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For more information, please see full course syllabus of AP English Language & Composition
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Complex 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. Process Analysis
    • In this rhetorical mode, the writer uses a step-by-step process to explain either how to do something or how something was done. Usually, there are examples to spice things up.
    • You’ll usually want to describe a process in chronological order; think about recipes.
    • Use transition words (first, next, finally,etc.) to make the stages of the process clear.
    • Use appropriate terminology—avoid jargon that a reader unfamiliar with your process will not recognize (French drop).
    • Make sure that every step is clear and nothing is left out.
  • 2. Cause and Effect
    • In this rhetorical mode, the writer explains why things should be or should have been done—why things work.
    • This mode is all about finding underlyingcauses.
    • Don’t confuse a connection in time or space with true cause and effect. The rooster’s crowing doesn’t make the sun come up!
    • Use carefully chosen examples to turn causal relationships into cause-and-effect explanations.
    • Make sure to address each step in a series of causal relationships.
  • 3. Definition
    • In this rhetorical mode, the writer uses a variety of rhetorical techniques to define a term. These techniques may include analogy, negation, classification, and examples.
    • Keep your reason for defining something in mind as you’re writing.
    • Define key terms according to what you know of your audience—don’t bore your reader by over-defining or confuse him or her by leaving obscure terms undefined.
    • Explain the background when it’s relevant.
    • Define by negation when appropriate.
    • Combine definition with any number of other rhetorical modes when applicable.
  • 4. Description
    • In this rhetorical mode, the writer uses sensory details and the techniques of subjective and objective description to hold the reader’s interest and convey vital information.
    • When possible, use all five senses!
    • Place the most striking examples at the beginnings and ends of your paragraphs for maximum effect.
    • Show, don’t tell.
    • Use concrete nouns and adjectives—preferably nouns.
    • Concentrate on details that will convey your impression most effectively.
    • Employ figures of speech, especially similes, metaphors, and personification, when appropriate.
    • When describing people, try to focus on distinctive mannerisms; if possible, go beyond physical appearance.
    • Dialogue and quotations are your friends!
    • A brief anecdote is worth a thousand abstract words.
    • Whenever possible, use action verbs.
  • 5. Narration
    • In this rhetorical mode, the writer arranges information in chronological order to tell a story.
    • When possible, structure the events in chronological order.
    • Make your story complete: use a beginning, middle, and end.
    • Provide a realistic setting, especially at the beginning.
    • Whenever possible, use action verbs.
    • Provide concrete and specific details.
    • Show, don’t tell. (Use anecdotes and examples.)
    • Establish a clear point of view.
    • Include appropriate amounts of dialogue (or quotations).
  • 6. Induction and Deduction
    • In induction, the writer uses specific examples to reach a general conclusion.
    • In deduction,the writer uses generalizations to draw conclusions about a specific case.
    • When using inductive reasoning, proceed from the specific to the general.
    • Make sure you have enough specific information to make a generalization!
    • When using deductive reasoning, proceed from the general to the specific.
    • Make sure your generalization is credible and relevant to your specific situation before you apply it!

Complex 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.

  • Intro 0:00
  • Lesson Overview 0:10
  • What is a Rhetorical Mode? 0:31
  • Process Analysis 0:56
    • Describe in Chronological Order
    • Use Appropriate Terminology
  • Cause and Effect 2:18
    • This Mode Is All About Underlying Causes
    • Don’t Confuse a Connection in Time or Space with True Cause and Effect
  • Definition 3:48
    • Keep Your Reason for Defining Something in Mind as You're Writing
    • Define Key Terms According to What You Know of Your Audience
  • Description 6:10
    • Use All Five Senses
    • Place the Most Striking Examples at the Beginnings and Ends of Your Paragraphs
    • Focus on Distinctive Mannerisms When Describing People
  • Narration 9:47
    • Structure Events in Chronological Order
    • Provide a Realistic Setting
  • Induction and Deduction 12:00
    • Induction
    • Deduction
    • When Using Inductive Reasoning, Proceed from the Specific to the General
    • When Using Deductive Reasoning, Proceed from the General to the Specific