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What Are the Best Tips for Rhetorical Reading?

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  • Written By: A. Leverkuhn
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2016
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The best tips for rhetorical reading involve creating a top-level analysis of a piece of writing, focusing on the overall context, and perceiving the original intent of the text. Readers can develop more skills for rhetorical reading by figuring out some of the common rhetorical devices that writers use, and by identifying key transitional vocabulary within the text. In many cases, developing more of an intuition about the social role of writing can also help an individual get better at rhetorical reading.

In rhetorical methods for reading, a reader searches for techniques or methods that are used by the writer, which are often called rhetorical strategies. In order to present their ideas in text, writers use various patterns and structures, as well as key vocabulary. Readers who develop a better and more detailed knowledge of these can develop their rhetorical reading skills.

Experts often recommend using physical methods to approach a text from a more detailed or advanced perspective. This includes highlighting key words or phrases in the text, or even marking two or more phrases for correlation or “linking.” The reader might also underline or highlight “thesis” or “theme” sentences that provide an anchor for the rest of the text. All of this can help the reader to get a better idea of the broader ideas and the finer rhetorical points that are embedded in the text.

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While the rhetorical reader keeps in mind the intended audience for the text, the type of discourse that is used, and the particular ways that the writer develops ideas, he or she can also look for specific “landmarks” within the text that provide clues to changes in meaning. This is sometimes called “mapping” the text. It helps the reader to distinguish between different parts of the text. The reader is looking for an interplay of ideas that will help him or her to understand what the writer is saying.

Another strategy that the reader can use is analysis of word charge. There are many complex phrases that writers use that may have a positive, negative, or neutral meaning or “charge” that provides a contrast between two clauses of a sentence or other phrases. By evaluating which words and phrases have a distinct word charge, the reader might be able to improve their text mapping and their rhetorical reading strategies.

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