Rhetorical Analysis Memo (Document Makeover)

The Rhetorical Analysis Memo is the second exercise in Professional Writing, an undergraduate writing course. This exercise asks students to engage in a rhetorical analysis of a college-level syllabus.

Rhetorical Analysis is the practice of analyzing a rhetorical situation

  • to understand human decision making
  • to guide efforts to communicate and compose
  • to interpret the texts of others.
  • a mode of reasoning that informs composing and interpretation.

The Rhetorical Analysis Memo challenges you to analyze the rhetorical context that informs the syllabus you have chosen to redesign, revise, reorganize, and edit.

Assignment Guidelines

For The Document Makeover Module, your mission is to assume authority over the business of redesigning a syllabus. Yup, that’s right. For this exercise, you’re in charge: You are the author, the agent of change.

After you complete this exercise, you will be better prepared to complete the two other deliverables composing The Document Makeover module:

  1. redesign, revise, and edit the syllabus
  2. write an email to the instructor justifying design, content, and editorial choices.

Your memo must:

  1. Be reader-centered, edited for precision, and use and effective professional/technical writing style
  2. Use appropriate memo conventions. Please be sure to have a strong subject line (VERB + 3-7 word document summary)
  3. Include a Direct Business Writing opening paragraph that establishes the context for writing/why the reader is getting the document (i.e. you’re writing because you’ve completed work on a task you were given), the purpose of the memo (i.e. discuss your analysis of the audience and purpose of your document revision), and forecast the content of the memo.
NOTE: A convention is a common way of doing something. For writers, it has been a convention to have at least two paragraphs to justify a heading or subheading. Like many other conventions in the domain of writing, this convention is violated at times by professional writers. However, be warned that if you have loads of headers without much text under them your document may appear to be an underdeveloped and choppy outline.

The body of the memo should be divided into two (2) sections and organized with headings and subheadings. Each section should be well-organized and include multiple paragraphs.

Part 1: Rhetorical Context

Describe the rhetorical situation for your document. You might explain why you selected the document you did, address your original understanding of the audience and purpose for the original document and how you understand the audience and purpose for the revised document that you will create.

Part 2: Goals

Describe your goals for revising, redesigning and editing the document. What are the main changes you need to make to adapt the document for the new audience and purpose? What kinds of structural or organizational changes will be required? Will content need to be added or eliminated? Are there design features that need to be added, removed, replaced with something that is more effective? What are the editing challenges?  Be specific and point to examples from your document.


  • Include a Direct Business Writing closing paragraph that wraps up the communication, maintains a positive relationship with the reader, and tells the reader how to reach you if they have additional questions.

Submission Guidelines

  1. Upload the memo in .pdf to the course management system.

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