AP English Language & composition exam


AP English Composition


Complex Rhetorical Modes

In this chapter, we’ll discuss a few more—and more complex—rhetorical modes, including process analysis, cause-and-effect, definition, description, narration, and induction and deduction. As was the case with the rhetorical modes you learned about in the last chapter, it will be extremely beneficial to you to know all you can about these modes on test day. It will not only help you recognize when these modes are used in the sample passages, but also enable you to use them in your essays.

So let’s jump right in.


Process analysis is a rhetorical mode that’s used by writers when they want to explain either how to do something or how something was done. When your science teacher hands you instructions for a lab, she is giving you a rather dry sheet of process analysis that says, “first do this; then do that; then examine the data; then explain such-and-such.” When you write your lab report, you’re also indulging in process analysis, saying, “first we did this; then we did that; then we examined the data; then we determined such-and-such.” If you like to follow recipes when you cook, then you’ve already been exposed to process analysis. However, process analyses used in writing generally aren’t as dry as recipes or how-to manuals; they usually have a few examples to spice them up a little.

Process analysis can be an effective way of relating an experience. Take, for example, this now famous passage about “dumpster diving.”

Here’s a good example of process analysis in writing. Although the material is organized in chronological stages, the author inserts explanatory examples and personal commentary that make the passage more lively. In this passage, the author is not instructing the reader on how to scavenge for food in Dumpsters; rather, he is explaining the psychological evolution of a homeless scavenger—based on his own experience—and illustrating the excesses of a consumerist society.

Remember that process analysis is a rhetorical mode that serves to organize something in a step-by-step manner, and it can serve both scientific and literary needs.


·        Sequence is chronological and usually fixed; think of recipes.

·        When you use this device, make sure the stages of the process are clear, by using transitions (e.g., first, next, after two days, finally).

·        Make sure your terminology is appropriate for the reader. For example, the person who will read your essays probably does not know much about the embryonic development of frogs, so you should avoid using too-specialized terms like Spemann organizer or Nieuwkoop center.

·        Verify that every step is clear; an error or omission in an intermediate step may make the rest of the process analysis very confusing. If you were describing how to braid hair, and wrote the following instructions: “First, comb or brush your hair so that it is untangled and manageable to work with. Next, take the far-right section of hair and put it over the middle section and under the far-left section.”—this could be confusing to your reader because you never said to divide the hair into three sections before starting the actual braiding process.


Write a short essay in which you describe the process of how you selected the colleges to which you applied (or are going to apply to).


Try making a numbered list with a few examples. Make sure you have included all the necessary steps and have used appropriate language and terminology for your reader. Remember to use transition words when you write the essay.

TOPIC 1: How decisions are made at your school

TOPIC 2: How to get through your high school successfully

TOPIC 3: How to choose and keep close friends


You just saw how process analysis is a useful rhetorical mode for explaining how to do things or how things were done; the rhetorical mode known as cause-and-effect explains why things should be or should have been done. In a sense, cause-and-effect explains the processes responsible for the process. You’ve probably received at least some rudimentary process analysis about how to use a computer at some point (first, turn on the computer; then launch your browser; log on to your IM; select someone else who is logged in.…), but you probably don’t know why all that works.

Some cause-and-effect relationships are easy to describe. For instance, read the example below from Candide’s Dr. Pangloss.

“It is demonstrable,” said Pangloss, “that things cannot be otherwise than as they are; for as all things have been created for some end, they must necessarily be created for the best end. Observe, for instance, the nose is formed for spectacles; therefore we wear spectacles. The legs are visibly designed for stockings; accordingly we wear stockings. Stones were made to be hewn and to construct castles; therefore My Lord has a magnificent castle, for the greatest baron in the province ought to be the best lodged. Swine were intended to be eaten; therefore we eat pork all the year round.”

In this passage, Pangloss is using a series of cause-and-effect relationships to prove his point, that “things cannot be otherwise than as they are.” This rhetorical mode is everywhere, however. You see examples of this rhetorical mode all around you.

