The Marrow of Tradition

by Charles Waddell Chesnutt

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Student Question

How can I create an outline for a rhetorical analysis of the Manly Editorial?

Quick answer:

A rhetorical analysis essay focuses on three types of language, ethos (appeals to credibility), pathos (appeals to emotion), and logos (appeals to logic). You will likely have one body paragraph dedicated to each type of rhetoric, which will discuss examples from the editorial and describe how they advance or detract from the author's argument. Your thesis statement will outline the order you will discuss these in and whether or not the argument was effective overall.

Expert Answers

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I can't give specific help with this assignment without a link to the editorial you mentioned, but I can offer some guidance about outlining a rhetorical analysis essay.

A rhetorical analysis essay might sound intimidating, but "rhetoric" is really just a fancy word for "language." In a rhetorical analysis, you want to break down the different types of language the writer uses to make their argument. You aren't arguing with the logic of the argument itself, though your analysis can point out places where the language is exaggerated or misleading if applicable.

Your thesis statement is like a road map for your essay: it needs to be clear and concise while also giving a good overview of what you will talk about in the body of your essay. The good news is that most rhetorical analysis essays focus on three types of language: ethos, pathos, and logos (which I'll explain more in depth later). Your thesis statement can simply outline how Manly uses them—something to the effect of "In [name of editorial], Manly crafts his argument around the rhetorical strategies of ethos, pathos, and logos to convince readers of his argument that _____." Although it would be better to expound a bit upon how he does this, you will do most of this in your body paragraphs.

Again, you will likely dedicate one paragraph to each type of rhetorical appeal. I'll do a brief review of what each type looks like and how to find it as you read. "Ethos" is an appeal to author's own authority or credibility. They may do this by discussing their credentials, education, and personal experiences to show that they are a trustworthy source on the topic at hand. "Logos" is when the author uses reasoning or factual information to persuade the reader. Examples could be statistics, empirical studies, or perspectives from other authorities on the topic. Finally, pathos refers to how the author tries to make the audience feel. Writers often try to induce a certain feeling in their audience through anecdotes, emotional language, or appeals to morals and values that are considered important.

When it comes to analyzing rhetoric, it depends on whether or not you think the rhetorical device was used effectively. Let's use logos as an example. Suppose Manly is writing about a toothpaste brand and says "9 out of 10 dentists recommend...". You could say, "Manly uses this statistic to show his readers that experts on dental health consider this brand to be the superior product. However, you could also poke holes in the data used if you think it's warranted. Let's use the toothpaste example again. Does Manly mention how many dentists were surveyed? Did the dentists surveyed recommend this brand along with or in place of other brands? You could also discuss whether you think one appeal is used too much or too little; ideally a writer would balance all three. Is Manly's argument based purely in emotion with no evidence to back it up? Is there too much data with no attempt to connect with the audience? Being able to look at rhetoric (even "facts") is an important skill that will make your teacher proud!

Finally, in your conclusion, you will simply summarize what you discussed in your main body paragraphs. This could be the place for you to write what you think could have made the argument more effective or how it helped you think about the issue personally as a reader, but still keep it concise. Best of luck with your essay!

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