Rhetorical Functions Used In Essays How Many Sentence


When sentences, ideas, and details fit together clearly, readers can follow along easily, and the writing is coherent. The ideas tie together smoothly and clearly. To establish the links that readers need, you can use the methods listed here. Note that good writers use a combination of these methods. Do not rely on and overuse any single method – especially transitional words.

Repetition of a Key Term or Phrase

This helps to focus your ideas and to keep your reader on track.

The problem with contemporary art is that it is not easily understood by most people. Contemporary art is deliberately abstract, and that means it leaves the viewer wondering what she is looking at.


Synonyms are words that have essentially the same meaning, and they provide some variety in your word choices, helping the reader to stay focused on the idea being discussed.

Myths narrate sacred histories and explain sacred origins. These traditional narratives are, in short, a set of beliefs that are a very real force in the lives of the people who tell them.


This, that, these, those, he, she, it, they, and we are useful pronouns for referring back to something previously mentioned. Be sure, however, that what you are referring to is clear.

When scientific experiments do not work out as expected, they are often considered failures until some other scientist tries them again. Those that work out better the second time around are the ones that promise the most rewards.

Transitional Words

There are many words in English that cue our readers to relationships between sentences, joining sentences together. See below for a table of transitional words.  There you'll find lists of words such as however, therefore, in addition, also, but, moreover, etc.

I like autumn, and yet autumn is a sad time of the year, too. The leaves turn bright shades of red and the weather is mild, but I can't help thinking ahead to the winter and the ice storms that will surely blow through here. In addition, that will be the season of chapped faces, too many layers of clothes to put on, and days when I'll have to shovel heaps of snow from my car's windshield.

Note that transitional words have meaning and are not just used at beginnings of sentences. They can also be used to show relationships between different parts of the same sentence. As mentioned above they cue readers to relationships between sentences/clauses. If you use the wrong transitional word then you confuse your reader. It would be better if you didn’t use any transitional word rather than the wrong one. Furthermore you do not need a transitional word at the beginning of each sentence. Good writers rarely use them as they achieve coherence by using other techniques. Many students overuse transitional words. Your instructor will guide you as to what problems you may have with transitions.

Sentence Patterns

Sometimes, repeated or parallel sentence patterns can help the reader follow along and keep ideas tied together.

Example: (from a speech by President John F. Kennedy)

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country.

Much of the above information was obtained from Purdue University. Details below.
This page is located at http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/print/general/gl_cohere.html
Copyright ©1995-2002 by OWL at Purdue University and Purdue University. All rights reserved.

Transitional Words

Copyright - © 2002 David O'Regan - All rights reserved.

Rhetorical functions in academic writing


Students are asked to write many different kinds of texts. Depending on your subject, these could be essays, laboratory reports, case-studies, book reviews, reflective diaries, posters, research proposals, and so on and are normally referred to as genres (See: genres in academic writing). These different genres, though, can be constructed from a small range of different text types.

If, for example, you are asked to write an essay to answer the following question:

Discuss possible solutions to the problem of international credit control.

You could answer it in the following way:

  1. Define credit control, say what it is and give an example;
  2. Explain why international credit control is a problem in business today, support your explanation by evidence from your reading;
  3. Describe some possible solutions to the problem of credit control in an international context, again support your suggestions with evidence from your reading;
  4. Describe the advantages and disadvantages of each of the possible solutions;
  5. Decide which solution you would prefer and give reasons.

So in order to answer the question you need to be able to write texts to do the following:

  • Define
  • Give an example
  • Explain why
  • Support your explanation with evidence
  • Describe a solution
  • Describe advantages and disadvantages
  • Choose
  • Explain why

Bruce (2008) calls these various texts cognitive genres, but I have called them Rhetorical Functions.

Examples of texts and language.

A good source of language is Leech & Svartvik (1975). Typical rhetorical functions used in academic writing, based on: Werlich (1976) and Lackstrom, Selinker & Trimble (1973), are:


  1. Describing objects, location, structure and direction
  2. Reporting and narrating
  3. Defining
  4. Writing instructions
  5. Describing function
  6. Describing processes, developments and operations
  7. Classifying / categorising
  8. Giving examples
  9. Including tables and charts


  1. Writing critically
  2. Arguing and discussing
  3. Evaluating other points of view
  4. Comparing and contrasting: similarities and differences
  5. Generalising
  6. Expressing degrees of certainty
  7. Expressing reasons and explanations / cause and effect
  8. Analysing
  9. Expressing feelings
  10. Planning action
  11. Providing support
  12. Indicating a gap
  13. Application
  14. Working with different voices and finding your own
  15. Taking a stance
  16. Presenting findings from statistical analyses
  17. Presenting findings from interviews
  18. Discussing limitations
  19. Using theory
  20. Using previous research
  1. Introducing
  2. Drawing conclusions
  3. Recommendations
  4. Implications


  1. Writing reflectively


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