Nov 13 2019

6 Proven Steps to Writing a Rhetorical Analysis Essay Effectively and Scoring High (+ Common Mistakes to Avoid)

Stefani Holloway photo Stefani Holloway Content strategist and writer
Knowledge Cell

Rhetorical analysis - ooh, that sounds heavy, doesn’t it?

Let’s first understand what a rhetorical analysis essay is. The word ‘rhetoric’ refers to the study of words writers use to communicate and influence their readers. Basically, rhetorical analysis is nothing but analyzing a writer’s writing.

Original: SourceMore than writing about whether you agree or not with the writer’s arguments, this essay asks you to dive deep into how the writer has chosen to write. It’s about dissecting into the piece to determine the writing techniques used to deliver the main point or message.

This might sound stressful and confusing but that’s what we’re here for - to break down the steps to writing a rhetorical analysis essay and help you put together an impressive, high-scoring paper.

How to Approach a Rhetorical Analysis Essay

Before jumping straight into the steps to writing a rhetorical analysis essay, it’s important to understand how to approach such an essay and the factors you need to consider in order to do justice to it.

This is where the SOAPSTone strategy comes into the picture. It stands for Speaker, Occasion, Audience, Purpose, Subject and Tone. Following this strategy helps you plan the essay and approach it in an organized manner.

Read on to know what each of these crucial elements constitute and the questions you need to answer while writing a rhetorical analysis essay.


‘Speaker’ refers to the person telling the story. Don’t mistake the author and speaker to be the same voice. In many instances, the author may choose to tell the story from the main character or narrator’s point of view.

Questions to ask: Who is the speaker? Are the author and speaker the same? What do you know about the speaker? What assumptions can you make about him/her?


‘Occasion’ refers to the setting or context of the piece of writing. While analyzing ‘occasion’, there are two ways to look at it - micro and macro view. Micro is about understanding where the writing was set while macro is about considering when the author wrote it and what was the environment like.

Questions to ask: What is the time and place of the text? What era is it set in? What are the historical events that took place then? What details are mentioned about the social or political climate? How does the environment influence the text?


As the name suggests, ‘audience’ asks you to consider who the text is directed to. The audience of a text can range from a certain person to a group of people.

Questions to ask: Who is the audience? Does the speaker define the audience? What do you know about the audience? What assumptions can you make? Why was the text written for that specific audience?


Establishing the purpose means analyzing why the author has written that piece of text and understanding the message he/she wants to deliver through it.

Questions to ask: What is the purpose of the author? Has he/she made the purpose or goal of writing clear? How does the author choose to convey the main message? How does the text make you feel? What is the effect the author intends to have on his/her readers?


‘Subject’ is the underlying message or the main topic of the text - you should be able to explain that in a few words.

Questions to ask: What is the main idea or topic? What does the author reveal about the subject? What is the underlying message? When is the subject revealed? How does the author present the subject?


‘Tone’ refers to the attitude of the author which is usually reflected in the choice of words, imagery, sentence structure and other literary devices he/she uses.

Questions to ask: What words does the author use? What is the author’s attitude towards the readers and subject? What is the author’s point of view? What emotions are you left with after reading the text? What are the literary tools the author uses to set the tone?

Here’s a video by Snap Language which articulates how you can accurately interpret the author’s tone

6 Simple Steps to Write an Effective Rhetorical Analysis Essay

Once you have individually analyzed each of the above elements, gathered the answers and made your notes, it gets easier to begin the writing process.

Original: SourceSo, let’s get started. Here’s how you can write an effective rhetorical analysis essay in six simple steps.

Determine the Persuasion Strategy

According to Aristotle, any spoken or written communication that intends to persuade the audience contains three elements - ethos, pathos and logos.

It’s important to be aware of these modes of persuasion because it aids in the analysis and helps identify the rhetorical appeals the author uses to convince the audience:

Ethos appeals to ethics and is used to convince the reader of the author’s credibility. An author would use this mode to justify his/her stance and exhibit how moral or reliable he/she is:

Eg. “I am confident that you gentlemen will review without passion the evidence you have heard, come to a decision, and restore this defendant to his family. In the name of God, do your duty.” - To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee.

