AP English Language

Review the Knowledge You Need to Score High


Comprehensive Review—Analysis

Rhetorical Strategies



Definition: Example is a specific event, person, or detail of an idea cited and/or developed to support or illustrate a thesis or topic.

Here is an excerpt from Jane Jacobs’s “A Good Neighborhood” that uses examples.

Perhaps I can best explain this subtle but all-important balance between people’s desire for essential privacy and their wish to have differing degrees of contact with people in terms of the stores where people leave keys for their friends. In our family, we tell friends to pick up the key at the delicatessen across the street. Joe Cornacchia, who keeps the delicatessen, usually has a dozen or so keys at a time for handing out like this. He has a special drawer for them.

Around on the other side of our block, people leave their keys at a Spanish grocery. On the other side of Joe’s block, people leave them at a candy store. Down a block they leave them at the coffee shop, and a few hundred feet around the corner from that, in a barber shop. Around one corner from two fashionable blocks of town houses and apartments in the Upper East Side, people leave their keys in a butcher shop and a bookshop; around another corner they leave them in a cleaner’s and a drug store. In unfashionable East Harlem, keys are left with at least one florist, in bakeries, in luncheonettes, in Spanish and Italian groceries.

Practice with Analysis

1. Underline the thesis statement.

2. The topic/subject of the passage is images.

3. The purpose of the passage is to ___ inform ___ persuade ___ entertain.

4. Does the passage contain an extended example? ______

5. The passage contains how many examples? ______

6. Briefly list the examples. images

7. The organization is ___ chronological ___ spatial ___ least to most important ___ most to least important.

Remarks About the Passage

This informative passage uses a lengthy list of examples to indicate informally the relationship between people and businesses in a neighborhood. There is no single extended example, but rather a series of more than eight examples.


It’s a good idea to actually mark up the passage as you answer the analysis questions. It will give you practice and help this process to become second nature to you.



Definition: Contrast/comparison is a method of presenting similarities and differences between or among at least two persons, places, things, ideas, etc. The contrast/comparison essay may be organized in several ways including:

• Subject by subject—Subject A is discussed in its entirety and is followed by a full discussion of Subject B.

• Point by point—A major point related to Subject A is examined and is immediately followed with a corresponding point in Subject B.

• Combination—In a longer essay, the writer may employ both of the preceding strategies.

Here is an example of a passage that uses contrast/comparison from W. H. Auden’s “Work, Labor, and Play.”

Between labor and play stands work. A man is a worker if he is personally interested in the job which society pays him to do; and that which society views as necessary labor, is from his own point of view voluntary play. Whether a job is to be classified as labor or work depends, not on the job itself, but on the tastes of the individual who undertakes it. The difference does not, for example, coincide with the difference between a manual and a mental job; a gardener or a cobbler may be a worker; a bank clerk, a laborer. Which a man is can be seen from his attitude toward leisure. To a worker, leisure means simply the hours he needs to relax and rest in order to work efficiently. He is therefore more likely to take too little leisure than too much; workers die of coronaries and forget their wives’ birthdays. To the laborer, on the other hand, leisure means freedom from compulsion, so that it is natural for him to imagine that the fewer hours he has to spend laboring, the more hours he is free to play, the better.

Practice with Analysis

1. The topic/subject of the passage is images.

2. Underline the thesis statement.

3. The purpose of the passage is to ___ inform ___ persuade ___ entertain.

4. The items being compared/contrasted are images.

5. One example of a comparison in the passage is images.

6. One example of contrast in the passage is images.

7. The pattern of development is ___ opposing ___ alternating.

8. The organization is ___ subject to subject ___ point by point ___ combination.

Remarks About the Passage

As with most of your AP contrast/comparison selections, the emphasis is on distinction and contrast. In this passage, the author uses a pattern of alternating points that develops the contrast between work, labor, and leisure.

