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Basic Rhetorical Modes

  • What is a Rhetorical Mode?
    • A rhetorical mode is a common pattern of argument.
    • Studying rhetorical modes will give you ready-made approaches to writing your essays on the exam.
    • Some of the multiple-choice questions on the test will also use terminology associated with rhetorical modes.
  • 1. Example / Illustration
    • In this rhetorical mode, the writer uses specific examples to illustrate an idea. The better the examples, the stronger the argument.
    • Use examples that your reader will understand. Obscure pop-culture references are not your friend.
    • Draw your examples from “real life,” “real” culture (high culture), and well-known folklore.
    • Make sure your example really does illustrate your point.
    • Introduce your examples using transitions: for example, for instance, case in point, consider the case of, etc.
    • A single perfect example OR a series of short, less-perfect examples can serve to illustrate your point.
    • Ideally, you should construct a well-developed, representative example supported by several shorter ones.
    • Discard examples that may disprove your point. You’re writing an exam essay with a time limit—you don’t have to be fair to all sides of your argument.
    • Quality is more important than quantity.
  • 2. Classification
    • In this rhetorical mode, the writer organizes people, places, things, or ideas into categories (ideally, categories that do not overlap).
    • This mode helps writers think about the subject and express their thoughts in an orderly manner.
    • Classification works best when you are asked to analyze or explain something. It’s great for the synthesis essay!
    • Make sure your classification essay has a central idea or thesis.
    • Sort your information into meaningful groups. You may need to combine categories to get a full paragraph.
    • Make sure you have a manageable number of categories—on an essay this short, three or four is best.
    • Make sure the categories (or the elements in them) do not overlap.
    • Before writing, make sure your categories and your thesis are a good fit. You may need to revise your thesis based on your categories!
    • As you write, do not justify your classification unless the question is so bizarre as to require it. Justify your thesis, not your categories!
  • 3. Comparison and Contrast
    • In this rhetorical mode, the writer notes similarities (comparisons) and differences (contrasts) between objects, people, characteristics, or actions. Ideally, the things being examined will be similar enough that the comparison is meaningful.
    • When you write a comparison/contrast essay, don’t organize it according to the things being compared (for example, one paragraph about Thing A and one paragraph about Thing B). Instead, organize your essay around the qualities being discussed (one paragraph about the colors of Thing A and Thing B, one paragraph about the sounds of Thing A and Thing B, etc.)
    • When you’re comparing and contrasting A and B, find common elements (which will become your examples) from both.
    • Do not write about A in one paragraph and B in another.
    • Do your best to combine elements into a limited number of groups—three, if possible—and write a paragraph about each group.
    • Do not attempt to justify your groups or examples; simply present them.
  • 4. Analogy
    • In this rhetorical mode, the writer uses a special kind of comparison to explain something. It’s especially useful for explaining something abstract by comparing it to something concrete.
    • This mode works best in an expository essay.
    • Use analogy for expository writing (explanation)
    • Do not use analogy for argumentative writing; it’s too easy for your reader to decide your analogy is a false one or not relevant.
    • Use analogy to explain something difficult to understand or that is abstract.
    • Make sure your audience will readily understand your “simple” or concrete subject.

Basic Rhetorical Modes

Lecture Slides are screen-captured images of important points in the lecture. Students can download and print out these lecture slide images to do practice problems as well as take notes while watching the lecture.