Rhetoric Precis as a Way of Communication

How to Write a Rhetorical Precis – with Examples

Overview

Rhetoric is any form of communication, written or spoken, that’s meant to persuade or be persuasive. A rhetorical precis summarizes an argument that includes the author’s opinion, thesis statement, and conclusion. Rhetorical précis is also sometimes called rhetorical impression or rhetorical analysis.

The rhetorical precis should be concise, clear, and engaging. It is a good idea to show the reader how you will approach your document for them to understand what they can expect at its conclusion.

This post will provide examples as well as tips on how to write a good rhetorical précis. 

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What is the Definition of Rhetorical Precis?

‘Précis’ is a French word meaning summary. A rhetorical précis is a summary essay that analyzes the main ideas in an academic text. Rhetoric is any form of communication, spoken or written discourse, that’s meant to persuade or be persuasive

A rhetorical précis usually contains two or three paragraphs about what you read, as well as quotes and paraphrasing phrases to show how they all tie together and make sense with each other.

What is the Purpose of Rhetorical Précis?

The purpose of a rhetorical précis is to quickly summarize and analyze what someone has written, often used as introductions to a thesis statement or for assigned readings.

Types of Rhetoric Precis

Persuasive, argumentative, decision-making, informative, and definitional. It is essential to decide which type of rhetorical precis you will write before writing it.

Persuasive rhetoric is more common than the other types, and it usually includes providing a solution for a problem or question. For example, “I think that we should ban all guns in America because then we can prevent mass shootings like the one in Las Vegas.”

Informative: The goal of an informative precis is to describe a work, not provide a solution. For example, “The author wants to show that religion has been disconnected from modern society and psychoanalysis helps us understand life better.”

Decision-making: A decision-making precis helps the reader decide on if they should read more on the subject or not. For example, “I think that we should ban all guns in America because then we can prevent mass shootings like the one in Las Vegas.”

Definitional: A definitional precis helps the reader understand or explain a concept to themselves or others. For example, “I think that psychoanalysis is the process of uncovering unconscious thoughts and feelings through dialogue with a psychoanalyst.”

 What Are the Steps to Write a Rhetorical Précis?

The steps to writing a précis are as follows:

Step 1: Find the Topic Sentence

The topic sentence is usually found within or near the thesis statement, and it tells you what position the author takes on that particular issue.

It should offer a concise overview of their stance on this issue to orient your reader about where they are heading with this argument.

Step 2: Find the Evidence for that Position

Find the evidence for that position and other pieces of information needed to make an informed assessment about it (i.e., contextual background or historical viewpoint). You may also find multiple arguments within one piece of content.

Identify which points support your thesis and add those as evidence while leaving out any that contradict your position. Craft a precis that is relevant and stands on its own, not just for repetition of the original text

Step 3: Find the Conclusion of the Argument

Find the conclusion of this argument, either within or near the author’s conclusions (or sometimes their rebuttal). This is where you tie everything together and convey what point you are trying to make about this issue analytically.

Step 4: Write a Concise Introduction

The introduction to a rhetorical précis should be short and concise. You’ll want to let the audience know what you are trying to accomplish. Give enough background information, so they understand where this argument is coming from.

An example of an intro paragraph would go like this: “This essay will explore how persuasive techniques can be used to persuade the public, creating a better understanding of how those techniques work.”

Include all three parts in your essay-preamble, body paragraphs, and conclusion. The preamble should introduce what you are going to discuss. The body paragraphs should address the main idea of what you are talking about. The decision should summarize your argument.

What is a Good Rhetorical Précis? 

There are certain things you will want to follow to create a successful rhetorical precis.

  • To write a solid rhetorical précis, carefully analyze the critical elements found in the passage before writing your opinion about what is being said by the author.
  • Keep your introduction short and concise with plenty of background information.
  • Present all potential sides of an issue before drawing any conclusions about it. Ensure the analysis follows in chronological order.
  • Use evidence to support your argument and to create a strong rhetorical precis.
  • Ensure you keep the content engaging and concise even though it is an analytical paper.

Examples of Rhetorical Précis

Example 1:

In the introduction of his book, The Freudian Ethic: Psychoanalysis and Modern Moral Problems Phillip Rieff (1973) begins by setting the tone of his work. He states that “It is my purpose to understand why we cannot today offer a religious account of life, and to do so I shall make use of psychoanalysis” (3).

Here, Rieff immediately calls out Freud’s psychoanalysis as the tool he will use to understand his thesis better. This sets up an idea of what the book aims to do. The reader should be aware that this work will not necessarily offer religious answers but rather understand why religion might not work. Using psychoanalytic theory, Rieff suggests that religion has been disconnected from modern society and thus fails to answer questions about life. Despite this disconnection, the author argues that Freud’s psychoanalysis is a way for contemporary thinkers to understand life better.”

Rieff establishes his thesis in the first sentence of The Freudian Ethic.

First, Rieff (1973) writes in the first person and directly quotes from his book a rhetorical analysis.

In the first sentence, introduction, he says, “it is my purpose to understand why we cannot today offer a religious account of life; and to do so, I shall make use of psychoanalysis” (3).

