III. Rhetorical Situation

3.8 Rhetorical Modes of Writing

Kathryn Crowther; Lauren Curtright; Nancy Gilbert; Barbara Hall; Tracienne Ravita; Kirk Swenson; Ann Inoshita; Karyl Garland; Kate Sims; Jeanne K. Tsutsui Keuma; Tasha Williams; Susan Wood; Terri Pantuso; and Kalani Pattison

Rhetorical modes simply mean the ways we can effectively communicate through language. Each day people interact with others to tell a story about a new pet, describe a transportation problem, explain a solution to a science experiment, evaluate the quality of an information source, persuade a customer that a brand is the best, or even reveal what has caused a particular medical issue. We speak in a manner that is purposeful to each situation, and writing is no different. While rhetorical modes can refer to both speaking and writing, in this section we discuss the ways in which we shape our writing according to our purpose or intent. Your purpose for writing determines the mode you choose.

Typically speaking, the four major categories of rhetorical modes are narration, description, exposition, and persuasion.

  1. The narrative essay tells a relevant story or relates an event.
  2. The descriptive essay uses vivid, sensory details to draw a picture in words.
  3. The writer’s purpose in expository writing is to explain or inform. Oftentimes, exposition is subdivided into other modes: classification, evaluation, process, definition, comparison/contrast, and cause/effect.
  4. In the persuasive essay, the writer’s purpose is to persuade or convince the reader by presenting one idea against another and clearly taking a stand on one side of the issue. We often use several of these modes in everyday and professional writing situations, so we will also consider special examples of these modes such as personal statements and other common academic writing assignments.

Whether you are asked to write a cause/effect essay in a history class, a comparison/contrast report in biology, or a narrative email recounting the events in a situation on the job, you will be equipped to express yourself precisely and communicate your message clearly. Understanding the conventions and expectations related to each of these rhetorical modes will also help you to become a more effective communicator.


Narration means the art of storytelling, and the purpose of narrative writing is to tell stories. Any time you tell a story to a friend or family member about an event or incident in your day, you engage in a form of narration. A narrative can be factual or fictional. A factual story is one that is based on, and tries to be faithful to, actual events as they unfolded in real life. A fictional story is a made-up, or imagined, story. When writing a fictional story, we can create characters and events to best fit our story.

The big distinction between factual and fictional narratives is determined by a writer’s purpose. The writers of factual stories try to recount events as they actually happened, but writers of fictional stories can depart from real people and events because their intentions are not to retell a real-life event. Biographies and memoirs are examples of factual stories, whereas novels and short stories are examples of fictional stories.

Because the line between fact and fiction can often blur, it is helpful to understand what your purpose is from the beginning. Is it important that you recount history, either your own or someone else’s? Or does your interest lie in reshaping the world in your own image—either how you would like to see it or how you imagine it could be? Your answers will go a long way in shaping the stories you tell.

Ultimately, whether the story is fact or fiction, narrative writing tries to relay a series of events in an emotionally engaging way. You want your audience to be moved by your story, which could mean through laughter, sympathy, fear, anger, and so on. The more clearly you tell your story, the more emotionally engaged your audience is likely to be.

The Structure of a Narrative Essay

Major narrative events are most often conveyed in chronological order, the order in which events unfold from first to last. Stories typically have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and these events are typically organized by time. However, sometimes it can be effective to begin with an exciting moment from the climax of the story (“flash-forward”) or a pivotal event from the past (“flash-back”) before returning to a chronological narration. Certain transitional words and phrases aid in keeping the reader oriented in the sequencing of a story.

The following are the other basic components of a narrative:

  • Plot: The events as they unfold in sequence.
  • Characters: The people who inhabit the story and move it forward. Typically, there are minor characters and main characters. The minor characters generally play supporting roles to the main character, or the protagonist.
  • Conflict: The primary problem or obstacle that unfolds in the plot that the protagonist must solve or overcome by the end of the narrative. The way in which the protagonist resolves the conflict of the plot results in the theme of the narrative.
  • Theme: The ultimate message the narrative is trying to express; it can be either explicit or implicit.


