Rhetoric in an essay, we have seen, is not simply a matter of the product. Rather, writers build and develop the rhetoric–the ways that the essay organizes and focuses the attention of the reader–in the process of drafting, revising, editing their work. If authentic and lively essay writing is about thought thinking, then the rhetorical work of the essay needs to go through a process of continual rethinking.
Here are some approaches to rethinking to use going forward whenever you revise and edit your writing.
- Thesis check: What’s the Argument? Identify the critical problem and response to the problem that the essay is setting up. Suggest where that might need to be made clearer, more specific. It can often happen that the conclusion or a later paragraph in the essay has a stronger, clearer statement of the argument. Look for that and consider moving that into the introduction.
- Recall from last project: a good way to clarify the argument is to counter it–identify what you are not arguing, or rather, who or what argues against your claim. This is a counterargument that you can return to in the essay.
- Arrangement/Organization of the argument: Turn the draft back into an outline.
- Map out the keywords of the argument (circle or highlight)–and trace them through the essay.
- Show where the keywords extend from the passages quoted (interpreting not just summarizing the texts).
- Topic sentences and transitions: do the keywords appear and move the reader along?
- Specificity of language (good for ethos, logos, and pathos)–remember strong active verbs key–Writer’s Diet test. Watch out for “Zombie Nouns.” [think of Dillard and her use of verbs]. Also avoid over-using adverbs–watch out for Tom Swifties.
- Sentence Variety.
- Consider two basic sentence types to generate variety (and to think more rhetorically about your sentences): Hypotaxis and Parataxis.