For example, if you were writing about the poor average of AP English Language and Composition test scores at your school, you could go about it in two ways. First, you could examine some immediate causes: Ms. What’s-Her-Name retired and was replaced by a teacher who had no experience teaching and no background in English, we didn’t have a good review book for the exam, or the exam is administered in Room Z during school band practice. Alternatively, you could examine some underlying causes for the poor exam scores: The superintendent of schools changed hiring policies (so a terrible teacher was hired); last year, funds for buying books were diverted to buying new lockers for the football team (so we had no good review book); and the room that the school band normally practices in was flooded when a pipe broke.

On this exam, the causes and effects that you choose to explore will depend on what you’re asked to explain. You may have to use cause-and-effect in your essays, possibly in combination with one or more other rhetorical modes; you may also see a few questions in the multiple-choice section that deal with how the author uses cause-and-effect to make a point. When making critical decisions, writers will often consider both the immediate and the long-term effects; when analyzing an important event, writers will often examine both the immediate and the underlying causes.


·        Do not confuse the relating of mere circumstances with a cause-and-effect relationship. For example, it is not logical to assume that socialism in Chile necessarily caused socialism in Argentina.

·        Turn your causal relationships into causes-and-effects by using carefully chosen examples. Remember that not all causal relationships are causes-and-effects. However, careful use of evidence and examples can turn causal relationships into causes-and-effects.

·        Make sure to carefully address each step in a series of causal relationships; if you don’t, you risk losing your reader. Imagine the attendance secretary when she hears, “I’m sorry I’m late. We had a fire, so I had to find my cat.” A better (clearer) explanation would have been: “I’m sorry I’m late. This morning at 4:00 A.M. there was an electrical fire in the garage; fortunately, there was an alarm that woke my dad, who put out the fire, but when he opened the garage door, my cat ran outside. I think it was frightened so it ran up a tree. I decided to climb up the tree and get the cat but I fell, and my mother had to take me to the emergency room.”


Write an essay in which you examine the possible causes and effects of violence in the United States today.


TOPIC 1: Academic dishonesty in high schools

TOPIC 2: The fear of terrorism in the United States

TOPIC 3: The changing face of ethnic America


You are probably familiar with definitions; you see them every time you look up a word in the dictionary. Hopefully when you write, you try to make sure your reader understands the words that you use.

When writing your essays for the AP English Language and Composition Exam, if you happen to leave a key term unexplained or explained vaguely, even a carefully crafted essay will fall apart. This is especially true of very specialized terminology and obscure words. For example, if you are explaining a wonderful new tradition at your school and define it by synonym, you may write, “Basically, it’s a Mexican feis.” If your readers are Irish, this would be all right; if your readers were from just about anywhere else, you would need to define feis by putting it in a category(defining it in terms everyone will understand): “a feis is a competition for Irish dance, song, and instrumental music.” Then, you could explain your project: “We want to do the same thing with traditional Mexican dance, song, and music.”

For the AP exam, we have to consider definition in its meaning as a rhetorical mode. In this case, a paragraph—or an entire essay—is devoted to the definition of a term. Here, for example, is a paragraph that defines feis (pronounced “fesh”).

feis is a day of competition in Irish dancing, music, and song. Perhaps you were wondering where all the Irish dancers from Lord of the Dance came from. All first performed at a feis and honed their skills through competitions at various levels. A feis is a living legacy of Irish culture; it is where beginners, trying to remember their left from right, unknowingly dance the ancient steps of Ireland and pass this legacy on to the next generation. On the more practical side, a feis is to Irish performers what a soccer game is to athletes the world over. Competitions are organized by ability (Beginner, Advanced Beginner, Novice, Open, Preliminary Championships, and Championships) and by age (Under 6, Under 7, etc). At a typicalfeis, there might be as many as 2,500 dancers.

The passage begins with a straightforward definition, but the definition is extended and rhetorical modes are mixed. You noted, I’m sure, the analogy to a soccer game; then, there is an inchoate (imperfectly formed) stab at classification (the divisions in the competition). You could even argue that the mention of Lord of the Dance serves as a kind of example. The rhetorical mode of definition can be used simply to explain a word or concept, but typically the author using it also wants to interest the reader in what’s being explained.