Pathos appeals to emotions and is meant to evoke an emotional response in the reader:

Eg. “He had meant the best in the world, and been treated like a dog—like a very dog. She would be sorry someday—maybe when it was too late. Ah, if he could only die temporarily!” - The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain.

Logos appeals to logic and aims to convince the reader through logical reasoning and facts:

Eg. “Crafty men condemn studies, simple men admire them, and wise men use them; for they teach not their own use; but that is wisdom without them, and above them, won by observation.” - Of Studies, Francis Bacon

Do note that the author can use more than one mode of persuasion in the text. While explaining your analysis, you need to point out which ones the author’s used while explaining the reasons behind it and determining if he/she was effective in persuading.

Actively Read Multiple Times

The first key step to writing a rhetorical analysis essay is actively reading the text you’re analyzing thoroughly because all the research you need to do and answers you want lie there.

The best way to read is to go paragraph wise, have the list of SOAPSTone questions by your side and answer them as you go. Don’t rely on one or two readings - you should give it multiple reads in order to be able to analyze it effectively.

Remember - you are reading to analyze and evaluate which means digging deep, making notes, focusing on the author’s writing techniques and taking note of patterns, if any.

Formulate a Clear Thesis Statement

Just like other academic essays, even a rhetorical analysis essay requires a well-defined thesis statement. This statement should reflect your stance or interpretation of the text. You need to essentially answer how effective the writer was in convincing the readers and/or meeting his/her goal.

Your thesis statement needs to be included towards the end of the introductory paragraph but it’s a good idea to start by crafting the thesis statement because that’s what forms the skeleton of your paper and gives your writing direction.

Make sure you write an arguable and precise thesis statement which you will need to justify and prove in the following paragraphs with evidence and examples from the text.

Watch this interesting video by Cruz Medina on formulating a thesis statement for rhetorical analysis essays

Create an Outline

Making an outline of the essay before writing is integral. It ensures your arguments flow logically and you don’t miss out on anything. So, spend some time putting together the outline and jotting down your points in the respective sections.

Here are the three main sections of a rhetorical analysis essay


The introductory paragraph needs to begin with introducing the text you’re analyzing along with details on the author. It’s a good idea to include a crisp summary, just in case your instructor is unaware of what it’s about.

You should then mention the modes of persuasion used by the author along with touching upon the SOAPStone elements in the text. This paragraph needs to define your purpose of analysis and end with a thesis statement.


Being the majority of the paper, it’s in this section where you need to justify your arguments with the help of examples. In the body paragraphs, you need to elaborate on the persuasion appeals and do a comprehensive analysis of the literary devices, methods and strategies used by the writer.

It’s a good idea to devote one paragraph to each mode of persuasion. Remember to use a lot of quotes and excerpts to support your arguments.

Here’s a useful tip - go in chronological order while writing the essay. That way, you can present your insights as they appear in the original text.


The concluding paragraph needs to tie everything together. Don’t just repeat your thesis - rephrase it to reinstate the point you’re trying to make. Apart from that, you can also end with how the writer’s work has impacted the audience or society.

Use the Appropriate Writing Style

Apart from the rhetorical strategies you need to use, it’s important to stay true to grammar rules use the right words to put together an interesting read.

Maintain an objective tone in your writing, write in third person and stick to using present tense. Don’t make the mistake of being overly critical without proper reasoning and ensure you analyze the text along with giving enough supporting evidence instead of summarizing or merely stating your point of view.

Edit and Proofread your Work

Last but definitely not the least, don’t forget to edit and proofread your work before submitting it. You need to ensure you’re submitting an error and plagiarism free paper.

So, give it a few reads to see whether you’ve covered all the points, not made any silly mistakes and that your paper flows in logically.

9 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid When Writing a Rhetorical Analysis Essay

Now that you know how to approach a rhetorical analysis essay, let’s take a look at the nine common mistakes students make while writing such an essay.

Neglecting the thesis statement

The thesis statement of your rhetorical analysis essay plays an extremely crucial role and should be stated clearly at the end of your introduction paragraph.

All the arguments and claims that were made in the essay to prove a point should eventually tie everything back up to the thesis statement.

Neglecting to add your thesis statement as the main argument in the introduction as well as in the entire essay will lead your readers to lose the point of reading the essay and the will to understand what your essay is all about.

