"A" Papers: Rhetorical Analysis
Students who write "A" papers most often chose an
argument to analyze which takes a strong position rather than offering
more of an overview, or lukewarm appraisal of an issue. Itís easier to
write a strong paper when you are working with an argument that makes strenuous
or marked appeals to pathos, ethos and logos. At the same time, the argument
under study doesnít have to be a brilliant or model argument, a feat of
persuasion like Martin Luther Kingís letter from a Birmingham Jail. The
argument can be rife with contradiction, misjudge its audience, have overblown
appeals to pathos, etc.
"A" papers show an awareness of how contingencies
of audience might influence the effectiveness of the argument. In other
words, "A" papers consider how appeals might be successful for some kinds
of readers (believers) but not for others (doubters). "A" papers further
show an awareness of what types of values or group identifications might
be shared by believing versus doubting readers.
"A" papers show an awareness of how style and tone
relate to rhetorical appeals. For example, consider the anti-litter campaign,
based on the slogan, "Donít Mess With Texas." The slogan takes the form
of a command with a confrontive tone, and the word choice, "mess with,"
suggests a blue-collar style of speaking, also an in-your-face attitude.
This slogan might perhaps forge an alliance between the anti-littering
cause and a target audience of rednecks who throw beer bottles from pickup
trucks. "Donít Mess With Texas" delivers a message in a style that might
speak to those who think of themselves as tough, individualist, no-nonsense
"A" papers show an awareness of how rhetorical appeals
can be interrelated. For example, blatant logical contradictions or weak
evidence would undermine an authorís ethos. A mother who argues against
the death penalty by giving a moving account of how she came to forgive
her daughterís murderer makes a strong appeal to pathos, and at the same
time, her ethos rests on the authority granted to speakers who have first-hand
experience of the issue they publicly address.
"A" papers are written in a style that is pleasurable
to read. The wording does not present confusing ambiguities of logic. The
authorís sense is always clear, and one idea follows logically from the
next. Word choice is lively, and apt. The author has a mastery of complex
sentences, but sometimes intersperses them with more simple sentences for
variety and interestís sake.