refresh your mind. Then return to the composition and fix all errors. Read it aloud to define the complicated and awkward phrases – you should remove or rewrite them.

Additional Tips to Help You Create a Shining Rhetorical Analysis Essays

Pay attention to the rhetorical analysis tips. We’ve collected them to help you track the most common failures and fix them successfully. 

  • Don’t name or discuss the ethos, logos, and pathos directly. Mention if the author targets the emotions or logic more, but focus on the precise textual means.
  • In the beginning, identify the purpose of the text and state it directly. 
  • Be precise in your writing. Avoid general terms and banal phrases like “…uses exceptional rhetorical means” or “…effective usage of diction.” You always need to give definite descriptions and explanations.
  • Give examples from the text for each of your claims. Concentrate on the vocabulary and the shades of meanings of the words used. 
  • Writing a rhetorical analysis should be in an active voice. Use verbs more than nouns.
  • Avoid words like “get,” “it is,” “there is,” and the first person.

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