Tips for: How to Write a Rhetorical Précis

You can handle an essay, research paper, and a book report. When your professor asks you to write a rhetorical précis. You end up really confused. What is it, exactly? Is there a specific rhetorical précis template to follow? What goal are you supposed to achieve with this assignment, anyway?

Let’s define précis before we continue: it’s an overview or summary of a speech, presentation, or any kind of text. If you check any talk at the TED website, you’ll notice a brief summary above the transcript. That’s the précis. When you’re writing an assignment for school, however, it has to be more structured than that. It will still be similar to that example of rhetorical précis you saw above a TED talk, but it will be based on certain academic writing principles.



Let’s see how you can handle this assignment with ease. We’ll offer a guide that will help you deal with the requirements for this challenge.

Starting Tips: How to Write a Rhetorical Précis Template

When writing a rhetorical précis, you already have the speech or text you’re going to summarize, so most of the work is already done. Maybe you’re providing this as an intro to someone else’s content, and maybe you’re writing it for your own project. Whatever the case is, the approach is going to be the same.

Usually, you’re expected to write four sentences. That’s right! There are only four sentences to write, so there’s no point in avoiding the challenge.

This is the rhetorical précis format to follow:

  1. The name of the author, title and genre of the work (with publication date and additional publishing information in note or parentheses), a rhetorically-accurateverb, and a clause that describes the main thesis statement. You may also include a brief phrase that describes the author.
  2. An explanation of how the writer exposes and defends the thesis. This is the most important aspect of the rhetorical précis definition, and it’s usually provided in chronological order.
  3. An explanation of the reason why the author wrote this text; their intended effect or purpose. It’s usually followed by an in order tostatement if the instructions are very strict. If your professor is more flexible, you may simply write about the purpose of this content.
  4. Finally, you’ll describe the target audience that the writer is trying to address with this content.

It sounds quite unclear, doesn’t it? Instructions usually sound that way. When we support them with a template, the rhetorical précis will be more approachable.

Specific Précis Writing Examples

“Yair Amichai-Hamburger, Galit Wainapel and Shaul Fox, in their article “On the Internet No One Knows I’m an Introvert: Extroversion, Neuroticism, and Internet Interaction” (2004), argue that neurotic and introverted people locate their real self on the internet, while non-neurotic and extroverted people locate their real self through traditional manners of communication. The purpose of this paper is to show how one’s personality characteristics affect the importance and meaning of online interaction in comparison to traditional face-to-face interactions, in order to suggest social phobia treatments based on those conclusions. Given the technical, but readable language in the article, the authors are aiming to both well-educated people on the matter of social phobias and to people with basic knowledge on the matter.”

As you can see, that was a pretty short piece of content, but it was based on specific principles. What can we learn from this sample?

  • You can’t write a rhetorical précis just by reading the abstract of a given article. You really need to access the entire PDF document and analyze it in details.
  • The sentences will be long and complex. Deal with that! However, they should still be quite readable. Avoid using complex words and keep the structure as simple as possible.
  • Just keep the style similar to the one you maintain when writing an academic essay. Use active verbs and clear statements.

The rhetorical précis is not a critical or creative writing assignment. It’s mostly based on analytical thinking. This piece of text that’s supposed to capture the essence of a speech or article and inform the reader of the content they are about to access.

Action Verb Suggestions

In the tips above the sample we provided, you noticed the term rhetorically-accurate verb, which you’re supposed to use in the first sentence of the rhetorical précis. That’s the approach that covers the rhetorical part of the assignment.

These verbs should set the content on motion. They show what and how the authors of the article or speech wrote. In basic grammar terms, this is the type of verb that shows instead of telling.

Here are few suggestions of action verbs, just to give you basic ideas on how to tackle the first sentence of the outline:

adjures asks asserts commands complains
conveys declares describes directs employs
exposes explains illustrates implies instructs
justifies proposes rationalizes states suggests

Just think of the action you want to describe in your summary, and you’ll have your verb.

It’s Possible to Write a Great Rhetorical Précis Even If This Is Your First Time Trying

Given the fact that this is not an entire paper, the assignment shouldn’t challenge you that much. Yes; it’s a short, but quite complex structure. Each and every word should be in its own place. There’s no room for excessive wording or flowery language here. Just plain, straightforward sentences that capture the essence of the article you’re describing.

Remember: you’re not expected to be a critic. You may preserve your criticism for other types of assignments, such as an article review for example. The rhetorical précis only calls for a precise description of who, where, when, what, how, why, and for whom.

Since the simplest types of papers are often the most difficult ones to tackle, you might need help with this one. No big deal! Just try to write it. If you struggle, you may rely on the assistance of a professional writer. A unique and perfect rhetorical précis will be delivered by any deadline you indicate. The best part is that the price will be affordable!


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