How to Write a Rhetorical Précis Essay – 2024 Guide

Opening Word

Academic writing is not everyone’s cup of tea and it surely is not easy. Writing in its basic form can get quite tough depending on the topic, let alone when there is some kind of academic achievement or credit attached to it. Writers of these texts (usually essays) have to summarize and give their opinions on published articles, arguments, and other essays, through which their own critique and understanding can be viewed. To do this the right way, a certain set of rules has to be followed and a special kind of mindset and approach must be taken.

A rhetorical precis essay is particularly challenging, but worry not as this article will help you deal with all the different problems along the way. A rhetorical precis essay analyses the content and the delivery of the subject matter, meaning both the what and the how of the written or spoken discourse is analyzed. Therefore, it should be a highly structured text that both summarizes and analyzes. To learn more about how to write one, check out and their advice. In the meantime, keep reading to find out how to write a great rhetorical precis.

1. Read the Material Thoroughly

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The first and most important step when you are starting your task is active reading. It is not the usual type of reading you do when you read for fun, but a more analytical approach. You have to slow down in order to engage with the text on a deeper level and understand every single thing the writer wrote. All of your focus has to be there and you cannot think about much else. A good tactic is to first skim over the entire text quickly and then go back and read it properly. Skimming should involve checking the publisher, the length, the sections and citations, appendices, and anything else present inside that can help you understand it all a bit better. Try to predict as much as possible as it will help you down the line. Then start reading it thoroughly, sentence by sentence, moving on only when you have understood the previous thing.

2. Take Notes

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As you slowly unravel the mystery of the subject matter at hand, you should take notes somewhere on the side about your initial thoughts and impressions. This will greatly help you later when you have already read so much more that it is hard to remember everything from the beginning. These notes will serve as checkpoints and allow you to form a complete essay when the time for writing comes. The notes can be as complex or all over the place as you please. What is important is that they make you remember how you felt and what you thought when you wrote them as soon as you read them later. It is smarter to write things down than to try and remember them, as they say. Many cultures have a saying that goes something like, “a smart person writes down, only a fool tries to remember,” and in this case it is completely true.

3. Writing the Precis

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The world precis is a French word for precise, as you may have already guessed. What this tells us is that your essay has to be on point. This type of writing asks of you to account for the most important and impactful parts of the text and not much else. If you have performed the reading part appropriately, you will know exactly what is important and what is not and never lose time and thoughts on the unimportant things. The best indication of how much you understand the text and how closely you read is writing a successful precis essay on it. If you are to write a model example, you must have all the parts it requires.

It may surprise you that a rhetorical precis essay only has four sentences, since you do not need more to concisely and precisely convey your critique and understanding. The first sentence of your work has to mention who wrote the text, as well as when and where it was published. Lastly, you should say what their topic and their claim were. In the second sentence, you should explore how the text is organized and developed and nothing more. When the third sentence is concerned, you should stick to explaining why the author wrote the source material in the first place, what his or her purpose was, and what kind of an effect they thought it would have. The final, fourth sentence always describes what kind of audience the work was meant for, or rather for whom it was made. Identifying the target audience is one of the most important parts of analysis.

Overview and Takeaways

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Now, although four sentences seem like light work, they should by no means be short and meaningless. This should still be an essay of around 300 words, exactly the reason why such form of academic writing is often troublesome for people. Before finishing things off, here is a few more pieces of advice. The first sentence answers who, where, when, what. The second sentence answers how. The third sentence answers why. The fourth sentence answers for whom.

Regarding your critique and evaluation approach, you should ask yourself a few questions about the source text. Is it persuasive for the target readers? How well is the argument clarified and developed with the structure they chose? Does the logic ever fall apart and where exactly? Is there credibility regarding the evidence, assumptions, tone, and background of the author? Does the work achieve what the author wanted it to? If you manage to answer these questions, half of the writing part of the whole task will already be done.

In case you have to compare a few different pieces of text, write different precis for each and then compare them, you must identify a parallel idea. Furthermore, you have to identify whether or not the different texts have different or similar arguments, what is different between the intended audiences, is their structure the same. Basically, do everything you would anyway but with an additional layer of research and analysis in the form or parallels and comparisons.