Overview of the SAT Essay
Two Criteria for Assessing the Essay
How do I analyze the text? What should I consider?
RHETORICAL OR TEXTUAL ANALYSIS
How does the author’s language shape the meaning? How does the purpose, audience, medium, disposition, appeals, and style impact the reception of the message? How does the author use language to persuade?
Why did the author write this text? And why did the author write this text in a certain way? What is the occasion for the text e.g. some specific incident or event? What is the intent of the piece: TO INFORM, TO NARRATE, TO PERSUADE, TO DESCRIBE? See https://www.mrsmacfarland.com/dp-curriculum/text-types for more information on different text types and their purposes.
Consider the following:
– what the author said and the diction used
– what the author did not say
– how the author said it and the alternative ways it could have been said
-what the intended effect is e.g. to reflect, to call to action
Who is the target audience? How does the text’s language and rhetoric suit the audience? Are there groups excluded from the intended audience? Is there more than one intended audience?
Beliefs, Values, Attitudes (special interest groups)
3) Nature of the Medium
What are the characteristics that define the text? Consider the differences in the variety of texts such as newspaper articles, magazine ads, editorials, blogs, etc. What modes of writing are included: expository, narrative, descriptive, argumentative? Does the author adhere to the conventions of the genre or stray from them? What is the impact of the medium and how the message is received? Consider the text type.
How does the author present his or her disposition or inherent mindset on the topic(s)? Is there an inherent bias in the author?Does the bias distort the truth in some way? What influences may have impacted the delivery of the message such as historically, politically, socially, or economically? Is there a clear tone? What tone shifts are seen through the text?
Bias in the media can occur through:
Selection & Omission--choosing to tell only parts of the story
Placement-- where the story appears in the newspaper or during news hour or on a website
Headlines-- often crafted to catch attention and sell papers rather than report facts
Word Choice and Tone--using sensational and emotional words to dramatize the events
Photos/Captions/Camera Angles --making one person look good and another bad, for example
Names & Titles --calling a person a “bad guy” instead of by his name, for example
Statistics & Crowd Counts--dramatizing numbers for effect
Source Control--using information or sources that only show or support one side of a story
You also want to consider the source: Is it a more liberal (left-leaning) source or a conservative (right-leaning) source or is it more in the center. Check out https://www.allsides.com/media-bias/media-bias-ratings for a chart.
Does the rhetorical piece use Logos, Ethos or Pathos?
How does the author use strong, connotative language that incites a reaction making an emotional appeal (pathos)?
How does the author use a logical appeal (logos) through facts, statistics, examples, organizational strategies, etc?
How does the author create an ethical appeal (ethos)through his or her experience and credibility in order to gain the trust of the audience?
How is the piece ordered e.g. compare/contrast, cause/effect, problem/solution, analogies, narrative, description, etc? What rhetorical tropes and schemes are used such as extended metaphor, hyperbole, anecdotes, examples, antithesis, anaphora, litotes, analogy, symbolism, irony, paradox, rhetorical questions, etc? How would you describe the word choice and its effect to convey the message?
Types of Evidence
How does the author compare two things that are similar in order to show the reader parallels and make a point to support his/her argument? What is persuasive or enlightening about using analogies to support an argument?
How can the use of an analogy draw an insightful connection between a well known phenomenon to a less known phenomenon?
How does the author use anecdotes to tell a story in order to prove a point?
How does the author’s storytelling of anecdotes coupled with statistical or testimonial effective help build an argument?
How does the author use his or her own observations to form conclusions and support his/her argument?
How does the author use numbers and percentages from verified sources to support his claim using reasoning? How do these statistics lend credibility to his/her argument?
Are the statistics being dramatized or manipulated for a specific effect?
How valid are the statistics in supporting the argument?
Quotes or Testimonials
How does the author use quotes from leading experts and authorities in order to support his/her position?
Are there facts that can't be disputed and can be accepted as true? How do these facts help support the argument?
