How to write a Rhetorical Essay in Simple Steps

author By Mary Boies

Writing a rhetorical essay can be frustrating, challenging, and arduous, especially if it is your first time. Moreover, it gets complicated if you do not follow the proper steps or skip a step. However, you are good to go once you understand what a rhetorical essay is, the steps to write it, and how to craft its different parts.

rhetorical essay guide

You are one lucky person today because, in this article, we discuss all matters relating to rhetorical essays, including the definition, step-by-step writing guide, structure or outline, and relevant examples. If, at this stage, all you need is to skip reading and have a professional help you out with your rhetorical essay, feel free to place an order on our website. We are a top custom essay writing service specializing in writing different types of essays. In addition, we have rhetorical analysis essay writers on standby to help you.

If you need to get informed on how to ace your rhetorical essay successfully, the following few sections are precisely what you are looking for. Let's dig in. 

What is a rhetorical analysis essay?

Millions of literary works are published in the United States alone every year. Every published work is created to convince, inform, educate, entertain, or challenge readers.

The most successful literary work creators or writers are often successful because they effectively use strategies, literary devices, and rhetorical devices to convince or persuade their readers. This is where rhetorical analysis comes in.

By definition, rhetorical analysis is simply assessing an author is effectiveness in persuading, entertaining, or convincing their audience. A rhetorical analysis essay examines the style and rhetoric that an author uses in their piece of work.

Here, rhetoric refers to the art of effective writing and speaking, which helps to examine arguments, speeches, and texts how they are fashioned to persuade the audience.

Authors can use different language devices, strategies, and methods to persuade their audiences. A rhetorical analysis essay aims to look closely at a piece and examine the rhetorical appeals and strategies used.

Rhetorical Concepts and Strategies to use in essays

There are three major types of rhetorical strategies - pathos, logos, and ethos. Aristotle first discussed these strategies over 2,000 years ago. They are effective persuasive techniques that continue to be used to this day. Together, the three rhetorical strategies are known as the rhetorical triangle.

1. Pathos

This rhetorical strategy is all about appealing to emotion. Marketers use pathos all the time to convince people to buy things. For example, many soda commercials market sodas as sources of happiness. Because of this, many people end up buying sodas to be happy. This happens subconsciously because incessant commercials have persuaded the brain that sodas provide happiness.

Charities also use pathos to convince people to donate. They do this by showing images of sick or malnourished children to make people feel sad and contribute.

The use of this rhetorical strategy is also common in written works. For example, as a student, you can use a personal story to make your reader empathetic. You can use emotional vocabulary to evoke an emotional response. You can use vivid words to paint a picture for your reader so that they can imagine themselves in the situation.

So, when writing an essay, you can use pathos to convince your reader about something. And now that you know about the use of pathos or emotional appeal in writing, you can also quickly identify the use of this strategy when someone else uses it in a written work or a commercial.

2. Logos

Unlike pathos, logos is a far more common rhetorical strategy, especially in written works. As a rhetorical strategy, Logos simply uses logic or reason to convince a reader about something.

When writing an essay, you will basically make an argument and support it with reasoning and evidence. In other words, you will try to build a case for your argument to convince the reader that your argument is correct.

In many texts, you can quickly note the authors' use of logos or logic to convince readers about something.

3. Ethos

Ethos as a rhetorical strategy is the use of author credibility or reputation to convince the reader about something. For example, an author can claim they have the skills and knowledge in a certain area to make their text more convincing. They can also claim they have goodwill to convince their readers about something. Lastly, an author can point out their virtues to make their text more convincing.

Texts and speeches driven by ethos rely on the author's credibility or reputation. An author can show their credibility directly or indirectly.

As you can see, the three rhetorical strategies are all useful in persuading or convincing readers about something. While they can be used individually, the most convincing arguments frequently employ all three strategies simultaneously.

The five rhetorical situations

The five rhetorical situations are purpose, audience, genre, stance, and medium. Knowing the five rhetorical situations of a text will help you understand it better. It will also help you understand its purpose and the author's intention. Finally, it will also help you analyze the text better to write a quality rhetorical analysis essay.

  1. Purpose - What was the intention of the text?
  2. Audience - For whom is the text written?
  3. Genre - What type of writing is it?
  4. Stance - What position has the author taken?
  5. Medium - What medium has been used to deliver the text?

Looking at the five rhetorical situations of a text is vital if you want to write a quality rhetorical essay. This is because it allows you to understand the text deeply before you start your analysis.

Claims, warrants, and supports

A rhetorical piece bears some arguments built up with claims, warrants, and support.

The claim refers to the author's idea or fact to convince the audience to hear, listen to, or imagine. In most cases, an argument can be built from a single or many claims. Claims are concise, specific, and explicit and can sometimes be implied in some texts.

