Essay Writing Techniques

Rhetoric is the "the art or skill of speaking or writing formally and effectively especially as a way to persuade or influence people" (Merriam-Webster). Though George Orwell (-PW in agenda p23, author of 1984 and Animal Farm) castigated it in his essay "Politics and the English Language", a good essayist will craft her writing into a persuasive work of art using the tools and devices of rhetoric. Think of the best speech you have ever heard. Some of the best orators of our time have used rhetoric to mobilize, to critique, and unfortunately, at times, toward malevolent ends.

Use some of these handouts to master the Art of Rhetoric in your own writing.

Through the writing process,


  • Consider the Writer's Variables (PATML) as you are brainstorming topics to use in your paper
  • What topics would best suit your reader or convince him or your arguments?
  • Consider the two ways of persuasion: logos (intellect) and pathos (emotion)

  • Methods of Development and Organization - ways to organize your work and strategies to build an argument. Think of a comedian's delivery of a joke. She sets up the punchline by taking the audience through various key points in her tale. Now where is the punchline (strongest point) in your argument? It is customary to place your least strong argument in the center and end off on the strongest note

  • Tone: consider the power of voice in your work. Remain academic, but consider a bit of personality and dramatic flare to your writing (without breaking the 3 Rules)
  • Rhetorical Devices: consider subtly using a few rhetorical devices where they can enhance an argument rather than distract from one.