Here, Rieff is establishing that his thesis is that religion has been disconnected from modern society and Freud’s theory helps us understand life in modern society better. Psychoanalysis will give us a better understanding of life in the contemporary world. The second sentence is another quote from Rieff’s book, which directly explains to the reader what the author is trying to do with his work.

Lastly, we can see a small reference in parentheses at the end of this sentence, which provides us with information about the writer and where he got his information from.

In this article, I have provided you with an example of a rhetorical precis that is persuasive, well-defined, and includes citations.

The author’s thesis is that religion has been disconnected from modern society and Freudian psychoanalysis helps us understand life better.

Example 2:

In his article, “Criminal Law and the Psychoanalytic Theory of Motivation: Some Problems in Conceptualization,” Wendell E. Gardner (1961) argues that there are many problems to be solved when applying psychoanalytic theory to crime.

First, he argues that it is difficult to understand why people commit crimes because there is no one-to-one correspondence between criminal behavior and neurotic symptoms.

 For example, he says that “a psychoanalytically trained mind may view all human behavior as being determined by irrational motivation. To the extent that this attitude is accepted, it tends to discredit all efforts toward formulating generalizations of the basis for specific forms of behavior” (38).

Here, Gardner is saying that there are many problems to consider when applying psychoanalysis to criminal law. In particular, he says that it is difficult to understand why people commit crimes.

However, the psychoanalytic theory does not give us a one-to-one correspondence between neurotic symptoms and criminal behavior, which can discredit all efforts to understand human behavior. This complicates psychoanalytic theory as a way to understand criminal behavior better.

Gardner (1961) writes in the third person and provides supporting evidence for his arguments such as “a psychoanalytically trained mind may view all human behavior as being determined by irrational motivation.”

Gardner also provides a quote from another scholar, Kenneth Benne, making it an outside source.

The first sentence of the introduction gives some background information on Gardner’s work. He states, “that criminal conduct is behavior which society purports to punish; and that, while its sanctions prevent many people from engaging in such conduct (i.e., they act as deterrents), other persons persist despite these sanctions” (36). This helps the reader understand where Gardner is trying to go with his arguments.

The third sentence is a thesis statement for the article. It says, “that criminal behavior is determined by other than neurotic factors and that society must develop ways of dealing with such conduct other than punishment” (36).

The author’s thesis goal is to explain why we cannot apply psychoanalysis as the basis for understanding human behavior in legal contexts.

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How Many Words Should a Rhetorical Precis Be?

A rhetorical precis should be about 300 words long. The introduction to a rhetorical precis should be short and concise. You’ll want to let the audience know what you are trying to accomplish. Give enough background information, so they understand where this argument is coming from.

Where Does a Rhetorical Précis Go?

A rhetorical precis should go near the end of your thesis. A commonplace to put it is in a list immediately before you wrap up with a conclusion paragraph. The paragraph briefly summarizes what you’ve written and then suggests another article or book for readers who want more information on this topic.

Alternatively, if there are other articles about a similar topic, the writer might want to write a series of rhetorical analyses. In this case, a writer might decide to put the rhetorical précis first.

Qualities and Characteristics of Rhetoric Precis?

The term “rhetorical precis” refers to the process of distilling an article’s content down to its most essential points to make it easier for your intended audience to read, understand, and remember.

  • Your précis writing should be precise, informative, and clear. It typically takes the form of a list, with each point you make about your topic starting with a sub header. During précis writing, do not include unnecessary details. Your analysis should flow in chronological order.
  • Rhetorical précis contains all the necessary information, which is concisely written in simple and easy wordings.
  • The goal of a rhetorical précis is not simply to summarize the original piece but also to analyze what the text means.
  • The author’s purpose should include paraphrasing and direct quotes from the original text to illustrate their points about it. Include brief quotations to support your analysis. Be careful not to have too many, or your summary will sound like a patchwork of quotes.
  • A rhetorical precis should be written in the third-person point of view and should indicate what stance the writer is taking on the topic.

What Should Be Avoided in Precis Writing?

A good rhetorical analysis should not have any of the following:

  • First-person point of view,
  • Excessive use of quotes from the original text to make a point,
  • Excessive use of citations and footnotes,
  • Mathematics or numbers,
  • Excessive use of bullet points or numbers, and
  • Long sentences.

Summary

A rhetorical précis is an analytical essay that summarizes the main points of a longer text and analyzes it from different perspectives to give readers a better understanding. Rhetoric is any form of communication, spoken or written discourse, that’s meant to persuade or be persuasive.

They are often used in academic writing as introductions to an article or as summaries for reading assignments. Rhetorical précis can also be helpful if you have many readings to review for a particular topic.

To write an effective rhetorical précis, a writer will need to:

  • Select the appropriate text
  • Craft an argument that stands on its own and addresses all three parts of the essay–preamble (introduction), body paragraphs, and the summarizing part.
  • In the preamble, mention what you are going to discuss. The body paragraphs should address the main ideas of your article, and the conclusion should summarize it.
  • A good rhetorical précis will always have some analysis to it. If there is no analysis, it’s just a summary. Your analysis should flow in chronological manner-organize events as they follow.
  • Use an engaging style and tone in your argument. It will keep your readers focused on what you are trying to say. Include examples to illustrate how effective the rhetorical précis can be for academic writing.

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