Let’s take a look at another good example of definition.

The Palio is a horse race that’s held twice each year in Siena, Italy: on July 2nd in honor of the Madonna of Provenzano, and on August 16th in honor of the Assumption of the Virgin. But saying that the Palio is just another horse race would be like calling the Superbowl just another football game. The Palio is not just a race. It is blood, sweat, and tears; it is part competition and part festival. According to some, it is the world’s craziest horse race; according to others, it is Italy’s most honored tradition. One thing is clear to everyone, however: the Palio represents the tradition, culture, and soul of Siena. The actual race lasts only about a minute, but those moments represent an entire year’s worth of anticipation and preparation.

Again, the passage begins with a simple definition; but here, too, we have an example of another rhetorical mode—analogy (to the Superbowl).

However, the author of this passage uses an important additional tactic, known as definition by negation. You should be aware of this rhetorical device and use it where appropriate. In the passage above, the negation is partial—the Palio is, indeed, a race, but it is not “just a race.” Most negations work in that manner; definition by negation is usually used to impress upon the reader the importance of the item under discussion or create a distinction between the item under discussion and the item with which it is being “negatively” compared. For instance, you may write, “Madonna is not a pop singer; she’s a phenomenon, a true diva, a multitalented musical ambassador, and savvy businesswoman.” Perhaps this statement is true, but she’s still a pop singer.

You may be able to use definition as a mode in your free-response essays, but most likely, you will see definition used in the passages in the multiple-choice sections. For example, you may be asked to answer a question that deals with how an author uses definition to analyze a topic.


·        Keep your reason for defining something in mind as you’re writing.

·        Define key terms according to what you know of your audience, in other words, the readers of the essays; you don’t want to bore your reader by defining terms unnecessarily, nor do you want to perplex your reader by failing to define terms that may be obscure to your audience. Keep in mind that for you, your readers are the AP English Language and Composition Exam graders.

·        Explain the background (history) when it is relevant to your definition.

·        Define by negation when appropriate.

·        Combine definition with any number of other rhetorical modes when applicable.


Write an essay in which you use definition to analyze the role of integrity in your life.


First define each word by category; then, define each word by negation.

WORD 1: Hip-hop

WORD 2: Success

WORD 3: Love

WORD 4: Cool


Description can help make expository or argumentative writing lively and interesting and hold the reader’s interest, which is vital, of course. Think of how many essays those test graders have to read every day; as we mentioned in the techniques chapters, a large part of scoring well on the free-­response section is keeping your audience interested.

Oftentimes description serves as the primary rhetorical mode for an entire essay—or even an entire book. It’s typically used to communicate a scene, a specific place, or a person to the reader. Although writers tend to concentrate most on the visual aspects of descriptions, descriptions can be used to appeal to any of the reader’s senses.

It is important to keep in mind that sometimes description can be objective; in these cases, the author is not describing something in a sentimental or otherwise subjective way—he or she is merely stating the facts. As an example of this, take a look at Charles Darwin’s depiction of Valparaiso, the chief seaport in Chile, in Voyage of the Beagle.

The town is built at the very foot of a range of hills, about 1,600 feet high, and rather steep. From its position, it consists of one long, straggling street, which runs parallel to the beach, and wherever a ravine comes down, the houses are piled up on each side of it. The rounded hills, being only partially protected by very scanty vegetation, are worn into numberless little gullies, which expose a singularly bright red soil. From this cause, and from the low whitewashed houses with tile roofs, the view reminded me of St. Cruz in Tenerife. In a northwesterly direction there are some fine glimpses of the Andes, but these mountains appear much grander when viewed from the neighboring hills: the great distance at which they are situated can then more readily be perceived.

This type of objective description tends to be drier than more subjective description. The degree of objectivity exhibited above probably doesn’t thrill you—nor will it thrill the AP readers.

