The Ap style Analysis Essay (Rhetorical Analysis Essay) What is rhetorical analysis?

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The AP Style Analysis Essay (Rhetorical Analysis Essay)
What is rhetorical analysis?

Rhetorical analysis is a close reading of a text to find the argument in the text and HOW the author creates that argument. When performing a rhetorical analysis you analyze how well the components of an argument work together to persuade or move an audience.

When asked to compose a rhetorical analysis (or just in case you actually want to be a critical thinker) you should consider the following….

  1. What is the purpose of the argument? What does it hope to achieve?

  2. Who is the audience for the argument? (Some of you may have used SOAPStone- same thing)

  3. What appeals or techniques does the argument use (emotion, logic, credibility, ethical)

  4. What is the genre of the argument (editorial, work of literature, political statement, bumper sticker, advertisement)

  5. What values does the argument evoke? Do these values add credibility?

  6. What authorities does the argument rely on or appeal to?

  7. What facts reasoning and evidence appear in the argument and how are they used?

  8. What issues are raised, ignored or evaded?

  9. What are the social, political, historical and cultural contexts? Whose interests does it serve?

  10. How is the argument organized or arranged?

  11. How does the language or style of the argument work to persuade and audience? (this is where all those AP language terms come into play)

Obviously, one cannot address all of these in an AP essay written in approximately 40 minutes so it is up to the writer to consider which issues are most important to address- these issues may be the ones that most support the overall argument. DO NOT SUMMARIZE THE TEXT!
A workable strategy for the AP essay- to use in 40 minutes:

  • 1 minute reading and working the prompt

  • 5 minutes reading and making annotations regarding the passage

*Isolate two/three references or moments that strike you. These may contribute to opening/closing lines or other key moments in your response

  • 5 minutes preparing to write (Underlining, mapping, charting, key words/quotes)

  • 25-30 minutes writing your essay, based on your preparation

  • 3 minutes proofreading

Rhetorical strategies to look for include:

Comparison/Contrast Use of logic

Cause and effect Inductive or Deductive argument

Different types of irony Choice of Examples

Diction Selection of Detail

Syntax Juxtaposition

Parallelism Analogy

Antithesis Extended Metaphor

Concrete, Specific Words Hyperbole

Imagery (Sensory Appeals) Allusion

Personification Onomatopoeia

Tone Pacing

Oxymoron Alliteration, Assonance, Consonance

Point of view Organization

Appeals to authority Appeals to credibility

*Be able to explain why the speaker selected these strategies for the particular audience, occasion, and purpose. This is the analysis part.

A Sample Outline:

Opening Paragraph:

    • Hook (Maybe). Use brevity.

    • Reference the author and title of the work. Maturely weave in needed SOAPSSS components.

    • Use strong verbs/adjectives.

    • Address the author’s view or attitude of the subject (you may want to identify the tone of the work).

    • Specifically mention the rhetorical elements you will explore in your essay and how they apply to the essay prompt. (Thesis)

SAMPLE: In her narrative essay, “Fish Cheeks,” novelist Amy Tan recounts a teenage memory of a particularly embarrassing Christmas Eve dinner. Tan effectively conveys the idea that at 14, she was unable to recognize the loving sacrifices her mother made for her. She adopts a sentimental tone and relies on several metaphors within her colorful diction to appeal to similar feelings and experiences in her adult readers.


  • Use topic sentences as you work chronologically through the text. Break the text into sections (along with your essay) while you discuss the effectiveness of the author’s style and strategies.

  • Don’t discuss every strategy, do identify and discuss the strongest strategies that are most critical to the meaning of the piece.

  • Use specific references and details from the given passage. This is your evidence.

  • Refer directly to material using short quotes, even if it’s just one or two words. Quote phrases, not sentences. Weave them into your discussion.

  • Show connection throughout your essay by continually reiterating key ideas from the prompt and from your opening paragraph. Stay connected with the prompt and your thesis.

  • Use transitions (begins, opens, shifts to, juxtaposes, contrasts, moves into, closes . . .)


  • Do not simply summarize

  • Avoid, “In conclusion . . .” or “In summary . . .”

  • Make a final statement to “so what” your analysis

  • Link your ideas to a particularly effective line or image from the passage

  • Be witty and clever. Save one last bit of analysis, one more thoughtful take, that ties together the speaker’s style and their purpose.

Words that help in Analysis: Say you want to state, “ The author uses parallelism…..” Instead try replacing uses with….

  1. Portray 8. Assert 15. Repudiate 22. Construct 29. construes

  2. Depict 9. Embody 16. Refute 23. Create 30. constructs

  3. Convey 10. Elucidate 17. Dispel 24. Transcend 31. propose

  4. Manipulate 11. Clarify 18. Regale 25. Deconstruct 32.hint

  5. Reveal 12. Enhance 19. Revert 26. Concede 33. suggest

  6. Demonstrate 13. Imply 20. Empower 27. Pervade 34. predict

  7. Exemplify 14. Inspire 21. Constrain 28. sustain


  1. No hook.

  2. No “the imagery creates a vivid picture because…” or other cliché statements.

  3. No need to know that a specific form of parallelism is polysyndeton- BUT you should know when and why the author uses parallelism.

  4. No “in conclusion”

  5. No need to bring in outside sources- your analyzing.

  6. No need to be overly creative.

The success of your Style Essay in concise form:

OK – Identifying rhetorical tools or stylistic techniques/devices used within the passage.

Good – Offering relevant and meaningful commentary on these stylistic observations.

Good – Clearly identifying the author’s purpose / argument, and tone.

Great – Understanding and showing with examples and explanation how the writer uses rhetorical techniques in creating and delivering the effect and meaning of the passage. These ideas are to be woven together in sophisticated paragraphs of mature analysis.

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