The author uses supports to fortify the claims. The supports include evidence, examples, and emotional appeals, any fact or information used to convince the readers to accept or reason with the claim.

Finally, the warrant is the logic or assumption that connects the claim and the support. It bridges the two but is often assumed by the author that the audience relates to the claims and supports them without warrants. This means that warrants are always implicit.


In rhetoric, context refers to everything surrounding the text. It comprises the plot, author, purpose of the text, and audience. Context helps inform the rhetorical analysis process

10 Steps to writing a great rhetorical essay

The rhetorical analysis essay writing process is intensive because you have to examine the effectiveness or impact of a text or a piece of work.

When analyzing a piece of text, speech, song lyrics, poems, short stories, or novels, you deepen your understanding of a topic that you have passion about. 

Having understood that rhetorical analysis essays will have the same structure as a standard academic essay, let's look at how to write a rhetorical essay that will get you the best grades.

Follow the five steps below to write a quality rhetorical essay.

1. Read the rhetorical essay prompt

Like other assignments, begin the writing process by reading the instructions. The rhetorical analysis essay prompt helps you understand the scope of the essay, the topic, and the context to focus on. It helps you pay attention to things that matter. You can be asked to write a two to three-page rhetorical essay on The Yellow Wallpaper. Begin by reading the instructions and the rubric to determine the effective rhetorical analysis strategies to focus on.

2. Identify the five rhetorical situations

The first step you need to take to write a quality rhetorical essay is to identify the five rhetorical situations in the piece you want to analyze.

The five rhetorical situations are purpose, audience, genre, stance, and medium. By understanding these situations in the piece, you will appreciate it much better, and your analysis will be powerful.

The purpose of the piece is its intended outcome. The audience is the group that is targeted by the piece. The stance is the position of the author. Genre and medium are easy to understand, and they are not usually critical to understanding a piece because they are often pretty obvious.

It is also essential to identify the context of a piece before analyzing it. The context of a work means the situation, time, and place when it was written or created. This is important to understanding its meaning.

3. Identify its rhetorical strategies or appeals

When analyzing a piece to write a rhetorical essay, your main goal is to identify its rhetorical strategies. The main rhetorical strategy you should try to find and describe are logos, pathos, and ethos. In other words, you should identify and describe the situations where the writer or creator of the piece uses logic, emotions, and ethics.

You should also identify other rhetorical appeals, e.g., imagery, syntax, tone, anecdotes, data, etc. Identifying rhetorical appeals is vital for writing a solid rhetorical essay.

4. Analyze the text

After identifying the rhetorical appeals, you should analyze them. Analyzing rhetorical appeals will help you understand the author and the piece better.

It will also help you understand a piece's context and overall intention.

Most importantly, analyzing the rhetorical appeals of a piece should include you looking if they were effective. So, first, decide if the rhetorical appeals and devices have been used successfully. If yes, note down why. If no, also note down why.

Deciding on the success of rhetorical appeals will inform the central argument of your rhetorical analysis essay.

5. Write your thesis

After the step three above, you are ready to write your essay's thesis. Your thesis statement is your central argument. It will be at the core of your essay. Therefore, you should make it as straightforward and easy to understand as possible.

Your thesis should summarize the purpose of the text or piece the speaker, the strong rhetorical appeals utilized by the speaker, and the effectiveness of the appeals.

For example: In his 2013 letter to the Texas legislature, the author persuasively supports the push to abolish the death penalty using logic, anecdotes, and emotional appeal.

6. Organize your work

Utilizing your thesis as your foundation, you should organize all your work in steps 1, 2, and 3 into a rhetorical essay outline. Your outline should have three sections ' introduction, body, and conclusion.

When outlining the introduction section, you should at the very least highlight the hook sentence (attention-grabbing sentence) and the thesis statement you created in step 4 above.

When outlining the body section, you should have three body paragraphs. When outlining each body paragraph, you should highlight the topic sentence, the supporting information, and the summary/transition sentence.

Each paragraph and topic sentence should focus on one major rhetorical appeal. And the supporting information should include two or three examples and a brief explanation.

When outlining the conclusion section, you should provide a summary sentence of the rhetorical appeals highlighted in the three body paragraphs. This should be followed by a closing statement. The statement should leave an impact on the reader.

By organizing your work in a rhetorical essay outline as detailed above, you will find it easy to write the essay itself.

7. Write the body paragraphs

Develop ideas for your body paragraphs using a topic sentence, supporting evidence, and concluding sentence. Each body paragraph should support the thesis and bear new ideas. You can choose to organize your paragraph by appeals and how the author effectively applies them. You can also take the chronological approach. Ensure that every claim is supported using data, examples, facts, and quotes instead of emotions and subjective opinions. The concluding sentence should tie back to the thesis and link the paragraph to the next.