Cause and Effect


Definition: Cause and effect establishes a relationship: B is the result of A. The cause-and-effect essay can emphasize the cause or the effect, or can treat both equally. It can detail a single cause with many effects, or several causes with a single effect, or any combination. The organization can present the cause or the effect first. All of this depends upon the intent of the writer. Depending on his or her purpose, the writer can choose to present the most important idea in the beginning, middle, or end. The author can also choose from myriad strategies to develop the cause and effect, such as:

• facts

• statistics

• authorities

• anecdotes

• cases

• real or imagined scenarios

It should be noted that, in some cases, the successful writer of a cause-and-effect essay anticipates and addresses reader objections and/or questions.

Here is an example of a passage using cause and effect from Thomas Hobbes’s “Of the Natural Condition of Mankind” (1651).

From this equality of ability arises equality of hope in the attaining of our ends. And therefore if any two men desire the same thing, which nevertheless they cannot both enjoy, they become enemies; and in the way to their end (which is principally their own conservation, and sometimes their delectation only), endeavor to destroy or subdue one another. And from hence it comes to pass that where an invader has no more fear than another man’s single power, if one plant, sow, build, or possess a convenient seat, others may probably be expected to come prepared with forces united to dispossess and deprive him, not only of the fruit of his labor, but also of his life, or liberty. And the invader again is in like danger of another.

Practice with Analysis

1. Underline the thesis statement.

2. The topic/subject of the passage is images.

3. The purpose of the passage is to ___ inform ___ persuade ___ entertain.

4. List the causes. images

5. List the effects. images

6. The emphasis is on ___ cause ___ effect ___ causes ___ effects.

7. The passage makes use of ___ statistics ___ facts ___ authorities ___ anecdotes ___ cases ___ real/imaginary scenarios.

Remarks About the Passage

The entire focus of this paragraph is on the singular result of one person’s envy for the possessions of another. If both cannot possess it, envy ensues, which leads to dispossession and/or violence.



Definition: Classification separates items into major categories and details the characteristics of each group and why each member of that group is placed within the category. It is possible to divide the categories into subgroups. The principle of classification should be made clear to the reader. (This is the umbrella term under which everything fits.)

Here is a passage that makes use of classification from Jane Howard’s “All Happy Clans Are Alike.”

… If blood and roots don’t do the job, then we must look to water and branches, and sort ourselves into new constellations, new families.

These new families, to borrow the terminology of an African tribe (the Bangwa of the Cameroons), may consist either of friends of the road, ascribed by chance, or friends of the heart, achieved by choice. Ascribed friends are those we happen to go to school with, work with, or live near. They know where we went last weekend and whether we still have a cold. Just being around gives them a provisional importance in our lives, and us in theirs. Maybe they will still matter to us when we or they move away; quite likely they won’t. Six months or two years will probably erase each from the other’s thoughts, unless by some chance they and we have become friends of the heart … [Those] will steer each other through enough seasons and weathers so that sooner or later it crosses our minds that one of us … must one day mourn the other.

Practice with Analysis

1. The topic/subject of the passage is images.

2. Underline the thesis statement.

3. The purpose of the passage is to ___ inform ___ persuade ___ entertain.

4. Identify the principle of division/classification. images

5. List the main subgroups. images

6. Cite the major characteristic(s) of each subgroup. images

Remarks About the Passage

This passage briefly details two classes of friends, one by chance and the other by choice. The thesis given at the beginning of the excerpt is stated in general terms that lead the reader to the specific classifications.



Definition: Process is simply “how to” do something or how something is done. Process can have one of two purposes. It can either give instructions or inform the reader about how something is done. It is important to understand that a clear process presentation must be in chronological order. In other words, the writer leads the reader step by step, from beginning to end, through the process. A clear process essay will define necessary terms and will cite any precautions if needed.

Here is a passage that makes use of process from L. Rust Hills’s “How to Care for and About Ashtrays.”

To clean ashtrays the right way, proceed as follows. Take a metal or plastic or wooden (but never a basket) wastebasket in your left hand, and a paper towel in your right. Approach the ashtray that is to be cleaned. Put the wastebasket down on the floor, and with your released left hand pick up the ashtray and dump its contents of cigarette ends, spent matches, and loose ashes (nothing else should be in an ashtray!) into the wastebasket. Then, still holding the ashtray over the basket, rub gently with the paper towel at any of the few stains or spots that may remain. Then put the ashtray carefully back into its place, pick up the wastebasket again, and approach the next ashtray to be cleaned. It should never be necessary to wash an ashtray, if it is kept clean and dry. Throughout its whole lifetime in a well-ordered household, an ashtray need never travel more than three feet from where it belongs, and never be out of place at all for more than thirty seconds.

