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Introduction to the AP Rhetorical Essay

You will receive an essay or speech that is approximately one page (anywhere from 500-1,000 words). This writing excerpt will typically be done by an expert rhetorician, will be non-fiction, and could span centuries. The prompt question may be specific, but typically will be general.

An example is the following: "Identify the rhetorical strategies used in the following speech given in [year] to [audience] by [author] and comment on their effectiveness.

Now, AP Readers value original thought, so please understand you have the freedom to disagree with the effectiveness of the writing piece; however, also know that the piece was chosen for a reason. It is probably written by someone who is recognized as a gifted rhetorician, so generally speaking, your task should be to explain "why" the piece is so rhetorically powerful.

There are no guidelines as to paragraphs, as some students write 7-8 paragraphs in an artistic fashion. But this is the exception, not the norm. It is best to choose 3 rhetorical devices and for each one write a Body paragraph and provide a quote with your analysis. In other words, a five paragraph essay is standard. Having said this, some AP essays with 2 rhetorical devices and four total paragraphs have received the top score of 9. When push comes to shove, quality always trumps quantity.

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Video 1

Rhetorical Analysis Essay Video 2

AP Rhetorical Analysis Essay Summary

Even though the prompt might seem like it is asking you to analyze multiple arguments and name every rhetorical strategy used in the passage, you should not try to do that. In any given passage an author uses several different rhetorical devices; some will be working together, and some may be working independently of each other to get at different sides of the argument. If you try to account for all the rhetorical strategies, it will be almost impossible to write a cohesive essay.

Instead, you should focus on the FOUR main elements of a 12 AP Lang Rhetorical Response Essay:

1) What is the author's belief? [claim or purpose for writing the speech or essay]
2) What is he/she trying to persuade the audience to believe/act in response? [content of the author's main arguments]
3) Why is the author's content/rhetorical style effective or ineffective [both]? [dialectic/rhetorical analysis]
4) What is the known/perceived reaction of the audience? [result]

and the Three Most Prevalent Rhetorical Strategies.

Your thesis needs to be about the author's purpose for writing the essay or speech AS WELL AS about rhetorical strategies.

Weak Thesis: "The author uses logos, pathos, and irony" is an incomplete thesis.
Strong Thesis: The author incorporates logos, pathos, and irony to demonstrate that society holds men and women to different standards" is a complete thesis.

Step 1: Analyze a non-fiction writing passage by a famous rhetorician

Hermeneutics (5 Principles)

1 Author (psychoanalysis)
2 Intended Audience (purpose of the author in this historical context)
3 Culture (insights into literature due to cultural social customs, prevailing social/political
thought, major events)
4 Text (close reading: rhetorical strategies, figurative language, colloquialisms, etc.)
5 Context (organic unity: a holistic approach of implementing all principles)

Further Analysis

1. What does the diction tell you about the writer? What does the diction tell you about the writer’s assumptions about the knowledge and experience of the reader?
2. What kinds of evidence—facts, statistics, anecdotes—does the author use? How does the selection of supporting evidence help fulfill the purpose of the text?
3. How does the writer use supporting evidence to appeal to readers? Are these appeals logical and rational? Ethical? Emotional? A combination of the two?

1. How does the organization of the text help fulfill its purpose? For example, if the author puts the thesis in the concluding paragraph, how does that strategy help persuade readers?
2. What cueing devices does the author use to emphasize important points and to guide the reader through the essay? Do visual cues—headings, spacing, listing—help organize the text for the reader, or emphasize (or de-emphasize) certain points?
3. Is the information clustered/segmented in a way meaningful to readers and compatible with purpose? Does the clustering of information follow established patterns (e.g., classification, description, comparison, problem/solution, others)?
1. How does the language of the text help the text fulfill its purpose for the readers? How do the following uses of language influence the text?
o concrete versus abstract words
o level of technicality (Does the writer assume readers understand certain terms, or does the writer provide definitions of certain terms?)
o formality (highly formal, use of slang)
2. How does the writer use language to establish a certain tone in the essay? Is the tone well suited to the audience and purpose?
3. What kinds of sentences does the writer use? Does the writer vary sentences for emphasis? How readable are the sentences? Does the writer use topic sentences or forecasting statements to guide readers? Does the writer include transitions to move smoothly from one sentence to the next?

Note Taking: Read through the essay and annotate each paragraph (using the five
hermeneutical principles)
a)What is the author’s purpose for writing the essay?
b) Identify (3) the author's main points (main arguments) in either chronological order (first main point, second main point, third main point) or simply the best main points used throughout the essay
c) Mark the rhetorical appeals and devices used (style, syntax, structure, or diction) to express these arguments
d)) What evidence serves as proof of the author's reasons? Mark any phrases or sentences that reveal this. Remember to fuse the quotes and not give them in their entirety.
e) Mark any areas that you find illogical, implausible, or unethical--challenge the author (but remember 90% of the AP essays are considered effective rhetoric)

Step 2: Organize your essay (aim for a minimum of 500 words and 5 paragraphs)

Introduction: 4-6 sentences
• Addresses the subject (main idea) of the prompt
• Include the author, title of work, audience, and context.
• Clear thesis that includes the purpose of the author and 3 rhetorical strategies
Body (3 paragraphs): 5-8 sentences to state what the author is doing and how he/she is doing it
• Topic Sentence: Author’s main point and the rhetorical strategy(strategies) used to express the main idea (thesis) of the passage
• Evidence: direct (best) or indirect quote from the passage
• Analysis: content and style used to express the main point
o how is the rhetorical strategy incorporated to express the main idea (purpose of the author)?
o why is the rhetorical strategy (device + content) effective on the audience?
o how does the rhetoric affect the intended audience to respond to the main idea?
• restate the thesis
• explain with broad strokes why the essay is effective
• state (or speculate on) the future response of the audience