When analyzing an author’s style for a non-literary text such as an editrial, determine what organizational patterns he or she uses:
Exemplification: specific examples, brief
Illustration: examples in more detail
Description: concrete, sensory diction
Narration: use of stories e.g. anecdotes
Cause/effect: clear reason/result
Process: how to do something...
Problem/Solution: describes a problem and its implications and then provides a solution
Classification: how something is classified e.g. science
Extended definition: how to define an abstract concept e.g. patriotism, democracy, love, faith, etc.
How do rhetorical tropes and schemes affect how the text is read?
(historical, literary, pop cultural metaphorical reference)
(asking ? for effect)
(adjectives or nouns to used to describe another noun- accentuates a dominant characteristic for effect)
(softer word instead of a harsh one)
(understatement, form of irony)
(exaggeration, form of irony)
(situation is not expected. Verbal irony occurs when someone says something that is exaggerated or understated for an effect)
(contrasting ideas next to each other)
(direct/implied comparison between two things)
(A pastiche imitate the author’s style in a respectful way by changing an aspect of the story: point of view, ending, change protagonist from male to female, setting, etc. You also could imitate the author’s style and language with a new topic.)
(an imitation of the style of a writer or artist with deliberate exaggeration for comic effect or ridicule)
(metaphor giving human qualities to nonhuman entity)
(using negative constructions to emphasize a point)
(recurring element which contributes to theme/purpose)
(story in which people, events, or things often have symbolic meanings)
(something that seems contradictory but is actually true)
Parenthetical Asides (authorial intrusion)
Author interjects with her/his opinions to add humor or ridicule with dashes or with parenthesis
(words, sounds, or ideas used more than once to enhance the rhythm, or create emphasis)
(similar constructions help audience to compare/contrast parallel subjects or to emphasize a point. Writers will use similar phrases and clauses to balance a sentence)
(two opposing ideas presented in a parallel manner; the juxtaposition of contrasting ideas through syntax EX “She is my happiness!—she is my torture, none the less!”)
(the regular repetition of the same word or phrase at the beginning of successive phrases or clauses e.g. “We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds….”)
LEVEL OF FORMALITY
FORMAL: elevated, learned, pretentious, ornate, flowery, archaic, scholarly, pedantic, elegant, dignified, impersonal, elaborate, sophisticated, formal, cultured, poetic, abstract, esoteric (hard to understand), colorful, eloquent, euphonious
INFORMAL: candid, detached, plain, simple, straightforward, informal, conversational, concrete
COLLOQUIAL: abrupt, terse, laconic, simple, rustic, vulgar, slang, jargon, dialect, simple
CONNOTATIVE vs DENOTATIVE LANGUAGE
Denotative language: authentic, actual, apparent, literal, journalistic, straightforward, concrete, precise
Connotative language: poetic, lyrical, symbolic, metaphoric, sensuous, grotesque, picturesque, abstract, whimsical, euphemistic, figurative, obscure, allegorical, suggestive, idyllic, emotive
POSITIVE TONES: cheerful, eager, lighthearted, hopeful, exuberant, enthusiastic, complimentary, confident, cheery, trusting, optimistic, loving, passionate, amused, elated, sympathetic, compassionate, proud, wistful, longing, romantic, humorous
NEGATIVE TONES: bitter, angry, outraged, accusing, incensed, turbulent, furious, wrathful, inflammatory, irritated, disgusted, indignant, irate, caustic, condescending, cynical, pompous, satiric, critical, grotesque, melancholic, mournful, apprehensive
NEUTRAL TONES: objective, nostalgic, candid, restrained, detached, instructive, learned, factual, informative, authoritative, disinterested, judicial, impartial, frank, aloof, calm, imploring
TYPES OF IMAGERY
Visual Imagery: Something seen in the mind’s eye
Auditory Imagery: language that represents a sound or sounds
Olfactory Imagery: language representing the sense of smell
Gustatory Imagery: a taste
Tactile Imagery: touch, for example, hardness, softness, wetness, heat, cold
Organic Imagery: internal sensation: hunger, thirst, fatigue, fear
Kinesthetic Imagery: movement or tension