Practice with Analysis

1. Underline the thesis.

2. What is the topic/subject? images

3. The purpose is to ___ give specific directions ___ be informative.

4. List the major steps given in the selection. images

5. Is the essay in chronological order? ___ yes ___ no

6. List any words that are defined. images

7. Were there any other words that should have been defined? images

8. List any precautions given. images

9. The process presented is ___ clear ___ unclear ___ complete ___ incomplete.

Remarks About the Passage

The formal tone of such a menial process makes this small paragraph a bit humorous. Its clearly developed ashtray cleaning process is quite complete and needs no added definitions nor precautions.



Definition: Definition identifies the class to which a specific term belongs and those characteristics which make it different from all the other items in that class. There are several types of definitions: physical, historical, emotional, psychological, and relationship(s) to others.

An essay of definition can be developed using any of the rhetorical strategies, and the writer should decide whether to be serious or humorous.

Here is a passage that uses definition.


The dinner was fine, the play funny; let’s hope my drive home will easily top off a relaxing and rewarding evening. What a surprise! Brightly perched on my car’s windshield is a yellow ticket which not so brightly announces that I am being fined $50.00 for an expired parking meter. Grabbing the thing and choking it, I exclaim, “Bugdust!”

Now, let’s be honest. This ticket is neither an insect, nor is it dirt. So, am I blind, ignorant or just plain crazy? I hope none of the above. The expletive, “Bugdust,” is my personal substitute for the ever-popular, overused and vulgar, four letter curses. My background forces me to avoid these common, rude and inappropriate four letter words. And, heaven only knows that over the years I’ve had many occasions where I would have loved to use them. For much of my young life, when I found myself in a situation which cried out for some sort of exclamation, I usually reverted to RATS! or CRUMB! Really harsh curses, huh? However, years ago I came upon a substitute by sheer accident.

I was helping out in the kitchen at my sorority house. While chopping onions, I accidentally slipped and cut my thumb quite badly. I really needed a way to express my surprise, pain, and fear. Nothing inside my head would allow me to scream the usual expletives words. (By the way, I sincerely believe that a good deal of money spent on psychotherapy could have been saved had I been able to “just say IT.”) In that nanosecond, I wanted, I demanded that my mind come up with something—anything—that I could use. My mind obviously obeyed and began working at a frantic pace. “I hate insects; I hate housework.” My mind works in strange ways; it’s really warped. (Hmm, that’s a word I should also define.) Put two abominable conditions together. Voila! Murf’s rule = one new expression = BUGDUST. What a mind!

The people around me during the birth of this little word-gem said, “What the *@#?! does that mean?” I had to stop for a second. They were right. What did it mean? It was not the incinerated remains of a roach colony. It was not the unkempt environs of a roach motel. It was a way for me to say that I was monumentally angry. It was also a way for me to say I was hurting. It was original and ME.

Years have passed. And, so today …

It’s 15°; it’s snowing and icy; I’m cold. Let’s shop. I join the rest of the universe at the supermarket. Heaven only knows one needs rice crispy treats in the house when it snows. What I don’t need is the keys locked in my car. BUGDUST!

I’m doing 7 mph behind a 1965 Volkswagen Beetle being driven by its original owner. I miss the green light. I’m late for my dental appointment. BUGDUST!

And, into cyberspace … My computer just crashed. BUGDUST!

Practice with Analysis

1. Underline the thesis.

2. The topic/subject is images.

3. The purpose is to ___ inform ___ persuade ___ entertain.

4. The attitude of the writer is ___ serious ___ humorous.

5. To what class does the word being defined belong? images

6. List the major rhetorical strategies used. images

7. The definition is ___ historical ___ physical ___ emotional ___ psychological ___ relationship(s) to others.

8. Do you, as a reader, have an understanding of the definition presented? _____

9. Briefly state your understanding of the term. images

Remarks About the Passage

The topic of the essay is the definition of the expletive bugdust. The thesis is the fifth sentence of the second paragraph. The primary purpose is to inform using humor. The rhetorical strategies used throughout the essay are example [paragraph 1] and anecdote [paragraphs 3 and 4]. The definition of bugdust is primarily emotional [last two sentences in paragraph 3 and the last two sentences in paragraph 4].