  • Write the narrative of a typical Saturday in your life.
  • Identify and restate the narrative of your favorite movie.


Writers use description in writing to make sure that their audience is fully immersed in the words on the page. This requires a concerted effort by the writer to describe the world through the use of sensory details.

Sensory details are descriptions that appeal to our sense of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. The use of sensory details provides you the greatest possibility of relating to your audience and thus engaging them in your writing, making descriptive writing important not only during your education but also during everyday situations. To make your writing vivid and appealing, avoid empty descriptors if possible. Empty descriptors are adjectives that can mean different things to different people. Good, beautiful, terrific, and nice are examples. The use of such words in descriptions can lead to misreads and confusion. A good day, for instance, can mean far different things depending on one’s age, personality, or tastes.

The Structure of a Descriptive Essay

Descriptive essays typically portray a person, a place, or an object using sensory details. The structure of a descriptive essay is more flexible than in some of the other rhetorical modes. The introduction of a description essay should set up the tone and focus of the essay. The thesis should convey the writer’s overall impression of the person, place, or object described in the body paragraphs.

The organization of the essay may best follow spatial order, which means an arrangement of ideas according to physical characteristics or appearance. Depending on what the writer describes, the organization could move from top to bottom, left to right, near to far, warm to cold, frightening to inviting, and so on. For example, if the subject were a client’s kitchen in the midst of renovation, you might start at one side of the room and move slowly across to the other end, describing appliances, cabinetry, and so on. Or you might choose to start with older remnants of the kitchen and progress to the new installations. Or you could start with the floor and move up toward the ceiling. The organization of the the essay should reflect your purpose — which aspects of the subject are you wanting to highlight or bring to your readers’ attention, and why?


  • Describe your room and the various objects within it.
  • Describe an analog clock.


Exposition is likely the most commonly used rhetorical mode of the four identified at the beginning of this section , partly because “explaining or informing” covers quite a few different subcategories. When explaining or informing, as with other rhetorical modes, the specific purpose should inform the structure of the writing. In addition to structure, as mentioned earlier, rhetorical modes have conventions that audiences expect, and being purposeful about following or breaking from these conventions can increase your writing’s effectiveness and your audiences’ engagement.


The purpose of classification is to break down broad subjects into smaller, more manageable, more specific parts. We classify things in our daily lives all the time, often without even thinking about it. For example, cars can be classified by type (convertible, sedan, station-wagon, or SUV) or by the fuel they use (diesel, petrol, electric, or hybrid). Smaller categories, and the way in which these categories are created, help us make sense of the world. Keep both of these elements in mind when writing a classification essay. It’s best to choose topics that you know well when writing classification essays. The more you know about a topic, the more you can break it into smaller, more interesting parts. Adding interest and insight will enhance your classification essays.

The Structure of a Classification Essay

The classification essay opens with a paragraph that introduces the broader topic. The thesis should then explain how that topic is divided into subgroups and why. Take the following introductory paragraph, for example:

When people think of New York, they often think of only New York City. But New York is actually a diverse state with a full range of activities to do, sights to see, and cultures to explore. In order to better understand the diversity of New York State, it is helpful to break it into these five separate regions: Long Island, New York City, Western New York, Central New York, and Northern New York.

The underlined thesis explains not only the category and subcategory, but also the rationale for breaking the topic into those categories. Through this classification essay, the writer hopes to show the readers a different way of considering the state of New York.

Each body paragraph of a classification essay is dedicated to fully illustrating each of the subcategories. In the previous example, then, each region of New York would have its own paragraph. To avoid settling for an overly simplistic classification, make sure you break down any given topic at least three different ways before settling on your choice. This will help you think outside the box and perhaps even learn something entirely new about a subject.

The conclusion should bring all of the categories and subcategories back together again to show the reader the big picture. In the previous example, the conclusion might explain how the various sights and activities of each region of New York add to its diversity and complexity.