Fortunately, unlike most other rhetorical modes, description allows for a significant degree of subjectivity. In most descriptions, the writer attempts to communicate personal impressions of something or someone, and to do so it is necessary to draw on the powers of figurative writing; simile, metaphor, and personification are the most common.

Here is another description of a city: Nathaniel Hawthorne’s impressions of Florence. The description comes not from one of Hawthorne’s novels, but from one of the notebooks that he kept during his travels in Europe.

By and by, we had a distant glimpse of Florence, showing its great dome and some of its towers out of a sidelong valley, as if we were between two great waves of the tumultuous sea of hills, while, far beyond, rose in the distance the blue peaks of three or four of the Apennines, just on the remote horizon. There being a haziness in the atmosphere, however, Florence was little more distinct to us than the Celestial City was to Christian and Hopeful, when they spied at it from the Delectable Mountains.

Florence at first struck me as having the aspect of a very new city in comparison with Rome; but, on closer acquaintance, I find that many of the buildings are antique and massive, though still the clear atmosphere, the bright sunshine, the light, cheerful hues of the stucco, and—as much as anything else, perhaps—the vivacious character of the human life in the streets, take away the sense of its being an ancient city.

As we returned home over the Arno River, crossing the Ponte di Santa Trinitá, we were struck by the beautiful scene of the broad, calm river, with the palaces along its shores repeated in it, on either side, and the neighboring bridges, too, just as perfect in the tide beneath as in the air above—a city of dream and shadow so close to the actual one. God has a meaning, no doubt, in putting this spiritual symbol continually beside us.

Along the river, on both sides, as far as we could see, there was a row of brilliant lamps, which, in the far distance, looked like a cornice of golden light; and this also shone as brightly in the river’s depths. The lilies of the evening, in the quarter where the sun had gone down, were very soft and beautiful, though not so gorgeous as thousands that I have seen in America. But I believe I must fairly confess that the Italian sky, in the daytime, is bluer and brighter than our own, and that the atmosphere has a quality of showing objects to better advantage. It is more than mere daylight; the magic of moonlight is somehow mixed up with it, although it is so transparent a medium of light.

This is a much more personal vision of a city. Hawthorne uses one simile to give us a better visual image of the countryside around Florence (“as if we were between two great waves of the tumultuous sea of hills”), and another to communicate the effect of the gas lamps (“like a cornice of golden light”); and he employs a metaphor (“a city of dream and shadow”) to evoke his impression of the reflections in the river. In fact, virtually all of the description serves to communicate or explain Hawthorne’s impressions of the city; here, the writer wishes to evoke and is not interested in scientific exactitude.

Keep in mind that this rhetorical device allows you a certain amount of freedom of language, but it also allows you certain liberties in organization. In Hawthorne’s passage, for example, the author put down in writing his impressions in whatever order they came to him. In more objectively written descriptions, however, it often makes sense to think spatially when writing a visual description. You might describe a scene from left to right or front to back, for example; you might start a description of a person with the head (and end with the feet).

In the following passage, Fyodor Dostoyevsky gives us both a spatial description and a barrage of sensory impressions.

In the first place, on entering this house, one passes into a very bare hall, and thence along a passage to a mean staircase. The reception room, however, is bright, clean, and spacious, and is lined with redwood and metalwork. But the scullery you would not care to see; it is greasy, dirty, and odoriferous, while the stairs are in rags, and the walls so covered with filth that the hand sticks fast wherever it touches them. Also, on each landing there is a medley of boxes, chairs, and dilapidated wardrobes; while the windows have had most of their panes shattered, and everywhere stand washtubs filled with dirt, litter, eggshells, and fish bladders. The smell is abominable. In short, the house is not a nice one.

As to the disposition of the rooms, I have described it to you already. True, they are convenient enough, yet every one of them has an atmosphere. I do not mean that they smell badly so much as that each of them seems to contain something which gives forth a rank, sickly-sweet odor. At first the impression is an unpleasant one, but a couple of minutes will suffice to dissipate it, for the reason that everything here smells—people’s clothes, hands, and everything else—and one grows accustomed to the rankness. Canaries, however, soon die in this house. A naval officer here has just bought his fifth. Birds cannot live long in such an air. Every morning, when fish or beef is being cooked, and washing and scrubbing are in progress, the house is filled with steam. Always, too, the kitchen is full of linen hanging out to dry; and since my room adjoins that apartment, the smell from the clothes causes me not a little annoyance. However, one can grow used to anything.

