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Guidelines for Writing a Rhetorical Précis A rhetorical précis differs from a summary in that it is a less neutral, more analytical condensation

Guidelines for Writing a Rhetorical Précis

A rhetorical précis differs from a summary in that it is a less neutral, more analytical
condensation of both the content and method of the original text. (“Précis” means “concise
summary.”) Its structure is designed for presentation of insights about a text from the perspective
of a rhetorical reader. If you think of a summary as primarily a brief representation of what a text
says, then you might think of a rhetorical précis as a brief representation of what a text both says
and does. Although less common than summary, a rhetorical précis is a particularly useful way to
sum up your understanding of how a text works rhetorically.

Part summary and part analysis, the rhetorical précis is also a powerful skill-building exercise
often assigned as a highly structured four-sentence paragraph. As laid out below, these
sentences provide a condensed statement of a text’s main point (the summary part), followed by
brief statements about its essential rhetorical elements: the purpose, methods, and intended
audience (the analytical part). Note the Précis’ Format:

How to Structure a Rhetorical Précis (in APA format)

Sentence 1: Include genre, “Title of work”, (publication year parentheses), name of author; a

rhetorically accurate verb (such as “claims,” “argues,” “asserts,” “suggests”); and a THAT clause

containing the major assertion or thesis statement in the work.

Sentence 2: An explanation of how the author develops and supports the thesis, usually in

chronological order (Does the author use stats? summarize data? use personal experience? etc.).

Sentence 3: A statement of the author’s apparent purpose, followed by an “in order to” phrase.

(The author’s purpose is to_____, “in order to” _____).

Sentence 4: A description of the intended audience and /or the relationship the author establishes

with the audience (who is the intended audience, and what is your assessment of the intended

audience based on?).

Example

In her online article “Seven secrets to a great nap” (2007), Sarah Kliff reports that

mid-afternoon naps are good for adults and lists seven tips from researchers for getting the most

out of a nap. Kliff supports her claim by summarizing advice from a sleep researcher on the

benefits of drinking coffee just before a nap, on the best ways to schedule a nap, and on ways to

avoid problems with naps. Her purpose is to inform readers that naps are beneficial from a

scientific perspective and to offer surprising, helpful, and positive information about naps in an

upbeat, easy to digest way in order to encourage her readers to try napping. Her intended

audience seems to be busy young professionals who surf the Web (this is an online article) and

who must be hooked into a quick read through casual vocabulary (such as “sleep doc,” “cup of

joe,” “snoozing habits”), and upbeat advice.

*Remember that the precis must be typed using APA format–times new roman, 12 pt font, double
spaced, etc., and it must follow the 4-sentence order outlined above.

Word Bank: Feel free to use any of the words below to help you complete the rhetorical précis.

Genre:

news story,

magazine article,

book review,

editorial personal

essay, research

report

Rhetorically

Accurate

Verbs:

analyzes,

argues,

asserts,

discusses,

focuses,

explains,

suggests

How author

accomplishes

his/her goal:

comparing,

contrasting,

comparing,

retelling,

explaining,

justifying, pointing,

highlighting.

Author’s

Purpose:

argue, call

attention to,

deny, point out,

prove, suggest,

persuade,

convince.

Tone:

humorous,

emotional,

friendly,

reasoned,

logical,

exaggerated.

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