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Writing a Rhetorical Précis Essay: Template & Examples

Rhetorical Précis Essay Template
A rhetorical précis essay is a type of academic writing that summarizes and analyzes a piece of text, typically a longer and more complex work such as an article, essay, speech, or book. The primary purpose of a rhetorical précis is to condense the main ideas, arguments, and rhetorical strategies used by the original author while providing a critical analysis of the text’s effectiveness.


A rhetorical précis should be written in a concise and clear manner, usually within 4-5 sentences. It should provide a comprehensive understanding of the original text’s key points and rhetorical devices while avoiding personal opinions or commentary.

  1. [Author’s credentials], [author’s first and last name] in his/her [type of text], [title of text], published in [publishing info] addresses the topic of [topic of text] and argues that [argument].
    • This first sentence serves as the introductory sentence of your rhetorical précis. It provides essential information about the author, including any relevant credentials (such as academic degrees or notable achievements), their full name, the type of text they wrote (e.g., essay, article), the title of the text, and the publication information (date and source).
    • Additionally, this sentence introduces the primary focus of the text—the topic—and succinctly outlines the central argument or thesis of the original work. This sets the stage for the reader by presenting the basic context of the text.
  2. He/she supports this claim by___________, then___________, then_____________, and finally_____________.
    • The second sentence delves into the author’s supporting points or evidence for their central argument. It outlines a sequence of key elements used by the author to bolster their thesis. These elements could include examples, statistics, anecdotes, logical reasoning, or any other persuasive devices.
    • This sentence helps the reader understand how the author builds their case and the structure of the argument within the original text.
  3. [Author’s last name]’s purpose is to [author’s purpose in writing] in order to [change in reader/society the author wants to achieve].
    • The third sentence addresses the author’s purpose in writing the text. It explains why the author wrote the text and what they intend to achieve with it. This can encompass a variety of objectives, such as informing, persuading, entertaining, or inspiring the audience.
    • Furthermore, this sentence can describe any desired changes the author hopes to bring about in the reader’s understanding, beliefs, or actions. It may also touch upon broader societal or cultural impacts if relevant.
  4. He/she adopts a(n) __________ tone for his/her audience, the readers of [publication] and others interested in the topic of______________.
    • The fourth sentence focuses on the tone the author employs in their writing and specifies the target audience. The tone can be descriptive, persuasive, critical, empathetic, etc., and it often reflects the author’s attitude or approach toward the subject matter.
    • Additionally, this sentence identifies the intended audience, which could include the readers of a particular publication or anyone interested in the topic discussed in the text. Understanding the target audience provides context for the rhetorical choices made by the author.

By breaking down the rhetorical précis into these four sentences, you create a structured and concise summary and analysis of the original text. This format allows readers to quickly grasp the key elements of the text and the author’s strategies, purpose, and intended audience.


“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee:

In her novel “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Harper Lee, an acclaimed American author, explores themes of racial injustice and moral growth in the American South during the 1930s. She supports this exploration by narrating the experiences of a young girl, Scout Finch, who witnesses her father, Atticus, defending a wrongly accused African American man, Tom Robinson. Lee’s purpose is to provoke readers to confront the complexities of racism and social inequality. She adopts a nostalgic and empathetic tone, targeting readers of all ages and backgrounds.

“I Have a Dream” by Martin Luther King Jr.:

In his iconic speech “I Have a Dream,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a civil rights leader and orator, passionately addresses the issue of racial segregation and inequality in the United States. He supports his vision by employing powerful metaphors, historical references, and a stirring refrain of “I have a dream.” King’s purpose is to inspire hope and call for immediate action toward racial justice and equality. He adopts an emotive and inspirational tone, targeting a diverse audience of civil rights activists and the broader American public.

“Schindler’s List” directed by Steven Spielberg:

In the film “Schindler’s List,” renowned director Steven Spielberg depicts the true story of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who saved the lives of over a thousand Polish-Jewish refugees during the Holocaust. Spielberg supports this narrative by utilizing stark black-and-white cinematography, authentic historical settings, and compelling character development. His purpose is to educate audiences about the horrors of the Holocaust and the extraordinary capacity for compassion in the face of genocide. Spielberg adopts a somber and evocative tone, targeting viewers interested in history, human rights, and the enduring impact of one man’s actions.

Apple’s “1984” Super Bowl Commercial:

In Apple’s iconic “1984” Super Bowl commercial, the tech company challenges the conformity and oppressive nature of the status quo in the technology industry. They support this message through a dystopian visual narrative inspired by George Orwell’s “1984,” featuring a rebellious protagonist and the introduction of the Macintosh computer. Apple’s purpose is to position the Macintosh as a revolutionary and liberating product that empowers individuals against the perceived “Big Brother” of the tech world. The ad adopts a rebellious and visionary tone, targeting potential computer buyers and those seeking a departure from convention.

“Letter from Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King Jr.:

In his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a civil rights leader, pens a powerful response to criticism from fellow clergymen regarding his nonviolent protest against racial segregation. He supports his arguments by invoking moral and religious principles, referencing historical figures, and addressing the urgency of the civil rights movement. King’s purpose is to defend the strategy of nonviolent resistance and to urge immediate action against racial injustice. He adopts a persuasive and introspective tone, targeting both his detractors and the broader American public.