8. Write the introduction

Writing the introduction after the body paragraphs helps you avoid re-writing the entire body paragraph should the need to tweak your thesis at a later stage of writing. The introduction should be a clear and concise paragraph with a hook, background information, and thesis statement. In some cases, you can also signpost ideas in your essay in the introduction for easier readership. Check the rhetorical precis section for more details.

9. Write the conclusion

The conclusion aims to wrap up your essay. It should have a restated thesis, summarized main points, and a concluding statement. Explain why your argument matters and, if possible, include a call to action or indicate an action you want the readers to undertake.

10. Polish and Revise your Essay

Now that you are done with writing, you should take a break and revise the paper later. You can also hire a proofreader to read and edit your essay. When fixing, read the essay aloud to yourself and determine what needs to be changed. Also, use editing software such as Grammarly or Ginger to edit the paper. You should ensure that the essay is formatted correctly, is devoid of grammatical errors, has effective phrases and conclusions, uses good transitions, and has a good flow.

You should also check that the in-text citations are correct, well-placed, and up to date. Finally, check your work through online plagiarism checkers such as PlagScan or Copyscape to ensure that it is not similar to any piece of work submitted to the university or on the web.

Ensure that your essay uses a wide variety of words and phrases to artfully and tactfully convince and entertain your readers. Again, you can use the thesaurus to expand your vocabulary and present ideas better.

Ensure that your essay uses transition words and phrases correctly to maintain a good flow. Ensure that your essay is written in the third person and present tense to avoid confusing the readers. Finally, polish the rhetorical essay title so that it impresses your readers off the bat. A captivating title strikingly impresses and whets the appetite of your readers to read more. The title must have relevance to the current essay.

The Standard Structure of a Rhetorical Essay

Structuring or formatting your rhetorical essay in a simple and organized manner will help you write a strong rhetorical essay. The best structure for a rhetorical essay is the standard academic essay structure. (Introduction, body & conclusion)

The sample rhetorical analysis essay outline presented below can help you write your outline and structure your essay correctly.

1. Introduction

2. Body Paragraph 1

3. Body Paragraph 2

4. Body Paragraph 3

5. Conclusion

The key thing to note in the outline above is that each body paragraph should focus on a different major rhetorical appeal. Even if the author uses the same rhetorical appeal multiple times throughout the essay, your essay should not do the same. Instead, you should discuss the strategy in just one paragraph.

When you create an outline like this and use it to write your rhetorical analysis essay, your essay will have a nice coherent flow to it.

Rhetorical Precis or the introduction paragraph

The introduction creates the first impression. It comes immediately after the title page. It is a highly structured four-sentence paragraph that indicates the essential elements of the text or piece of work. It is where you present the information about the author using an appositive phrase that describes the author or speaker, genre, and the title of the work. Use words such as 'assert,' 'claim,' 'imply,' or 'suggest.' And That clause that contains the thesis statement or major assertion of the work. The second sentence should explain the author's strategies to develop or support the thesis chronologically. The third sentence is a statement of the author's purpose. Finally, the last sentence should describe the intended audience and the relationship the author establishes with the audience.

Example Rhetorical Essay introduction

Barbara Kingsolver, creator of the Bellwether Prize and an honorary Ph.D. from DePauw University, in her essay "Stone Soup" (1995), argues that a happy and whole family is not limited to the generic 'Family of Dolls' nuclear family. Kingsolver develops her argument by using various pertinent examples, both anecdotal and historical, supplemented by thought-provoking rhetorical questions and effective references to outside literature. She writes to abolish the irrational thinking of how families who do not fit the traditional mold are 'broken' and 'failed' to rectify society's perception of these 'broken homes.' Kingsolver writes for an audience of adults from as young as twenty years of age, as shown with her sophisticated yet relatable writing style for her readers.

Sample Rhetorical Precis

A woman's work is never done: many American women grow up with this saying and feel it true [Hook]. One such woman, author Jessica Grose, wrote 'Cleaning: The Final Feminist Frontier,' published in 2013 in the New Republic [Context], and she argues that while the men recently started taking on more of the childcare and cooking, cleaning still falls unfairly on women [Author's claim or purpose]. Grose begins building her credibility with personal facts and reputable sources, citing convincing facts and statistics, and successfully employing emotional appeals; however, toward the end of the article, her attempts to appeal to readers' emotions weaken her credibility and, ultimately, her argument [Thesis Statement].

Read this sample rhetorical essay from St. Louis Community College to get valuable insights.