Another example of a classification essay is this section or chapter of Informed Arguments, which identifies and classifies rhetorical modes by purpose, describes the structure and conventions of each, and explores subcategories as appropriate.


  • Classify your college by majors (i.e. biology, chemistry, physics, etc.).
  • Classify the variety of fast food places available to you by types of foods sold in each location.


Evaluation is likely one of the most commonly used modes of writing and thinking. Even when not communicating with another person, you likely use the principles of evaluation to make decisions — to decide which computer to buy, for instance, based on cost, features, familiarity, and other criteria, or to decide which movie to watch, or which meal to cook.

In addition to using the structure or process to think through decisions, evaluation is a type of writing that has many real-world applications. Anything can be evaluated. For example, evaluations of movies, restaurants, books, and technology ourselves are all real-world evaluations. You likely interact with evaluative writing or evaluative judgments in many situations — such as restaurant reviews on Yelp, discussions about professors on RateMyProfessors, or film reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. Perhaps you’ve left reviews yourself on these sites or on other social media platforms.

In research, writers evaluate arguments and sources in order to present an informed and well-reasoned judgment about a subject based on appropriate and reliable information. Evaluating sources — both primary and secondary — is a key step when building persuasive researched argument and integrating information from multiple sources.

While your evaluation may be similar to your opinion, a good evaluation should not seem opinionated, nor should it be based on something like “taste” or whether or not you “like” or “enjoy” the thing being evaluated. Instead, a written evaluation should aim to be reasonable, unbiased, and supported by evidence. These types of evaluations will be considered more trustworthy and persuasive.  An effective evaluation begins by identifying the category of the thing being evaluated, making a solid and specific judgment, selecting appropriate criteria to evaluate the subject, and providing clear evidence to support each criterion.

The Structure of an Evaluation Essay

Evaluation essays are typically structured as follows.

Subject and Category: First, the essay needs to present the subject. What is being evaluated? Why? The essay begins with the writer giving any details needed about the subject. Things (objects, ideas, places, actions, etc.) need to be evaluated according to what they are meant to be. For instance, you wouldn’t say that a romantic comedy such as The Notebook is a bad romantic comedy because there aren’t enough explosions. Nor would you give Disney’s Marvel movies a bad review because they were too unrealistic. While you could evaluate The Notebook or The Avengers as “movies” in general, identifying more specific categories that these works belong too allows for stronger arguments and more nuance in your evaluation.

Judgment: Next, the essay needs to provide a judgment about a subject. This is the thesis of the essay, and it states whether the subject is good or bad based on how it meets the stated criteria. As mentioned in the descriptive writing section, however, avoid such general judgments as “good” or “bad” which do not truly convey clear information to the audience.

Criteria: The body of the essay will contain the criteria used to evaluate the subject. In an evaluation essay, the criteria must be appropriate for evaluating the subject under consideration. Appropriate criteria will help to keep the essay from seeming biased or unreasonable. If authors evaluated the quality of a movie based on the snacks sold at the snack bar, that would make them seem unreasonable, and their evaluation may be disregarded because of it. The criteria should reflect the specific category of the subject. Each discussion of criteria should include a mini judgment — how does the subject meet expectations in this particular area? For instance, when evaluating a Marvel movie, criteria might include effectiveness of special effects, plot interest and clarity, and inclusion of humor. Different movies within the series would receive different mini-judgments in these areas, and therefore, might receive different overall judgments of quality. Making judgments based on criteria means that sometimes your enjoyment of something may clash with your evaluation. For instance, your favorite movie may not be the one that has the strongest mini-judgments concerning its criteria.

Evidence: Finally, the evidence of an evaluation essay consists of the supporting details authors provide based on their judgment of the criteria. For example, if the subject of an evaluation is a restaurant, a judgment could be “Kay’s Bistro provides an unrivaled experience in fine dining.” Effective authors would identify appropriate criteria such as food quality, service, and atmosphere and provide evidence for each in order to support that judgment. The examples of specific foods (perhaps told in a descriptive mode with sensory details), specific instances of service (perhaps told in a narrative mode), and atmosphere (more description) are the evidence to support the criteria which support the overall judgment. 