“The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger

In his novel “The Catcher in the Rye,” J.D. Salinger explores the struggles and alienation of Holden Caulfield, a disenchanted teenager in post-World War II America. He supports this exploration through Holden’s first-person narrative, characterized by colloquial language and a cynical perspective on adult society. Salinger’s purpose is to critique the phoniness and conformity of the adult world while highlighting the authenticity of youthful innocence. He adopts a conversational and introspective tone, targeting readers, particularly adolescents, who grapple with questions of identity and disillusionment.

“A More Perfect Union” by Barack Obama

In his speech “A More Perfect Union,” President Barack Obama addresses the issue of racial division and racism in America. He supports his message by sharing personal anecdotes, invoking the ideals of the U.S. Constitution, and calling for a national dialogue on race. Obama’s purpose is to inspire unity and understanding among Americans of all backgrounds. He adopts a candid and conciliatory tone, targeting a diverse audience of citizens and policymakers.

“Inception” directed by Christopher Nolan

In Christopher Nolan’s film “Inception,” the director explores the concept of dreams within dreams and the blurred lines between reality and imagination. He supports this exploration through a complex narrative structure, stunning visual effects, and a morally ambiguous protagonist, Cobb. Nolan’s purpose is to challenge the viewer’s perception of reality and question the nature of dreams and subconscious desires. He adopts an enigmatic and suspenseful tone, targeting audiences intrigued by intricate storytelling and philosophical concepts.

Nike’s “Just Do It” Ad Campaign

In Nike’s “Just Do It” advertising campaign, the sports brand encourages individuals to push their limits and pursue their athletic goals. They support this message through powerful visuals of athletes in action, combined with the simple yet motivating slogan, “Just Do It.” Nike’s purpose is to inspire a sense of empowerment and determination in their target audience, athletes and fitness enthusiasts. They adopt a motivational and aspirational tone, appealing to those seeking motivation and performance improvement.

“The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost

In his poem “The Road Not Taken,” Robert Frost contemplates the choices we make in life and their enduring impact. He supports this contemplation through a reflective first-person narrative, vivid imagery of divergent paths in a forest, and the iconic lines, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by.” Frost’s purpose is to evoke introspection and consideration of life’s decisions. He adopts a contemplative and philosophical tone, targeting readers who ponder the consequences of their choices and paths in life.

President John F. Kennedy Inaugural Address:

In his inaugural address, President John F. Kennedy, an accomplished orator and experienced statesman, articulates his vision for a new era of American leadership and argues that the nation must actively confront the challenges of the Cold War to secure a brighter future. He supports this claim by invoking a sense of patriotic duty, emphasizing the need for unity, and offering a call to action for all citizens to contribute to the nation’s progress. President Kennedy’s purpose is to inspire and rally the American people, motivating them to engage in the global struggle against communism. He adopts a confident and aspirational tone, addressing not only those in attendance but also the broader American populace and the international community.

Scientific Article Example:

In her groundbreaking research paper, Dr. Jane Smith, a renowned neuroscientist, investigates the intricate workings of the human brain and argues that neural plasticity continues throughout the lifespan. She supports this claim by presenting a comprehensive review of empirical studies, offering evidence of synaptic changes in response to learning and experience, and highlighting the implications for education and rehabilitation. Dr. Smith’s purpose is to challenge the conventional understanding of brain development and underscore the potential for lifelong learning and recovery from neurological injuries. She adopts a rigorously scientific and informative tone, targeting fellow researchers, educators, and healthcare professionals.

Critique of “The Great Gatsby”:

In his essay “The Symbolism of the Green Light,” literary critic John Doe examines F. Scott Fitzgerald’s use of the green light in “The Great Gatsby” and argues that it represents both Gatsby’s unattainable American Dream and the elusive nature of the past. He supports this claim by conducting a close analysis of key passages from the novel, delving into Fitzgerald’s life and influences, and connecting the green light to broader themes of longing and nostalgia. Doe’s purpose is to shed light on the profound symbolism within the novel and deepen readers’ appreciation of its themes. He adopts an analytical and scholarly tone, targeting students, scholars, and admirers of American literature.

Social Commentary Article Example:

In her thought-provoking article “The Digital Dilemma,” technology journalist Sarah Adams explores the impact of excessive screen time on children’s development and argues that parents must strike a balance between technology use and real-world experiences. She supports this claim by citing recent studies on screen addiction, sharing personal anecdotes, and offering practical tips for mindful parenting in the digital age. Adams’ purpose is to raise awareness of the challenges posed by digital devices and encourage parents to take an active role in their children’s digital lives. She adopts an empathetic and advisory tone, addressing concerned parents, educators, and policymakers.

Historical Account Example

In his historical account “The Civil Rights Movement: A Decade of Struggle,” historian Robert Johnson chronicles the events and leaders of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States during the 1960s and argues that it marked a transformative period in the nation’s history, leading to significant advancements in civil rights and social justice. He supports this claim by drawing on archival sources, interviews, and eyewitness testimonies, showcasing the courage and resilience of activists, and highlighting the legislative milestones achieved during this era. Johnson’s purpose is to provide a comprehensive and nuanced understanding of the Civil Rights Movement’s impact on American society. He adopts an objective and informative tone, targeting history enthusiasts, students, and scholars.