How To Write A Rhetorical Analysis Essay

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Originally published May 15, 2017, updated Apr 29, 2021
How To Write A Rhetorical Analysis Essay

Before we begin to write about how to write a rhetorical essay, let us first briefly understand what rhetoric is. Rhetoric is an analysis of how a writer or a speaker has used words to create a certain effect to influence his audience. Follow the guidelines to write a quality essay that is sure to get you an A grade.

Step 1 - Develop an Understanding

It is important to understand that an analysis of a piece of rhetoric contains a detailed criticism of the writer's goals, rhetorical devices that he has used, their examples, and whether they achieve their purpose or not. Remember, your agreement or disagreement with the writer is not important. However, your analysis of how successfully the writer has used rhetorical strategies is valuable to your reader.

A rhetorician tends to use certain methods to appeal to his audience. These methods are ethos, pathos, and logos.

Rhetorical methods


Also known as the ethical appeal, it is derived from the writer's credibility. He uses his own character to develop a case for his audience. Rhetoricians use own selves as experts or as moral authorities to create importance in their argument. People tend to listen to a doctor more intently than an ordinary individual giving a bit of general medical advice. Similarly, people will follow a priest more avidly than a young, modern man talking about God.


Also called the pathetical appeal or emotional appeal refers to the invocation of the audience's emotions that the author uses to get his point across. It doesn't involve any of the negative connotations associated with the word. It is only used to move the audience's emotions as anger, fear, love, mercy, or sadness to convince the reader of his argument. The great English poet and playwright William Shakespeare has used this rhetorical appeal in his world-renowned tragedies.


Meaning the logical appeal in order to convince the audience of the arguments presented. Academic writing is a good example of this kind of appeal. It primarily uses logical reasoning and scientific proof to convince its intended audience, mainly educators and scholars.

Step 2 - Main Points to Focus on

If you have to be a good rhetorical essay analyst, you must act like Sherlock Holmes. To be a good analyst, you need to research and investigate and find the hidden meanings in the text. For a good rhetorical analysis paper, you must ask certain questions and focus on the given points.

  • Why does the author choose the topic to write on?
  • What does the writer aim to achieve?
  • What is the argument presented?
  • Who is the target audience?
  • Which rhetorical techniques has the author used?
  • Has he been effectively persuasive?
  • What stylistic devices has he used, and to what effect?
  • What effect does the article have on the audience?
  • Some background information on the author.

These questions will surely help give you a complete understanding of the author's writing process in presenting his points. This understanding will help you in organizing your own argument properly.

Step 3 - Prepare and Organize Your Work

Before you start your own piece of writing, you must organize your work. Divide your time efficiently between reading, exploring, and writing. Clearly define your main tasks before you embark on your journey of writing. The first and foremost is to give your text a thorough reading. Read the text attentively, focusing on the writing style, structuring paragraphs, and rhetorical writing strategies. Remember to keep a pencil with you whenever you sit down to read so that you can conveniently annotate where necessary. Divide the text into parts and then see how each part corresponds with the other. Emphasize the use of words, their underlying meanings, and the effect they create. Give special importance to the stylistic details used in the text like metaphors, figurative language, or an allegory.

A detailed study of a text, where on the one hand can be a rewarding experience, on the other, can seem very complicated to many. So, if you wish to make your life even easier, get help from a reliable writing service and relax. Our expert professional writers will churn out a decent rhetorical analysis paper for you. However, if you wish to do it on your own, keep reading the article.

Step 4 - Pre-writing Your Analysis

As stated before, a good piece of rhetorical analysis discusses the purpose as to why the author has written a particular text, different appeals used, the diction of the text, stylistic devices the author uses and for what purpose, examples of the techniques used, and your understanding of why you think the strategies worked or not. The best way to start this complicated process is to take a rough piece of paper and start answering the questions one by one. You need not worry about correct grammatical structures or even spellings at this stage. The primary purpose is to collect and organize the main arguments for your academic paper. Here's an example of preliminary notes on Martin Luther King's speech 'I Have a Dream'.

Purpose: To appeal to the emotions of the audience regarding equality, justice, and freedom.

