Rhetorical Analysis Memo

The overarching goal of the Rhetorical Analysis Memo is to help students think about rhetoric and its role in critical thinking and communication. More specifically, this exercise is designed to help students

  1. avoid procrastination at the early stages of a major writing assignment;
  2. realize they can save time and write more effectively by conducting a rhetorical analysis early in the writing process;
  3. learn about memo writing conventions; and
  4. prepare for the first major writing assignment, Revise, Redesign, Edit: Tailoring Documents for Audiences.


How rhetors (writers and speakers) compose, research, and collaborate on a document is largely determined by their rhetorical situation, especially by

In the next assignment, the the first major assignment in Business WritingRevise, Redesign, Edit: Tailoring Documents for Audiences — students are asked

  1. to work individually to redesign, revise, edit, and proofread a document they have written for another class, a workplace, or another context.
  2. to write a reflective memo about the revised text that
    • identifies the changes in the rhetorical situation;
    • identifies their explicit efforts to employ a technical-writing style; and
    • identifies one or two stylistic principles they considered when editing.

Now, as an exercise to prepare students for the Revise, Redesign, Edit assignment, this assignment asks students to write a memo to their instructor that

  1. identifies the changes in the rhetorical situation, and
  2. speculates about their plans to employ technical writing.

Assignment Instructions

Write a brief memo (one to two pages) to your instructor in memo format that contrasts the rhetorical situation for your original document and the document you are planning to write for the first major project in this class (see Revise, Redesign, Edit: Tailoring Documents for Audiences.)

Below are some questions that are provided to help stimulate your thinking about this task. These questions are given as heuristics.

Note: in the memo you submit, do not list these questions and then answer them. That sort of approach is too schoolish. Instead, introduce your purpose in the first sentence of the memo, explain your goals and then write in paragraphs chunked by topics. Headings and bullets are strongly encouraged.


  1. Who was your audience for the original document? Were there multiple audiences? How did you pitch content with that audience in mind?
  2. Who is your audience for the revised document? Do you have multiple audiences? Will new preliminary research be needed to pitch to your new audience?


  1. What was your purpose for the original project? What was your thesis?
  2. How do you anticipate your purpose evolving for the revised draft given the change in audience? What new work do you need to conduct to write your new thesis?

Medium & Genre

  1. What were the medium and genre of your original texts?
  2. How do you anticipate changing the medium and genre for your revision given changes to your rhetorical situation?

Technical Format

A technical writing style, as opposed to an essay-writing style, leans on visual rhetoric and document design rather than long paragraphs of discourse. Please elaborate on how you anticipate using visual rhetoric and principles of design to make your revised document appropriate for your new rhetorical situation?

Recommended Schedule

ScheduleAssignments & Suggested ActivitiesReadings
Week 1Select an original text and complete a rhetorical analysis of the original and the new document you are planning to write.

By week’s end, submit to your instructor the Rhetorical Analysis Memo.

If, as sketched in the Business Writing Syllabus @ Writing Commons, this is the first assignment in an undergraduate writing course, you may also find it useful to consider Mindset to take a gut check on your Intellectual Openness.
Rhetorical Situation
Occasion, Exigency & Kairos


Submission Guidelines

  1. Upload the memo to the course management system