To write a successful rhetorical analysis essay, one must be comfortable in the common themes to look for. These themes include:

-Use of diction/syntax
-Figurative Language
-Appeal to Authority


The author may use these techniques for a variety of different reasons, your job as the writer is to discern why and to develop clear points in a well written essay.

While reading a passage one should...

-Highlight author's use of any of the above rhetorical strategies ( I have a dream...I have a dream)
-Clearly read the instructions and know what the question is asking ( Characterize the authors position through their use)
-Determine reasoning for the use of these strategies ( to give a certain feeling or emphasize a certain point )

Parallel Structure


Parallel structure means using the same pattern of words to show that two or more ideas have the same level of importance. This can happen at the word, phrase, or clause level. The usual way to join parallel structures is with the use of coordinating conjunctions such as "and" or "or."

Examples Using Words and Phrases

With the -ing form of words:
New Hampton Huskies like working, playing sports, and spending time with friends.

With Infinitive Phrases:
New Hampton Huskies like to work, to play sports, and to spend time with friends.
New Hampton Huskies like to work, play sports, and spend time with friends.

Anaphora... A Sub-Type of Parallel Structure!
Definition: When the exact repetition of words or phrases at the beginning of successive lines or sentences.

Famous Real World Example... MLK's "I Have A Dream" Speech!

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character .external image mlk.jpg

I have a dream today! . . .

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification"one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jailtogether, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day."


Definition: Syntax:

The way an author chooses to join words into phrases, clauses, and sentences. Syntax is similar to diction, but you can differentiate them by thinking of syntax as a group of words, while diction refers to the individual words.

Definition: Diction:

Related to a style, diction refers to the writer's word choices, especially with regard to their correctness, clearness, or effectiveness. For the AP exam, you should be able to describe an author's diction (for example, formal or informal, ornate or plain) and understand the ways in which diction can complement an author's purpose. Diction, combined with syntax, figurative language, literary devices, etc., creates an author's style.

Certain sentences can be simply revised in writing by changing the diction and syntax. Take the next couple examples for instance...

Original Sentence: The layers of dirt were not messed up at all.

Revised Sentence: The sedimentary levels were undisturbed.

Original Sentence: The author used a lot of strategies in her writing.

Revised Sentence: The author's rhetorical strategies were copious.

Original Sentence: The show we saw was very interesting.

Revised Sentence: The performance we viewed was scintillating.



A writers attitude toward the subject and audience.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

“There was a steaming mist in all the hollows, and it had roamed in its forlornness
up the hill, like an evil spirit, seeking rest and finding none. A clammy and intensely
cold mist, it made its slow way through the air in ripples that visibly followed and
overspread one another, as the waves of an unwholesome sea might do. It was dense
enough to shut out everything from the light of the coach-lamps but these its own
workings, and a few yards of road; and the reek of the labouring horses steamed
into it, as if they had made it all.”

As we look at the underlined words -- steaming mist, hollows, clammy, dense – there
is a sense of mystery and secrecy. Then we see the others – forlornness, evil spirit,
seeking rest, finding none, intensely cold, slow way, overspread, unwholesome sea,
shut out everything, reek of labouring horseshints of evil, ominous.Mysterious
and “ominous” are two possible complementary tones, both of which suggest the
unknown, perhaps strangeness. Other tones may also be appropriate.

Figurative Language


There are many forms of figurative language that can be used in writing. It's up to the writer to choose which would be most appropriate for the situation. Examples of this usage are:

Imagery: The formation of mental images, figures, or likenesses of things, or of such images collectively.

As the dripping sound of the distant water rang in my ears, the darkness of this ominous cave engulfed my thoughts and actions.

Simile: A figure of speech in which two unlike things are explicitly compared, as in "he looked like a dog"

The coach said the athlete was quick like a cat.

Metaphor: A figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable in order to suggest a resemblance.

Life is like driving in a car, going to fast will cause one to loose control but throwing it on cruise control can only lead to laziness.

Alliteration: The use of the same consonant at the beginning of each stressed syllable a line of verse;

As I decided to enter, the dismal depths of the desolate dungeon frightened me.

Personification: The attribution of a personal nature or character to inanimate objects or abstract notions

The sun seemed to smile down upon us with life as we entered the beautiful outdoors.

Onomatopoeia: The use of imitative and naturally suggestive words for rhetorical effect.

The butterfly fluttered and whipped past my head.

Hyperbole: Obvious and intentional exaggeration.

It seemed as soon as the fire broke out, a thousand fireman jumped out of their trucks and began putting it out.

Idioms: An expression whose meaning is not predictable from the usual meanings of its constituent elements, or from the general grammatical rules of a language, and that is not a constituent of a larger expression of like characteristics.

After the team lost their championship game, the captains hung their heads to a disappointing end of the season.

Appeal to Authority: Appeal to authority can be defined as the author's call upon an individual or other source as an expert to strengthen an argument made by the author of the work.