Rhetorical techniques used and why: Uses Anaphora to emphasize through repetition of phrases at the beginning of sentences, uses relevant allusions to develop credible arguments, repeats the key theme throughout, uses metaphors to associate the abstract ideas in concrete terms, specifically uses historical references to give a strong ground to his arguments.

The next task for you will be to look closely for all the examples relevant to each of the techniques you have identified in the text. For example;

Use of anaphora:

  • “One hundred years later…” [paragraph 3]
  • “Now is the time…” [paragraph 6]
  • “We must…” [paragraph 8]
  • “We can never (cannot) be satisfied…” [paragraph 13]
  • “I Have a Dream…” [paragraphs 16 through 24]
  • “Let freedom ring (from) …” [paragraphs 27 through 41]

Once you are done collecting all examples, jot down points to talk about how effective each of the techniques was in achieving the original purpose of the text/ speech. For example, you can talk about how effective you find King's use of anaphora in invoking his audience's emotional response.

Step 5 - Write the Analysis

Like all other writing pieces, a rhetorical analysis must also comprise three parts; an introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion.


Your introductory paragraph must include a strong thesis. Your thesis is mentioned the main theme as presented through the use of a few techniques. Choose the techniques you are more comfortable in writing about. For example; 'In his iconic speech 'I Have a Dream', Martin Luther King appeals to the audience's emotions through the use of anaphora, repetition, and use of allusions and metaphors.'

Remember, your introduction must have a smooth transition into your arguments. Keep it focused and relevant to your arguments to capture your readers' attention right at the beginning. It should convey to the reader what they may expect to find in the analysis.

Body Paragraphs

Divide the body of your analysis into paragraphs. This gives a more cohesive outlook to your analysis. It would help if you now decided as to how you would like to organize this section. Perhaps you would like to first choose a technique, then mention the relevant textual evidence/s and discuss the effectiveness. Or you would like to first pick up the rhetorical appeals, mention the examples, and then discuss the techniques used and their effects on the reader? It all rests on your discretion.

Make sure that each of your paragraphs has a proper beginning and end. Start your paragraph with a topic sentence, and conclude it by reinforcing the statement. Don't keep shuffling between ideas, as a badly structured body will negatively affect your paper's overall value. Add as many examples as possible to your topic sentence as they will strengthen your argument.


Like your introduction, the conclusion should also be solid as it will leave a lasting impression on your reader. It should be able to tie back to your main point of view stated in your introduction. Use effective summarizing techniques to ensure all your arguments are outlined in this section. Make sure to connect your argument with how it affected society. For example, the conclusion of rhetorical analysis on King's speech may refer to the appeal he made for the demolition of social, political, and economic inequalities prevalent in American society.

Step 6 - Revise and Proofread

The final and the most important step in writing your analysis is to revise your draft. No writing assignment is complete without this step. Re-read your write-up to check closely for ill-constructed arguments, fragmented sentences, grammatical and spelling errors, and punctuation mistakes. Make sure you have used academic and formal language in drafting your analysis. Ensure that there are no loose ends to your arguments. Check for references you might have made to any undocumented fact or any argument you fleetingly made without a detailed analysis. Proofreading carefully ensures that all small errors are removed.

Some Useful Tips

Now that you know how to write a rhetorical essay effectively, here are a few tips that will surely make your life a lot easier.

  • When writing a rhetorical analysis essay, make sure that you have your own voice. Clearly make an argument and then prove it by giving examples, analyze how relevantly expressed the arguments are;
  • Don't get carried away as you make your analysis. A common mistake that rhetorical analysts commit is explaining the meaning of what the author has written. Your job is not to explain but to critically analyze. Keep your focus on the basic task;
  • Make sure that at least half of your analysis consists of your commentary on the text/speech. Support your analysis with quotations and textual evidence, but don't let it overpower your analysis;
  • Never start a paragraph with a quotation from the text. Always start with a topic sentence that briefly explains what you intend to discuss in the paragraph;
  • The final tip is to practice analytical writing essays as much as you can. The age-old maxim 'Practice makes a man perfect' holds for writing as well.

Follow this step-by-step guide to ensure that you write a cohesive, well-organized, and well-argument rhetorical analysis, ready to make waves in the world of academic writing.

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