AP Language and Composition
an examination of how a text persuades us of
its point of view
Apply your critical reading skills to break
down the “whole” of the text into the sum of
Try to determine what the writer is trying to
achieve, and what writing strategies he/she
is using to try to achieve it
Analyzing and understanding how the work has achieved its effect
Questions to consider:
1. What is the general subject? Does the subject mean anything to you? Does it
bring up any personal associations? Is the subject a controversial one?
2. What is the thesis (the overall main point)? How does the thesis
interpret/comment on the subject?
3. What is the tone of the text? Do you react at an emotional level to the
text? Does this reaction change at all throughout the text?
4. What is the writer's purpose? To explain? To inform? To anger? Persuade?
Amuse? Motivate? Sadden? Ridicule? Anger? Is there more than one purpose?
Does the purpose shift at all throughout the text?
5. How does the writer develop his/her ideas? Narration? Description?
Definition? Comparison? Analogy? Cause and Effect? Example? Why does the
writer use these methods of development?
6. How does the writer arrange his/her ideas? What are the patterns of
arrangement? Particular to general? Broad to specific? Spatial? Chronological?
7. Is the text unified and coherent? Are there adequate transitions? How do
the transitions work?
8. What is the sentence structure like in the text? Does the writer use
fragments or run-ons? Declarative? Imperative? Interrogative? Exclamatory? Are
they simple? Compound? Complex? Compound-complex? Short? Long? Loose?
Periodic? Balanced? Parallel? Are there any patterns in the sentence structure?
Can you make any connections between the patterns and the writer's
9. Does the writer use dialogue? Quotations? To what
10. How does the writer use diction? Is it formal? Informal? Technical? Jargon?
11. Is the language connotative? Denotative? Is the language
emotionally evocative? Does the language change
throughout the piece?
12. How does the language contribute to the writer's aim?
13. Is there anything unusual in the writer's use of punctuation?
What punctuation or other techniques of emphasis (italics,
capitals, underlining, ellipses, parentheses) does the writer
use? Is punctuation over- or under used? Which marks does
the writer use when, and for what effects? Dashes to create a
hasty breathlessness? Semi-colons for balance or contrast?
14. Are important terms repeated throughout the text? Why?
15. Are there any particularly vivid images that stand out?
What effect do these images have on the writer's purpose?
16. Aredevices of comparison used to
convey or enhance meaning? Which
personification, hyperbole, etc. does the
writer use? When does he/she use them?
17. Doesthe writer use devices of humor?
Puns? Irony? Sarcasm? Understatement?
Parody? Is the effect comic relief?
Pleasure? Hysteria? Ridicule?
identifying and investigating the way a text
what strategies it employs to
connect to an audience,
frame an issue,
establish its stakes,
make a particular claim, support it, and persuade the
audience to accept the claim.
It is not an analysis of what a text says but of
what strategies it uses to communicate
You must, of course, begin your analysis with
what the text says—its argument
But the work of the essay is to show how the
text persuades us of its position.
You might think of the piece you choose to
analyze as a particular kind of engine whose
machinations produce particular results.
An analysis of the engine examines all the parts, how
they work in isolation, together, etc. to see how the
engine does what it does, or makes what it makes
First stage--pouring out our first impressions,
our "first take" on a text or subject.
draft, notes or outline
Describe the general meaning/message of the piece.
Do the same for more specific, particular effects.
Then begin your examination the piece's strategies by
looking at whether/how the work signals in any way its
audience, purpose, and context.
Stage2--identify the most prominent
strategies the work uses to produce the
meaning/effect you have described.
Use terms and concepts such as—the Aristotelian
forms of appeal, metaphor, metonymy, analogy,
tone, diction, syntax, etc.
Look in particular for any patterns that are
developed by the work.
Decide what seem to be the most important
elements of the work for you—that is, identify
what is for you to be the most striking,
meaningful effect(s) of the work and methods
used to achieve it/them.
This will help you hone in on a thesis.
StageThree--craft a few sentences that
explain why, in your view, the piece works
the way it does.
Try to craft these sentences so that they set up,
first, a description of what the meaning/effect
of the piece is, and, second, what strategies,
elements, etc. help produce that
Then isolate the textual evidence you will use—
probably only a portion of what you have noted.
Stage Four--write the draft.
Make sure you give your thesis or an indication of
your thesis early.
You can give the whole argument right up front, pose
a question you'll explore, whose answer will be your
thesis, or give us a general version of your thesis that
you'll refine by the end of your essay.)
How does the author use [rhetorical
strategies] to convey his/her message?