Moreover, there would be no firm statement to tie all your claims and arguments back to while writing your analysis essay.

Crafting a complex essay

Sometimes students fall into the trap of creating complicated structures for their essays thinking that the complexity will bring them the applause they deserve.

This is incorrect because your analysis essay is required to be simple and easy to understand so that the readers can digest and decipher the content of the essay without any problems. It is expected for the students to present the message of the rhetorical essay in a clear and easy-to-read format.

To avoid making this error:

  • restrict extra phrases, words, and other fluff that can confuse your readers;
  • adhere to the main points and arguments of the essay;
  • avoid straying into too many topics and multiple viewpoints;
  • create a clear, well-structured outline for the construction of the essay.

Avoid extreme views or opinions

Avoid writing your rhetorical analysis essays using extreme terms and controversial opinions when the opposing views are being analyzed.

These extreme languages and expressions can immediately put off your readers, and showcase the writer as attacking the opposite side as opposed to valuing the ideas of the opposing arguments, and not being able to partake in a healthy, well-thought-out debate.

Getting your readers to understand your arguments without any complication, will require the writer to add in simple, well-researched points, that engage with the ideas and the thought process involved in the difference of opinions for both sides of the essay.

Incorrect formatting

An essay is not always about the content. No matter how much you work on the content, if the formatting of your essay is not correct, it can bring down the entire quality of your essay and make you look unprofessional. There are also a few ways you can avoid incorrect formatting:

  • choose a consistent and proper format and style of writing;
  • be careful about the font, font size, page numbers, margins, and line spacing.

Additionally, it is important to know how to format and cite your resources and evidence. This way your readers can easily refer to the indented resources without having to go back to the essay’s bibliography repeatedly to find a specific source for a particular statement.

Unable to answer key questions

The purpose of an analysis essay is to deep dive into key questions that were raised while brainstorming about the basic ideas that involved the main argument. This is then used to write the thesis statement properly and understand the aim of the essay.

Finally, these key questions should be analyzed thoroughly to craft a clear and specific essay.

Sometimes the writer forgets to adhere to the main questions and delves into other issues. That is why you need to disclose your thought process behind the main theme and the key questions.

No transitions between paragraphs

Each paragraph in a rhetorical analysis essay is separate and has its arguments and claims.

These essays should be formatted in such a way as well, but that does not necessarily mean that these paragraphs should sound like two different essays, or have no connection and/or transitions in between the two paragraphs.

Make sure to frame your essay in a coherent, flowing manner that gives your readers smoother readability. In addition to that, use transition words or phrases such as:

  • on the contrary
  • however
  • furthermore
  • besides
  • similarly
  • above all
  • at any rate
  • therefore
  • for this purpose
  • in particular
  • and more

Grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors

The basic thing to avoid when writing a rhetorical analysis essay or any other academic paper is to have minimal to no grammar or punctuation errors, and spelling mistakes.

Think about it: you research for days and craft a thorough rhetorical essay only for it to be failed because it was riddled with spelling mistakes and multiple grammatical errors.

Additionally, when professors see these errors in your essay, right at the beginning, they no longer feel the need to read the rest of your essay or even have any interest in reading the content that makes up your paper. Thus, your essay gets sidelined and your effort is failed.


Plagiarism is a strict no when it comes to writing your essays and other academic papers. Citing someone else’s work as your own is not only cheating but is also very unethical and no teachers or professors would allow a student to write a plagiarized essay or request good grades for plagiarized work.

It's advisable to:

  • never use an exact quotation in your essay and make it seem like your own sentence;
  • always cite your sources and links;
  • make sure to use the idea behind the writing and not the exact sentences;
  • cite your work from primary or secondary sources like scientific papers, works of literature, and other notable reading materials;
  • follow a correct format for citing your sources.


We understand how taxing this assignment can turn out to be because it not only requires you to write impeccably but it also needs you to wholly understand rhetorical strategies, literary devices and other writing techniques.

So, follow these six steps to writing a rhetorical analysis essay, avoid the common mistakes, and you’re sure to get the scores you desire!

If you’re stuck, are struggling to start or are running out of time, we at Writers Per Hour can make your life easier and help you write an excellent rhetorical analysis essay.

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last edit at Sep 22 2022