Besides reviews of classes, movies, restaurants, and sources, another example of evaluation includes literary analysis in which judgments may be made about a character in the story based on the character’s actions, characteristics, and past history within the story. The scenes in the story are evidence for why readers have a certain opinion of the character. Outside of academia, job applications and interviews are more examples of evaluations. Based on certain criteria, management and hiring committees determine which applicants will be considered for an interview and which applicant will be hired.

Evaluation is everywhere, and communicating your evaluations and supporting those judgments is a key persuasive task to help you achieve various goals.


  • Evaluate a restaurant. What do you expect in a good restaurant? What criteria determines whether a restaurant is good? List three criteria that you will use to evaluate a restaurant. Then dine there. Afterwards, explain whether or not the restaurant meets each criteria, and include evidence (qualities from the restaurant) that backs your evaluation. Give the restaurant a star rating. (5 Stars: Excellent, 4 Stars: Very Good, 3 Stars: Good, 2 Stars: Fair, 1 Star: Poor). Explain why the restaurant earned this star rating.
  • Evaluate a source of information. What category of source is the subject you are evaluating? What are the criteria that determine whether or not the source is a good source of information? What specific evidence (information about the source, aspects of rhetorical situation, specific content) supports your discussion of the criteria? What is your overall judgment?


The purpose of a process essay is to explain how to do something (directional) or how something works (informative). In either case, the formula for a process essay remains the same. The process is articulated into clear, definitive steps.

Almost everything we do involves following a step-by-step process. From learning to ride a bike as a child to starting a new job as an adult, we initially needed instructions to effectively execute the task. Likewise, we have likely had to instruct others, so we know how important good directions are—and how frustrating it is when they are poorly put together.

The Structure of a Process Essay

The process essay opens with a discussion of the process and a thesis statement that states the goal of the process. The organization of a process essay typically follows chronological order. The steps of the process are conveyed in the order in which they usually occur, and so your body paragraphs will be constructed based on these steps. If a particular step is complicated and needs a lot of explaining, then it will likely take up a paragraph on its own. But if a series of simple steps is easy to understand, then the steps can be grouped into a single paragraph.

Words such as first, second, third, next, and finally are cues to orient readers and organize the content of the essay. Sometimes, before the chronological process is given, an essay may discuss materials needed present other information needed to set up before beginning. If the process is part of a longer essay, consider using list formatting when communicating lists — this is more effective for helping individual steps or materials to stand out to your reader and also works better for accessibility.

Finally, it’s a good idea to always have someone else read your process analysis to make sure it makes sense. Once we get too close to a subject, it is difficult to determine how clearly an idea is coming across. Consider the level of previous experience of your audience carefully. Having a peer read over your analysis will serve as a good way to troubleshoot any confusing spots.


  • Describe the process for applying to college.
  • Describe the process of playing your favorite game (board, card, video, etc.).


The purpose of a definition essay may seem self-explanatory: to write an extended definition of a word or term. But defining terms in writing is often more complicated than just consulting a dictionary. In fact, the way we define terms can have far-reaching consequences for individuals as well as collective groups. Take, for example, a word like alcoholism. The way in which one defines alcoholism depends on its legal, moral, and medical contexts. Lawyers may define alcoholism in terms of its legality; parents may define alcoholism in terms of its morality; and doctors will define alcoholism in terms of symptoms and diagnostic criteria. Think also of terms that people tend to debate in our broader culture. How we define words, such as marriage and climate change, has an enormous impact on policy decisions and even on daily decisions. Debating the definition of a word or term might have an impact on your relationship or your job, or it might simply be a way to understand an unfamiliar phrase in popular culture or a technical term in a new profession.

Defining terms within a relationship, or any other context, can be difficult at first, but once a definition is established between two people or a group of people, it is easier to have productive dialogues. Definitions, then, establish the way in which people communicate ideas. They set parameters for a given discourse, which is why they are so important.