Body Paragraphs of a Rhetorical Analysis Essay

The rhetorical analysis essay body paragraphs should have a topic sentence like any other essay. The topic sentence should claim the specific strategy used by the author, including style, structure, or devices used to appeal to the audience. You should follow the topic sentence with supporting facts or textual evidence of strategy. Here, introduce the contest, text, and claim.

You should then discuss the textual example in relation to the claim and strategy. Also, ensure that you provide more textual evidence of a strategy to advance ideas in your essay. Front a claim about strategy, text, and then explanation.

Finally, provide a connection of the strategies to the thesis, purpose, or claim.

In a nutshell, when writing the body paragraph:

  1. Topic sentence that states rhetorical device linking to thesis (begin with the transition for 2nd and 3rd body
  2. Introduce 1st example and quote it (or paraphrase if it is too long)
  3. Explain the effectiveness of 1st device related to Credibility/Passion or emotion/Logic
  4. Relation of the device/example to the theme
  5. Introduce 2nd example and quote it (or paraphrase if it is too long)
  6. Explain the effectiveness of 2nd device related to Credibility/Passion or emotion/Logic
  7. Relation of the 2nd device/example to the theme
  8. How both rhetorical devices connect and are both effective in conveying Zusak's overall theme

How to write a rhetorical analysis essay conclusion

The conclusion should wind up your essay. Begin by restating the thesis statement. Your rephrased thesis statement should come first in conclusion. Next, you should write a brief analysis of how the author has achieved their intentions in their piece. The conclusion is your final chance to make an impact on your readers. Therefore, your rephrased or restated thesis should be deep enough compared to the introduction and must loop back to the introduction. As you do so, never introduce any new ideas or points in the conclusion.

You should then highlight the main ideas for the analysis. This is where you write a short summary or explanation of the main points you have discussed in the body of your essay. Instead of just restating the points, ensure that you describe why they are significant and how each is linked to your thesis. Your conclusion should only highlight the main points and not go in-depth. And as you restate these points, ensure that you briefly explain the significance of the rhetorical strategies in the piece of work you are analyzing. Besides, connect them to the effectiveness of the claim, thesis, and purpose.

Finally, close your conclusion paragraph by presenting your final or closing thought. You can close out the main purpose of the text you were analyzing. It is imperative to be thoughtful, tactful, and use powerful clinchers.

Tips for writing a good rhetorical essay

Follow the tips below to write a solid rhetorical analysis essay on any piece.

  1. Practice makes perfect. To become an excellent rhetorical analysis essay writer, you should practice writing a rhetorical analysis on your favorite blogs, movies, books, essays, etc. If you write at least one rhetorical essay bi-weekly, you will quickly get its gist and be a good rhetorical essay writer.
  2. Format your essay correctly. Unlike other essays, rhetorical analysis essays are written in the 3rd person point of view (they, she, or he) and the present tense. Moreover, professors expect at least fifty percent of your essay to include your explanation or discussion of the different emotional appeals. Formatting your essay in any other way will reduce your marks.
  3. Use words that show analysis. Using words that indicate a thoughtful examination (argues, supports, establishes, describes). Using weak verbs (explains, shows, tells) will water down your analysis and make it look like a simplistic essay rather than anything else.
  4. Cite all references. This is important to make sure your analysis is a proper academic paper. Not citing the examples you have used is plagiarism, and it will significantly affect your essay score.
  5. Proofread your work. After completing your essay, you should carefully go over it to ensure every word you have written is necessary, and every sentence is understandable. Then, tweak your work until you feel every sentence is easy to understand and your essay is free of all types of writing errors.
  6. Provide examples. For every rhetorical strategy, you explore or mention, give a definite example.
  7. Avoid summarizing the text. Rather, ensure that you provide a cogent analysis of the specific text based on your essay prompt's context and scope.
  8. Consider where the claim is made and the supporting claims to determine the strategies employed. Consider the examples and evidence that are effective towards the occasion, purpose, audience, subject, and plot. Understand when the author uses ethos, logos, or pathos and in what order.
  9. Identify the gist of the test, main idea, or purpose and clearly state it.
  10. Connect every strategy to the main idea of the author.

Final remarks

A rhetorical analysis essay is an academic writing that examines how effective an essay, a book, a letter, or any other written or filmed work is. It does this by examining the rhetorical appeals in the work.

The process can be daunting, or so it might seem. However, when you follow the steps outlined above, you are guaranteed to end up with a top-quality rhetorical analysis essay.

Writing good essays take time, practice, and proper reading.

Also Read:

Always strive to write your essay before the deadline. And if there are clarifications you need to seek, write to your professor early enough before the deadline.

You can easily use the information in this article to write a rhetorical essay. However, if you want help with a rhetorical essay, order one from our established private essay writers today. And if you've written and would like someone to edit your essay, choose our essay editing or proofreading services.

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