Note that Dostoyevsky’s description first takes us through the ground floor and leads us up the staircase. Unlike the previous passages, this one appeals to our tactile (“so covered with filth that the hand sticks”) and, even more prominently, olfactory senses. Choice of detail is important, and the choice of fish bladders, for example, conveys wonderfully the disgusting sights and smell. This is great writing—not only is the description effective, it’s also humorous, thanks to the short comment at the end of each paragraph.


·        When possible, call on all five senses: visual, auditory, olfactory (smell), gustatory (taste), and tactile.

·        Place the most striking examples at the beginnings and ends of your paragraphs (or essay) for maximum effect.

·        Show, don’t tell, using anecdotes and examples.

·        Use concrete nouns and adjectives; nouns, not adjectives, should dominate.

·        Concentrate on details that will convey the sense you’re trying to get across most effectively. (Remember the fish bladders!)

·        Employ figures of speech, especially similes, metaphors, and personification, when appropriate.

·        When describing people, try to focus on distinctive mannerisms; if possible, you should go beyond physical appearance.

·        Direct discourse (using dialogue or quotations) can be revealing and useful.

·        A brief illustrative anecdote is worth a thousand words. Instead of simply using a general statement (“My friend Kai is a very generous person”), use an example (“My friend Kai is known for his generosity; the whole school knows about the time that he spent an entire weekend volunteering at a homeless shelter”).

·        To the extent possible, use action verbs. You could write, “The delightful aroma of chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven crept around the corner and filled the den with its sweetness” instead of just “The baking chocolate chip cookies smelled sweet.”


Write an essay in which you describe your local shopping mall. Remember that you are not limited to physical descriptions.


First decide the general feeling you’d like to convey, and second begin to list some specifics; don’t forget examples or anecdotes. When describing people, go beyond just the physical.

TOPIC 1: A party

TOPIC 2: Your parents

TOPIC 3: A natural disaster (seen from personal experience or on television)

TOPIC 4: Your favorite place to relax

TOPIC 5: The campus of your school


A narrative is a story, in which pieces of information are arranged in chronological order. You probably know that, but what you may not know is that narration can be an effective expository technique.

Decades after her experience in a Japanese internment camp, Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston decided to narrate her experiences before, during, and immediately after imprisonment. She did not want to tell the story just for the story’s sake; she wanted to relay her experience to the public to exorcize personal demons and to raise public awareness about this period in history. Here is a passage from this personal narrative. The passage describes the period after the Wakatsuki family had lost their house in Ocean Park, California, when they were forced into detention.

My own family, after three years of mess hall living, collapsed as an integrated unit. Whatever dignity or feeling of filial strength we may have known before December 1941 was lost, and we did not recover it until many years after the war, not until after Papa died and we began to come together, trying to fill the vacuum his passing left in all our lives.

The closing of the camps, in the fall of 1945, only aggravated what had begun inside. Papa had no money then and could not get work. Half of our family had already moved to the East Coast, where jobs had opened up for them. The rest of us were relocated into a former defense workers’ housing project in Long Beach. In that small apartment there never was enough room for all of us to sit down for a meal. We ate in shifts, and I yearned all the more for our huge round table in Ocean Park.

Soon after we were released I wrote a paper for a seventh-grade journalism class, describing how we used to hunt grunion before the war. The whole family would go down to Ocean Park Beach after dark, when the grunion were running, and build a big fire on the sand. I would watch Papa and my older brothers splash through the moonlit surf to scoop out the fish, then we’d rush back to the house where Mama would fry them up and set the sizzling pan on the table, with soy sauce and horseradish, for a midnight meal. I ended the paper with this sentence: “The reason I want to remember this is because I know we’ll never be able to do it again.”