When writing definition essays, avoid terms that are too simple, that lack complexity. Think in terms of concepts such as hero, immigration, or loyalty, rather than physical objects. Definitions of concepts, rather than objects, are often fluid and contentious, making for a more effective definition essay. For definition essays, try to think of concepts in which you have a personal stake. You are more likely to write a more engaging definition essay if you are writing about an idea that has value and importance to you. With that said, an effective definition of a word in which you have a personal stake needs to take into account audience members’ initial perspectives. To be effective in convincing audiences of your definition, you need to be able to understand and articulate others’ perspectives clearly and accurately, even if you don’t agree with their definitions.

The Structure of a Definition Essay

The definition essay opens with a general discussion of the term to be defined. You then state your definition of the term as your thesis. Generally speaking, a simple definition presents the term, the category that the term belongs to, and specific characteristics that distinguish the term from other items in the category. For instance, a simple definition might state that “A chair is a piece of furniture intended for sitting.” On the other hand, though more complex definitions may begin that way, you may need to expand on the terms of the category or the terms of the characteristics in order to make your ideas clear.

The rest of the essay should explain the rationale for your definition. Remember that a dictionary’s definition is by nature limiting, so you should not rely strictly on the dictionary entry. Indeed, unless you are specifically addressing an element of the dictionary definition (perhaps to dispute or expand it), it is best to avoid quoting the dictionary in your paper. Instead, consider the context in which you are using the word. Context identifies the circumstances, conditions, or setting in which something exists or occurs. Often words take on different meanings depending on the context in which they are used. For example, the ideal leader in a battlefield setting could likely be very different from a leader in an elementary school setting. If a context is missing from the essay, the essay may be too short or the main points could be vague and confusing.

The remainder of the essay should explain different aspects of the term’s definition. For example, if you were defining a good leader in an elementary classroom setting, you might define such a leader according to personality traits: patience, consistency, and flexibility. Each attribute would be explained in its own paragraph. Be specific and detailed: flesh out each paragraph with examples and connections to the larger context.


  • Define what is meant by the word local.
  • Define what is meant by the word community.

Comparison and Contrast

Comparison in writing discusses elements that are similar, while contrast in writing discusses elements that are different. A compare-and-contrast essay, then, analyzes two subjects by examining them closely and comparing them, contrasting them, or both. The key to a good compare-and-contrast essay is to choose two or more subjects that connect in a meaningful way. The purpose of conducting the comparison or contrast is not to state the obvious but rather to illuminate subtle differences or unexpected similarities. For example, if you wanted to focus on contrasting two subjects you would not pick apples and oranges; rather, you might choose to compare and contrast two types of oranges or two types of apples to highlight subtle differences. For example, Red Delicious apples are sweet, while Granny Smiths are tart and acidic. Drawing distinctions between elements in a similar category will increase the audience’s understanding of that category, which is the purpose of the compare-and-contrast essay.

Similarly, to focus on comparison, choose two subjects that seem at first to be unrelated. For a comparison essay, you likely would not choose two apples or two oranges because they share so many of the same properties already. Rather, you might try to compare how apples and oranges are quite similar. The more divergent the two subjects initially seem, the more interesting a comparison essay will be.

The Structure of a Comparison-and-Contrast Essay

The compare-and-contrast essay starts with a thesis that clearly states the two subjects that are to be compared, contrasted, or both, and the reason for doing so. The thesis could lean more toward comparing, contrasting, or both. Remember, the point of comparing and contrasting is to provide useful knowledge to the reader. Take the following thesis as an example that leans more toward contrasting.

Thesis statement: Organic vegetables may cost more than those that are conventionally grown, but when put to the test, they are definitely worth every extra penny.

