Rhetorical Analysis Essay Writing Guide

July 17, 2018

Table of contents:

How to write a rhetorical analysis essay

Writing of a rhetorical essay can seem a real challenge for students that imagine this process as a laborious academic exercise. But this knowledge can also become a useful skill which you can apply in the daily life – by ordering your speech, expressing your thoughts and achieving your personal communicative goals.

Purposes of rhetorical analysis writing

Rhetorical text analysis can be performed for different purposes.

The most popular of them are:

  1. Studying of communicative genres
  2. Understanding the perception system of the text
  3. Formation of literate speech
  4. Improvement of the ability to “feel” the word and determine its significance in the speech
  5. Development of the ability to competently create varieties of texts
  6. Studying of the impact of speech tokens on the addressee
  7. Improving the effectiveness of the speech
  8. Identifying actual mistakes for correcting them
  9. Understanding the basics of writing a successful speech
  10. Increasing the influence on the addressee

How to prepare before rhetorical analysis writing?

Before you proceed directly to the rhetorical analysis of the text do some previous preparations.

  1. For a fully rhetorical analysis, you must have at least a minimal base of theoretical knowledge on rhetoric. It is impossible to analyze something without knowing the criteria of analysis. Therefore, if you have never fulfilled such tasks before, then you have to start reading the literature on this topic.
  2. If the subject of your analysis is the oral speech, then you need to turn this information into the text format, that means to transcribe it. In case the speech is presented in a foreign language, you need to make sure of identifying the meaning of each word and translate the unknown tokens if any.
  3. Carefully read through the text several times. The first time you do this for general acquaintance and determining of your initial impression of the text as an independent addressee. The second time you read it to highlight the most vivid fragments that cause the emotions by you, make you fall into a muse; as well as the most unfortunate in your opinion fragments (if any) that do not impress you. You have to reveal such pieces to pay them particular attention in the subsequent thorough analysis of the text at the level of language items.

What is a SOAPSTone in a rhetorical analysis?

Any text, regardless if it is written or spoken, has a composition. Depends on the genre it can vary, but the fact is that any successful text relies on the steady structure skeleton. This guidance is built from the components that require clear regulation. The components work in complex and help to form a meaning. They contribute to the coherence, consistency and natural flow of the text. There is a special method to recognize and analyze these components – SOAPSTone. Initially, this method was developed for professional writers, but soon it also found the application among the students who use it as a basis for writing tasks in a college. And rhetorical analysis is correspondingly one of such tasks.

SOAPSTone is an acronym that involves a set of questions the students need to ask themselves while writing an essay. The answers tend to help the author to build a plan of his composition. SOAPSTone is decrypted as Speaker, Occasion, Audience, Purpose, Subject, and Tone.

Who is the Speaker?

The primary thing you need to determine the narrator. The story can be told from the name of some fictional character, a personality of the author or even represent a group of people. Make the suggestion why the narrator chose this figure to be the speaker? How this choice impacts the audience reaction?

What is the Occasion?

The topic of the writing should depart from the time and place of the story. The occasion is being built not on the space but has some geographical and chronological references. Think what was the environment that inspired the author for such an idea? Which event caused the desire to speak about this problem? How does the context influence the writer’s way of thinking and representing it to the audience?

Who is the Audience?

The audience is the main determinant of lexical, stylistic, syntactic and pragmatic features that the writer should consider while composing. Determine who is the central group of people that will read/listen to the speech? Or maybe it is just one person? The more details are known about the audience, the more impactful words could be chosen.

What is the Purpose?

The purpose describes the reason why did the writer decide to create this piece of work. Which message did he want to send to the public? What did he want his audience to think or to do as a result of reading his text/ listening to his speech? Did he succeed in this purpose?

What is the Subject?

In other words, the subject is a story topic, its main idea. Usually, it can be formulated with one sentence. Think what is the relevance of the problem? What provides the more profound understanding of the theme?

What is the Tone?

The tone of prose imparts the mood of the speaker and his attitude to the subject. Analyze the choice of words, syntax and stylistic characteristic of the text. Try to understand its deep meaning. The sense can be expressed not only literally but also be read between the lines.

What are Logos, Pathos, and Ethos in a rhetorical analysis?

According to Aristotle’s classification, all our arguments can be divided into 3 groups: Logos, Pathos and Ethos. The different facets of the human personality serve as criterions for this division: sensual, intellectual and moral. The author uses them to win the confidence of the audience.

Logos is the term of Ancient Greek philosophy that means both “word” (statement) and “concept” (judgment, sense). Logos represents the verbal means used by a speaker for the realization of a speech plan and for reaching of understanding by listeners.

Pathos is the rhetorical category which corresponds to the style, manner or way of expression of feelings which are characterized by the emotional height, enthusiasm. Pathos is represented through all elements of the arguments which emotionally influence the listeners.

Ethos in ancient philosophy designated habits, customs, temperaments. Aristotle found Ethos as a way to depict the character of the person through the style of his speech. This factor also influences the content because the irrelevant statement will not impress the listeners even if it has strong arguments (Logos).

How to write an introduction and a thesis for a rhetorical analysis?

To make the analysis process easy and quick, it would be more convenient to rely on particular steps for writing. The common scheme consists of introduction and thesis, the main body and conclusion. If necessary, you can add some extra aspects or, in contrast, focus only on the essential parts.


The introduction contains a general characteristic of the text. Here you point a genre of the narration, its author, the nature of his preparation for a performance, define the subject, the speech purpose, and also participants of communicative activity (listeners, opponents, partners). In the introductive part, you also give the characteristic of the composition of the text.

  1. Beginning: natural, sudden, oratorical, intriguing. Defining of a subject and performance problems.
  2. Structure: chain, parallel, mixed. Retreats. Illustrations.
  3. Conclusion: summarizing, appeal to action. Rhetorical methods of an ending: a compliment to listeners, quote, joke, etc.
  4. Harmony of parts, the connection between them.

Thesis and argumentation

  1. Main thesis. Additional theses (if any). Strategy and tactics of a writer.
  2. Logical argument. Arguments for protection of own thesis, an order of their promotion. The thesis of the opponent and its denial. Arguments of the opponent and their denial.
  3. Emotional arguments: arguments to benefit (pocket, interests, advantage), the “intimidating” arguments, arguments to feelings (sympathy, vanity, pride, etc.), arguments to will, authority, experience, personality, etc.

How to write a body of rhetorical analysis?

The central part of the analysis is devoted to the language means of rhetoric.

  1. Repetition figures: sound, morphemic, verbal, synonymic, morphological and syntactic repetitions.
  2. Arrangement figures: inversion, parceling, segmentation, nominative (or other) chain, ellipsis, antithesis.
  3. Figures of repetition and arrangement: anaphora, epiphora, circle, etc.
  4. Imitation figures: allegory, allusion, rhetorical question, rhetorical exclamation, rhetorical dialogue, etc.
  5. Tropes: metaphor, metonymy, symbol, synecdoche, hyperbole, comparison, epithet, periphrasis, irony, etc.

How to conclude a rhetorical analysis?

In this part of an analysis, you specify the correctness and expressiveness of the speech.

  1. Normativity, accuracy, purity, moderation.
  2. Expressiveness: clarity, brevity, wealth, logic, emotionality, identity.
  3. Harmony, rhetorical taste.
  4. Efficiency of the speech (if the author reached the goal he has set or not).

This outline is just a possible variant of rhetorical analysis and can be modified depending on the genre, purpose and other circumstances.