Excerpt from FAREWELL TO MANZANAR by James D. Houston and Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston. Copyright © 1973 by James D. Houston. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

You may be asked to use personal narrative when writing your essays on the AP English Language and Composition test; and you will certainly be asked to analyze narratives that employ this rhetorical mode.

Additionally, sometimes you’ll see questions on the essay section of the AP exam that will ask you to relate someone else’s experience to illustrate a point. In essence, you’ll be asked to write a narrative in the third person, but choose wisely. For example, if you’re asked to “relate an experience where someone you know (directly or indirectly) overcame incredible obstacles to reach a goal,” you wouldn’t want to narrate the story of your cat, who managed to catch an elusive mouse.

In the following passage, Booker T. Washington uses narrative to explain how his view on education developed. Watch for changes between the first- and third-person style of narration.

When a mere boy, I saw a young colored man, who had spent several years in school, sitting in a common cabin in the South, studying a French grammar. I noted the poverty, the untidiness, the want of system, and thrift that existed about the cabin, notwithstanding his knowledge of French and other academic subjects. Another time, when riding on the outer edges of a town in the South, I heard the sound of a piano coming from a cabin of the same kind. Contriving some excuse, I entered and began a conversation with the young colored woman who was playing, and who had recently returned from a boarding-school, where she had been studying instrumental music among other things. Despite the fact that her parents were living in a rented cabin, eating poorly cooked food, surrounded with poverty, and having almost none of the conveniences of life, she had persuaded them to rent a piano for four or five dollars per month. Many such instances as these, in connection with my own struggles, impressed upon me the importance of making a study of our needs as a race, and applying the remedy accordingly.

Some one may be tempted to ask, Has not the negro boy or girl as good a right to study a French grammar and instrumental music as the white youth? I answer, Yes, but in the present condition of the negro race in this country there is need of something more. Perhaps I may be forgiven for the seeming egotism if I mention the expansion of my own life partly as an example of what I mean. My earliest recollection is of a small one-room log hut on a large slave plantation in Virginia. After the close of the war, while working in the coal-mines of West Virginia for the support of my mother, I heard in some accidental way of the Hampton Institute.

When I learned that it was an institution where a black boy could study, could have a chance to work for his board, and at the same time be taught how to work and to realize the dignity of labor, I resolved to go there. Bidding my mother good-by, I started out one morning to find my way to Hampton, though I was almost penniless and had no definite idea where Hampton was. By walking, begging rides, and paying for a portion of the journey on the steam-cars, I finally succeeded in reaching the city of Richmond, Virginia. I was without money or friends. I slept under a sidewalk, and by working on a vessel next day I earned money to continue my way to the institute, where I arrived with a surplus of fifty cents. At Hampton I found the opportunity—in the way of buildings, teachers, and industries provided by the generous—to get training in the class-room and by practical touch with industrial life, to learn thrift, economy, and push. I was surrounded by an atmosphere of business, Christian influence, and a spirit of self-help that seemed to have awakened every faculty in me, and caused me for the first time to realize what it meant to be a man instead of a piece of property.

While there I resolved that when I had finished the course of training I would go into the far South, into the Black Belt of the South, and give my life to providing the same kind of opportunity for self-reliance and self-awakening that I had found provided for me at Hampton.

Notice that in the first paragraph, the narration slips briefly into the third person—Washington is telling the story of the girl, not his own. Likewise, Washington presents the story of the boy studying French from his point of view. In these two instances, Washington switches from first to third person with ease, so that the transition is optimally effective and unnoticeable. The second paragraph effortlessly transitions to a personal anecdote, which is continued in the third paragraph. The final paragraph justifies the narrative: Washington’s life story leads to his commitment to establish his own institute—called the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute—deep in the South.


·        When possible, structure the events in chronological order.

·        Make your story complete: make sure you have a beginning, middle, and end.

·        Provide a realistic setting (typically at the beginning). Notice how Booker T. Washington provides a setting in this passage with just a few details: “a young colored man,” “a common cabin in the South,” “the poverty, the untidiness, the want of system, and thrift that existed about the cabin.”