Here the thesis sets up the two subjects to be compared and contrasted (organic versus conventional vegetables), and it makes a claim about the results that might prove useful to the reader. You may organize compare-and-contrast essays in one of the following two ways:

  1. According to the subjects themselves, discussing one and then the other. For instance, you might discuss organic vegetables and their characteristics, price, advantages, and disadvantages, and then conventionally grown vegetables and their characteristics, price, advantages, and disadvantages.
  2. According to individual points, discussing each subject in relation to each point. For instance, you might talk about the characteristics of both kinds of vegetables, the price of both, the advantages of both, and then the disadvantages of both.

(Another way to express these organizational options might help. The first option is A1, A2, A3, B1, B2, B3, and the second option is A1, B1, A2, B2, A3, B3.)

As always, the organizational structure you choose depends on the nature of the topic, your purpose, and your audience.


  • Compare two types of fruit, then
  • Contrast how they are different from each other

Cause and Effect

It is often considered human nature to ask, “why?” and “how?” We want to know how our child got sick so we can better prevent it from happening in the future, or why our colleague received a pay raise because we want one as well. We want to know how much money we will save over the long term if we buy a hybrid car. These examples identify only a few of the relationships we think about in our lives, but each shows the importance of understanding cause and effect.

A cause is something that produces an event or condition; an effect is what results from an event or condition. The purpose of the cause-and-effect essay is to determine or explain how various phenomena relate in terms of origins and results. Sometimes the connection between cause and effect is clear, but often determining the exact relationship between the two is very difficult. For example, the following effects of a cold may be easily identifiable: a sore throat, runny nose, and a cough. But determining the cause of the sickness can be far more difficult. A number of causes are possible, and to complicate matters, these possible causes could have combined to lead to the sickness. That is, more than one cause may be responsible for any given effect. Therefore, cause-and effect discussions are often complicated and frequently lead to debates and arguments.

Indeed, you can use the complex nature of cause and effect to your advantage. Often it is not necessary, or even possible, to find the exact cause of an event or to name the exact effect. So, when formulating a thesis, you can claim one of a number of causes or effects to be the primary, or main, cause or effect. As soon as you claim that one cause or one effect is more crucial than the others, you have developed a thesis.

The Structure of a Cause-and-Effect Essay

The cause-and-effect essay opens with a general introduction to the topic, which then leads to a thesis that states the main cause, main effect, or various causes and effects of a condition or event. The cause-and-effect essay can be organized in one of the following two primary ways:

  1. Start with the cause and then talk about the effects.
  2. Start with the effect and then talk about the causes.

For example, if your essay were on childhood obesity, you could start by talking about the effect of childhood obesity and then discuss the cause, or you could start the same essay by talking about the cause of childhood obesity and then move to the effect.

Regardless of which structure you choose, be sure to explain each element of the essay fully and completely. Explaining complex relationships requires the full use of evidence, such as scientific studies, expert testimony, statistics, and anecdotes. As you may have learned in a statistics course or elsewhere, “correlation is not causation.” However, correlation does sometimes send up a flare and draw attention to a specific point or idea, so it generally should be investigated for potential connections. Be careful to avoid overstating the strength of evidence based on correlation and of resorting to empty speculation. In writing, speculation amounts to unsubstantiated guessing. Writers are particularly prone to such trappings in cause-and-effect arguments due to the complex nature of finding links between phenomena. Be sure to have clear evidence to support the claims that you make, and make sure you are interpreting the evidence soundly. Because cause-and-effect essays determine how phenomena are linked, they make frequent use of certain words and phrases that denote such linkage.


  • Discuss the cause/effect relationship between studying and good grades
  • Discuss the cause/effect impact of sleep deprivation


The final and fourth rhetorical mode is persuasion. The purpose of persuasion in writing is to convince, motivate, or move readers toward a certain point of view, or opinion. The act of trying to persuade automatically implies that more than one opinion on the subject can be argued. The idea of an argument often conjures up images of two people yelling and screaming in anger. In writing, however, an argument is very different. An argument is a reasoned opinion supported and explained by evidence. To argue in writing is to advance knowledge and ideas in a positive way.

