Ap English Language Rhetorical Analysis Essay Guide

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PASSAGE ANALYSIS TIPS
(Some ideas based on comments by Alan Buster, AP English Consultant) Passage analysis questions on the AP exam often suggest which stylistic terms the writer should address. Even when the questions mention no stylistic terms, it is wise to include references to diction, syntax, figures of speech, and tone. Students should pay particular attention to the main verbs in the question: verbs like “characterize” and “analyze” call for the writer to emphasize style with appropriate terms. When analyzing diction, consider such questions as: Is the language concrete or abstract, verbs active or passive? Are the words monosyllabic or polysyllabic? Do the words have interesting or unusual connotations? Is the diction formal, colloquial, slang, didactic, etc? Is there any change in the level of diction in the passage? What can the reader infer about the speaker or the speaker’s attitude from the word choice, and how does it connect to tone? When analyzing syntax, consider such questions as: Are the sentences simple and direct, or complex and convoluted? How do dependent clauses relate to main clauses? Does the author use repetition or parallel structure for emphasis? Does the author write periodic or cumulative sentences? Are there instances of balanced sentences, chiasmus, or antithesis? Are there rhetorical questions in the passage? How is the passage punctuated, and what is the effect of punctuation? When discussing figures of speech, consider such questions as: Are there interesting images or patterns of imagery (word pictures) in the passage? Does the author create analogies, like similes and metaphors, or broader comparisons? Does the author make use of personification, synecdoche, or apostrophe? Is there deliberate hyperbole or understatement in the passage? Does the author employ paradox or oxymoron to add complexity? What part do rhythm and sound devices like assonance, consonance, alliteration, or onomatopoeia play in the passage? When...

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