·        Whenever possible, use action verbs; for example, write “the fighters tumbled to the ground,” rather than “there were fallen soldiers on the ground.”

·        Provide concrete and specific details.

·        Show, don’t tell. This is another way of saying that you should use anecdotes and examples whenever possible.

·        Establish a clear point of view; if it’s clear who is narrating and why, then it will be easier to choose relevant details.

·        Include appropriate amounts of direct discourse (dialogue or quotations).


“A college education is not necessary for success.” Relate an experience of someone you know (directly or indirectly) that defends, challenges, or qualifies this statement.


Think of a personal experience (or an experience of someone you know) that pertains to the topic. Determine how you would best describe this experience. Come up with a few anecdotes or examples.

TOPIC 1: Danger when eating becomes an obsession

TOPIC 2: Hardship is a necessary part of our education


You will probably find that the rhetorical modes of induction and deduction are most useful when you’re writing the argumentative essay, although they will be helpful on the rhetorical analysis essay too.

Induction is a process in which specific examples are used to reach a general conclusion. If you took the AP European History Exam and did not like the experience and followed by taking the AP Calculus Exam and did not like the experience, you might arrive at the following general conclusion: AP exams are always an unpleasant experience. If, when you were young, you found that you didn’t like broccoli, asparagus, or cabbage, your parents might have concluded that you didn’t like vegetables. In both cases, the conclusion would be of questionable value because there is not enough evidence to justify the generalization.

Assume that you want to argue that your English teacher is in a bad mood every time the Boston Red Sox lose a game to the New York Yankees. You could substantiate that generalization by recalling certain tantrums that he threw and comparing those days with the dates of Red Sox losses. This would substantiate your claim but not prove it, especially if you didn’t even know if your teacher saw the games. After all, what if something else happened to coincide with the games and was the real cause of his bad temper, such as traffic jams on the way home from school?

We tend to believe in generalizations arrived at through induction, whether they can actually be proved. The Food and Drug Administration, for example, has to follow the inductive reasoning of scientists; just because a certain drug produced the desired results—and didn’t produce an undesirable result, such as death—20,000 experimental cases does not prove that the same results will occur when 20,000,000 people take the drug.

Deduction involves the use of a generalization to draw a conclusion about a specific case. For example, if you read in the morning paper that all schools in your county would be closed that day because of inclement weather, you could conclude that you won’t have to go to school. You just used deductive reasoning.


·        Induction proceeds from the specific to a generalization. For example, your classmate Ricky plays on the school’s football and basketball teams, and he has ice hockey posters all over his bedroom at home. You could conclude that Ricky likes all sports in general.

·        Make sure you have sufficient evidence to support your claim.

·        Deduction is the process of applying a generalization to a specific case. For example, your cousin Jennifer told you that she hates dancing and loud music. From this, you could safely say that she probably wouldn’t want to come with you to the hot new nightclub opening this weekend.

·        Make sure your generalization has sufficient credibility before applying it to specific cases. For example, it would be an unfair generalization to assume that all baseball players use or have used anabolic steroids.


Write a short essay in which you analyze the following statement: Contemporary films are a reflection of today’s values.


THESIS 1: Academic honesty is alive and well.

THESIS 2: High schools don’t really care about their mission to educate.

THESIS 3: Computer games have beneficial effects.

THESIS 4: Children generally demonstrate more wisdom than their parents.

In this chapter we looked at a few more rhetorical modes that will be extremely useful to you on test day. Remember that these can be used in combination with each other and, further complicating matters, in combination with the modes in the previous chapter. Hopefully, these modes have given you some ideas about how you can structure your essays into coherent works that the test readers will understand and maybe even enjoy.

Here we are at the end of the review section of the book. You are now ready to take the practice tests; you may be dreading these now, but we know that once you begin, you’ll see that you know a lot more than you think you do! If you’ve worked through the book up to this point and complete these practice exams, you’ll certainly be ready for test day.

Good luck!