Rhetorical Analysis

The purpose of these analyses is not simply to describe the strategies of the author, but to be analytical--to critique and evaluate, as well as describe--what is going on in another person's writing. The purpose of these rhetorical analyses is to develop your ability to look closely at all kinds of writing, and to see how things like situation, context, audience, style/arrangement, and written voice contribute to or aid the author's purpose.

Rhetorical Situation

  • What is the reason this piece exists?
  • What is the piece's context?
  • What is the writer talking about? Why?
  • Who is speaking? Why?
  • What conversation does this come out of?
  • What is the author's purpose?
  • Does the piece fit the situation? Why or why not?


  • Who is the writer speaking to? How do you know?
  • What kinds of cultural contexts does this piece come out of? Speak to?
  • What assumptions does the writer make about his or her audience? Or, what does the writer assume the audience already knows?
  • Does the writer make appropriate or inappropriate assumptions of his/her audience? How do you know?
  • What does the audience need to know to understand this piece? To be persuaded by it?
  • How does the writer use his or her assumptions of the audience to shape the piece?
  • Is the writer effective in gaining the attention of his/her audience?
  • Does the audience fit the situation?


  • What kinds of syntax or sentence structure does the writer use? Do the writer's sentences or statements fit the purpose of the piece? Why or why not?
  • How does the writer introduce his or her ideas?
  • How would you characterize the diction of this piece? Does the writer use "big" words or "little" words? Does the writer's word choice fit the purpose of the piece? Its situation?
  • How does the writer use active and passive verbs?
  • How does the writer use adjectives?
  • How does the writer arrange the piece? As an argument? As a narrative? As both?
  • What kinds of combinations of style does the writer use? Are these effective in the points he or she is trying to make?
  • How does the writer structure his or her ideas? Does this shift? How effective is this?
  • How does the writer "build" his or her ideas? Does the writer state them simply? In a linear way? In a circular way? Does this work? Does it fall apart at times? Why or why not?


  • How would you characterize the writer's voice of this piece? Is it formal? Informal?
  • Does the writer pretend to objectivity? Does he or she put him/herself in the piece or acknowledge how his/her personal/cultural experiences/knowledges have
    shaped his/her view on the subject?
  • How does the writer establish him or herself as the writer of this piece? As an expert? As a person exploring the topic or argument? Or, how does the writer build his or her ethos?
  • How does the writer's chosen voice relate to his or her audience?
  • Does the writer's chosen voice fit the overall purpose of the piece? Does it fit the situation?

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