Now it’s your turn. Write a paragraph that defines a favorite word that is special or unique to you or your friends or family. Choose an attitude and go for it. When finished, ask yourself the same analytical questions you asked for the sample essay.



Definition: Narration is nothing more than storytelling. There is a beginning, a middle, and an end. Moreover, there’s a point to it—a reason for recounting the story that becomes clear to the reader. There should be a focus to the story as well. For example, your point might be that lying gets you into trouble. To illustrate this, you might focus on an anecdote about the repercussions of a specific lie you told your parents. Narration requires a specific point of view, such as:

• 1st person

• 3rd person omniscient

• 3rd person objective

• Stream of consciousness

A narrative generally revolves around a primary tension and employs character, plot, and setting. The point the author is trying to make corresponds to the literary term theme. The development of a narrative may be extended and fully developed or brief to support or illustrate the subject of an essay.

The following excerpt from “Death of a Soldier” by Louisa May Alcott is an example of a narrative.

John was dying. Even while he spoke, over his face I saw a gray veil falling that no human hand can lift. I sat down by him, wiped drops from his forehead, stirred the air about him with a slow wave of a fan, and waited to help him die. For hours he suffered dumbly, without a moment’s murmuring: his limbs grew cold, his face damp, his lips white, and again and again he tore the covering off his breast, as if the lightest weight added to his agony.

One by one, the other men woke, and round the hospital ward appeared a circle of pale faces and watchful eyes, full of awe and pity; for, though a stranger, John was beloved by all. “Old boy, how are you?” faltered one. “Can I say or do anything for you anywheres?” whispered another.

“Take my things home, and tell them that I did my best.”

Practice with Analysis

1. The topic/subject is images.

2. The purpose is to ___ inform ___ persuade ___ entertain.

3. The focus is images.

4. The point of view is ___ first person ___ third person objective ___ third person omniscient ___ stream of consciousness.

5. The setting is images.

6. The main character(s) is/are images.

7. The gist of the plot is images.

8. List the sequence of the major events (beginning, middle, end)

Remarks About the Passage

This brief excerpt is enough of a story to allow you to identify the basic narrative elements. Employing the first person point of view, Alcott provides a beginning, middle, and ending to this episode that occurs in a hospital ward. Focusing on the boy’s death, the author illustrates the quality of John’s character.



Definition: Description is writing that appeals to the senses. It can be objective, which is scientific or clinical, or it can be impressionistic, which tries to involve the reader’s emotions or feelings. Description can also be direct or indirect, and the organization can be as follows:

• Chronological

• Spatial

• Emphasizing the most important detail

• Emphasizing the most noticeable detail

To create his or her description, the writer can employ any or all of the following literary devices:

• Analogy

• Concrete, specific words

• Appeal to the senses

• Personification

• Hyperbole

• Contrast and comparison

• Onomatopoeia

• Other figurative language

The following excerpt from Charles Dickens’s Bleak House uses description.

Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among tiers of shipping and waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the heights, fog creeping into the cabooses of [coal barges]. Fog lying out on the yards, and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little ‘prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon, and hanging in the misty clouds.

Practice with Analysis

1. Underline the thesis.

2. The topic/subject of the passage is images.

3. The description is ___ objective ___ impressionistic.

4. The passage contains examples of

• ___ analogy, ex. images

• ___ concrete words, ex. images

• ___ imagery, ex.images

• ___ contrast/comparison, ex.images

• ___ personification, ex.images

• ___ onomatopoeia, ex.images

• ___ other figurative language, ex.

5. The intended effect is to ___ inform ___ persuade ___ entertain.

Remarks About the Passage

In its appeal to the senses, this loaded passage about fog contains about every descriptive device possible to re-create the almost palpable scene for the reader.