Most of us feel inclined to try to win the arguments we enter. On some level, we all want to be right, and we want others to see the error of their ways. More times than not, however, arguments in which both sides try to win end up producing losers all around. Written arguments often fail when they employ ranting rather than reasoning. The more productive approach is to persuade your audience to consider your opinion as a valid one, not simply the right one.

The Structure of a Persuasive Essay

The following five features make up the structure of a persuasive essay:

  • Introduction and thesis
  • Opposing and qualifying ideas
  • Strong evidence in support of claim
  • Style and tone of language
  • A compelling conclusion

Creating an Introduction and Thesis

The persuasive essay begins with an engaging introduction that presents the general topic. The thesis typically appears somewhere in the introduction and clearly states the writer’s point of view.

Acknowledging Opposing Ideas and Limits to Your Argument

Because an argument implies differing points of view on the subject, you must be sure to acknowledge those opposing ideas. Avoiding ideas that conflict with your own gives the reader the impression that you may be uncertain, fearful, or unaware of opposing ideas. Thus it is essential that you not only address counterarguments but also do so respectfully.

Try to address opposing arguments earlier rather than later in your essay. Rhetorically speaking, ordering your positive arguments last allows you to better address ideas that conflict with your own because it allows you to focus on countering those arguments. This way, you leave your reader thinking about your argument rather than someone else’s. You have the last word.

Acknowledging points of view different from your own also has the effect of fostering more credibility between you and the audience. Readers will know from the outset that you are aware of opposing ideas and that you are not afraid to give them space. It is also helpful to establish the limits of your argument and what you are trying to accomplish. In effect, you are conceding early on that your argument is not the ultimate authority on a given topic. Such humility can go a long way toward earning credibility and trust with an audience (“ethos”). Audience members will know from the beginning that you are a reasonable writer, and they will trust your argument as a result. For example, in the following concessionary statement, the writer advocates for stricter gun control laws, but she admits it will not solve all of our problems with crime:

Although tougher gun control laws are a powerful first step in decreasing violence in our streets, such legislation alone cannot end these problems since guns are not the only problem we face.

Such a concession will be welcome by those who might disagree with this writer’s argument in the first place. To effectively persuade their readers, writers need to be realistic in their goals and humble in their approach to get readers to listen to their ideas.

All four rhetorical modes may involve some level of argument and persuasion. The other sections in Informed Arguments explore strategies for effective persuasion that can be applied no matter the rhetorical mode.


  • Write a paragraph where you persuade readers to drink water rather than soda
  • Write a paragraph persuading your professors to adopt Open Educational Resources (free textbooks) for all classes

Practice Activity

This section contains material from:

Crowther, Kathryn, Lauren Curtright, Nancy Gilbert, Barbara Hall, Tracienne Ravita, and Kirk Swenson. Successful College Composition. 2nd edition. Book 8. Georgia: English Open Textbooks, 2016. http://oer.galileo.usg.edu/english-textbooks/8. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Archival link: https://web.archive.org/web/20230711203012/https://oer.galileo.usg.edu/english-textbooks/8/

Inoshita, Ann, Karyl Garland, Kate Sims, Jeanne K. Tsutsui Keuma, Tasha Williams, and Susan Wood. “Evaluation.” In English Composition: Connect, Collaborate, Communicate, by Ann Inoshita, Karyl Garland, Kate Sims, Jeanne K. Tsutsui Keuma, and Tasha Williams. Honolulu, 2019. http://pressbooks.oer.hawaii.edu/englishcomposition/chapter/evaluation/. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. Archival link: https://web.archive.org/web/20230711204019/http://pressbooks.oer.hawaii.edu/englishcomposition/chapter/evaluation/



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3.8 Rhetorical Modes of Writing Copyright © 2023 by Kathryn Crowther; Lauren Curtright; Nancy Gilbert; Barbara Hall; Tracienne Ravita; Kirk Swenson; Ann Inoshita; Karyl Garland; Kate Sims; Jeanne K. Tsutsui Keuma; Tasha Williams; Susan Wood; Terri Pantuso; and Kalani Pattison is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.